Power Cuts

Photos to appear later. This post is from January 20:

Power cuts are annoying. A power cut on the coldest night of the year, at 1845hrs on a Sunday night before the kids have finished eating dinner, is more than a tad annoying.

Thanks to last winter in a cold, dark farmhouse, the minxes remembered their drills: after squealing, “It’s a power cut!” (in case me or The Boss had failed to notice), they stood still until we managed to find some torches and came to get them. The Boss emptied my white plastic IKEA bucket that I use for catching sewing ends and waste and put a torch in it – it made a brilliant lantern for the table! So we had light to finish making pudding (Italian trifle: a mix of panettone, mascarpone, amaretti and peaches (plus amaretto for adults)).

At 1930hrs I phoned the power company, just on the off-chance they didn’t know about it, and to get perhaps a little heads-up on when the power might come back on. After checking whether we were ok (thanks for caring, but really, we’re just fine), I was told that Brian and Steve were on their way to the village and given a rough timetable of likely events. Did I want a call-back if the power was likely to be out longer than 2130hrs? Crikey! That’s all unexpected – yes, please!

So we placed little touch-button LED torches on top of bookcases and bathroom cabinets to give some ambient light and got the kids through the conveyor belt of shallow baths in the last of the hot water, teeth brush, into fleece all-on-ones, then into bed with spare blankets. I tried to knit and quickly realised that pale grey 2 ply lace yarn and shiny silver knitting needles is a right bugger to see in dim light. So by maybe 2030hrs I was drifting off to sleep myself.

We never got a call back, but it wasn’t essential. I couldn’t think of any neighbours needing help, so drifted off to sleep kicking myself for not filling a flask with hot water as I’d gotten into the habit of doing after 3 or 4 short power cuts this month alone.

At 0015hrs the power came back on with a bang: all lights blazing, washing machine and tumbler on, dishwasher on… And because I’d had a nap, I was WIDE awake. Again. Just like last week. So I got up and pottered around: did the huge Sunday night pile of school uniform ironing, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, cleaned down the manky surfaces, blah, blah, blah. I seriously thought about baking something treaty for breakfast, but figured the noise would wake one or more minxes. I let Killer Cat out, laughed at her skidding on the ice, let her back in and reassured her I’d not been laughing at her, then finally went to bed sleepy at 0445hrs.

0700hrs and back on duty with 3 loud little girls wasn’t much fun… So I had yet another morning when I was so glad to be at home – I cancelled everything I’d planned and bunged dinner in the slow cooker while the kids ate breakfast. After dropping them off at school and nursery I got home, set the alarm for the lunchtime school run, got into bed and passed out. I’m definitely too old to pull all-nighters like I used to!


More unpublished draft clearouts: this one’s from 23 January

Last night I went to bed early, feeling a bit meh. Now, the last couple of times I’ve done this I’ve fallen asleep near instantly, only to wake up 3 hours later and be incapable of falling asleep again. End result: more tired than before. So I was a little wary of hitting the sack before midnight.

Sure enough, I woke up after a couple of hours. But it wasn’t the power coming back on or That Blasted Cat or That Damn Dog next door: it was Maxi setting up a siren wail. Turned out the poor child had earache. So after administering paracetamol I took her into mine and The Boss’ bed. Just like when she was a toddler, she instantly claimed that space, making it her own with her squirms and wriggles and flailing limbs. After a bit, she decided she was too hot and wanted to go back to her own bed. That lasted half an hour, before she decided she really wasn’t too big to get Poorly Mummy Cuddles all night, and wriggled back in.

I woke in the morning feeling achy from the cold virus and from my eldest daughter’s thrashing around. My chest and throat were raw and hurt, so it was a morning of whispering and signing; the kids were delighted! Though intriguingly, they all started to whisper as well. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, but I think it was in empathy rather than mimicking me!

At 8.30am Maxi decided that despite being tired, she actually did feel well enough to go to school although her ear was starting to hurt again. Mini had a terribly wet cough and the eczema on her face had flared up something awful, and was unsure about whether she wanted to go to nursery or not. Midi was just Midi: desperate to get to school and cause some carnage! So I decided to walk the short, 2 minute walk to the playground to deliver Midi to school and think about the other pair. In that short time, though, Midi let out a bark, burst into tears and declared her throat raw. Maxi and Mini decided they really, really wanted to go to school.

So yeah, this morning I was that bad mother with the kids in a gaggle in front of the teachers, trying to decide who was staying and who was returning home with me. I felt doubly-bad: on Fridays I help out with art and craft things with the Junior class, so was letting their brilliant teacher down with minimal notice.

What I *should* have done was take all 3 home with me and had a pyjama day (hooray). Instead it was just me and Midi back at home. We went to my bed and watched TV till noon. If I’d felt a little better it would have been fun!

