Power Cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just posting a bunch of non-published drafts…

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

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

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!

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.


Grumpy Old Witch

Two Packets of Hula hoops

Essential Items When Taming Your Minx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hinted a few posts ago that Tuesday was quite a tough day for me in lots of different ways.  Just the usual sleep-deprived shenanigans, really…

I asked Andy at the garage what services I’d lose if my auxiliary belt failed.  He went through a long list of things that, whilst not essential, were pretty much needed.  Yep, definitely better to keep your aux belt working.  It’s a bit like that and sleep.  If you’re so sleep-disturbed that you’re into total awake-failure, you can stay alive; you can stay functioning.  But you lose your short-term memory, tolerance, decision-making ability, short-term memory, rationality, sense of humour, short-term memory…

So: Tuesday morning.  Both Midi and Mini Minxes decided that they couldn’t possibly sleep in their own beds and had to sleep beside me.  That’s fine, especially if they’re having nightmares, are cold, frightened, feeling ill, but I don’t think it’s fair game to come bounding into my bed, stamping up my prone form and prodding me in the nose. with a yell of “Bogeys!”.  Just for fun.  Or having a fight with your sister about who sleeps immediately next to me.  Or who has the most covers.  Or kicking me in the head to make me relinquish my little 5cm sliver of mattress.

In the morning I slumped at the breakfast table.  With weary, red eyes I glared at my youngest 2.  “Kids!” I hissed, “If you 2 don’t let me get some sleep soon, I’m going to be grumpy… FOREVER!!”

Mini blinked thoughtfully, looked me right between the eyes, and announced, “Want toast, Mummy.  Now.  That one”, nicking a slice off my plate.  Midi idly picked her nose.  So the prospect of an angry me had lots of impact, then?

Within 15 minutes, I was roaring: spilled milk, up-ended cereal, my entire 2 slices of toast (cut into 4 little squares each) nicked by daughters, 2 freshly-ironed uniform sets bunched up and rolled about on the sofa where the cat sits…  Mini decided to raise the stakes with a tantrum.  I threw one of my own.  When I paused for breath, mid-rant, she suddenly changed tack with a winning smile and a lispy: “I want to say solly, Mummy – I love you!”  You’ve never seen wind out of sails so quick; how can you be angry with a toddler that cute?  As she came over for a cuddle and a ‘sorry’, it was just what I needed to take a breath and start the morning again.  Mini knows exactly what she’s doing – she can influence and downright control my behaviour far better than I can hers!

Her good influence extended all the way to the bus into the nearest town.  When she decided that she didn’t want to sit in the seat.  Or my lap.  I tried reasoning with her.  I tried distracting her (“Look! Pink shiny glittery thing over there! Wow!”).  I tried bribing her.  She wailed louder and struggled harder.  I managed to get a seat belt around her.  She turned into a noisy, squirming, shrieking Harry Houdini, with an audience of tutting old people all around us.  Bless – I guess their memories were as shot as mine, except that I remember what tantruming children are like.

No problems with Mini’s memory, though.  The only time I’ve ever bought her Hula Hoops as a snack was the last time we went to the garage, in summer.  As we’d chatted in the car earlier about taking the car to the car-dentist for a check-up, she asked for “HooooLLLLa hooops again”.  Minx!  Actually, maybe that’s where I went wrong on the bus – I should have bought a packet for bribery.

The rest of the day in town was wet.  And cold.  Bitterly, bitterly cold.  Although I’d taken the sling and a ton or 7 of toys, Mini just wanted to walk.  And splash in muddy puddles.  Or splash me with muddy coffee (my khaki cords had a really fetching brown stain on the inside of my legs all day…).  The rest of the day didn’t get much better.  When I later related my tale of woe to The Boss that evening, he pole-axed me with a simple, “Why didn’t you go to the Farm Shop?”  A short walk from the garage.  With an indoor play area that kids really love, great food, properly child-friendly, nice coffee, farm animals to go look at.  The perfect half-day out.  I’m so tired I’d forgotten it existed…  Meh!

