Rights, Wrongs and Refugees

I think everyone’s seen and cried over photos of dead children and adult refugees, washed up on Mediterranean beaches. My friends seem to splitting into 3 mind-groups:

1.  ones who sympathise, but don’t see it as being something the UK should be involved in:

“Too many chancers amongst the refugees, wanting to come here for benefits and a free house”

“They should get help from the first safe country they get to – not us”

2.  ones who are heartbroken, but don’t see how they can help:

“What good is signing a petition? What can I actually do?”

3.  ones determined to do something concrete to help, collecting supplies, aid and money to be sent directly to refugees in Calais and the rest of Europe:

“Never mind an EU butter mountain – I’m adding to the Calais toothpaste mountain!”

“God, can you imagine having your period when you’re stuck living in an underpass with hundreds of other people, and you’re totally destitute?”

“If the Government won’t do anything, I will; I can’t sit and do nothing”

I’ve been starting to talk to the minxes about it. It’s difficult trying to hit the right level – baldly saying that kids like them are dying either because they stayed in their country or because they’ve not been able to get to safety when fleeing, is a bit much for a 5 year old to hear!

Why am I talking to my kids at all? Well, it came up in a long car journey conversation…

Midi’s feeling a little bit victimised by kids at school teasing her because her best friend happens to be a boy (“Oooo, you fancy him! He’s your boyfriend!”) Till now she’s chosen to ignore the silly tattle and rise above it, but is now finding it hard because in her eyes it’s relentless. So we talked about how sometimes it’s best to ignore stuff you don’t like, but sometimes you do need to stand up for yourself. We discussed things she could say back. I suggested statements she could challenge her tormentors with (and she said they were far too offensive and that I should keep my ideas to myself. I agreed that was a fair call!)

At the same time, Maxi was moaning about being stuck in the Rights Respecting Group at school, instead of the fun Gardening, Eco or Enterprise Groups that she’d hoped for. “We just get to make posters about UNICEF”, she grumbled. I reminded her about when she’d been in the Pupil Council as a P1 and had won the Headteacher’s Award for Citizenship – that she’d spoken her mind and suggested ideas to help others, and how proud I’d been (and am) of her empathy. I pointed out that she’d been able to shape the group somewhat, to make it more useful and fun just by voicing her opinions. (I also reminded her that she couldn’t judge the group on one short session, but that’s another story entirely).

I asked whether Maxi could stand up for Midi in the playground and talk down anyone teasing her sister. Maxi fretted about getting into trouble from her teacher for saying unkind things to other kids. “But what if that kid is being unkind to your sister?” I challenged. Maxi looked torn.

So that got us on to what happens when people collectively choose to keep quiet and just let wrong things happen. I told them about the Civil Rights Movement in America in the 60s. We talked about how many countries actually have to have laws now safeguarding people with different coloured skin, religion, sexuality, gender and disabilities because as a group, humans don’t seem to be brave enough to stand up to discriminating individuals and challenge their behaviours. We talked about how sometimes you have to weigh up the consequences of putting your head above the crowd and saying aloud, “That’s not right!” with what’ll happen if you just ignore it. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing, sometimes it’s not.

“You 3 children have been blessed with good brains. I hope I can teach you to use them properly and to judge right from wrong. I hope you can decide when to be brave and stand up and speak out against wrong-doing. If you do, I’ll always back you. Always. Even if you get into trouble”, I said. And gulped – I saw a suspicious light shining in Midi’s eyes, which may not be a good thing…

So then that took me onto refugees fleeing Syria in their millions, dying in their thousands, and why people in the rest of the world are upset and angry about it. Some people are angry about what their countries are doing about it, and some are angry about what their countries are NOT doing about. Who’s right? Who can know? We talked about what we can do, and I told them about some people locally collecting clothes, tents, toiletries, money, etc. I told them that the problem won’t go away by just sheltering the millions – there needs to be both short and long-term help. And sometimes it’s seems like such a huge problem that lots of people don’t know where to start or don’t think they can do anything, so feel frozen. And do nothing.

That then took us on to World War 2 (by this time we were home and sitting at the dinner table with a very perplexed-looking Boss) and how just escaping to the geographically nearest country didn’t exactly help lots of Jews… We talked about how Britain tried to be a bit understanding and did nothing at the start, then waded in, and what some of the consequences were.

didn’t talk about Britain and America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan because we would have got bogged down even more in discussing when/whether it’s proper to impose your ideas of what constitutes right and wrong. That can wait for a few years (!)