Wash, Wash, Wash

Still clearing out 92 (!) unpublished drafts. This one’s from Feb 16. I think it was waiting on photos – maybe later, maybe never:

We moved most of the kitchen and living room into the bedrooms for Midi’s birthday party on Sunday. Re-messing the place back up again afterwards, I realised that the girls’ dolly stuff was filthy. Last year I terrified the neighbours by washing and pegging out all their dolls clothes (“4 little girls? Another baby Trout?! That’s it – we’re moving!!“). So I really only had to wash things like the dolls pram, cot and buggy fabrics, play change bag, that kind of thing. Half a washing machine load. How bad could it be? So I put it on a sports clothing cycle, 30degC wash. Within 5 mins the detergent suds were a grimy brown. Ewwwww!

I wonder if cleaning these will have any affect, whether good or bad, on Mini’s skin? I think I said already that she’s had a huge flare-up of eczema. It flared as the same time as mine, around 17 December. Whilst Mini’s always had dry skin, she’s never had eczema. And I only get it on my fingers and occasionally my eyelids. This was over my entire torso and down my arms; hers was all over her body. I tried to discover the culprit (food? new wash-powder? new fabric conditioner? new clothes? swimming pool?) but couldn’t. Whilst mine mostly died back over the next 6 weeks, hers hasn’t, just coming up and down in waves.

I took her back to the GP on Friday to see whether it was actually eczema. The GP agreed with me that 2 round discs on Mini’s legs looked fungal rather than eczema, but said the rest was eczema. I was advised to change to non-bio washing powder. I kept my opinions on this to myself (the UK is the only country that sells the stuff; what’s so special about our skin?!) but took the point that Mini’s inflamed skin didn’t need any additional irritants that she’d normally cope with. Hmmm. I’m mystified.

Edited To Add:
I kept using the same old washing powder I’ve been using since before Mini was born, but I do now routinely give all washloads an extra rinse. Mini’s eczema still seems to have no obvious connection to anything. In a past life I was a reasonable analyst, and I do think pretty logically. Even so, sometimes she goes swimming with no flare-up, other times her skin explodes; sometimes she plays under the dusty beds with no itching, other times the itch is intense; the cat doesn’t seem to cause flare-ups; we can’t find any triggering food; milk isn’t a trigger; lack of sleep and stress seem to play no part, either. She needed antibiotics for something else in April, and that seemed to calm her skin right down for nearly 10 days before it came right up again. She was referred to a dermatologist then, and I’m still waiting to hear anything (it’s now end June) – all we got was a letter saying she was on the waiting list. Poor thing – it really disturbs her sleep.

You Really Know You’re Loved When


May 29: Midi Minx had a bit of a runny botty on Wednesday night and Thursday morning = instant 48hr pass (quarantine) from school. She spent Thursday in a nest on the sofa, blinking at CBBC from behind her new, thicker glasses. I joined her in the waves of nausea and stomach cramps. In fact, I felt so awful that The Boss drove Maxi to Cubs whilst me, Midi and Mini got ready for bed, then lay in the big king size bed, snuggled up in front of Star Wars. All 3 of us were very, um, ‘windy’. Wee Midi gazed up at me with her big hazel eyes one time I apologised for letting one go: “That’s ok, Lovely Mummy. I still love you”. Arrrrgh, what a little sweetie! She certainly knows how to win me over

Muddy McMud of the Clan McMud

Just another unpublished draft, from May 16. Photos to appear later:

For a fat lass, I can’t half shift some dirt with a spade..!

The original plan today was to head off for a long exploratory walk past Ballater. But after spending the last week doing some vigorous sport every single day for a week, 2 of the minxes are nursing injuries (calf and knee). The last outdoor epic was a little too recent for my taste, so I decided to cancel the plan, despite The Boss’s sulking. Still, he happily dived into the alternative plan, which was plonk the 2 injured kids and Nurse Minx in front of a DVD and race around the house and garden Getting Stuff Done.

Yes, I suppose this is a bit of a boast, but it’s also me feeling satisfied at how much we can achieve when we don’t have littlies tying us up.

I dug a neat 4 x 4ft hole in the front lawn, pausing occasionally to let a male blackbird fill his beak with the worms I’d unearthed. He came back and forth 4 or 5 times in an hour, so I guess his little hatchlings are as hungry as my minxes! I placed all the turf-cuts upside down in a separate 4 x 4ft raised bed I need to rough-fill before I add compost.

I also collected all the stones, pebbles and cobbles from the layer of turf I removed, gave them a wash and put them on the little herb bed I’ve made round the back. I’m finding that changing my perspective about the stones has really helped: at first I felt angry at the sheer tonnage of stones in the ground and how difficult they made digging it. Now that I can see how pretty they are when clean, and how great they look as a mulch on the herb bed, and that each bucket-load is saving me an absolute fortune in decorative stones from the garden centre… well, I feel delighted now with each ‘clunk’ of the spade on another rock.

Finally, I malletted in the wooden frame that The Boss made weeks ago. It’ll be painted purple when the rain’s going to hold off reliably (July?!) and because it’s so exposed will probably be planted with little lettuces, radish, etc., whereas the broad beans, peas, squash and brussels sprouts I’ve got growing on the patio in toilet roll tubes will be in the deeper bed, over in the sheltered corner.