Bed Swap

I haven’t moaned for a long time about sleep-deprivation.  It’s not because it’s not happening – it’s because I’ve gotten fed-up of moaning about it.  Let me give you a little photo-montage to explain how it goes…

Foster Cat likes the top bunk and Maxi Minx’s stuffed toys very much.

In fact, each night he takes over more and more of Maxi’s pillow.  So she wakes up and pushes him aside.  Like Goldilocks he tries his luck in the bottom bunk.  Midi then wakes up and comes stumbling in to me, where she likes to spend the Silent Hours whirling into the covers like a caterpillar in a cocoon or head-butting me till I move over.

Mini, I think, taught Foster Cat his moves.  She’s always primed, ready for Nocturnal Parental Torment at any time.  The slightest noise will rouse her to come battering into our room, squealing at her big sister until she moves over, and commencing her kicking and punching of me until I move over and give her half the bed.  She usually throws in a few wails of “Nooooo, Daddy too ‘melly! Yuck!” so that he doesn’t get away scot-free.

I think this last photo sums up 2am in our household, though.  Need I say any more?!

Me? Smug?


Today’s post is mostly about beds…


We put Mini Minx into her Big Girl Bed on Sat 15 Sep.  Although she’d not

Midi helps tuck in Mini; we stopped her using Botch Tape and explained that tucks would be enough to keep her in bed (ha! Optimistic fools!)

been trying to escape from her cotbed, I reasoned that if she did, she would badly hurt herself.  Looking ahead a few weeks, I intend to start potty-training her soon.  If I recall correctly , potty-training is lots easier when the child can get up in the night and in the morning and go to the potty or toilet themselves (I’m still mentally scarred by Midi’s “nappy-art” adventures…).  So I decided to get Mini into a big bed, let her get used to it, then when she’d settled down from the new freedom, start potty-training her.Well, it’s now 12 Oct, and that little madam has been relishing the easy access a low bed has been giving her to Mummy’s bed, Midi’s bed, being able to refuse to stay in bed for naps and night-time…  It partly explains why it’s taking me so long to catch up with these posts: I spend any free time at night knitting and designing for my business, whereas day-time free-time is spent blogging.  And Mini’s not exactly been napping successfully.  <doom!>


Stop sniggering and go to sleep. Like the cat in *her* hammock, aka the sofa back

I think I mentioned that I saw a wrap in the most beautiful shade of green that I’ve ever seen, and I’m afraid that my PayPal finger slipped… O:-)  Luckily Mini loves it as much as me, and requests it most mornings on the school run (she’s always safely on my back, out of harm’s way.  Or people who think it’s ok to distract kids next to busy main roads.  Same thing, really.  And it means I can hold Maxi and Midi’s little hands, which I love).

Anyway, I was thinking about how I’d bought it in a size 6 so that I could start wrapping Mini in a Double Hammock, partly because she’s getting so heavy, and partly because although the Didymos Indio Cypress is a linen/cotton blend, it’s pretty thin.  For once, I felt I needed the extra support.  At the same time as I was musing all that, I was also fretting about Mini not napping, and me not sleeping much thanks to her kicking me in the head all night long (especially when Midi decides she needs a nocturnal Mummy-Cuddle too and takes up most of the space).  Somehow the 2 thoughts melded and I came up with this: an indoor hammock!  If only I could trust Mini enough to actually let her nap in it.

Vegetable Beds

That’s it, next year I’m covering the veg beds in fine net.  The cats used lots of seedlings to keep their bums warm and so we lost all our carrots.  The buddleia was a raging success with the local butterflies so much so that they laid eggs all over the cabbages, brussels sprouts and broccoli.  I know I’ve moaned about having to do a messy caterpillar cull every few days, but honestly, where are they all coming from?!  I got around 200 this week alone.  Are they indestructible?  Zombie caterpillars?  Immortal?  On the run from next-door’s garden?!  I really hate killing anything and feel so incredibly guilty squashing them.  If the nets don’t work keeping butterflies away from veg next year, I think I’ll have to bribe the minxes to kill the caterpillars.  Well, the younger 2: Maxi is far more guilt-laden and sensitive than me, poor kid.

