Last Day of Term Chaos

Friday 21 December

It was the last day of school and my first 2 babies were dressed up to the nines to go to their school party.  But they’re too young to wear pretty dresses and sparkly shoes!  They’re only… oh. Six and 4.  Already!  I think they were ready to leave faster, with less fuss, and with less nagging from me than I’ve ever experienced.  If only every day were Party Day…  The Boss got up early, despite still feeling very duff*, and made us all sausages for breakfast.  I think his cunning plan was to fill them up with a decent breakfast so that the mid-morning sugar onslaught of the party would have something to sit on.

*He took a day off work sick with a sore throat, joint aches, sweats, fever, and spent it in bed or on the sofa, exhausted.  Then he was sent home from work, and the GP told him to take a week off.  The poor man was sleeping 10 hrs at night, and dozing for 8-10 hrs during the day.  Glandular fever was the suspicion, but his blood test didn’t really confirm or deny.  He’s still not 100%, 3 weeks later, but at least he can form a coherent thought and join it to another one, now.

Rainbow halo around Midi

Rainbow halo around Midi

I made the girls’ hair as fancy as I could (Midi Minx is currently loving the rainbow bobbles in a halo look and Maxi is happy so long as there are sparkles in there somewhere), then checked the weather.  Stormy.  Pants!  So by the time I’d found the girls’ waterproof trousers and dragged out the big old buggy and fought with the plastic raincover that’s as big as a king-size duvet, we’re all running late.  And I’m not sure I’ll manage to ship 3 wee girls and 5 boxes of cupcakes to school, vaguely in one piece, and hopefully dry (ish).  I got ridiculously stressed leaving little Mini in the buggy outside the school, while I spent maybe 6 minutes wrestling her sisters out of wellies, rustling trousers, and enormous parkas, cramming them into sparkly shoes and stacking cupcake boxes onto little arms, kissing 2 shiny little faces, and going back for a second hug and kiss (how can I resist…?)  I do feel torn, needing to be with my toddler yet wanting to take my time unhurriedly sorting out my elder little girls.

cupcakesCupcakes…  I just don’t do presents to school-teachers because I struggle to do Christmas presents even to my entire large family, never mind friends.  But Maxi and Midi’s teachers are absolutely exceptional.  My girls love them, and are clearly loved in return.  The 2 classroom assistants are pretty wonderful too.  One in particular has cleaned and plastered Maxi’s skinned knees more often than I have, I think.  So last night me and The Boss stayed up baking and wrapping and boxing.  I didn’t take photos of the finished product, which is a shame, because I was really proud of how they looked: I did a batch each of Nigella Lawson’s espresso and cappuccino cupcakes, added a wee thank you note, and The Boss made little cardboard boxes to hold them, wrapped in paper covered with children dressed as Nativity characters.  Twee?  Yeah.  Tasty?  Gosh, yes!  There were 2 cupcakes left that me, The Boss and Mini shared the next day – droooool!  I hope they liked them and didn’t think, “Oh God, not more food and chocolate… ”

DSCF5973I legged it back up the hill in the driving rain with Mini then whizzed round tidying up before it was time to walk back down again (still raining and windy) to watch Santa giving out presents to 3 school-years of hyperactive, very excited, very noisy children.

On the looooong walk back up again, against the rain I let Mini have a bit of fun in the puddles.  Well, why not?  This time we had 2 hours before we had to be back walking down that bloody hill again (still in the rain.  But with a wee bit of sleet, just for variety’s sake), so it didn’t matter if she got wet.

I think I must have gotten hypothermia and it addled my brain.  After lunch I thought, well, Midi’s school-made card made me cry (little angel with her hand-prints as wings, her best 4 year old handwriting inside wishing her family a happy Christmas, and an “I love you” that made me bubble), so why don’t I let Mini make one?  A completely out-of-character, trilling, sepia-toned, Oh I’m Such A Good Mummy moment.  One day I’ll learn.  We got out the paints…

I sploshed some bright green paint in a big plate and found some card.  I held Mini’s hands in the paint and giggled about the squelching and the oozing, then pressed them on the card.  Cool – good antlers!  Then I discovered that it’s generally a good idea to have plenty of wipes and paper towels waiting *before* you begin – you turn your back on a painted 2 year old at your peril.  I practised shrugging off the mess (I was going to paint that wall green anyway next year.  Just maybe not quite such a bright, radioactive shade…).  I added some red onto the now-slopped-over plate and made a good brown to do a reindeer face.  Squealing with delight, Mini stamped on it. Then on the card.  Then on the floor.  And me.  Caught the edge of the plate (splot).  And kicked the cat.  Yep, the white cat…  With the pristine, thick, white fur.  While Killer Cat drew us evils, I dead-armed Mini upstairs to the bath and got busy with some soap.

