Things to Be Grateful For, Part 1

My friend AW nominated me on the current FB theme doing the rounds: list 3 things you’re grateful for, for 5 days. Well, I thought I’d be a bit more efficient than usual and join it with a blog post. And be awkward: I’m going to do 5 things for 3 days.

Local Library We have a brilliant little library in a room at the local school. It’s only open a few hours a week, and is only 2 minutes walk from home. So over the summer we’ve been in 2 and sometimes all 3 days a week that it’s open. The librarian, C, is very welcoming and helpful. Right now, Midi is in 7th Heaven because there were 4 books about owls on display. She read them overnight from when she got them yesterday, and returned them today. She earned another prize on the library Summer Reading Challenge and chose a green ruler/calculator, which she promptly gave to her Daddy to ‘help you draw pipes at work’. Awwwwww!


Stonehaven Open Air Pool: taken at 8pm after it shut. The big slide is in the middle of the photo, at the back

Stonehaven Open Air Pool: taken at 8pm after it shut. The big slide is in the middle of the photo, at the back

Family Fun After the success of last week, we went to Stonehaven Open Air Pool again, meeting up with The Boss as soon as he’d finished work. It was right on the verge of being a bit too cold, but it’s still a lovely luxury to bob around in clean, warm seawater after 6pm!

Lovely Strange Kids Maxi bottled out of going down the big slide at the pool twice last week. This week she bottled it once, managed it with an almighty scream on the next try (hooray!!!!) and backed down on the 3rd attempt. I expected the kids waiting in the queue each time to get impatient with her as she wavered at the top for literally 4 or 5 minutes each time. Not one little bit. The Boss said that one boy asked understandingly, “Ah, is it her first time?” The other kids offered advice and encouragement, but (crucially) weren’t pushy or over-boisterous. They waited so patiently: no arm-folding, sighing, eye-rolling. When she walked back down the steps, they said, “Next time!” Us adults generally aren’t anywhere as understanding.


Ice-cream from Aunty Betty's. Tasty, creamy, fun.

Ice-cream from Aunty Betty’s. Tasty, creamy, fun.

Being Skint When every penny counts, you really appreciate the big blow-outs. Tonight after swimming we treated ourselves to fish and chips from The Bay, Stonehaven. Juicy fish, onion rings that actually melt in your mouth with a delicate crunch, and super-posh San Pellegrino fizzy grapefruit. Eaten by the sea-front, in the summer evening sunshine. Followed by Aunty Betty’s ice-cream. All the ‘extras’ come free: sweets, rainbow drops, wafers, flakes… I had peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream. Oh my word… I think my face says it all!


A very rare pic of Midi and Mini finally, utterly, worn out (from 2 weeks ago). They were so tired that they crashed on the floor, waiting on me finding their PJs.

A very rare pic of Midi and Mini finally, utterly, worn out (from 2 weeks ago). They were so tired that they crashed on the floor, waiting on me finding their PJs.

Funny Kids On the drive home, the minxes played my favourite car game: what does the cloud look like? Thanks to Maxi’s wild imagination and infectious laughter, we all definitely saw a jointed chicken, a dog, and a scary clown in the sky! At home, trying to bath everyone, Mini was on the toilet. This past week, she’s finally realised that I don’t like an audience when I’m sitting on the toilet, so she’s decided that neither does she. “Mummy, go ‘way! I need some prizetsy! (privacy)” she wailed


Saturday – hooray!

After Midi dropped such a sweary clanger last night, I calmly explained to her that anyone hearing her use bad language wouldn’t want her playing with their children. She’d have no friends. We’d go on no play-dates. No-one would want to come round anymore in case she taught their kids to swear, too. It really got through to her. A bit too much – we suddenly had a deeply upset and hysterical little 6 yo on our hands. I told her that I wasn’t punishing her or shouting at her: she’d made a mistake, I’d told her not to do it again and why not, and that that was the end of it. Look, Midi – I’m still making your circle skirt!

That calmed her down a little. For once, she’d actually asked me to make her something. It was to be ‘swishy and swooshy’, and longer than her knees. Easy! It took me about half an hour to make. Same as Mini’s Tartan Skirt: just stitch a thick strip of elastic into a circle; cut a donut shape for the skirt; attach skirt to band; hem; iron on owl motif; get kid to swirl it.

Maxi's favourite hammock branch (!)

Maxi’s favourite hammock branch (!)

We decided that Midi really needed to go out somewhere to show her new skirt off, so The Boss made up a picnic lunch, and we asked Maxi to take us on a jaunt around the Glenesk Retreat – she’d visited it recently with her school. She was delighted to be the Leader, and took us round its little Nature Trail and the Museum. After ice lollies, we decided that the ‘overcast’ weather forecast was wrong and that because it was still such a beautiful day that we should go for a walk, so we drove further up the glen to the car park at the end of the road, in Glen Mark, and decided to walk the 2.5 miles from there to Queen’s Well.

The Leader susses out how to open the gate. The Leader orders us through

The Leader susses out how to open the gate. The Leader orders us through

From the end of the carpark, Mini started to whine about being tired. I almost believed her, till I saw her scamper over to a deer gate. Ahhhhh – you’re *saying* tired, but you *mean* that you’re bored! So The Boss and I deployed everything in our Parenting Arsenal to keep those little legs moving. She was The Leader and was to walk in front. She was to set the pace that she wanted. She was to tell us what to do. She was to tell us where to go.

The Leader is on strike

The Leader is on strike

“I can’t do that, Mummy – I’ve never been here before!” she scoffed. Yes dear – see that enormous, wide, stony track? Just follow that. I’ll teach you to read maps later…

Every time she slacked off and decided that she was going to give up, I’d say: “Ah, that’s a shame. OK, you’re sacked. I need a new leader. Who wants to be leader now? Maxi? Midi?”

