Trout Throws A Tantrum

I’ve often thought about what great friends I have and how lucky I am to have met them through our kids: first you share a ‘hello’ as you recognise them in the playground; then it’s a shared raised eyebrow and telepathic message of solidarity at one of our kids throwing a tantrum; then it’s a chat in the blisteringly cold rain while we’re waiting on our kids being released from school into our care again. Next thing you know, they know you so well that they can say *exactly* the right thing to make you feel loved and accepted and forgiven and back on an even keel again.

Today those words were: “Man up!”

Tissue Heart
Maxi had quite a morning – up around 0630hrs and making the most exquisitely beautiful hand-made bit of paper shaped in a loveheart for her Daddy’s birthday. And I mean hand-made – she’d obviously spent hours ripping up tissue, toilet roll and paper into the most tiny pieces. When I found it leaking a river of gungy gunk from under my laundry basket, I didn’t stop to reflect on the hard work, vision and sheer technically brilliant craftwork she’d shown. Oh no. I just saw my newly-mopped floor being stained and my long-suffering laundry basket about to go mouldy. (Of course it will. Instantly). I grumped and helped her put the heart-paper under a pot instead.

She niggled at both her sisters. She tormented Midi so much about things that make her feel sick that Midi refused to eat breakfast. She niggled some more, so Midi whacked her murderously. She set off a siren wail; not a cry of distress, but a proper, stroppy wail. It feel like nails down the blackboard of my tolerance. When I feel anger at my little girl’s cry, it instantly makes me feel deeply guilty as an additional, fun, free layer. Kind of like a depth-glaze to my cross-ness.

As an encore, Maxi decided to make Mini cry. Then she sat at the breakfast table repeating the same nonsensical phrase over and over and over and over and over again, twiddling with and rattling felt pens, even when I took them off her. She ignored me when I told her to stop playing and eat breakfast or she’d be late. At 0830hrs, 2 hours after getting up, she was still in her nightie. I marched her into her room, picked up her discarded uniform (oh yeah, the one I stupidly bothered to iron when I felt ill) and gave it to her roughly. At 0845hrs she was still in her nightie, singing something in made-up words and annoying her sisters. I shouted. She jumped and burst into tears. At 0850hrs I flipped out at her skirt: it fit her when I bought it 3 weeks ago, but at that moment she’d tucked the front down under her tummy, pulled the back almost to her shoulder blades, and given herself a Man-Beer-Belly. I’m strict with myself about not criticising the kids’ bodies, but don’t want to give her bullies any ammunition, so insisted she straighten her skirt. I didn’t do it very sensitively, so she stropped and wailed and flounced. At 0855hrs I sent her sisters out the house and slammed the door on Maxi.

I started marching to school, intending to entreat the care of the younger pair off on any willing parent while I ran back for Maxi. When she saw I was really walking her sisters to school without her, she magically got her stuff together and got out the house. Yes, I was that Terrible Chav Mum, yelling at her in the street. Again. No self-control. Adult tantrum. With a croaky throat.

I ignored her and walked to school with the other 2, then felt deeply shamed as she came up to me at the gate and gave me a kiss goodbye, looking and acting like nothing had happened. Oh God. Either she’s not affected at all by this horrible morning and doesn’t realise why I completely lost my temper or she’s so used to me being angry that it no longer affects her. Guilt. Anger. Guilt. Anger. Guilt. Guilt. More guilt. She’s just a little girl. She’s not behaving like this just to make me angry.

I wailed at some friends that I couldn’t cope any more. They applied Emergency Pal Aid and talked me into a better perspective in the playground and in the street for a while afterwards.

The irony of my friends giving me the parenting that I needed wasn’t lost on me. If only I’d applied the same loving help to my little daughter when she was in the same boat as me not an hour earlier… Still, I know she’ll be having a lovely, supportive and happy morning in school right now. And until I get another opportunity to practice not being wound-up about things not worth being cross about, I’ve got 2 birthday cakes to finish baking that’ll soothe my guilt till home-time.

Rinse and repeat.

The Untold Tale

The Untold Tale

… behind a photograph.

I posted this snapshot of Midi on my Instagram feed this afternoon, and attached the usual proud mum strapline:

Rainy day baking. 7 yo Midi made these buns all by herself #homemade #baking #currantbuns #clevergirl #delicious

So far so nauseatingly cute, yes? Well, you know me and the minxes very well by now, and you’re not taken in at all – you know fine that there’s a background, unspoken story:

The kids have been driving each other up the wall all day. All. Day. Long. I’m a bit short on tolerance because I’ve had maybe 4 hours sleep, one of those completely unbroken (go me!) thanks to a tickly cough I picked up from Germ Vector 2, who’s been kissing boys again. Boys with coughs. So now the whole family is hacking away at night. Hey, I have no dignity, here’s how bad it is: I’m drinking hot liquid all day long to quell the tickle, so have to pee constantly because if I cough more than 10 times in any one long hacking bout, even if I have a totally empty bladder, then I end up with wet pants; my head throbs from my little brain rattling against my skull all day and all night; my stomach hurts (ripped a muscle again – I can see it doming when I cough); my chest hurts; my throat feels raw; I croak; I can’t breathe deeply or talk or laugh or else I cough. And then I can’t breathe at all. Joy…

So. I’m really not in the mood for any nonsense, or much of anything at all. They won’t watch tv or DVDs without bickering over the channel or the volume. They won’t read their enormous stack of library books. They won’t play together, whether nicely or not. All they want to do is scatter Lego over every square inch of carpet or floor, and torment each other in a competition to see who can make Maxi howl or Mini screech the loudest.

I tried distracting them with a bit of compost, some seeds and baby spider plants that need potted. But that involved going out to the garage for 28 seconds. After about 23 seconds, Mini raced out the house screaming about Maxi, Maxi was trying to drown her out with her own complaints, and Midi was just chanting something incoherent, just for the sheer hell of it.

Eventually I needed cake. Either that, or my bleeding ears were going to make me abandon them to a feral life of eating cat kibble from Killer Cat’s bowl and making a living selling popping candy and sherbet dip-dabs. I had a cunning plan: Midi loves baking. I think it’s because she gets to use sharp knives. That child will choose the huge meat cleaver to delicately slice off a bit of butter to mix with sugar. Anyway, I dragged her (literally) off her elder sister to come and ‘bake with Mummy’. Silence reigned briefly until Mini and Maxi happily agreed on some music for the CD player (Justin Bieber. Dear God, have my ears not suffered enough?!). It didn’t take much persuading for Midi to merrily take over the baking – The Glasgow Cookery Book’s coffee buns, so-called because you eat them with coffee, not because there’s any coffee in them – and give me time to actually have a coffee while she made them entirely herself.

There was a 10 minute period of total silence while the girls troughed the buns, then it was back to the shrieking and whooping onslaught. Last time I checked on them they were jumping off tables and setting up rope ladders in the pitch dark, screaming about air ambulances rescuing injured rich skiers in a power cut. Surrounded by aliens.

With imaginations like theirs, I think tomorrow will have to be spent outdoors, bad cough or not. I’ll just have to break out the massive night-time maternity pads I found the other day. Meh. Pass the linctus

Middle of the Summer Holidays Blues

Week 1 of the summer holidays was a fantastic week at The Boss’s parents, kicking off with an awesome 2 days at Legoland. Week 2 was mostly spent at home after Mini Minx tried to slice her toe off. Week 3 was a high-octane visit to Bristol to stay with friends, with a day in Devon’s Diggerland, another day at Windsor Castle and a day in Bath. Now we’re back home again, we’ve hit the Middle of the Summer Holidays Blues when nothing is quite fun enough.

Monday was forecast for constant rain so I checked out Cineworld’s Movies for Juniors. At £1.58 a ticket (even if you book online), they’re a whole lot more affordable than the eye-watering prices for current films. So the minxes were shaken out of bed at 0745hrs and we set off for the heaving metropolis of Dundee by 0900hrs. We laughed through Home and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We piled out just before midday, so I took the zoo over to the nearby McDonalds for lunch because I’d agreed to review it for the Soil Association’s worthy Out to Lunch campaign. They’ve enlisted the help of families all over the country to help them assess whether big chain restaurants:

  • Provide fresh, good quality food you can trust
  • Make it easy for you to choose healthy food
  • Welcome children and accommodate parents’ needs

It’s fair to say that I wasn’t impressed with this afternoon’s visit to McDonalds

Tummies filled with different shades of brown food, we headed to Dunhelm Mill and Hobbycraft to look for fabric. I need to replace some fabric at the bottom of Midi’s dress that she shredded on a concrete slide, and to make a bed-curtain for Maxi. Neither visit was productive in anything other than sending the kids into Fight Mode.

By the time we hit Tesco for a food forage, the 3 of them were determined to strangle each other / push each other in front of traffic or a speeding trolley / pull over every stand of Back to School merchandise in sight (Tesco Managers: I am so, so sorry and embarrassed. Stopping to properly clear up the mess would probably have involved blood. I promise not to bring them back until there’s a safety fence around your displays. Or armed guards. Or I’ve finally got them properly trained). Steering with the Hounds of Hell attached to my shopping trolley would have been easier and less stressful, I swear. Maxi seems incapable of looking at anything without poking it (“Aw crap… Yes, I’d better take that squid too, Mr Fishmonger. 30p each? Better give me its 3 prodded friends too, then”), Midi was on a mission to make one of her sisters cry every time we entered a new aisle (and did admirably, with an 80% success rate), whilst Mini just moaned about how much she hated shopping. Yes. Me too. But you’ll hate it even more if I have to botch-tape you to the trolley, Sweetness…

Finally getting home, Midi threw a monumental strop because I insisted she return to the car to remove a sweetie wrapper. She tried to thump me on the back and trip me up as I swept past her, holding 7 shopping bags. You can probably imagine how quickly she was dispatched to her bedroom… Even when she calmed down enough to say sorry, I made sure that I moved her to tears by explaining how easily she could have killed me, and what the lifelong consequences to her would have been. Harsh? Cruel? Yes, I think so too, and that’s why I made her cry.