Early Grave

Black Forest Belly-Bustin’ Gorgeousness

I don’t know what it is about the start of autumn that makes me feel melancholy and desperate to trough chocolate.  The Boss understands.  So he made this artery-buster of a cake for me: 4 layers of chocolate cake soaked in morello cherry juice and kirsch, whipped cream, morello cherries and grated chocolate.  Does it look nice?  It tasted even better than it looked!  Did it make me feel better?  Oh, I’m not sure – I’ll have to try again.  For scientific comparison purposes, of course…

Revenge of the Sleep-Deprived

I finally got my own back on my chronically sleep-disturbing minxes – hahahahahahaaaa! <———maniacal sound.

Last night (26th July 2012) Maxi and Midi Minx came into my bed 3 times each. That’s 6 times I got woken last night. In 6 hours. So the odds of me being sleepy, dopey and a smidge grumpy were a sure bet. At one point around 4.30am I yelled at Midi in frustration as she stood at the side of the bed, crying. Even as I shouted at her, I knew it was pointless – the poor little girl wasn’t exactly going to stop crying and say brightly: “D’you know what, Mummy, you’re absolutely right: I really am being selfish waking you up just because I’ve woken up. I shall trot off to my own bed, forthwith”. So I got a full dose of guilt on top of despair and frustration and bone-crushing fatigue.

The morning was a sludge of trying to remember all the things I’d need to take with me to get the girls and the car to a new garage I’ve never been to before, and a bit of a walk round a nearby town. And it being Scotland, it might be rainy, snowy, icy, sunny, sun-burny, windy. And the girls might be hungry, thirsty, wet themselves, poo themselves, fall over, graze themselves, suddenly refuse to walk any further, try and race away, half-kill each other, run in front of busy traffic. And sleepy, cranky old me had to be prepared for all of it. Hmmmm.

Viewing / play area at Kinloss Garage

Well, the garage visit went very well, at least. I needed an oil change but had been putting it off for a while because it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs taking 3 minxes with you to the garage for hours. And it’s impossible to get it done on a Saturday when The Boss can mind them – I think you need Masonic connections to get a Saturday appointment anywhere. But I’d heard Kinloss Garage was child-friendly, and they could fit me in the next day. Andy the owner kindly made me a coffee on hearing (or maybe just from seeing) how tired I was, then got the car sorted pronto. The price was a LOT lighter on my purse than I’d feared, even though I’d brought my own oil. The minxes thought it was all part of the day out: they drew, read the books, played with cars on the mat, and watched Andy at work on the car (Mini burst into tears when it went up on the ramp, though). Ahhhh, a genuinely child-friendly garage with a safe, enclosed and welcoming kids’ play area and clean nappy-change bit – what a relief! I’ll definitely be back. So don’t you all go booking him up into next year, because I’ve got more work I need done to the Trout Wagon, soon!

Anyway, I digress. We drove over to Forres, whizzed round Tesco to grab some bits for lunch, parked at Grant Park, I loaded up a bag with the million and one things you need to cope with Scottish summer weather, then unleashed the minxes and set off up the hill, around 1030hrs.

Mini: “What’s that on your feet, Midi? They look like shoes, but rubbisher”
Maxi: “Aye”

We only meant to go up the hill to Nelson Tower: “Where does the yellow arrow lead to, Mummy?” asked Maxi. I’d no idea, so we decided to follow it. By the time we’d wound our way off the hill and past the next one, it did cross my mind that we might be heading off on a looooong walk… I decided to keep walking till midday, then either retrace our steps or keep ploughing on. Midi had insisted on wearing overly-large crocs, so she had to stop every few steps to shake leaves, twigs and forest ‘stuff’ out her shoes. I nagged her every single time (guilt, guilt, guilt now…): “If only you’d worn sensible shoes like I told you to”. Yes, she’s 4. Yes, I had a flash-forward to when she’s 15. Yes, I could hear my own mother in my inner ear, nagging me.