Looking towards Mount Keen

Looking towards Mount Keen

As they raced forward, Mini changed her mind (every single time!) and ran to the front, to set a fresh pace. Even so, it took us well over 2 hours to walk the 2.5 miles to Queen’s Well. The other pair of monkeys enjoyed the walk: Midi filled her pockets with quartz (I insisted all bar one small piece were returned to the path) and found a heart-shaped pebble that she dedicated to her big sister. Maxi told us in detail about her walk up Mount Keen in June, showed us what myrtle bushes look and smell like, and found a (Victorian?) stone marker that coincidentally had her initials on it. She’s also a keen cloud watcher, like me.

“Mummy, look at those towering cumulus!” she pointed.

“Oh yes! Pretty, aren’t they?” I said.

“Will they turn into cumulonimbus?” she asked.

“No. Not enough heat and energy in the air”, I said, and we talked about the conditions that turn fluffy summer cumulus clouds into towering cumulus, then cumulonimbus. We talked about thunderstorms and looked for funny shaped clouds.

With just a hundred yards to go to our destination, we came across a family of 3 who’d passed us on the way there. I think my body language spoke volumes.

Keep up, Mini Leader!

Keep up, Mini Leader!

Queen's Well! At last!

Queen’s Well! At last!

“I guess you guys aren’t aiming to get anywhere in a hurry, are you?” said the dad with a kind, understanding smile. I ranted for a bit about being as tired as if I’d been walking at full tilt for 2 hrs, not just walking for a mile. “Ah, enjoy it, though”, he said, “They grow up so fast!” That was something we all agreed with.

The mum fished out a little pink rubber duck on a key-ring.

“Look! We found this in the well! It was swimming away. Would you like it?” she said, handing it to a delighted Mini. Mini agreed to take care of it, and return it to its well.

Bye-bye pink duck!

Bye-bye pink duck!

As we finally reached Queen’s Well, I took off my sunglasses. The sky had suddenly gotten quite dark. I squinted at dark rain clouds that had appeared out of nowhere over the edge of the mountain.

Frowning, I warned the kids that the picnic stop was going to be superfast and that we were going to head back right away. Luckily we’d already eaten everything except the boiled eggs and water on the way there. I lectured that if they weren’t done in 5 minutes, that they were to move on anyway. No ifs. No buts. Midi wailed that I was scaring her. I felt a bit scared myself, to be honest. I really didn’t fancy being 2.5 miles from shelter with 3 little girls and no rain-jackets (the forecast had been <5% chance of rain all day). I explained that I just wanted to make sure that they knew they had to get back fast and not dilly-dally; it would be fine.

I'm not uneasy or scared at all. This is my standard 1000 yard stare.

I’m not uneasy or scared at all. This is my standard 1000 yard stare.

As I was strapping Mini to my back in the worst Reinforced Ruck tie in the known Universe (newly washed stiff-as-a-board sling, and I was beginning to flap a bit), I looked again at the massing dark clouds. Rain. Definitely inbound. I warned the family that we were going to get wet. Maybe more than a tiny bit. But it would be ok – we’d not freeze, and we’d just keep walking. We could dry out and heat up in the car. OK, let’s get moving!

<rumble of thunder> Oh shit…

Midi squealed and Maxi whimpered. I reassured them that it was ok, it was far away. If we were very, very lucky, we might see some lightning.

<jaggy fork of lightning> Double-shit.

All 3 girls screamed while I counted seconds. Two miles away. Crap. Do we stay? Is there any shelter within 15 minutes walk? Do we walk? Is it safe to walk? Will we be going near trees? If we wait out the storm, would it get dark? Would we be flooded out? We had no jackets or warm clothes – how would we keep the kids warm? Our fast walking march moved up a gear to an out-and-out scamper.The Boss and I quickly conferred and had both come to the same conclusion: push on and stay warm. If we could keep up a good pace, we’d be back in an hour or so.

“I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to die! This is the worst day of my life!” screamed Midi.

I retied the crappy sling-tie and explained to the kids that we were going to keep walking. I told a panicking Midi over and over again that she *wasn’t* going to die. She wasn’t going to get hit by lightning – we were in a valley and the lightning strikes were on the hilltop. We were going to walk as fast as we could. We were going to get very wet and a little bit cold. We weren’t going to stop. We’d keep moving to keep warm. We weren’t going to waste energy screaming or shouting melodramatically for help or running; we’d just walk fast. We’d be at the car in an hour and we’d drive home for hot chocolate and marshmallows and a hot bath. Walk fast, kids, keep up!

The Boss tried to get the minxes to sing songs about rain and thunder. They were having absolutely none of it and said how frightened they were. Little Mini started to get cold, and as I tucked her arms in the sling, her bum popped out. Argh! I stopped again for a re-tie. I tried to stop flapping and just concentrate on getting a rock-solid wrap. I scanned the countryside slowly for other people. I could see 4 figures about 300 yards away, striding down from Mount Keen. Great. Safety in numbers! I got The Boss to keep an eye on them and check what they were doing in case they ducked away to safety somewhere.

The storm was getting closer, and the lightning flashes more frequent. Every time I stopped to re-tie, we sent Maxi and Midi on ahead themselves for us to catch up with them. That was a struggle! Those little legs were fairly pedalling! The girls scampered hand in hand, reassuring each other the whole way. The Boss glanced at the 4 figures. I glanced at the grey sheets of rain slowly gaining on us. I had to get that sling tied tight before it got wet or I’d never sort it out.