I think most of it went over their heads, and I’m dreading to think what bits stuck and that they’re now parroting in school today. But for me:

Short-term – I’m donating some supplies locally.

Medium-term – I’ve signed petitions asking for my country to accept more refugees.

Long-term – I’m trying my absolute best to bring up my children, and therefore the next generation, to empathise with their fellow humans and to be brave enough to speak out against wrong. I hope they become wise enough to judge when speaking up is enough and when taking action is merited.

Children’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Really quite wet. But not cold

Not the Ice Bucket Challenge – this was the Thunderstorm Challenge. And that was traumatic enough!

The Ice Bucket Challenge has made its way to our sleepy part of the woods. Eight year old Maxi Minx has been nominated by a classmate. I discovered this because the girl’s mother, who’s a FB friend of mine, videoed her little girl doing the challenge, and tagged me on the video. Over dinner that night, I had a loooong family discussion with the minxes and The Boss about peer pressure, charity donations, people acting like sheep, party-pooping and free will. (Blimey – makes us sound like the Waltons, or at least a functioning family unit!! ) I do feel the need to add my opinion to the mix, but remember: it’s just my opinion.

Whether adults partake in the Ice Bucket Challenge or not is none of my business. I can think of funnier, better and more efficient ways of donating to charity, but hey, it’s entertaining and I’m sure it’s boosted the coffers of the charities concerned. Charities plural – although the phenomenon started by raising awareness of ALS (Motor Neurone Disease in the UK), it seems some other charities jumped on the bandwagon, and people have also decided to send their donations elsewhere. Regardless, that’s grand! Where I get a bit antsy is when children get involved.

I’m talking young children: kids who’re too young yet to think it all out, and process cause and effect. Children who can’t assess or anticipate what a bucket of icy water dumped on their head will even feel like, never mind whether they mind this happening to them or not. Kids who maybe don’t get pocket money yet, so presumably won’t be able to make a donation to the charity of their choice? And this offends my clean Vulcan mind: if the parent is actually going to be paying the donation, then why is the child doing the challenge? And if no donation is going to be made, then why is the child doing the challenge at all? Heck, I’ve seen some videos on my FB feed of very young children who’re too young to understand what charity means!

Judging by my FB feed, there are a lot of parents and children who have absolutely no problem with it at all. And that’s fine – crack on! But I’ve been upset by some videos of very distressed littlies doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, distraught at what’s just been done to them by their genuinely loving parents.

Now, I’m not taking the moral high ground. I’m a pretty rubbish parent in other areas, believe me (this blog is kinda evidence of how often I get it all wrong. Again and again and again…). And there are lots of 8 year olds who have their own money, have previous experience with icy water, and are mature enough to rationally decide for themselves whether they want to do this, and whether they want to donate money and to whom. My 8 yo doesn’t, hasn’t, isn’t and can’t. She won’t be doing it. I won’t be pressurised into making her do it, either, by being tagged on public videos.

Fine. The end. Or is it? What about when the peer pressure starts? How is she going to handle her classmates potentially trying to shame her into following them?  We talked to her about how tough peer pressure can be to resist, but she’s not really experienced that yet, so innocently thinks that standing her ground will be a breeze. Hmmm…

Have your children done the Ice Bucket Challenge? What’s your take on it? Am I being too precious about the minxes?

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!

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!

Work-Related Injuries

Asbestosis, pneumoconiosis and silicosis are 3 horrible work-related lung diseases.  Swapping the work-place to become a stay-at-home mum, I’ve now put myself at high risk of a 4th one: glitterosis.

The offending glitter art… beautiful, sparkly, but deadly! Yep, every single bit of colour here is from glitter. Tons of the stuff…

I’m only half-kidding.  My chest has been feeling sore and tight for a day or 2 now.  This morning I gave an almighty cough and checked what went ‘splotch’ into my hanky: a little patch of pink glitter.  The bloody stuff is inside all 5 of us, going by what I was cleaning in the toilets: the bog-brushes now sparkle faintly.  I’ve banned Maxi Minx from playing with glitter till the weekend until my chest clears or I can sneeze without looking like a fairy exuding fairy-dust.  It’s all the fault of those blasted cold germs that have kept Mini and Midi up and restless all night every night, and therefore me and The Boss more sleep-deprived than usual, and hence most of our activities this past weekend and 2 school in-service days being indoors.  Indoor activities = crafting = glue and glitter to my 3.