That lot took 90 minutes. Blimey, I’m getting faster!

The wind stayed high all day and I thought about the little sunken bed I’d made, and whether any plants would ever grow there. Maxi and I talked about her Cub Scout campfire and how much fun it was toasting marshmallows. The Boss and I bemoaned the fact that we appear to be incapable of lighting neither camp- nor house-fire together, blaming each other’s ineptitude. So one thing led to another, and I decided to set myself the challenge of building a marshmallow-toasting fire in the new raised bed.

I did blog about that successful wee fire elsewhere (Little Trekkers Ambassadors blog), but I’m not sure I clearly got across how amazed The Boss and I were at the bloody thing getting going at all! I am now Trout of the Hearth Flame, and feel the need to set fire to everything. Those minxes had better tidy their bedrooms sometime very soon…

Illegal Wave Riders

Just another unpublished draft:

May 9: I could really have done with a huge long-lie this morning – for once, no minx invaded my bed, no Killer Cat meowed me awake begging food at silly o’clock – but I had to go meet a man at his house to fill in a form to extend my PVG clearance (I’m now volunteering at a couple of places involving children a week; keeps me out of trouble and my beady eye on each of the minxes). While I did that, the minxes and The Boss hit a nearby coffee shop. The girls whispered round-eyed about the seesaw floorboard hidden under a carpet in the toilet, while The Boss muttered darkly about the whole place needing a good clean. I wouldn’t know: I only sat down long enough to trough a doughnut and a coffee (wannabe policewoman) to fuel me up for going swimming.

Well, I say swimming, but really I mean bobbing about in chlorinated water being splashed by the entire population of Aberdeen. Ach, it wasn’t that bad. Midi Minx has been squealing with excitement about going for a family splash around every few minutes since I told her our plans last night. Her sisters were just as excitable. And to be fair, when I looked back over today, my best bit was definitely watching all 3’s huge smiles at the pool, listening to Mini squealing with delight for the entire hour, and zooming down some flumes with Midi gripped between my knees.

Oh, those flumes were a hoot! It was Mini’s first time and she did exactly as she was told, sitting between me or The Boss’s knees, holding her breath when we told her to, lying back or sitting up more, and generally squealing her little head off. Midi is fearless in water, so she and I were most interested in going faster and faster. Maxi, however, bottled it each time. I think she wanted to sit at the top for half an hour and build up to going, but she just didn’t have that luxury. Not with The Entire Population of Aberdeen standing in line behind her… I got very impatient and led her away each time. I tried not to be angry, but found it hard to repress my exasperation. I’d described the flumes to her and let her watch the other kids popping out at the bottom and setting off at the top, explaining that I didn’t think she’d like them. After 4 or 5 failed attempts to go down, we abandoned the whole flume-going, and she howled in devastation.

We didn’t abandon the flumes because of Maxi, though. Oh no! One of the more vigilant pool attendants was doing her job, scolding and correcting some of the eejits messing around on the flumes. As Midi and I started to settle into our tucked, safe position, ready to go, the attendant checked me over and asked where my wristband was. I showed her the grubby orange rubber band I’d been given at the front desk. “No, no”, she said impatiently, “The other one. For the flumes”. I looked blank. She explained that you needed to pay extra for the flumes and I should have an additional wristband. Oops… I apologised immediately and jumped up to go, but she waved me and Midi down. I’m glad – that was the fastest ride yet! But I gathered up the troops when we got to the bottom, explaining that we’d been flume-riding illegally. The Boss hadn’t seen any notices about it either, but then, we are both chronically sleep-deprived…

To round off our Bad Parent day, we stopped for a McDonald’s on the way home. I felt grubby and soiled and dirty afterwards. Ish.

Just posting a bunch of non-published drafts…

April 3: I was up at 4.30am this morning. Sometimes persevering with sleep is pointless. Mini came in to our bed first at about 1am, then Midi at about 3. Mini slid in carefully, gently patted my cheek and kissed it, then twisted and turned till she’d snuggled into my own contours, and fell fast asleep. Midi, however, thumped and bumped up the bed, stood on The Boss’s head, elbowed me in the stomach, claimed to have had “The worst nightmare ever. Ever! EVER!!” then star-fished the night away. It’s the first night of the Easter holidays so I don’t mind having a sleepless night muddled up in Minx, but The Boss has one more day to work. Tackling the A90 numpties is best done with some sleep at least. So I got up to plot more recipes to teach the nursery kids next term while The Boss and Mini snored on (Midi was persuaded to shift back to her own bed).

Mini’s blood test to maybe find out what caused her skin to explode in head-to-foot eczema was fine. It took a couple of attempts, but the nurse was kind and gentle with her, and I do a good line in distraction (I parked my nose at the end of hers and demanded an incessant stream of “Mini, how many freckles have I got? How many wrinkles? Which is my deepest wrinkle? How many red bits in my bloodshot eyes”). The Magic Cream made the inside of her elbows flare up in bright red eczema immediately, but a bit of Eumovate sorted that out. Pity about the other red patches…