Enough eyes for all 3 minxes, surely. Ah... no.

Enough eyes for all 3 minxes, surely.
Ah… no.

Dinner was full of mine and The Boss’s favourite things: sprats fried in coconut oil (I’ve been coconut oil curious for ages, and finally bought some in a fit of ‘oh I can’t afford it, and never will, so better buy it now, then’), boiled samphire tossed in butter, and Madhur Jaffrey’s dry okra. Oh my, it was lovely! And one day, all 3 kids will eat all of it without complaining (“She got more eyes than me! That’s not fair!” “I don’t like the intestines!” “Gimme your samphire, I love it, you got most, it’s not fair” “I hate okra” “I hate okra, too” “Okra – waaaaaah!”).

Right now The Boss is doing the bedtime run; Mini is screeching because he’s daring to cover her eczema-crusted skin in moisturiser and eumovate; Maxi is engrossed in something that’s caught her limitless attention; Midi is hiding from soap and water, and I’m writing to get some peace and perspective on the day, and therefore hiding.

30p of fun. Hopefully

30p of fun. Hopefully

And the squid I had to buy? Well, tomorrow’s craft activity is teaching my trio how to prepare fresh squid for lunch. Well, it might be fun. Wish me luck…

Mini the Uber Minx

Today was brought to me by the word: “groggy”.

Mini Minx had had a nightmare and crawled into my bed for comfort. I don’t mind that at all, and am glad to be able to cuddle away her bad dreams. I do mind, however, when she spends the rest of the night whirling round and round like a Catherine wheel on my left, while The Boss makes a cocoon for himself out of the duvet on the right. They slept soundly; I didn’t.

When I picked Mini up from nursery, she’d made me a Valentine’s card with both “I love you” and her name chalked inside in pink, and about a million red sticker hearts pasted on the front. And she’d made her daily portrait of me in spatter-paints. Awwwwww! Melts my heart every single time. I suspect, though, that it’s because my purple hair is an easy thing to draw with the materials available to her; browny-gray would be far more difficult with standard issue nursery paints.

Anyway, we hung around the library attached to the school and I read her a quick story before it was time to pick up her sisters for a now-rare Home Lunch. I think Mini must have been as tired as me, because after the short walk home she lay on the floor like an Egyptian mummy with her arms folded, chin out, bottom lip out, and refused to sit up at table. She got short shrift from me – I’d gone all out to make Maxi’s favourite lunch: feta, garlic and oregano baked inside a half red pepper each, resting on a bowl of fried leftover rice and a ton of peas, with a drop of soy sauce, and apple juice as a treat to wash away the garlic taste. Mini tried to eat her pepper-half like toast. When I objected to her table manners, she stropped and whined and tantrummed, eventually giving in and asking me to cut it up for her. When I did, she snarled thank you, then pushed the bowl hard to the other side of the table with a pout. I told her she’d get no other food till dinner time, so to think carefully before she threw it away. She flounced off with her nose in the air, to go and torment her sisters (allegedly biting. Again. Makes my blood boil).

After dropping off Midi and Maxi at school, me and Mini had an exciting (!) afternoon of fighting with 3 beds, stripping and replacing all the bed-linen. What a wonderful opportunity for another tantrum! This one was because I refused to get her summer duvet cover out of the box in the garage (aye, that one under the other 788 boxes) and magically wash and dry it instantaneously for her to use.

By the time we’d done the return walk to school to pick up her sisters at 3.15pm, Mini was in a foul mood: hitting, snarling, whining, pulling toys off her sisters, grabbing their homework. When she smacked at me for scolding her, I bent down and eyeballed my bratty 4 yo:

Me: “Mini, you can’t keep biting your sisters and hitting me! It’s naughty and I’m not having it! No more bratty behaviour! I don’t do tantrums; never have. Stop it!”

Mini pulled away and sighed melodramatically: “But it’s soooo hard being good…”.

I might have smirked a bit…

I see your exasperation and I raise you 2 finger-bogeys. I win!

I see your exasperation and I raise you 2 finger-bogeys. I win!