The rain reached us. The girls wailed. I reminded them that we wouldn’t freeze and we weren’t made of sugar – keep up this brilliant pace! We’re nearly halfway there already!

Suddenly the wind whipped up and the thunder got louder. Ah, crap – incoming! Like walking through a curtain, the very heavy rain hit us. It was so hard that it felt like hailstones. Little Mini was wearing a sturdy sunhat, so that shielded her face well. The other 2 were drenched within a second or 2. The Boss and I separated them and led a girl each, while they had their faces down.

March, march, march. Dripping hair in eyes. Try hard not to stumble on the rocky ground. With a heavy 4 yo on my back, that’d be a twisted ankle or broken leg if I slipped crossing a burn. I kept counting flashes-to-bangs. Closer. Ever closer.

Suddenly I smelled ozone. Didn’t that mean that lightning was about to strike close by? Should I drop to the ground? Run? Scream? I dropped The Boss and Maxi’s hands and looked round like a panicked sheep. Nah – not ozone: just smelly stagnant water in a silted-up burn! Still, I sent the girls a little ahead, and us adults walked separately.

I started to sing rain songs as loudly as I could to cover up my own unease. It’s Raining It’s Pouring; Incy Wincy Spider; I Hear Thunder; Rain, Rain, Go Away. The Boss sang just as loudly. Maxi and Midi joined in occasionally, in between flashes and bangs and rumbles. Mini just clung to my middle and nestled her nose into my neck.

The girls raced across the little burns that we’d taken an age over crossing on the way there. I was relieved to get across in 5 swift, sure-footed strides, still dry-footed. (The next bout of heavy rain did for my little Vivos, though – soggy feet!) The girls later admitted that they’d just waded through the middle.

As we ducked around another turn, we realised that we were finally away from the most exposed bit. We were more than halfway to the carpark. Only about a mile to go, and the rest was mostly in the ‘shelter’ of the dips. We weren’t so exposed. We were still ahead of the 4 men following us. I told Midi how cool she and her sister were, walking faster than 4 real, actual, grown men. She chuckled with glee, that turned into a sob at the next lightning flash. I jumped into a big puddle to surprise her out of her fear and panic.

“Well, I can’t get any wetter, can I?” I reasoned with a wink. She sniggered and joined me, jumping and splashing through the biggest puddles.

“This is the best day EVER!” squealed an overjoyed Midi, when I called her a Wetty Girl as we splashed each other in a deep trough of a puddle.

In a fit of euphoria, I pointed out to the girls how green the world looked in the rain; how we never really got to see this because we never went out in rain-showers. How lucky were we? Nevertheless, we were all so very relieved when we finally got to the carpark, 52 mins after setting off from Queen’s Well. What a pace those little girls had set! The 4 men passed us as we got to the carpark. I’d wondered if they’d hung back and made sure we’d gotten to the carpark safely. The Boss scoffed and pointed out how miserable they looked – they were thinking only about their rain-jacket failure (they were all as wet as we were).

Bit wet and glad to be safe

Bit wet and glad to be safe

Really quite wet. But not cold

Really quite wet. But not cold

The Boss threw his rucksack in the car and took the quickest of photos before he was going to help the girls strip off then get in the car. Well, we *were* going to do that. But as the 2nd photo was taken, there was just under 2 seconds between a lightning flash and rumble of thunder, so we abandoned plans and just dived in the car.

The Boss and the minxes stripped off their wet clothes and shoes, while I opted to stay soggy, sloshing water around my feet with every clutch change and brake. For the first time ever, I appreciated the heated seats, that dried my wet bum.

While we waited for the windscreens to de-mist and the car inside to heat up, though, The Boss sorted out the tunes. It kinda had to be AC-DC’s Thunderstruck…

The drive back was fairly hair-raising, too. I’d pootled along there at about 40mph, but with sheets of standing water, I didn’t get out of 3rd gear until nearly at Edzell. Probably just as well: we passed a stopped car that had its front stoved in and its airbags had deployed. I reversed so that we could check that no-one was in there, needing help. As we looked inside, like a car-load of naked, nosy snoopers, a man came out the nearby house.

“Everyone ok? Do you need any help?” The Boss called out the window. The man gave us a grim thumbs-up and said they were all fine. We wished them a quick “Take care” and tootled off. Phew! Must have been very frightening for them. (Both the crash and being approached by a car-load of wet people with no clothes on)

From The Mouths of Little Thugs

25 July

Yet another late start for the minxes – I had to haul them all out of bed by 0930hrs. Yes, I’m mad. Yes, it made them grumpy. Yes, they turned their noses up at fruit salad for breakfast for a second day, and asked for croissants. Ha – like we keep those in stock!! So we walked round to the local shop and bought some butteries and girdle scones. Such a treat – both are just a bit too yum to eat too often.

burn wadingBy 1045hrs, the kids were dressed in UV suits, sandals, sunhats, covered in sunblock, and were being marched to the burn to go guddling for … well, whatever lives in the burn. We’ve not been there since early Spring, so it looked completely different: the big oak tree is in full leaf and the rope-swing that the minxes were full of bravado about swinging on had rotted Pooh Sticksaway.

They messed around for maybe half an hour, then asked to go home. I managed to eke out a few more minutes of being outdoors by persuading them to play Pooh Sticks over the bridge, but I was pushing my luck.