Soap must have fumes that killed my remaining brain-cells – when I got down I thought how amazing the antlers might look with glitter on them.  Aye, glitter!  You know me and my Hate-Hate relationship with glitter…  I thought, “Och, it’ll be fine.  I’m a grown-up.  I have manual dexterity.  I’ll just shake a tiny bit over the wet paint.  Tap-tap.  Oh, a wee bit more.  Tappity-tap.  Just a… HOLY CRAP the lid’s flown off!!”  And the whoosh of blue glitter enveloped me and Mini like the gases from an erupting volcano.  Mini sniggered.  The cat tutted and rolled her eyes.  Sod it!  I’ll just let the cat outside to fester in peace, shut the kitchen door, and leave the mess for a few hours.  And a few coffees and glasses of wine later.  And so I did 🙂

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.


Looooong Day of Germs and Glitter

I knew it was going to be a long day when I had 2 minxes wriggling in bed at 5am; I knew it had been a long day when I sneezed and produced more glitter than snot.

As you know, I’ve been struggling a bit with sleep deprivation, lately: Midi Minx has had a terrible cough that’s keeping her awake, Mini’s catching Midi’s germs and Maxi is over-excited about Santa. I thought I was coping ok, just on go-slow, until I felted a brand new expensive cashmere jumper. I had been unloading a wool wash, got distracted by Mini reaching for the oven/hob/grill/sharp knives, then completely forgot to finish unloading. And whanged on the next cotton wash. But it still had my lovely jumper in it. I nearly cried.

So yeah, that was a sign that the old Trout Brain was beginning to disintegrate. Time to step away from the keyboard, put sharpthings away, and hide the car keys. And get an early night.

That’s all well and good, but The Boss woke me up when he came up for a shower. Then again when he came to bed. But he couldn’t sleep, so he put on the telly. I think he dozed off around 1am. Then Midi was in at 5am because she couldn’t sleep or breathe with her cough (now chesty and wet sounding: oh-oh). At 5.10am Mini started yelling, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” so I cuddled her, changed her nappy, settled her. No chance! She was wide awake and not happy about it. I decided to take her into our bed…

After draining what little milk I have left totally dry, after poking her little fists in my windpipe and peeling my eyelids open, she started trying to play with her sister. They both wanted to lie on top of me, but having lost 2 stone since the summer, there’s only room for one. Toss, turn, toss, turn. Mini finally went back to bed at 6.30am. When the alarm went off at 7, I bounced out of bed and headed for the coffee and frying pan: fried potato scones, fried garlic and rosemary roast potatoes left over from the night before last, fried sausages and fried eggs. The minxes thought Christmas had come early.

The lucky fairy was smiling on me, because I got through to the doctor’s within an hour of trying (only 6 mins wait – a new record!) and even got 2 back-to-back appointments in the morning. So after a few wobbles getting everyone dressed (“Maxi, I couldn’t care less if your red socks look silly with your entirely purple ensemble – I can barely see”), we went on a Family Exped To The Docs.

The girls were ok in the 15 min wait, playing happily with the manky and grubby wooden toy maze thing in the waiting room (?? So, all these sick kids cough and drool their germs and viruses and rub their possibly unwashed poo-y hands all over this toy, which is never cleaned, because the grime is patently years old. All the other kids get to play with it and lick it and wipe their snot on it too, and share the existing germs while they’re at it. WTF?!)

The locum doctor called Midi in. Well, what a special little ray of sunshine she was! She looked at us flatly, then waddled off down the long corridor, stopping at intersections long enough to make sure I’d looked up to see her in the distance, before she disappeared along another piece of maze. We got to her consulting room. No need to lead us there – she could have told us just to follow the smell, as it enveloped us in a damp clatty ming about 4 rooms away. She must have been chainsmoking in there, because at only 9.30am that smell of fags sure doesn’t develop just from someone’s clothes and breath. Having said that, I guessed it had been around a month since her last hair wash, so it’s possible…

I suppose I expect everyone to be able to speak to small children, and I forget that it’s a learned skill. So I did inwardly giggle when she asked 3 year old Midi to ‘If you wouldn’t mind now removing your top or raising it somewhat higher..?’ I did translate, but poor Midi looked at me like she was speaking Swahili.