On a cooking roll, I made Korean slow-cooker beef, with rhubarb and semolina cake. Not together. Obviously. Beef cake would be hideous. Beefcake, on the other hand… Speaking of which, The Boss’s stomach was in ecstasy eating that lot, mine was pretty happy, Midi thought it was just a little snack-ette, Maxi refused it all (pale, complaining of sore tummy, was shortly thereafter showered, hugged and in bed), and Mini used it as yet another opportunity to establish her will.

“It too spicy! It burning my whole mouth off!” she roared. Trust me: this girl eats garlic with most meals, so a 2-clove garlic meal, with half a tiny chili and a single thumb of ginger divided 5 ways is definitely not too spicy. She stropped when she realised we were serious that she had to eat at least all her beef and all the veg before she could have some of the cake she’d baked with me. Poorly Maxi was already tucked up in bed before Mini quickly relented at her final chance to eat cake before it was packed away in the fridge for the night.

I didn’t get a chance to scold her some more, though – Maxi had a sudden meltdown over knocking over a little blue pot of mine that used to hold my paintbrushes nearly 20 years ago. It fell off her shelf, boinked on her head, and smashed on her bedhead. I explained that I’d much rather the pot was smashed than her little head, and that I wasn’t angry (Jeezo, just the opposite: I’m desperate to do some major decluttering, but need to wait till they’re all out the house to sneak it out to the 2-week quarantine of the Cooling Off Area in the garage). Still, this was a disaster of the worst kind to my little 8 yo. I suspect a lot of it was because she felt ill, and perhaps some delayed reaction from last week: half her class were away for a few days on a trip, and the break in routine disturbed her enormously. We’d talked about it and anticipated it, but it still upset and unsettled her while they were away and over the weekend. Maybe the resumption of normality with their return today hit her hard, too? I don’t know. It’s easy to just say she’s being a Drama Queen, but I’m starting to spot that most of these wailing sessions tend to have triggers.

So, anyway, after all that I was really looking forward to a precious one-hour of knitting in front of Broadchurch tonight. Mini had other ideas. She kept running in and out, wanting her dolly tucked up, herself tucked up, her dolly dressed in a blanket like a toga; no, like a dress; no, like a sarong. She’s pretty astute about knowing just when I’m about to blow my lid, and usually picks that time to announce “Mummy, I love you allawaytoamoo nanback, hundred time” (Mummy, I love you all the way to the moon and back a hundred times). Anticipating it, I kissed her and said:

Me: “Good night, Mini! Last time! Bed!! I love you all the way to the moon and back a hundred times”.

Mini: “I love you more” (coquettish smile)

Me: “No, I love you more. To the moon and back the long way, infinite times”

Mini: “No, I love you more – I love you all the way to South Africa!”

Well, by golly, that is a very long way indeed. What a lucky mummy I am!

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.

Have Sewing Machine; Will Traumatise.

May 6

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

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

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

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

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

Midi's Owl Dress

Midi’s Owl Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I Spent My Birthday…

March 20

Today I Spent My Birthday… having a strange man guddling in my lady-bits. More on that later.

I’ve been awake most of my birthday. Lucky me! I went to bed after midnight, then was woken by my thoughtful youngest at 1am and 4ish, because she didn’t want to sleep in her own bed. The deprivation! Around 7am, Midi and Maxi brought in 2 sheets of writing they’d carefully and colourfully written, and sang me the songs they’d each made up. Ah, such a sweet thing for them to do! My heart burst, but my ears really needed my morning coffee first. Mini brought me 3 special family portraits she’d drawn. I think in honour of me, she’d given everyone purple hair. Bless! I unwrapped my present before The Boss left for work – a sleek, shiny, silver-coloured CD-player / amp / DAB radio. Argh! It’s so dinky I could just die! And the sound… Wow, wow, wow! I’ve been relying on dodgy radios and the car CD player for far, far too long. I’d forgotten that music actually has depth: bass lines as well as tinny treble.

I had Midi Minx home with me and Mini this morning – school had sent her home yesterday with abdominal pain and a hot, itchy forehead rash. Well, they did when they finally got hold of me! There’s no / limited mobile signal in the village, so when the school had called my mobile at 11am and left a message asking me to come pick up Midi and take her home, well, I didn’t get it. I didn’t hear them call the landline, and no message was left. At 1230 hrs I’d left the house to take Mini to a playdate. At 1330 hrs, school had tried the mobile again. At 1345 hrs, they called the house where we were at the playdate. Imagine my surprise to find that the call was for me… How had they tracked me down?! Impressive! And mortifying. And worrying. Emergency phone numbers are now updated!

Actually, yesterday was evidence of my progress towards being a less clingy mum: I’d left Mini with the kind mum who’d invited us over when I went to get Midi. Well, Mini had been having a lovely time, and had piped up: “I don’t want to go with you, Mummy!”, pushing my face away from hers by boinking me on the nose. Riiiiight! Although I’m happy and proud to see her independent self-confidence, I’m still haunted by the preceding 3 years of extreme clinginess. God, the evidence of that clinginess is all over most early posts of this blog! The same lovely mum dropped Mini back at home at school hometime, and even picked up Maxi from the school for me so that Midi hadn’t had to leave the house. I felt very humbled by her thoughtfulness.