Me clearing away the arts & crafts stuff before dinner
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This evening I stepped on what I thought was an empty pen lid.  “Och well,” I thought, more than a little gleefully as I bent to pick it up: “One more craft thing in the bin, one less thing cluttering the house”.  As I got closer I realised that it was a little phial of purple glitter, the really awful, miniature fleck metallic that gets *everywhere*.  “Noooooooo!” I yelled, arms windmilling in slow motion like in a disaster movie.  I’m hoovering the floors twice a day this week just to try to control the spread of the evil stuff.  I binned my sock rather than attempt to clean the glitter off – that would only have made the sodding particles airborne.  If only Fuller’s Earth and ‘blot, bang, rub’ worked on glitter…

Talking of work-related injuries, last week a shiny new noticeboard was erected in the school playground.  It looks excellent, there’s plenty of room to put up notices where people can read them – brilliant.  I know that the original plan had been to get it erected during the school holidays so it wouldn’t cause any inconvenience.  Unfortunately the company erecting the noticeboard obviously have somebody over a barrel, because they were merrily drilling away into the tarmac playground, a few feet away from the main gate, at 8.55 on a Tuesday morning.  Such a shame that they couldn’t have started at 9.05, when all the kids would have been out of the playground.  Or even taken a 10 minute break from 8.55 to 9.05.  I’m guessing that their risk assessment (the one that made them take action against the risks to themselves by wearing eye protection and ear defenders) will also have covered the possibility of children breezing past the solitary teacher watching over the work, mesmerised?  Perhaps the risk of flying debris was too low for it to be a risk to anyone except a workie?  Obviously it was all actually as safe as houses.  Must have been, to be taking place there and then.  Mustn’t it..?

Risk assessments: I carried out my own, and decided that the risk to my mental health staying indoors was far greater than the risk of Mini’s very bad cold turning to something worse.  So the minute The Boss walked through the door late Sunday afternoon from work, I called an About Turn and we all set off to go leaf stomping in some local oak woods.  Probably my sole good decision this week!  It was a real treat to go marching and kicking the thick carpet of copper crunchies.  I love the smell of leaf mould!  Mini seemed a bit reticent about swishing through the leaves, but then I suppose it pretty much covered her to the knees.  Midi was having a bit of a lazy afternoon, so decided she wanted to go in the sling.  Typically I only had a tiny, lightweight cotton one with me, or Mini.  Tall, heavy Midi was surprisingly comfy, I sure as hell was not!  I bent over to take some close-up photos of some holly berries and discovered Over-Extended Knee Failure with an extra 3.5 stone on your back.  The indignity of having to ask your husband to come over and help hoist you up… “I’m stuck”, I hissed between clenched teeth. “Help. But be subtle!  And for God’s sake don’t let Greenpeace see you, or they’ll roll me back into the sea”.  Aye, I’ve decided to drop the cake-habit as of tomorrow.  More leaf-kicking and less chocolate munching will make me a far less grumpy old trout, even if I don’t get enough sleep.


What Should I Title This?

I’m going to write a long post about the letter I got from the girls’ school today in Maxi Minx’s homework folder because I feel very emotional about it.  I might even have a little rant.  I will quote some of the letter, only to make sure that there’s less chance of mis-construing what’s been said: eg I’ve not been told to stop blogging, I’ve just been asked to stop blogging about the school and its pupils.  Typing out the entire letter would feel underhand to me, so I’ve only reported the bits that I think are relevant.  Should I not wait until I’ve spoken to the Head first?  Probably!  But I need to get this stuff out of my own whirling head so that I can sleep tonight (I got an hour’s kip last night in between Midi and Mini kicking me.  Not being able to sleep now means I’m *really* upset!).  And perhaps the poor man’s waiting up, refreshing this screen all night, to see if I update my blog anyway 😉

After this post, I don’t intend to mention it again, really, because in the greater scheme of life this isn’t important.  As I was reminded by a friend whose home is facing devastation while he’s on another continent at his mother’s deathbed.  So here it is in a v-e-r-y long one-er!