Powered by cake

As midday struck, I realised we’d walked for quite a long time for 3 little girls. We also finally came across our first map of the walks so could figure out where the hell we were. Ah. By Sanquar Loch, Chapeltown. Never heard of it. So we’d walked over 2 miles over the past 90 minutes. Alas there was no short-cut back. And stupidly I’d left my purse in the car. So we didn’t have the option to jump in a taxi or bus to get back. The only thing we could do was to continue the circular walk (another 2.5 miles) or cut one little corner and get back in 2 miles. It was the fastest way back. Damn!

I decided that this was a good place for lunch, and desperately got some calories down 3 little necks before the swans came over with their almost-adult cygnets. Ten minutes later, with a tired and sleepy Mini on my back in our trusty Carmin Fish sling (thank God I remembered that!), we were off.

Looking over the Amazon Rainforest. OK, Sanquar Loch (easy mistake to make)

Poor Midi got slower and slower, her tired little feet dragging more and more. Maxi was a star, encouraging her and holding her hand. I finally stopped nagging her about her footwear choice and worked on distracting her. That wasn’t hard because the scenery and wildlife really were lovely. And my girls get all excited at seeing tractors (!) Around the time we popped out at Leanchoil hospital, Midi was on her knees, so I swapped her and Mini around in the sling. Out came the final bags of fruit to keep them going, but they were so tired that they spilled most. I think it took around an hour to slog the last little half mile…

So: did they sleep soundly that night? And stay in their own beds all night long? OH YESSSS!!!!!

Attention Span of a Bored Goldfish

When I went to sleep on Sunday 22nd July, I’d had high plans that we’d spend Monday either going to the beach or the woods. The reality, when I woke up having had around 3 hours broken sleep, thanks to all 3 minxes (yet again), was that I’d spend the day just functioning. No problems, we have a large garden – mostly lawn with a vegetable garden in one corner – so we can at least get outdoors. Ah. Maybe not. The forecast of ‘warm, overcast, slight south-westerly with no gusts’ turned out to be more like ‘mild, overcast, driving horizontal rain, strong wind with squally gusts of up to 50mph’. As I watched my veg garden being blown over and 7ft tall buddleia* split itself in half, I considered the possibility of falling roof tiles, yet again, so decided to stay indoors.

* well, the stupid thing was only supposed to grow to 3ft tall. Serves it right. Hmph!

Trying to be a Good Mummy, I encouraged the minxes to build a den indoors. I gave them sheets, blankets, suggestions, helped them to turn the sofas so that the backs faced together, and helped them ‘clear the forest floor’ (pile all the toys and general kid-detritus onto the sofas or out the room). Brill. As they got on with that, I skulked back to the kitchen to make yet another strong coffee.

Maxi’s model of a camp fire, with logs, flames, ground and smoke. It was so good that I’m very proud and a bit frightened. ‘Was’: Midi wrecked it. Thank goodness we took a photo the night before

Before the kettle had boiled, 2 out of 3 minxes were screaming. Maxi’s amazing camp fire model was being destroyed by Midi. I went in, scolded, remonstrated, soothed, and headed back to the kettle. This time I nearly got to pour the water out before Mini was screeching and pinching at Midi. Third time lucky? No chance – the younger ones objected to Maxi’s insistence on everything being done her way by smacking, hair pulling and throwing tight-fist shaking, nose-wrinkling, foot-stamping, teeth-baring strops (Mini). The noise volume was about Level 11 so I made it up to a nice round 12 by joining in the shouting and threatening.

Maxi flounced off to bed. (She really loitered at the top of the stairs pretending to wail. I wish she had gone to bed – she needed more sleep as much as me). Midi and Mini cackled at being given free rein to only have 1 lopsided wall to their den. I gave up on coffee and got on with mopping the floor (why oh why oh why can’t I just hose away all the goo dropped from dinner? Life would be so much easier, I’d have so much more free time and the house would be so much cleaner…).