So. Back to 20th. Midi was at home with us, wrapped in a fleece blanket in front of the TV, with Mini snuggled beside her, trying to win some sympathy points from me too. My friend visited and the girls happily drew on an activity book she’d brought them while we talked. Ha! That was the only time that day that I sat down and relaxed…

Midi had a GP appointment at 1110 hrs, and after lots of quizzing yesterday I’d made a mummy-guess-diagnosis of a possible UTI. So all morning I’d made sure she’d drank lots of water. I tried to get a sample of wee from 1030 hrs, 3 hours after the last time she’d gone to the toilet. Nope. I tried reassurance. No. I tried silence. Non. I tried turning on a tap for the sound of flowing water. Nothing. I tried dribbling water from a jug over her vulva. Nowt. The poor wee thing had real performance anxiety! I gave up at 1100hrs and chased off to the GP’s surgery. We tried again after another flask of water in the car. No.

The GP was very thorough, but couldn’t really conclude anything. The lack of peeing went against UTI. The rash didn’t really link with anything. I’d given Midi Piriton this morning when her left eye had puffed up. There was nothing obvious giving her a rash. No new animal or obvious allergen exposure. No fever. No sore throat. No raised glands. Just a funny itchy head, intermittent ab pain by her left bottom ribs and burning when she peed.

Luckily, I had 3 more trips to make that day past the surgery, so could take that bloomin’ pee sample in our own sweet time and hand it in later (I did. It looked clear and normal. I didn’t hear back so it must have been fine).

We drove home, had just enough time to have some soup for lunch, then back into town (yep, same one that the GPs surgery was in) to drop Mini off at nursery. Back home. Half an hour to clean up and fretfully hoover a bit, then back to the GPs to go have a coil fitted.

I’ve never had one before, and only agreed to it because my periods are so heavy that it’s been affecting my life for a few years (leaking after 90 minutes on the Uber-Mega-Massive-Nelly-the-Elephant sized tampon for 1 or 2 days out of every 24, and not being, em, well, dry for more than 3 days in every 24. And having to take iron tablets for more months of the year than not. Rubbish, eh?). So why now? Well, I’d gotten so iron-deficient recently that I was having palpitations, struggling to breathe after even minor exertion, freezing cold literally all the time, toes and feet turning greeny-black for a few minutes when I got in the bath to heat up a bit, pins and needles most of the time, bad brain fog, blah, blah, blah. So it had to be worth a try to see if getting the coil (Mirena) would help a bit, eh?

Anyway. I was a bit apprehensive about lying semi-naked in front of 2 strangers, one of whom would be rummaging around inside me. Whilst I was still having a period. Gruesome. I was also nervous about whether it would hurt. I’ve had 3 children, but all by caesarean. My cervix only ever managed to dilate to a weedy little 5cm 6 years ago.

So did it hurt? Aye. It did. Fair nipped. The GP and nurse were both very sensitive and kind and really very caring towards me, so I felt a bit of a rotter admitting to them that it bloody hurt. Achy at first, then sharp stings. Just for a few seconds at a time, but on and off for a few minutes. I didn’t cry, but I did swear a bit. I tell you, though, if it stops me bleeding so much it’ll be soooo worth it! Though Lillets might go out of business…

Whilst I was spending my birthday having a rare old time (!), little Midi was quietly sitting in the waiting room colouring in for 15 minutes. What a wee star! I felt fine afterwards so was ready to nip off and do the half-million other jobs I had to do before picking up Mini from nursery in half an hour, but instead just sat and admired Midi’s drawings for a few minutes first. Lovely! It’s the stolen moments like that that really make me happy. That, and the 30 minutes nap I snatched snuggled into Mid’s shoulder on the sofa in front of CBeebies later that afternoon (bliss).

For my birthday tea I made us sausage rolls, ham sandwiches, the obligatory Philadelphia sandwiches (no-one likes them, but it wouldn’t be a party tea without them curling up uneaten in the corner), veg sticks and home-made houmus, tzatziki and tomato salsa, hula hoops, ginger beer (aye – lashings of it) and some fruit kebabs that The Boss made. …damn, I just realised that we forgot to eat the Party Ring biscuits. Argh!… The kids and The Boss had made me a lovely lemon drizzle cake last night, and it was delicious. Maxi doesn’t know that, though – she didn’t get any:

Normally after the Birthday Boy or Girl blows out their candles, we sing Happy Unbirthday to everyone else in turn and let them blow out the relit candles. At Maxi’s turn, instead of blowing out the candles, she kind of huffed / coughed over them. Trying to be funny. The Boss and I scolded her for being disgusting. Cue instant hysteria from our eldest. She wailed. She howled. “You always, always tell me off for everything!” she exaggerated. She wailed as loudly as she could and generally stropped about. “Thanks for spoiling my birthday”, I sniped, pettily, as her sisters joined in with very brattish Give-Me-That-Big-Slice-Now-No-That’s-Not-Big-Enough-Aaaaaarggggh!-It’s-So-Unfair. Maxi was sent to her room till she was ready to apologise or at least feel a bit calmer, while I magically stopped the others’ bratty behaviour in its tracks and pretended nothing had happened. Midi and Mini ate their cake, giggled, had a laugh, then toddled off to get ready for bed. All the while Maxi wailed, “Everyone hates me! No-one understands me! It’s so unfair!”

After maybe my 3rd attempt to get her to listen to why I’d found her coughing over a cake unacceptable behaviour, she stopped squawking long enough for me to speak. I don’t think she actually understood, though. Sheesh, it’s so bloody hard sometimes trying to explain! At 7 I think she should understand why her dad and I had objected to her coughing over others’ shared food. The wee voice in my head reminds me that she probably genuinely doesn’t understand, but it doesn’t stop me getting exasperated sometimes.

Spot the, um, power-tool

Spot the, um, power-tool

So, what high jinx did I get up to the night of my birthday? Helped The Boss build the huge Besta-moth of cabinets in the kitchen. Don’t panic – the blue is just the protective covering. It’s all glossy white. It will hold an entire room worth of clutter. The smaller Billy bookcase in the right of the photo will hold all my sewing stuff. Oh wow, it’s going to be so great to cram everything behind a shut-able door!

Spot the child

Spot the child

And Madam Midi Minx? Oh she’s snoring her little head off, surrounded by a couple of her toys (!) Can you spot her?!

Mother Knows Best

After settling into her new school quickly and well, around about October 5-year-old Midi Minx had a big wobble. She suddenly didn’t want to go to school in the mornings, and clung pouting or sometimes sobbing to my leg. As Maxi generally clung to the other leg, wailing, this was not a good look. We did not look like a coping, happy Family Unit. I asked Midi what the problem was. Eventually she confessed:

Would you taunt this innocent little face?

Would you taunt this innocent little face?

“There’s this boy in my class called J…”, she wobbled.

Maintaining a Mummy Poker Face on the outside, I inwardly raged: I don’t need to hear anymore. He’d so dead. Whatever it is, how dare he hurt my baby?!

“Yes? What about J?” I asked lightly.

“He calls me a Poo-poo Head”. Sobs. “And everyone laughs!” Breaks her little heart.

I hugged her tighter still, kissed her wet eyes and thought for a second.

“Does he only say it in front of his friends?” Nods. “When he’s on his own?” Shakes head. “Well, Midi, what you have to know is that all little boys are stupid. And really easy to trick. Here’s what you need to do: when J calls you a Poo-poo Head, instead of feeling hurt and crying, you have to smile.” She looked up at me like I’d turned into Julie Andrews. On an acid trip. “Yep, smile. And say loudly, ‘It’s OK, J, I understand: secretly you really like me. But you call me horrible names so that no-one else guesses that you like me. I get it. It’s OK. I won’t tell anyone’, then wink, smile and walk away”. Midi looked thoughtful. “And it’s really important that when he protests and shouts that he really, really hates you, just smile wider and say, ‘You’re not fooling me. That actually means that you really love me lots. But I only like you a little bit, as a friend. Sorry'”. Midi started to smile.

I went through a little dialogue role-play, me playing the parts of Midi and J, along with comedy pirate and princess voices, so that Midi could see how it might play out. I showed her how to use words to put that little boy back in his box, but without being nasty or horrible, and how it might make everyone else laugh *with* her, which would make them like her more. And he’d get frustrated and stop, because his friends would take over and tease him every time he called Midi a bad name. She really got it. Her eyes lit up. She sniggered. I kissed her, then got on with making dinner and promptly forgot all about it.

A few days later Midi skipped out of school, and trilled, “Mummy, you’re really clever”.

What?! Oh-oh. My children think I’m stupid and old-fashioned and strict. This doesn’t bode well, whatever it is…

“I did what you said about J”, she smirked.

J? J…? Oh! That J! Oh hell… But she’s smiling? “Uh-huh? What happened?” I asked.

See these brainzzzz? I eat them up for breakfast. Like you, if you cross me

See these brainzzzz? I eat them up for breakfast. Like you, if you cross me.

“Well, he called me a Poo-poo Head and I smiled and said everything you told me to. And all his friends laughed. And he got cross, like you said he would. And then…” she burbled. I winced. Oh no, what happened next? I’m too scared to listen. “And then he said ‘When we grow up I’m going to marry you!’ And I said ‘OK'”, she giggled.