The rest of the afternoon was spent eating home-made ice lollies again, and blowing bubbles. Have I ever told

check out the size of bubble Midi is blowing!

check out the size of bubble Midi is blowing!

you that Midi Minx is a champion bubble-blower? Last weekend in the hotel we were staying in, the girls were having a bath. Midi started messing around with the shower gel, rubbing her hands like an otter washing pebbles. Then she cupped her fingers into a loveheart shape, blew gently, and smiled: off floated the most perfect, hand-sized bubble across the bathroom. It completely distracted me from scolding her about something or other. The Boss says that she’s been blowing bubbles with soap and her hands every night when she’s getting washed for bed, for years. Today, she got tired of blowing bubbles made from commercial bubble mix, and blew her own from shower gel. What a skill! I tried and totally failed.

Maxi spent a happy afternoon curled up on the picnic blanket in the shade with Killer Cat. The other 2 wanted to watch DVDs and occasionally run outside and pester their sister. It finally got so hot that I relented and got out the sprinkler again. Jumping through that kept them happy and cool for an hour.

After dinner, they were messing around in the garden while I finished sewing a nightie for Mini. Midi and Mini were role-playing Mummies & Daddies. They were just a few feet from me, so I kept an ear out while I sewed on the last few buttons. Midi had on her ‘Bossy Mummy’ voice and Mini was playing at being her daughter, along with 3 or 4 dollies.

“F*ck off, kids”, said Midi, in a loud, calm voice, talking to her brood.

The hub-bub of 100 barbecues in the gardens around us fell to a thunderous silence. 400 sharp breath intakes were made.

I guess we won’t be getting invited to any more play-dates.

Day of Sport and Chips

24 July 2014

The minxes really struggled to get moving this morning. I really struggled to get my eyeballs focussed. No way was I going near a car this morning in this kind of sleep-deprived state! Cancel the Early Bird cinema and bring on the domestic bliss chaos.

It was hot as soon as we woke, so the first thing we had to do was make ice lollies. I normally use whichever carton of juice is open. None was, so I let Maxi choose a flavour. She selected grapefruit (ewwwwww!) and asked for bits of leftover red grapefruit to go in. Bleeee! She’s the kind of kid who’ll eat a lemon like others would eat oranges. D’you know what, though – it really worked! The bitter tangy flavour was just perfect in the hot sun*, and the chewy grapefruit made it interesting.

*Hot sun. North Scotland. Shhhhh, it really does get gloriously hot up here sometimes! Mostly I find 19degC and above pretty warm, but this week it’s been 20 – 27degC. Delicious!

She only likes making cheesecake because she gets to bash hell out of some biscuits

She only likes making cheesecake because she gets to bash hell out of some biscuits and I won’t shout about the crumbs

I drank coffee after coffee as I powered through making strawberry conserve and strawberry cheesecake with the PYO stobbies, then a vat of houmous. Different minxes helped with different things, so it counted as craft activities and parent-daughter time. Honest.

The girls do occasionally play together. I caught Maxi and Mini role-playing being in a hairdressing salon. So at least now I know where the hair-rinsing jug has disappeared to!

So, are you going anywhere nice for your holidays, Sis?

So, are you going anywhere nice for your holidays, Sis?

Later that afternoon, the minxes continued to dodge the sun and stay indoors, like crazy vampire kids. Mini dressed up as a princess, with her Cinderella long gloves, freshly-wiped shoes, bling and home-made tiara (paper and foil: Maxi made it with her). Midi taught her how to stand up regally (ish). Maxi showed her how to curtsey, then took her to the Ball outside in the garden and danced with her.

I go a bit mental praising them whenever they DO play together nicely, in the hope that it lessens the times spent sticking sharp things in each other’s rear, poking arms or shouting. All the coffee had finally had an effect on me. A quick check of the met showed that for once, there was no haar on the coast this afternoon, so I phoned The Boss and arranged to meet him at the Place of Treats For Great Behaviour: Stonehaven Open Air Pool.

We’ve never been, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We arrived about 1715hrs, absolutely sweltering. Surely the place would be standing room only? Not at all! (Though it had been heaving earlier in the day, as you’d expect). We whooshed into our cozzies faster than Superman gets into his red kecks and cape and sploshed into the heated seawater. Salty. Stingy eyes. And floating too high in the water to swim properly! But perfect for comedy floating poses.

The minxes splashed about in the paddling pool side for 30 seconds before Maxi and I eyed up the water slide at the deep end. I couldn’t see any signs to say that large adults were banned, so we nipped over. I went first and promptly split the tip of my finger on a bit of wood (I think I flailed around a bit on the descent. I’m scared of heights but love water and splashes. Tricky dichotomy. I coped). It smarted a bit in the salt water, but I kept the smile on my face: “Come on in, Maxi: it’s brilliant!” I called from the deep end. Maxi got all the way to the top of the slide, then bottled it. She walked the Walk of Shame back down. I hauled out and we had a chat. The other girls in the queue encouraged her. She walked back up. She sat down. She stuck her little legs in the flume of water and clung to the top. She climbed back out, burst into tears and plodded back down. I told her it was ok to be scared and that we’d go back to the shallow end and the rest of her family. She took this as a rebuke and had a wailing, tearful meltdown that only subsided when Midi and The Boss took off themselves to have some fun away from the wailing siren noise.

fish and chipsAfter an hour of splashing and swimming and being thrown off floats and around floats and into floats, Mini’s lips went blue. Time to go! Back to the old-fashioned changing room with half-door stalls. It wasn’t too much of a drama because we just had a quick rinse and intended to go straight home for proper showers and baths. Then one greedy guts suggested we amend the plan and go to The Bay for the best fish and chips (and onion rings, mushy peas and posh San Pellegrino lemonade) in the entire world. I wonder who would be thinking of her stomach like that…? <whistles innocently> The batter on the onion rings is properly, crunchily, melt-in-the mouth. So light and yummy. I could eat food from there till I burst. We’d happily have had some of the wonderfully, magnificently gaudy ice-creams from Aunty Betty’s next door, but we’d waited about 40 mins for dinner, the queues hadn’t gone down much and I didn’t fancy queuing for as long for pudding, as delicious and entertaining as the ice-creams are.