I treated Midi’s tickly cough all week with cough mix, 2 pillows and a wee piece of chocolate to coat and soothe her throat (shhhhh! Don’t tell her dentist!). But as I thought at about 6am, she now has a chest infection. So she’s on antibiotics. Mini was also marched in front of the doctor because she has a sore throat, is noisy when she breathes and her thick green snot occasionally has dribbles of blood in it. The doc professed her absolutely fine and clear of anything (I’ve not done 6 years at medical school, it’s true, but I’m not so sure. Anyway, I’ll maintain a very watchful eye). This was lucky, because Mini can have amoxicillin, but Midi is allergic to it. If 2 minxes are on antibiotics, as they usually are, I need to write their names in enormous black marker on the bottles to avoid mix-up. I’m so tired right now, I don’t think I could write their names large enough…

So. glitter. Well, I pretty much intended to just let the kids have an entire day of CBeebies (ooooooo shoot me! Tell Social Services! I don’t care!), but it stopped raining for an hour or so. So we nipped out to post Christmas cards to neighbours and drop off last night’s batch of mince pies as bribes to the poor neighbours we disturb most. I also got the opportunity to glower at the half-wit roofers repairing the ridge tiles of most of the street. Again. (Actually, can anyone tell me if dry-cutting is allowed on roof slates? I’ve a feeling it’s completely against HSE regs. I don’t really care (ok, yes I do) if one of the divvies goes and gives himself a terminal lung illness, but I care if it causes damage to mine or other children.)

Loved by kids; hated by trouts

I digress. Anyway, a long jaunt down into the village to pick up antibiotics (and emergency chocolate) left me feeling quite awake and euphoric. “Of course you can play with your craft stuff, darlings!” I trilled, foolishly and fondly imagining myself to be A Good Mother. I left them round the kitchen table while I made myself a coffee and typed on Facebook a true transcript of what they were saying as I typed:

Maxi: “Get off, that’s mine! I want that sticker! I want the same book as Beverley! Li-leeeeee! Drop it! Aieeeeeeee!!!! You pulled my hair!”

Midi: “No! It’s for Upsy Daisy. You’re not getting it; I got it first. Mine!”

Mini: “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Waaaaaaah!”

I left them to it while it was just bickering, but had to step in when Midi unleashed the felt tips…

After Mini went down for her nap (! 2 hrs late. And she’s skipped half of them this week – please God don’t let her be dropping her nap yet: I need her to sleep!) I let them play with glitter. What the hell? I’d just mopped the floor. The ominous “gish” sound on the floor and a muttered, “Oops” told me all I needed to know – Mini would be pooing green glitter for weeks. Like last time. I tried my normal deep-clean, barrier nursing, just-short-of-donning-a-spacesuit particle control methods. I hoovered, swept and remopped; I wet-wiped hands, faces and bare feet; I hoovered feet; I flung socks in the washing. All to no avail. My entire house is covered in a film of green sparkling glitter.

If germs spread like glitter we’d all be dead.

Maxi’s Sparkling Day

American Gothic (Grant Wood)

Inside The Boss's mind...

I tweet*. Today’s tweet was “This morning Mini stuck a soggy paintbrush in her ear, Midi ate the paint and Maxi exploded the glitter. House will never be the same again.” Pretty much sums up the day, and any attempt at crafting in our house!

* I’m GrumpyAuldTrout, if you’re interested. Say hi and I’ll say hello back :o)

So, after dropping Maxi off at school this morning, I took a very happy Midi and Mini Minx directly to the swings. Everything in the park was soaking wet despite the sun, but luckily I’d come armed with waterproof all-in-ones to keep them reasonably dry. As expected at 9am, the swing park was empty, but my noisy duo didn’t mind. It was lovely to see Midi running around in glee with a huge smile on her face. In more ways than one: I love to see my babies happy, Midi has a very beautiful smile, I love seeing my babies being active, and although very strong, Midi is quite a clumsy child, so it’s wonderful to see her successfully *doing* something (her shins are one long mess of grazes and bruises, poor thing). However, after about 20 minutes, I think both girls were missing their biggest sister: Maxi is bossy and always the instigator of things. She’s also their prime tormentee, so they quickly lost interest. I suggested we go home and paint. They both looked delighted, even though Mini doesn’t know what paint is (I’m a bad mummy – we draw and never paint. Hence my decision to break out the wet stuff).

Midi loved splashing around with the colours and being given a proper glass water jar rather than plastic, and was beside herself at being given her big sister’s nice paintbrushes (shhhhhhh… she’ll never know). She made some very bold stripes on the paper using exactly the shades she wanted (mixing colours at 3: she’s been watching Maxi at work!). I called time out when her tentative licks of the paintbrush turned into determined chomps.

Mini, meanwhile, sat like a baby dictator, screeching and pointing at the colours she wanted until I gave them to her. She scooped out blobs and busily smeared them over the paper. When it got wet enough, she splashed her little hands in it. I decided enough was enough (and 20 mins is plenty long enough for littlies!) and turned my back to get a baby wipe for her hands. In those few seconds, she had stuck a paintbrush in her ear, smeared a gob of red paint all over her hair, looked like an extra in a zombie film and you should have seen her clothes… An early bath wasn’t a popular decision.