What?! Oh no, this has totally back-fired! What have I done?

“Mummy, you are so smart and clever. J’s my best friend now”, she snuggled up to me. “Right, what’s for snack? I wanna biscuit. Or chocolate…”, and she scampered off.

Nice try, little daughter: it’ll be fruit as usual. You can’t swing your auld mother off-track that easily…

Roll On Gluhwein O’Clock

I’m an extremely grumpy old trout this morning, and it’s only 10am.

It’s Friday and I always wake up happy on Fridays. It’s the promise of the weekend to come! Unlike during the other 11 months of the year, all 3 children woke up and happily padded downstairs to see what elf-shenanigans Edward and Edwinn had got up to overnight. Satisfied that they’d had a suitably messy time, the girls helped tidy up (although Midi mostly tidied the dusty and hairy marshmallows straight into her gob rather than the rubbish bin). After that, it kind of went downhill fast.

Midi is very fussy about her school cardigans: she’ll only wear one of the 2, complaining that the M&S grey one is annoying on her skin. Unfortunately, she is also a mucky pup who goes through a change of uniform every single day. It’s been too cold recently to have a window open while I tumble-dry a washing, so I didn’t get her blue cardigan washed. It’s too dirty to spot wash. It’s too cold for her to go without. So I got her a long-sleeved soft top to go under her polo shirt, partly to keep warm and partly so that the grey cardigan wouldn’t touch her skin anywhere. She refused to put the hated cardigan on. I refused to let her go to school without it.

At the same time, Mini refused to wear some new warm socks because “I can feel them on my feet! They’re touching my little ankles! Waaaaaah!” At the moment she just wants to wear clothes that feel invisible, and are a specific shade of purple or pink. I threatened to throw said socks in the bin, in a petulant rage (I’ve been stocking up on new clothes for the kids in the recent sales and am now more than a bit fed-up with the level of “It’s not the right shade of purple”; “It’s too loose”; “It’s not the right shape”; “It’s not the exact, precise same as my old leggings”; “It’s new! I therefore hate it” fussiness. And there’s no way we’re all spending a day going to the shops together to buy clothes, especially at this busy time of year). Mini has a small meltdown. Then I put on her new thick purple cardigan. It’s the right shade (hallelujah!), but the sleeves were too long. When I asked HOW MUCH too long, she held her thumb and forefinger apart by 3mm. She refused to have them rolled up. She refused to push them up her wrists a little. She tugged them long and gorilla-like, and set off her siren-whine.

I’m now getting very agitated because it’s much later than I’d like to set off so that I can drive slowly and carefully – I need to make 2 right-hand turns on a 70mph busy dual carriageway from a standing start to get to school and the roads are very icy.

I threaten. I cajole. I shout. Midi escalates the stand-off by balling up her clean cardigan and tempestuously throwing it on the dusty fireplace hearth. I really lose my temper and shriek that she can’t go to school without it. And if she doesn’t go to school, then the police will take her away and make her live with another family who WILL make her go to school, and she’ll never see her real family ever again. Cruel bitch, yes? Yes. Very. Trust me, I’d completely lost it and was throwing a verbal tantrum myself. Those vicious words to my little 5 year old are now paying back in a mega dose of guilt right now.

A crying Midi breaks the stand-off and puts her cardigan on. I melt, kiss away her tears, apologise for being bad-tempered, explain yet again why I need her to wear a cardigan and how I’d made sure that it wouldn’t touch her skin. Hug her and tell her I love her. Reassure her that she’s going nowhere and will have to stay with her grumpy, horrible mummy till she’s a grown-up. That raises a smile, which makes the rising guilt in me sting all the more.

I turn round to see Mini furiously hauling off her latest pair of socks and cardigan, and petulantly throw her hat and mitts on the muddiest shoes she can find. The Red Rage washes over the Mummy Guilt for a second and I yank on a hat, scarf, cardi on backwards, cram her into a jacket, and frogmarch her to the car. I strap her in the carseat, strap her sisters in safely, then race back to the house to get away from the jet-engine tantrum roar. Few deep breaths. Few deeper breaths. Survey the carnage of the kitchen. Assess that the pile of played-with toast and full beaker of milk mean that in the 45 mins that she sat at the breakfast table, she ate a grand sum of one tangerine.

Out to the car. Open the door. Hit with a wall of noise. Grab a sherbet lemon to disguise my dead-animal-mixed-with-coffee halitosis and provide a shot of sugar. Start the engine. Engage reverse. Let the clutch out a millimetre. Car goes sideways. Engage brake. Brake fails to work. Pump harder. Brake fails to work. Disengage reverse. Pump brake. Brake fails to work. Friction starts to operate. Car halts. Expletive leaves lips. Minxes immediate silence selves. Midi looks gleeful. Turn steering wheel. Engage first gear. Let out clutch a millimetre. Apply brake. Success! Let out clutch 2 mm. Apply brake. Success! Shout YIPPEE! Cows in the barn look amused. Slowly crawl to junction with now thankfully very quiet dual carriageway. Thank kids for silence while I wrestled with the car. Three sniggers/giggles.