You’d think that would have been enough of a good day, wouldn’t you? Oh no – after baths and changing into jammies, we also had the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games to watch, too. The minxes squealed and laughed whenever I did. Though I think our opinions of John Barrowman, Tunnocks Tea Cakes, Nessie, maudlin Proclaimers cover-version and a blue Celtic Park can just stay private, thanks. Mini finally faded around 2100hrs. Her sisters revved themselves into a proper frenzy by the time the Scottish team came out (they’re half Glaswegian)! Maxi chanted Scotland, Scotland and signed each letter in case people 10 streets away couldn’t hear her; Midi jumped and punched the air and scissor-kicked and threw a sudden forward roll. 10 minutes later, though, before the fireworks had lit the sky, Midi was snoring. Wee souls! Maybe they’ll sleep well tonight, eh, without waking me up?!

Keep Off The Grass! And the drums and teepees and borders and …

23 July 2014

Like a moron, I dragged the remaining sleeping minxes out of bed at 0830hrs, thinking that they needed to get back into a sensible-ish routine again of meals at the same, regular times; early bed and early rise. I’ve no idea why – it doesn’t suit me, and it definitely doesn’t suit them!

Best breakfast ever? Just add coffee. About a gallon

Best breakfast ever? Just add coffee. About a gallon

In a sudden flurry of wannabe-Uber-Mummy activity (don’t worry – it soon passed), I heated up a Treat Breakfast of croissants and mixed some fruit to counter-balance it a bit: not-quite-ripe melon, over-ripe strawberries, festering red grapefruit, on-the-turn blueberries. The kids loved it. Ever-hungry Midi even polished off some toast and nutella, too. I bet if I made it tomorrow they’d hate it and declare it poison.

They’re canny, those girls – I was so pleased that they’d enthusiastically eaten all their breakfast that I let them watch DVDs while I made up a packed lunch. They huddled together in front of the screen, cackling, “Mission accomplished”.

Beautiful tree

Beautiful tree

The lunch was because I was meeting a friend and her little girl for a bit of a play and walk around Drum Castle. We’d never been before. And I’m afraid that based on today’s visit I don’t think we’ll be back,

It’s a beautifully-presented National Trust castle and grounds. Everything is very well-kept. The adventure playground is only 2 weeks old. As we went in, an irate sign noted that the living willow tunnel was broken already, and that parents were to keep their children in the tunnels only. Oh? A quick look told my inexpert eye that perhaps little kids thought the wide spaces between the willow stems were meant to be there, and to walk on through? Or maybe it really had been trashed by trunk stepping stones

Mini walks on air

Mini walks on air

I hope we don't get scolded for letting the kids climb this tree!

I hope we don’t get scolded for letting the kids climb this tree!

boisterous louts. I shrugged and got on with admiring the wooden stepping trunks inside the woods, the submerged tyres, the scrambling net, and the teepees. Oh. They had an irate sign on them too (see photo) instructing us all that there was to be NO CLIMBING on them. The all-wooden drumkit looked cool. But it too had a painted sign (see photo) – NO CLIMBING. The meadow flowers in front of the summerhouse were pretty. But the sign beside them ordered us not to stand in the borders.

no climbingno climbing eitherHmmm… So many bossy signs ordering the adults around (well, most kids who go to playparks can’t read yet)! So much pretty equipment and facilities, but you can’t play with it how you’d like. Look but don’t touch. My friend confided that one of her friends had phoned to complain about the playground twice already since it had opened a week ago, on the grounds of it being unsafe. For example, one of the gates can be opened by a child onto a road beside the carpark. But surely you’d keep an eye on your child? I glanced around the playground at my fellow carers: tartan blankets in every colour, strewn over all available, manicured grass; the entire Boden summer catalogue draped over said tartan; kids leaping around, decked out in the Ikea Family hi-vis vests. Maybe; maybe not.

We found 12 fairy doors like this

We found 12 fairy doors like this

We broke for picnic lunch, then strolled a short mile walk around some ancient woodland, spotting some miniature carved doors propped up on tree trunks (“fairy doors”). They motivated 3/4 girls to walk around the path with some interest, but caused 1/4 to get upset that she’d not spotted the doors first.

By this stage, Mini was fading fast and wanting to go in the sling. I distracted her with a short jaunt over to the pond and back, then over again to the adventure playground. That worked. Then Midi doubled over with a sore stomach. Time to go home! And as I suspected, a drink of Ribena sorted out the stomach pains – they’ll be your innards complaining about not getting enough fluid, dear!

Fruity Sprinkles

Midi and Mini were out of bed and eating breakfast before Killer-Dirty-Stopout-Cat got back home this morning (0700hrs). I appear to have broken Maxi from last night’s cycle ride, though: I had to wake her up at 0830hrs. I can’t remember the last time she slept past 0600hrs, regardless of the time she’s eventually fallen asleep. Midi’s throat is no better. So with 1, possibly 2 minxes ill, I checked the met forecast and suggested places to visit.

strawberry punnet“I absolutely do not ever want to visit a boring old stone circle”, kiboshed Maxi. Oh. That’s 10 planned outdoor trips put on hold till next week, then… I checked the weather: gorgeous. Checked the fridge: empty. Time to go pick some stobbies (strawberries) then!