The wind gusts went up another 10mph (the peas blew completely flat past their hard support) so I gave up on the idea of a garden picnic lunch. Instead I boiled some eggs (the minxes only ever eat boiled eggs in picnics. And it’s the first thing they ask for in picnics. Strange kids. You’d never guess that I craved boiled eggs when I was pregnant with each of them, would you…?!), cut different cheeses into strips, made some sandwiches, filled little water bottles, found some raisin sachets and made it all up into little packed lunches. Heck, they think anything wrapped in foil = world’s best packed lunch. I broke my main house rule and let them eat it in the living room, on the already-dirty sheets. Ahhhh, maybe I could grab that coffee now?

Two coffees down, 3 more to go to achieve normality. After lunch and some thick slabs of watermelon for pudding, and I realised all 3 girls were sticky, dirty and wet from melon juice. And the wind was down to just ‘storm’. Excellent! They couldn’t get any messier, so I grabbed 3 umbrellas, put the girls in waterproofs and ushered them outside. The 2 girls with the nice see-through umbrellas loved this; the other, with the dolly-pram umbrella hated it. So I tried to make it into a game – every minute I shouted, “Change!” and they all had to swap umbrellas. Except instead of spreading out the fun, it actually spread out the misery – they all bickered about who was getting which brolly and for how long. Thinking my poor neighbours probably couldn’t take much more of my yelling, I suggested they be trains. Nice! Now they got to fight over who was the engine or who got to choo-choo the loudest…

I ran away bravely to make another coffee. Clutching it like a shield, I wracked my brains. Ah, bubbles! They all love bubbles! That will make them giggle and laugh and we’ll all feel better! So I got out the litre bottle of bubble-mix I’d stashed away at Christmas. I carefully poured it into the enormous bottle with the best bubble wand ever. I gave each minx a bubble bottle. I stepped back to drink my coffee and enjoy…

Mini: “Waaaaaah! Why do I always get the toy one?!”

Midi spilled 500ml of bubble mix instantly. I yelled to her to pick up the bottle. She just chuckled and left it, draining out like a bloodstain. Mini promptly spilled hers. I yelled at her. Then she dropped her little bubble wand into the huge (and now mostly empty) bottle. I couldn’t reach it and it cut my finger, so I yelled at the bottle. Maxi cleverly picked up bubble mix with her wand from the puddle of bubble mix on the ground, but then merrily threw the wand and gobs of bubble mix at me and my precious coffee. I yelled at her then ran away bravely to The Stones. The little gits kept following me, despite me reminding them Every Single Day that their domain is the massive lawn whilst mine is the tiny stone area around the veg garden. They are not to play on the stones because it’s unsafe and I need somewhere to drink hot drinks free from worrying about spilling them on a (feather-brained) little head. They never listen and I always get cross. Either us adults or those minxes are going to have to back down one day…

Mini signalled to me that she was ready for her nap by pinching me hard 5 times. After the 3rd time, I gave up scolding alone and added a slap to her little hand (gulp – massive guilt and shame at those delicate, gentle little hands being smacked. I was waaay beyond the end of my tether), but no surprise that it didn’t change anything: she just laughed at me and pinched me harder. I read somewhere that smacking a child is a sign that the adult is throwing a tantrum. How very, very true! Realising I was being a total twit, I stopped yelling and asked her if she wanted to take Dora the Explorer or De Li to bed for a nap. “Di-di!” she said happily, not at all bothered by this very dramatic change in tack. We had a lovely cuddle up the stairs, big kisses, nice tucks, and bid each other good night (God, she’s such a sweet little love when she’s not displaying her foul temper that has absolutely nothing to do with mine. Of course. Ahem).

Typically, as Mini was settling down after a yelled “Mummy clo’ my doah! Now, peez!” (Mummy close my door, now please), 4 parcels were delivered. Yep, by the kind of folk who ring the bell 3 times with one hand whilst they hammer on the door with the other. Grrrrrrrr!