The 2 right-hand turns go without incident because I’m able to drive very slowly over to and past the icy reservation and not actually stop. Bonus! I spend the rest of the journey apologising for being so angry, and explain why I lost my temper. Tell the kids I love them. They tell me they love me too. Feel even more guilty. Lots and lots of hugs and high 5s at the school, back on the dual carriageway to drive to the next town, drop off a now-very-late Mini at nursery. Warn the staff she’s now better after a huge tantrum, but that any mention of sleeves might trigger it again.

Back home, ready to relax with a coffee, only to discover a puddle of smelly cat pee on the carpet. Use up the last of the kitchen roll on it, and decide to chance using Zorb on non-colour-fast carpet. Scowl at cat, who’s now sleeping like a dreamy kitten.

Go to make coffee. Phone rings. It’s the estate agent telling me that the house we think we’d actually really love to buy has had an offer put in. We need to go and have a second viewing tomorrow and put in a pronto counter-offer in the blind or we’ll lose it. I’m not sure that we can afford to go any higher than the asking price. Rats.

And now the ‘k’ button on my keyboard is playing up! (took 8 presses to make it appear there. And 3 on the-word-between-to-and-it-in-this-sentence…).

I’m going to go make a coffee. I may be some time…

(and the title? It’s because me and The Boss have gotten into a habit of making a glass each of gluhwein every night. So yum! Kicks wine o’clock into a cocked hat).

Tattie Holidays Week 1 Day 1

English: A 1-litre bottle of Hendrick's Gin wi...

Start your day / school holidays with a tasty, volume-controlling breakfast. Note: other gin brands are also available. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday 14 October, Day 1 of the Tattie Holidays

It’s bucketing down with rain, so there’s no way we’re getting outdoors. Still, I have a cunning plan – shell out for all 3 minxes to go to the local soft play area. Well, I say local, but actually I have to drive for 20 minutes. Still, they get to chase around for 2 hours and have a packed lunch with lots of trashy treats in it while I get to knit my first Christmas present (scarf in ruffle yarn – hate the bloody stuff. Never again!) and watch them with beady eyes.

D’you think they might be tired out by that? D’you think Midi Minx might be exhausted after throwing herself about, tearing after 3 thugs who were terrorising the little kids? (all 3 were male, needed a wash, a haircut, and to be told ‘no’ a little more often. In my judgy-pants opinion). Nope. Not one little bit. Doh. OK, Plan B…

I’m in town anyway, so let’s try food shopping. It starts off a fun exercise in counting how many times I have to tell Midi to stop clinging to the side of the shopping trolley because it sends it wonky and makes me steer the bloody thing into the path or legs of fragile little old ladies. I really start to get tetchy when the count reaches 20, and I’ve not made it out the meat aisle yet. The checkout assistant asks if I need help packing. “No, just help keeping these 3 safe, alive and preferably out of trouble, haha”, I grimace. I’ll definitely tell that joke again next time, because suddenly her colleague descends and keeps the girls amused while I ram shopping into bags as fast as I can. Fantastic! She even gives them colouring-in sheets to take home and bicker about all afternoon (“She scribbled over my drawing!” “She ripped my page!” “She won’t let me have the emerald green crayon!”).

By now I’m getting a little desperate to keep these kids amused, and am beginning to seriously think about how long their jackets would stay wet in this not-very-dry house for if I send them out to burn off some steam. So I pull out the big guns as Plan C: an Alvin and the Chipmunks DVD I picked up for £3. The kids pounce on it gleefully and take their places in front of the tv and dvd player politely, between my bed and my sewing machine. I pull out a sewing pattern and contentedly prepare to spend a pleasant hour or 2 relaxing beside the kids. I switch on the TV like a trilling Julie Andrews. Nothing. Oh God in Heaven, don’t do this to me! The TV’s broken. No…. No! You’re kidding… I turn it on and off again. I turn it on and off again at the wall. I hit the remote control buttons a bit harder. I try footering with the SCART cable. I know deep down that when you switch on a CRT-type tv and you get a bright flash in one line in the middle of the screen that nothing is going to resurrect this baby. But I try like a rabid optimist for nearly 20 minutes.

Admitting defeat finally, I slink downstairs to hide from the noise of the kids beating each other up and screaming. One of the cats has left a black poo on the carpet and the other one has left a dead mouse on the step.

The Boss takes one look at my dark, silent face when he walks through the door and wordlessly pours me a big glass of wine, gestures to the Secret Snack cupboard and stands aside. Good man!