Let me set the scene: I’ve spent all day aimlessly wandering around the local town and a garage waiting on my car being serviced.  The weather was cack.  I should have got a taxi home, but thought me and Mini would enjoy our adventure.  And I’m trying to tighten the purse strings so much that I’ve stopped dyeing my hair blue and purple (!).  We didn’t enjoy the adventure – she’s teething and grumpy, I’m sleep-deprived and uber-grumpy, I was cold and wet, and had to make the Call of Shame to an understanding friend (“Please can you mind my kids at pick-up time?  I’m going to be a little late”).  The car service finishes 5 mins before the bell goes, so I get there 5 mins late, and am stressed parking in a really anti-social spot, on the pavement down from the school, humiliatingly aware of my usual blog rants about inconsiderate parkers.  I am now a hypocrite.  Great.  We get home, I have a lot to do to get the girls ready for Hallowe’en parties tomorrow, get homework done, feed 2 cats who’ve been out, cold and wet and hungry all day and who are telling me how much they hate me, the house is a tip, and I’ve got a meeting tonight to get ready for.  There’s a letter in Maxi’s homework folder.  I open it while taking peanuts out of Mini’s hand, pushing a cat away and crunching through an upended box of cereal, yelling at Midi to come and do her homework Right.This.Minute.

I am writing because I have been made aware of your blog […] by concerned parents and staff“.  OMG, parents plural?  Staff, plural?  You mean that many people actually read this blog?  And they’re concerned?  About me?  Oh bless them!

Whilst I recognise the internet is a free forum for any opinion, I am asking that you avoid issues related to the school“.  So not that kind of concerned, then?  Oh-oh…  But I’m a stay-at-home mum; school takes up an awful lot of my energy and time.  I’d have nothing to blog about.  What’s up?

As was discussed at the induction meeting for the Parent Council every member has a role in promoting the school in a positive light and supporting the school.  As a member of the Parent Council it is expected that you engage in constructive dialogue with the school, raise issues on the agenda of meetings, or you can complain as a parent individually.  Other parents recognise that you are on the Parent Council and give additional weight to your opinions as they perceive that they represent the Parent Council or that you are privy to additional information“.  I didn’t say that I was on the Parent Council on this blog, because I didn’t think it was relevant – I volunteered, there was space, so I became a member.  I wasn’t elected or chosen.  Yes, we Parent Council newbies were told by the Local Authority (it wasn’t debated or discussed) to be positive about the school at all times and watch what we said in public and to other parents.  I didn’t feel entirely comfortable about that, but recognised that I *do* take all my big concerns straight to the school (crikey, I’ve done just that 3 times this year already!)  I honestly (perhaps naively?) thought that my feelings about the school were transparent.  In case they weren’t, here they are:  (Brace yourself).  The policies and staff are not perfect, but the entire teaching and support staff genuinely try hard and overall I’m extremely happy that my girls go to the school.  I’ve whole-heartedly recommended it to more than one person who wasn’t sure whether to send their children there or not.  But apparently at least 4 people (parents plural and staff plural) have seen this blog from a different perspective.  So I clearly have a simple decision: omit everything about the school and pupils and remain on the Parent Council, or maintain my right to spout my lily-livered, wishy-washy, handwringing, free speech and resign from the Parent Council.  I chose the latter, and resigned this evening at the start of the meeting.  And och, it’s not so bad – I’m still happy to help out at the school when and where I can, keep voicing my larger concerns in person, and maintain my right to voice my own, insignificant opinions on here.  I don’t believe my presence on the committee will be missed at all.  Win-win!  No-one loses!

I am particularly concerned that you are referring to children in school other than your own by initials.  […] is a small town and children are easily identified from initials“.  I felt a strange mix of horror, anger and disbelief, here – I’ve only ever used a single initial to identify anyone (and here’s a shocker, it’s not always been the correct initial…).  But you know what, it’s perhaps a fair point and maybe warning; from now on I’ll use x, y and z to refer to people and I shall edit any previous posts to reflect that.  So I’ll change S to X, and M to Y, etc.  That kind of thing.  Just to be on the safe side.