To be fair, I normally wouldn’t even have stayed at home in wind and rain, but I’m still a little freaked-out at Mini turning blue when we went to Lossiemouth East Beach last week. She was wearing a thick tunic dress, leggings, thick water-resistant fleece and hood, yet a little squall had her shivering in seconds, shuddering violently with purple cheeks, blue lips and black hands a minute later. Thankfully I had my thick linen sling with me, so could chuck her on my back while I yanked the other 2 back to the car as fast as their wee legs would carry them, rather than just shelter behind a fence or something. I know Mini’s circulation isn’t that great, but that was scary. Even in the car, with a fleece top on, my thick fleece jacket tucked around her, and her hair dry, she *still* looked blue (though she was happily tucking into sandwiches). I don’t know. I think I’d rather stay cautious while she’s so little, rather than chance her ending up hypothermic or something equally mental.

Anyway: Mini napped while Maxi raced around outside mostly naked, singing to the butterflies and crooning soothing noises at the poppies. Something about not letting Mummy pull them up, they weren’t weeds, and not to get upset. Midi happily joined her, whipping her with her wet clothes (it must be their favourite game). Aye, Midi with the black eye (left) from falling onto a rope playground thing at Lossie on Sunday. What a sight that pair make…

Now do you understand why I sometimes need a glass of wine when you walk through the door, dear husband?

Bugs: Incoming!

D’you know, I’m fine with it being cold. It’s ok when it’s wet. I can even cope with freezing wind, but not all 3 together! In June. Normally the sun cheers me up out of my sleep-deprived haze, but not this month. In fact, can someone send me a photo of what the sun looks like? I’ve forgotten (memory failing too…)

Midi and Mini Minx are still concerted in their efforts to ensure I don’t get a whole night’s sleep. Last night (Thursday 14 June) it was Midi sneaking into my bed, then head-butting and kicking me in the back till I sleepily gave up all rights to my half of the bed. I swear she’s training me to be able to sleep on a washing line.

I think Mini’s sickening for something. At the optician’s this morning (just a regular biennial eye-check) she sobbed when the very nice and child-sensitive man gently suggested that she sit on the floor for a second while he looked at Mummy’s eyes. This isn’t like her. Mini could charm the birds from the trees, sweeties from the clutches of babies, and has a strange routine that seems to charm Daddies (she stands stock-still, cocks her head coquettishly, points and yells, “Man!” It’s mostly fine, especially when she gets the gender right…). But this morning she was having none of it, and just wanted to sit on my lap. Yesterday she wanted to huddle in the sling in a front carry. At around 14kg, this isn’t the easiest of things to pull off with a size 3 wrap! Kind of a backwards ruck-tied-under-bum with a cross behind my back). But the cuddles were admittedly lovely.

After the eye check (right eye still robotically perfect; left eye beginning to accept that it’s part of an old fart’s body and starting to weaken), we went for a milkshake / coffee and Empire biscuit/scone while I chatted with a fellow grown-up. We do this once a month on average, and the girls know my friends. Normally they’re happy to quietly stuff themselves silly with Evil Sugary Treats, but not this morning: Mini just wanted to sit on my lap. After 40 minutes I still hadn’t had any caffeine or scone, and oh boy, did it show! I could barely string 2 words coherently together.

Maxi is hoarse; Midi’s 9-day-long sore throat (red tonsils + blisters) and 10-day-long tummy ache both got better just as I finally made an appointment with the GP. Well, it felt like they finally went away in the waiting room the second before we were called in. I do feel foolish taking an obviously perfectly well child to skip and dance around the surgery. Again! But hey-ho, I bet I’m not the only one. The GP (who I’m a little wary of because she’s told me some blatant untruths as Utter Fact) was absolutely brilliant with Midi: she established an immediate, easy, excellent rapport with her, had Midi giggling and purring within seconds, and checked her out most thoroughly. I tell you, I spent 5 minutes watching her tame my little whirlwind and was taking notes myself! So I’ve definitely thawed my inner feelings towards her – anyone who’s that good and genuine with 4 year olds is a very sound person indeed.

So: what germs are the girls incubating? Guess we’ll have to wait and see…