Whilst I calmed the Dynamic Duo down with posh grilled burgers in a bun, Maxi was having her first taste of school dinners with her Daddy, her new boyfriend and his Mummy. She had macaroni cheese and reportedly said, “I shouldn’t say this, but it’s even nicer than Mummy’s!” As an encore, she then calmly announced that she and James would be getting married when they grew up. The Boss said he growled a bit; he couldn’t help it. He also said that the 4 year old intended groom had looked very smug. As well he might! At the morning line-up Maxi cried because another little girl stood behind him and wouldn’t let her in. So she’d stood in *front* of James. He’d put his arms round her. The other little girl pouted. I detect a little love triangle starting up here…

After lunch, Maxi dissolved in tears because I couldn’t take her to the park to play with James. I’d gotten Mini down for her nap relatively easy and wasn’t going to wake her for anything. As a bit of recompense, I suggested Maxi do some really nice crafting. “Can I play with my glitter?” she asked tentatively. “Oh, ok, on you go, have fun” (yep, must have had too much sun). Within 10 seconds she’d dropped a big pot of gold glitter all over the floor. I did my best with brush, hoover, mop and kitchen roll on hands and knees, but I’m still finding the bloody stuff all over the house – it’s even sparkling cheekily at me from the bottom of the toilets and the bath.

Christmas is a-coming

Don’t mind me, I’m just uber-grumpy at the moment.  It’s not been helped by the annual Trauma By Christmas card.

In fairytales and marketing campaigns, we women (it’s never men, is it?) are pictured writing Christmas cards, fountain pen (of course) cradled deftly, a whimsical smile playing on our lips, an Irish coffee or glass of Baileys nearby and a blazing fire almost out of shot.  It’s such an often-used picture that it’s a caricature.  Every piece of it is essential to the entire image, nothing can be left out, especially the smile.  Ooooo the smile.  What is the model supposed to be smiling about?  Happy memories of the person she is writing to?  And what fond sentiments are she writing so fluently?

What a load of old cobblers!  On my planet, Christmas cards are written in a frenzy of rushing to catch the day after the last post, or if written in time, then the cursive effort is accompanied by muchos-cursing from me (I can never think of anything apt or witty or smart or caring to write).  I never have a glass of anything to hand (too likely to spill it over the last of the cards) never mind alcoholic (too easy to mispell my own name under the influence).  And the only fire in this household is if I’ve forgotten the sausages cooking.  Again.  As for a smile – ha!  More like a scowling frown as I vainly search for the right envelope to fit the right card size, battle against the bile rising from too much envelope- and stamp-gum licking, and curse over running out of ‘large’ stamps.

Having children makes it a hundred times worse.  Today, Little Miss Popularity P got 11 Christmas cards from her friends. She’s 4!  Miss Likeable L got 5.  She’s 2.  I have a really hard time writing 30 cards to toddlers from a toddler.  For goodness sake!  They can’t read!  They’re too young to take umbrage at not getting a card from so-and-so!  But as the mountain of Christmas cards grows from other kids, my guilt makes me buy 3-for-the-price-of-2 boxes of mini cards at the supermarket and spend a whole week of evenings at the kitchen table, writing my 100 lines: “To x Merry Christmas Love from Z xxx”  At least the 4-year-old can write her own name, so can be roped into at least signing it on most of them.  I just need to dissuade her from drawing a huge mural masterpiece on all but her immediate relatives’ cards (or we’ll be here till next year…)

Don’t even talk to me about glitter.  I hate glitter.  I am the most ungirly, un-pink, un-glittery person you’ll meet.  But I am covered in the stuff.  I recently blew my nose and checked (yeah, sorry, but I’ve been getting nose bleeds and it is relevant).  Yep, the contents had glitter in them <sigh>  I think it’s like those factories that cannot declare any of their food nut-free because they once had an employee eat a packet of peanuts in the office, once, last Christmas – you can choose non-glittery cards, but at some point in their lifespan they’ll have come into contact with a glittery one.  And that once is enough to cross-contaminate with the vile, sparkly stuff and transfer it onto me.  Grrrr.

Every year I get more exasperated at the madness and sheer pointlessness of Christmas cards.  I dither for days over which designs to buy, take a week (minimum) to write them (hating every moment), prop up the Royal Mail by buying hundreds of stamps to send them all, only for them to be looked at once and recycled a week or 2 later.  Every year I realise too late that I’ve bought into the madness again and declare, “That’s it, never again, I’m going to buy a goat”.  Except, how will you tell all your friends and family that you bought some poor village a goat instead of sending them a Christmas card?  Yeah – you write or email.  Might as well send a blinking Christmas card, then!  So pass me a glass of something very alcoholic, will you?  I need it after tonight’s mammoth efforts.  Those toddlers better be grateful.