I like going to PYO fruit farms. Well, I like going to them when the memory stobby pickersof the last visit has faded. In my head I imagine the minxes patiently selecting Grade 1 ripe, delicious, perfect fruit, then gently plucking it and carefully nestling it in a punnet, to be eaten daintily later. The reality is me furiously trying to keep 6 clompy feet in between fruit bushes (as opposed to *on* fruit bushes) and 30 little fingers desperately grabbing at anything remotely red-coloured, whether it’s a fleck of red on unripe green, or a smear of red amongst hairy, mouldy white. *Usually* said unsuitable fruits are jammed under normal fruit, to lurk there until after they’ve been paid for, or occasionally shoved into defiant little mouths, despite me indoctrinating them that this is stealing.

stobsI keep going back because if you go at the end of the season when the fruits are scarcer and it takes longer to pick, then you get an hour’s outdoor activity that engrosses them, and a (paid for!) healthy fruit snack at the end, for less than most soft play centres and the like.

Today, it worked a treat! I didn’t see the minxes eat a single stobby, and they mostly picked brilliant fruits. Even if they were a weird mix of apple- and currant-sized…

gooseberryAfter filling a punnet each, we walked to the other side of the farm to find and pick gooseberries. Despite directions, we struggled to find them. Well, I can recognise lots of fruit bushes from a distance, but gooseberry…? And we were all a bit mislead when we reached the red gooseberries first. Yep – red. Gooseberries. Who knew?! We merrily set about picking a large handful for The Boss. It took me a fair while to realise that I have no idea at all whether a gooseberry is ripe or not. Hmmm. We’ll see if he complains…

Midi really started to flag (sore throat still), so we walked back to the car. Well, we *were*, till she spotted the go karts and zip wire, and raced off to have a play. Maxi played happily with her, and Mini raced around the 2 storey fort with me.

Don't get a job designing garden furniture, darling

Don’t get a job designing garden furniture, darling

After half an hour of racing and climbing and sliding and zipping and trampolining, the haar rolled in from the coast, so we set off for home. Nice and sunny here! Maxi made herself a strange seat in the garden and read in the shade. Despite being Calpolled to the eyeballs, Midi decided to be extremely obstinate and awkward. I’d just had a great time (!) shoving a week’s summer shop into our little fridge, so found it a doddle winkling my 6 yo out of her tv seat and shoving her out the door to the library. Where she suddenly turned into a whirling dervish.

sprinklerI wonder if the change in mien had anything to do with me promising to unearth the sprinkler…? It was such a hot day and our front lawn was yellow. Living in Scotland, there’s no hosepipe ban here, so I let the kids jump around the sprinkler on the front lawn as I moved it all over the place. There were very few rules: Don’t Get Mummy Wet (never broken – they know the fun will instantly end), and Don’t Sit on the Water Jets (broken every 10 seconds).

I meant to cook up a tasty, nutritious dinner, but let the girls scream their heads off for 45 minutes instead. When The Boss got home and could help keep an eye on them, we bunged pizza in the oven, corn-on-the-cob in the microwave, got the kids to shell peas (hey, that counts as a craft activity! 10 bonus points!) and ate outside. Picnic dinner was followed by cherry and yogurt pudding, then being allowed to play in the garden till 2030hrs because they were playing together so kindly and quietly.

But don’t go thinking that the day ended on that note of sisterly bliss: 10 minutes ago Maxi was threatening to kill herself because Midi wouldn’t return the library book that she wanted to read. One thing this household is never short of is hysteria.

Muddy, Grumpy and Tired Troutlings

“This is the best Mummy-Daughter Day EVER! Yoohoo!” hollered Maxi as she shot past me on her bike. Yessssssss!

We’d spent the weekend mostly being confined to a house or car (visiting much-loved relatives in Liverpool all weekend) and didn’t get back till midnight on Sunday, so today (Monday)’s been a bit of a washout. After The Boss went to work, we got up late (0830hrs), then dawdled around till the double appointment at the GP: Maxi now knows how to take care of her ingrowing toenails; Midi has one grommet left in; she also has a blood-shot eye that’s not apparently caused by anything sinister. Bonus.

We did a quick emergency food shop then blasted through the library. The poor librarian! Before we go in, I always try to calm the kids down and caution them not to barrel in yelling, but every time they last about 10 seconds before exploding in a 6-handed whirl of book-grabbing excitement. When we trogged home, Mini had a 20 minute ‘quiet time’ reading her library books in bed while I made lunch and did a mountain of laundry. Midi reluctantly helped me make up some naan bread mix. We left that to rise while we had an hour blowing away the cobwebs at the swing-park before dinner. The Boss made gujarati beans as soon as he got home from work while I drank some Lovely Cold Wine grilled the naans to go with the chicken-curry-from-a-jar.

Midi’s throat is still sore and her cough is no better from the weekend, so she and tired-out Mini got an early night with The Boss while I took Maxi out for a spin on her bike.

What a lovely evening! The Boss had given Maxi some bike lights for her bike that she footered around with happily. Being able to see her gleaming head and tail lights definitely encouraged me to let her go off further afield without me hovering over her: good for us both! I strode along in the dappled evening sunlight as Maxi chattered away merrily, enjoying the luxury of being able to pedal at her own pace and whizz through muddy puddles. When I reassured her that clothes clean up and not to bother about a few splashes, she zoomed through the mud with more glee. Attagirl!