It is very upsetting for staff teaching and supporting your children to read negative comments about them on the internet.”  Ouch, ow, ouch.  Oh gosh, that stings!  I started to cry at this point, and shake.  “There will always be areas of school that you will not like or agree with but there are routes to give your opinions to school.  The identification of staff and opinions about them is not helpful to school and our image in the community“.  I didn’t take that lightly – I know that harsh words can leave some people feeling absolutely devastated.  Remember that I think the staff at the school are hardworking, caring human beings.  Who very occasionally do daft things.  Because they’re human (and God Almighty, this entire blog is a testament to lots of the stuff I do wrong, every single day).  So, to think that I’ve caused another person, or worse, people, who by definition I like and respect, any kind of hurt or misery makes me feel like a total shit.  Like a vindictive, horrible bully.  I feel very ashamed and miserable.  But I’ve got no-one to go and say sorry to!  I don’t know who’s pissed off!  Reflecting on my posts, I know I was very snipey about the actions of one fellow-parent around a year ago; I criticised a member of staff last term (the chocolate prizes – but the Head promised to have a word with the member of staff responsible, so my rant shouldn’t have been a surprise, nor should it identify them, because I had and have no idea who they are, either!); and a teacher and a pupil in a very recent post.  Let me deal with the last 2…

I expressed a very negative opinion about a pupil whose actions have made one of my daughters sad, hurt and perplexed for the past 2 months.  This pupil is only a little child him/herself, maybe 10 or 11?  So yeah, I did indeed say their actions were hurtful to my wee girl, and I didn’t say anything factually incorrect.  But in hindsight I should have qualified my rant with “but little 10 year old kids do these things to other little kids, especially ones who’re being a clingy pest hero-worshipping them – it’s normal and part of growing up”.

The teacher…  Oh God!  I do feel guilty.  Well, it’s one of 2.  I don’t know which one did the actions that ticked me off.  Both are very hard-working, kind, loving teachers.  I absolutely know I’ve said as much more than once on here, and to other mums – I’ve definitely sung their praises (quite rightly).  I sniped about their actions that unwittingly resulted in my little girl spending the afternoon sobbing in my arms.  Unless my recollections are wrong (could be – I’m permanently sleep-deprived and forgetful!), though, again I didn’t lie.  That’s what happened.  Do you know, last time my daughter had a planned absence, I got a phonecall from the school asking where she was even though I’d written the class teachers a letter in advance.  Someone had forgotten my letter.  So for this planned absence I wrote to the teachers AND the administrator, so it wouldn’t get missed.  But that can’t have hurt the teacher / teachers’ feelings, could it?  Could it?!  Oh dear, I think it might have, because I can’t think of anything else.  Don’t make me read this entire sodding blog to check, will you?  Please?  I’ll be good from now on…!  And do I go see both to say sorry if I hurt them?  Or wait for them to collar me?

This evening I feel hurt, angry, guilty and resentful.  I’m going to read some of this blog again to see if I owe anyone an apology.  If I do, it will be unreserved, wholehearted, and there may even be (more) tears from me.  And shaking.  I’m doing lots of shaking just now because I really, really don’t ‘do’ strong emotions.  Did I tell you that on some kind of level I’m perhaps more than a little bit autistic?  But I’ll leave that for another post – hey, this blog is supposed to be the rantings of a middle-aged, grumpy old git about her little cherubs, not about me!

So in summary: I didn’t commit libel or slander because I haven’t said anything untrue and haven’t named any person, school or town (and never will); it wasn’t so terrible that I was phoned or spoken to in person (just a wee letter in a homework folder).  But then again, it was so serious that it warranted the use of the colour printer!  Sheesh, that’s me told! 😉

So Near and So Far

Aaargh!  One of the reasons why I hate being too busy to blog is (a) all the little stresses of life build up in me with no bloggy outlet, and (b) I forget to write down relevant bits.

I don’t know if you remember me moaning about Mini Minx being refused her MMR jag because she has an egg allergy?  Well, about a fortnight later, I got a phonecall from the GP’s surgery noting that she’d had the other 2 jags but not the MMR, and was there something she could reassure me about?  I explained patiently that the Health Visitor had refused to inject Mini with MMR despite my reassurances that I was happy it was safe.  The woman dropped the bombshell that the Health Visitor had not written anything about this in Mini’s notes, never mind written to the hospital to refer her to them.  I expressed my irritation and frustration as gently as I could.  So the woman and I got into cahoots and booked me and Mini onto the Practice Nurse’s clinic for the MMR.  My irritation grew to new levels when I discovered that it was impossible to speak with / get a message to the Nurse to find out if she was willing to give Mini the MMR (“Can’t you speak to her and call me back if she says no?  Can I write to her?  Can you leave her a message, even?”)  We agreed that if *she* refused, I’d book appointments with the GPs, one by one.  I privately also prepared to change GPs before they ousted me…

A few days after that, the Health Visitor called The Boss to tell him that one of the GPs had written to the local hospital asking for Mini to be referred for her MMR there.  He asked me why she’d sounded like a sulky teenager, and had I been noising her up.  I managed to look the picture of innocence.

I expected the hospital to either not get in touch for months (as the Health Visitor had said would happen), or to write to me telling me to get back to the GP’s surgery (as a friend told me happened at her hospital).  Imagine my surprise when last week the Children’s Ward (well, a member of staff from…) called to ask when it suited me to come over with Mini.  Wowsers.  So I cancelled the Practice Nurse clinic appointment, slotted the appointment into the busy House of Trout diary, and waited.

It was today.  Let me give you a tiny bit of an idea of the kind of day it fell in.

I drove 15 mins to drop Maxi and Midi at nursery at 9, then drove 30 mins to the hospital to drop The Boss off for an appointment.  I’d forgotten my purse, so couldn’t do the 3 things I wanted to whilst there.  As it turned out, Mini got up too late to have breakfast, so I fed her at the hospital.  Then 30 mins drive to the nursery to watch the girls at their sports day (my mum never went to any of mine, ever.  It hurt.  So I won’t miss my girls’).  Back to the house (15 mins) to get the stupid purse, then 15 mins to town.  Do the 3 things I meant to earlier, grab lunch, then hospital for MMR (more later), 30 mins drive to nursery, pick up girls, 30 mins drive back to let Maxi go to her swimming lesson, 15 mins drive back.  Dinner.

So it wasn’t the best of days, ok?

The nurse at the children’s ward took me through the paperwork and said, “Oh, did someone tell you that you’ll need to hang around for 2-4 hrs after the injection?” Noooooooo, and this could be a bit of a problem if I can’t be out in 2 hours to pick up Maxi and Midi.  She checked and decided that would be ok after all.  The doctor came, gave me a consent form to sign, explained what a possible vaccine reaction would be like, stated that the possible consequences of not vaccinating were worse, got my signature witnessed, then disappeared.  (I’m glad I do my own research…)  The nurse called us through to the treatment room* where the injection was waiting in a little dish.

*the same room where Midi had been held down by 4 adults to try and fail to get a cannula in her when she was dehydrated and admitted overnight.  And the same room where Mini had failed totally to get a decent blood sample for allergy testing.  The room gave me the shivers.

She noticed Mini had a runny nose.  I explained she was starting a cold, caught from her sister, but that she didn’t have a temperature (Maxi (5) and Midi (3) have had all their vaccinations despite being snotty nosed most of the time – the various Health Visitors over the years always said it would be fine so long as they didn’t have a fever.  So I thought that was gospel).  The nurse checked her temp – 37.1degC, so “warm” but not a fever.  She asked if the doctor had examined Mini.  Noooooo.  Her eyes widened.  No?  Had he even listened to her chest?  No, he hadn’t looked at her at all; should he have?  The other nurse fetched him.  He glanced at Mini gurgling and cooing on my knee then went to consult the consultant.

“I’m afraid that because she has a runny nose and a cough we cannot give her the injection today”, he said in his gentle way.  Both nurses ganged up on him immediately: “Cough?  Who said cough?  I didn’t say anything about a cough.  Did you?”  Um, no, she hasn’t got a cough. Oh crikey, don’t get me involved… <wince>

The long and short of it was, I was very happy to just make a new appointment.  The doctor apologised profusely, I accepted graciously and proffered my own apologies – had I known that any kind of illness was a contraindication for the MMR I’d have phoned to cancel the appointment yesterday and not wasted their very valuable time.  We all apologised politely all round and I was given an appointment next week.  I scuttled out, and prepped the nursery for a possible overrun in picking the minxes up next week if they hold me to 4hrs post wait post MMR.

So.  Now I’m almost spooked at how tricky it’s becoming to get poor unsuspecting little Mini her MMR.  With a bit of a measles outbreak in France and the SE of England, I’m really keen for her to have the vaccination.  But it’s beginning to feel fated that she’s not to have it!

2 out of 3

All right! All right! She can have the MMR! Stop citing BMJ articles, woman!

It’s Friday 13th, which means Mini Minx was due her MMR, Meningitis C and HiB booster vaccinations.  Well, until the Health Visitor noticed that Mini’s file had ‘egg allergy’ written on it in big red letters.