Alas, our hour of fun came to an abrupt halt when we returned and a sobbing Midi threw herself into my arms – The Boss hadn’t told her where we’d gone, and she’d been regretting her constantly scowled “I wish you were dead, Mummy!” every time she loses her temper. I stroked her hair while the poor wee thing sat in my lap, describing how her head gets “muddled up” when she loses her temper, and how words come out that she doesn’t know she’s saying. She’s certainly my most tempestuous daughter. And her temper is completely from me. God help us both when she’s pubescent and I’m menopausal!!

Nursing Deja Vu

Still not much sleep – Mini was in and out of my bed all night long. I had to wake her at 0830hrs, so she wouldn’t end up ‘jet-lagged’, and I was so tired that I cancelled all my plans that involved driving. After yesterday, I banned the TV going on at all today. Perfect baking day, then!

Midi and I made a huge Dundee cake to take to some relatives. “Well, we nearly live in Dundee”, reasoned the ever-logical Maxi. That was fine, but I miscalculated how long it would take to bake. Alas, it meant lunch would be nearly an hour later than usual. Och well, that would give me lots of time to make home-made houmous and naan breads, and chop up some veg for dips.

While I was faffing around with that, the minxes decided they were fed up with loom-band crafting and drawing and wanted to run around the garden for a bit. Excellent! I coated Little Miss Alabaster-Crisp-In-10-Seconds in sunblock, nagged them all to put on sunhats, and insisted that they wear sandals or shoes. Four times I told Mini to “put something on your feet!” and asked her sisters to help me out by sweeping the sharp stones off the pathways and grass and back onto the gravel-bed things around the house.

In perfect synchronicity, the washing machine, oven and dishwasher were beeping at me, demanding attention. I ignored the 3 little humans demanding attention and went in to remove a cake from the oven, whack the grill onto ‘Nuclear’ and put the naan breads under it.

I watched the heavy, metal oven tray warp and twist under the fiery grill. Good grief… The naans puffed up and toasted beautifully. I put the first 2 under a tea-towel and got the 3rd under. Just as Midi came rushing into the kitchen yelling that her sister was bleeding.

Mini hobbled / hopped in to the kitchen, fat drops of blood dripping off her big toe. I turned off the grill and searched in vain for somewhere to put the stupid oven tray. Nowhere (the table was covered in loom bands and paper; the baking and cooking dirty dishes were on every other surface). I sat her on a stool and grabbed a square of kitchen roll. I gave her toe a quick check for foreign objects then pressed the piece of roll to her toe.

“Midi, come over here and be a nurse: press this onto Mini’s toe for a few minutes. Don’t let go. Not too hard. Hold her heel up high for her. Gently. Right. No-one move!”

Then I spent the 5 minutes it took the blood to stop finishing the stupid naan breads and trying to remember where I’d hidden the steri-strips. I was sure I’d not seen them when I’d patched up The Boss’s finger. Mini told me she’d trodden on a stone on her bare feet. So all those warnings and orders to put the shoes on were for nothing. She screamed blue murder when I cleaned up her foot in the bath. She shrieked at the Germolene. She roared when I made a steri-strip out of a roll of leukosilk. She sobbed at the sight of the Omnifix coming out the cupboard. All patched up and kissed better, she pouted that she still didn’t want to wear sandals and that her toe dressing wasn’t good enough to be able to run around outside on in bare feet.


Still, it gave me the opportunity to shower praise on Midi for being a lovely nurse to her sister, and to Maxi for helping me clear the kitchen right after lunch (they liked the naans and veg, but hated the boiled eggs and houmous). Lots of days I get fed up with my own voice nagging and scolding.

I am the contrariest kid on the entire planet, and don't you forget it!!

I am the contrariest kid on the entire planet, and don’t you forget it!!

I hauled 2 huge garden tubs-worth of weeds out the lawn-edges, then I hoovered a beach-load of Orkney sand out the car, and used 3 buckets of water and Flash to wipe down the inside. It was truly minging! And I’d cleaned it thoroughly the day before we went on holiday. I tried to let Midi and Maxi loose to clean the outside of the car, but got irritable and bossy as I saw the time to dinner ticking down and they’d managed to clean a single car door window. Mini wanted to clean her scooter, but did a George (Peppa Pig’s squeally brother) whine at not being allowed near the hose. She pretty much whined or squealed the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I think we *all* need an early night. I need to be alert to properly enjoy seeing sunny, happy Mini once more!

How To Train Your Minx

It’s amazing what you can get little kids to do with the right bribes.
(No, that really doesn’t read right at all, but I’m not going to re-edit it again and again!)

I waggled the carrot of “A Very Special Treat, so amazing that you’ll scream behind your hand when I tell you” at them this morning. By lunch-time, not only had they gotten dressed and eaten breakfast without argument, but all 3 minxes had tidied the living room and their bedrooms, Midi had hoovered up the popcorn I’d made them and they’d dropped, and Maxi had wiped down all the dusty surfaces. Wow, wow, wow! They got an interim reward of glittery nail varnish on their fingernails, which delighted them all.

As we ate baked potato dinner at 3.30pm, Maxi said over a wrinkled brow: “Mummy, I think you’ll have to tell me what the surprise is: you know I don’t like not knowing what’s going on”. So I whispered to her: we’re going to the cinema to see How To Train Your Dragon 2. She punched the air. I think she was pleased.

I’d been bursting to tell them since I decided this morning. It was rubbish weather. It was Wednesday. I’m still an Orange customer. The 3 just go hand-in-hand: Orange Wednesday 2-for-1 film tickets. The Boss and I have been loving that offer for 9 years, now. And like last year, I’m trying to juggle the days around to save as much family fun as possible until the weekends or the evenings so that The Boss can join in, too – I remember what it was like being a full-time working parent, missing all the big day-time events and feeling like the other parent is having all the fun. So: cinema in the evening it was to be!