I reassured her that I’d done a lot of research (proper research: on the BMJ rather than Mumsnet) on MMR with egg allergy, and that the majority of babies reacting to the vaccination don’t have an egg allergy; they’re far more likely to react to the neomycin or glycerin in it.  And there’s no real egg material in it: it’s made with chick embryos.  There was no longer a standard protocol for egg allergy babies having the MMR in a hospital with a paediatric department.  I was quite happy that so long as there was adrenaline on the premises, that we were more than covered.  Nor was I concerned about her having 3 vaccinations at once: she’d be exposed to far more things attacking her immune system in a standard day, chewing and licking the things that she does.

I did my best impression of a nonchalent, non-neurotic mother.  So I think the Health Visitor over-compensated.  She listened politely, noted my lack of concern, then explained that she would have to administer said adrenaline in an emergency, and she wasn’t happy.  One of the GPs recommended that Mini Minx not have the MMR on the premises, and that she was to have it in the local hospital.

Trying really hard not to look irritated (to be fair, I do understand why she wanted to protect herself.  And better over-cautious than under-cautious, I guess), I asked how long the appointment might take to come through – a few weeks?  A month?

“Oh, much longer.  It’ll take quite a while for the letter to be written by the doctor and sent to the hospital, then they have to open it, then respond, then make an appointment… It’ll be quite a few months,” she said.

Oh.  So in the meantime, my baby gets to risk all the terrible side effects that a disease like measles can bring.  Great.

Still, my poor, wee unsuspecting baba got her 2 booster vaccines.  And yes, she looked at me as if I’d let the Child Eating Witch attack her.


Mini may only be 13 months, and I do tend to baby her, but she does understand a fair old bit.  She insisted on wearing her favourite hat (a red and purple tartan thing), merrily shouting, “Ah! Ah! Ah!” (well, imagine saying ‘hat’ with a dropped aitch and a glottal stop) and patting her head.  Then she’d whip it on and off her little head to make me laugh.  And when I stopped laughing, the little minx smacked me on the bonce, shouted “Ah!” and tried to fit it on me.

For the first time ever, she actually went down in her cot for a nap without a fight.  I put her in her sleeping bag, she waved goodbye to the flowers, the trees, the sea, the cars, the birdies, the cars and the houses (!), then lay quietly in her cot.  I gave her a little Tiny Tears doll that she seems quite fond of, and she poked it in the eyes.  I asked her where the dolly’s nose was?  She poked it in the nose.  Cute – I know she knows what noses are because “Rub noses!” is her favourite game, but I didn’t know she could translate that onto a dolly.

Wind and Gallstones

Speaking of wind, it’s a tad breezy up here today.  Our big old battle bus Grand Scenic was being blown all over the road.  At one point I swear we were on 2 wheels from a sudden gust.  “Stop flying, Mummy!” Midi helpfully commanded.

As we pulled in to our home street, I found our (oversized) wheelie bin on its side and the 2 recycling boxes nowhere to be seen.  I left the kids safely strapped inside and jogged to the brow of the hill.  Spying the boxes in one front garden, the lid in another and the big boulder I use to hold it all together in yet another garden, I scooped them all up and was nearly felled as the wind caught the lid and whipped it out my hands.

I looked round to see if the girls were laughing at their silly clown of a mother, only to see the slates from the house opposite, and their next-door-neighbour’s, slide off and into their respective gardens.  Now I know I’ve not had a lot of sleep recently, but I really thought I was dreaming.  Till I saw our wheelie bin spin round in the wind, lumber into a clumsy takeoff, judder a shaky right bank, then land nearly 10 feet away.  Yikes!  Shields up!

The girls thought me insisting on carrying them in to the house one at a time and at a full run very hilarious and definitely the way ahead.  Well, I was worried about a roof tile hitting them on their little toddler heads.  Either that, or a flying tombstone (it was either a gravestone or a fridge top that I saw fly over the cemetery wall into the garden of the new block of flats next door).

Not had a lot of sleep?  Well, last night I had a gallstone attack.  It really hurt.  Really, really hurt.  I may have cried.  I last had an episode 4 years ago when Maxi was a baby.  In fact, I had monthly episodes for 5 or 6 months.  An ultrasound showed ‘numerous small-medium sized gallstones’.  I was supposed to have my gallbladder removed but I bottled out reacted to the very macho and overbearing lady (Army) surgeon who perhaps thought she was talking to someone else (surely not to me!) when she repeatedly replied to my questions for more information with “You are to have your gallbladder removed”.  I hate being ordered about at the best of times, but I really got the hump at the following conversation, transcribed as best as I remember:

Trout: “Um, are there any alternatives to an operation, or is that my only option?”
Wrambo: “You are to have your gallbladder removed”
Trout: “Oh.  But I’m a bit concerned about that.  You see I read on the NHS and the Bupa websites that 5% of patients end up with chronic diarrhoea.  That worries me.  What are the stats for this hospital?”
Wrambo: “You are to have your gallbladder removed”
Trout: “Well, I’m not so sure.  What would happen if I didn’t agree to the op?”
Wrambo: “You! Are! To! Have! Your! Gallbladder! Removed!”
Trout: “I see.  Will you be doing the operation?”
Wrambo: “Oh no, it would be one of my juniors”
Trout: <runs away very quickly and bravely>

I refused to sign the consent form and agreed with my normal doctor that I’d just wait and see what happened.  I stopped having the monthly attacks after that, so to be honest forgot all about my gallstones.  Till last night.  I think the culprit might have been a roast fatty shoulder of pork.  Either that or the roast potatoes in dripping.  Or the apple crumble in a gallon of double cream.  On top of the morning’s roll and sausage.  You see, I’ve not changed my EEAE diet (eat everything, absolutely everything), because I’ve not had an attack in 4 years.  Guess who’s trotting off to consult with her friendly neighbourhood GP tomorrow?!  I now live 580 miles away from the last doctor, so I may have a better result.  I guess having a gallbladder removed is more like getting your appendix out rather than the Medieval torture I’m anticipating?

Anyway, I was uncomfortable from 8pm, starting to hurt a lot from midnight, proper ouchy OMG I can’t breathe from 0100hrs and started thinking I might not die after all around 0430hrs.  Midi came into our bed and threw herself around my swollen tummy from 0445hrs.  Mini and Maxi kicked off around 0600hrs.  The colours in my world today are therefore not quite right…

Air Travel

The Trout and The Boss

I think The Boss needs a holiday to get over this one.  We had a great time while we were there, so it wasn’t that.  Spending time there with his parents was relatively fun, so it wasn’t that.  He’s used to sitting around now, so it wasn’t the 1hr 15 coach transfer plus 4hr 30 flight plus 5hr car drive home plus all the hanging around (left hotel at 1135hrs and got home at 0215hrs), though that was tough enough with 3 little minxes.  No, it was the actual flight.

He’s 6ft 1 with legs in proportion to his height.  So he’s tall, but not abnormally so.  Yet he physically can’t bend his frame into the seats.  He has to take absolutely everything out the seat pocket, then sit with his knees apart and up, for the entire flight.  No wonder I got to hold the baby throughout.  That can’t be safe, can it?  It’s not like you can even get up for a leg-stretch every hour or so – the stewardesses are too busy whizzing up and down the aisle selling headphones, scratchcards, duty-free, toys, drinks, meals, charity donations and a patridge in a pear tree.  I got up to change the baby’s humming nappy and had to wait to let a trolley past.  Not only were the stewardesses snippy about me standing to wait (well, I can’t levitate, dearie, and if I don’t get in the toilet queue now, I’ll not get in for another 2 hrs), but 2 of my fellow sardines got very unhappy about me blocking their view of their favourite in-flight entertainment screen.  The other 30-odd screens visible to them obviously didn’t meet with their favour – they’d paid extra for more leg-room and boy, did they want us cheap-skate plebby mortals to know it!  I shrugged, moved to the other side, and considered how lucky they’d been that I was too sleep-deprived to remonstrate.  Or rip their stupid heads off and shove the contents of Mini Minx’s nappy down their necks.

Anyway.  When we had fewer kids, we’d quickly agree before take-off what we’d do in an emergency: “you grab Maxi, I’ll foist Midi off on some poor sucker; we’ll trample over that little old lady there to get to this door here.  Don’t wait for me.  Save as much duty free as you can.  See you on the other side.  Whizzo.  Chin-chin”.  Now I wonder if The Boss would be able to get out of his seat in an emergency at all.  I worry not because I love him (I do), but because we’ve been married 5 years now and his guarantee’s run out.  And I can’t haul 3 kids out a blazing aircraft on my own.

Hmph.  I’d pay extra for the more legroom seats (relatively) happily, but you’re not allowed to if you’re travelling with children.  Pity.  I’ve carried out 2 emergency aircraft evacuations myself, so would probably be a good passenger to operate the emergency exit and lead everyone to safety as I hot-footed it into the safe distance.  Oh well.  Better keep practicing the handy-bendy yoga.