It was a right faff booking the tickets over the website, though: it would only let me have 1 free ticket, not 1 free adult and 1 free child. After a lot of footering, I figured I’d be faster making 2 separate bookings. So I did. But then discovered that you can only use your Orange code once. And that you only get 1 code. Doh! One emergency call at work to The Boss, new code received, and second booking made. Next time, I’ll just do it at the cinema and save myself the stress and 50p per person booking fee!!

So, we drove into the shopping mall in Aberdeen early enough to fetch The Boss a drink and sandwich (he was meeting us straight from work) and drift to the cinema. On the way from the food bit to the cinema bit, we bumped into our next door neighbour, her daughter, her mother, and the family from round the corner.

The Boss met us in the foyer, his little face lighting up in the biggest beam I’ve seen in years when I handed him some scooby snacks to keep him going through the film – bless!

The film was fine for 20 minutes, when suddenly the projector went off. Everyone looked at each other and pointlessly up at the projector space at the back of the room. The Boss got up and went to find a member of staff. He came back, saying they knew about it. After 5 minutes, the side-lights went on and the soundtrack finally stopped. Oh-oh… ominous! A staff member came in and addressed the audience.

“We’ve had a power surge”, he explained. It had caused the huge projector bulb’s systems to protect it and put it into power-save mode. It couldn’t be overridden. It would take a few minutes to warm down then switch back on. They’d start the film again as soon as they could. “If you’ll excuse me zooming off now, though”, he apologised: “I’ve got 9 other screens to tell the same thing!” and off he strode. We all settled back with a few audible ‘Ooooo, what a nice man!’s and amused ourselves cheering and booing as the screen size changed, the film found its place again, 1 minute before the cut, and the soundtrack finally started up. So it was perfect – we hadn’t missed anything, and even got a quick 1 minute refresher.

The film was great – we all really enjoyed it. Lots of the audience also seemed to enjoy Midi and Maxi’s reactions to the film, too. They both have very infectious giggles, especially Midi. The man behind us laughed only when Midi made one of her rising, maniacal giggle-shrieks.

Midi the Viking

Midi the Viking

**film-spoiler**: it’s a PG rating. In hindsight, I think Mini (4 yo) was a bit young to properly enjoy it, and even my own little Viking, Midi (6 yo), found some of the suspenseful bits a little too much. She wasn’t too happy when Stoic died, either. I wasn’t massively happy with Cate Blanchett’s strangely mangled accent, either. She’d done a fine English accent in Elizabeth I, that she’d famously based on Margaret Thatcher. But her ‘Scottish’ accent was a bizarre hotch-potch of Irish, American, Yorkshire and Highland. Quite strange. And not dissimilar to the sound made by Russell Crowe’s accent coach **end-spoiler**

At the end of the film, we were all handed tickets to watch another film for free. Bonus! Hooray! They didn’t need to do that, so we were all delighted.

On a happy high, we stumbled into Pizza Express, where they do 2for1 offers on Wednesdays, too. It was heaving, so we were really lucky to get a table. It was sooooo loud! My hearing is terrible, and I really struggled to understand our very busy and kind waitress. It took a fair few minutes for me to get that “dobbles” was “dough balls”. I think I may need a hearing aid… Dinner took 2 hours, but on the bright side, that meant that 2 out of 3 kids slept on the way home (in a strange role-change shocker, it was *MIDI* who gabbled all the way home!

Chop-chop, Busy-busy, Work-work, Bang-bang

After finally getting the kids to bed by 2200hrs (don’t judge me. Besides, all 3 were out of bed, screaming their heads off by 0700hrs), I had a lovely bath and settled in for an early night.

It never works like that, though, does it? Lovefilm had sent us one of the Breaking Bad DVDs, so me and The Boss decided to compromise between a much-needed early night and a much-wanted DVD-a-thon. So we watched one episode. Afterwards, The Boss stumbled into the bathroom for a quick teeth-brush before sleep.

I know I’ve moaned before about his love of decorating Every. Single. Empty. Surface. in the house with Stuff. I spend hours clearing a surface (I like empty surfaces); he immediately takes a few minutes to cover it in rubbish. Anyway, when we came back from holiday, the windowsill of the bathroom was empty. By the time he went in to the bathroom to clean his teeth, it was covered. He knocked over a glass bottle that he’d dumped on the windowsill, and tried to snatch it before it fell. Unfortunately, he grabbed his razor – which he’d also dumped on the windowsill – and sliced the top of his finger off.

It took about half an hour for the bleeding to subside and for me to stop mocking him. Within that, it took about 20 minutes for me to remember that, actually, he’s really, really rubbish around the sight of blood, and that maybe he might faint. The remaining 10 minutes were spent bickering about what kind of dressing he needed. He favoured the sliver-thin, invisible, tiny plaster; I preferred the monster dressing-and-bandage, topped with a tied bow, cartoon-stylee. Given that it really didn’t want to stop oozing blood despite over 10 minutes of direct pressure and holding above his head, I won. I swapped the bandage for sticky Omnifix instead, though, because I’m a truly loving wife and actually feel really sorry for him.

So neither of us has had much sleep. Again. As for a possible tetanus injection requirement, I think I might as well phone and book a GP for an entire morning to sort us all out: all 5 of us need to see a GP for various bits and bobs that really aren’t urgent at all, but probably shouldn’t be ignored. Wouldn’t it be great if I could count up all the issues that I need to discuss with a GP, and book a corresponding number of adjoining appointments with one GP, ship the zoo along to the surgery, and get it all over and done with in a oner?!

Ah well, tomorrow promises to be a better day

sunset over houses

Tonight’s sunset