Monday Morning Holiday Blues – Not!

Monday 4 April: Day 3 of the Easter Holidays

After a very eventful weekend abandoning the tent and then making the most of it, you’d think we’d sleep in on Monday morning back at home, still on holiday. Well, we probably WOULD have done, had The Boss not set his alarm clock to his normal 0645hrs. Meh!

We didn’t unpack because we still harboured hopes of grabbing the little 3-man tent and heading off for a night or 2 camping locally. In the meantime, we spoke again to Kim at Waren Mills campsite, scene of our tent catastrophe, and the lady who tried so hard to help us out at the time. She did an awful lot of to-ing and fro-ing and talking to other people on our behalf, out of the goodness of her heart. The end result is that our booking has been transferred entirely to another date. As we won’t be able to afford a replacement family tent anytime soon, she suggested we stay in one of their wigwams instead. Wow! I’ve never seriously considered glamping, but the prospect of being able to drive down to Northumberland after work on a Friday night, drop the sleeping bags in and get our heads down, and even have a kettle and fridge there, is just amazingly luxurious! We prefer to sleep in one big huddle anyway, so the one-big-bed approach is just perfect. Even better, we *will* get to explore that beautiful campsite and heavenly location after all – driving away on Saturday with the site and beach unexplored hurt so much.

So, I’ve gone from being distraught at losing lots of money with no holiday week to show for it, to now having a weekend in August to seriously look forward to. I absolutely cannot wait and The Boss and the minxes are very excited too. And all because someone at the campsite cares very much about how their customers feel. I’m looking forward to meeting her and saying thank you again in person.

On a high, then, we were inspired by the freezing cold rain and sleet outside to go swimming in our local pool. The minxes have swimming lessons there every week, and I’ve noticed finally (finally!) how independent they’ve become. Gone are my days of having to do absolutely everything for all 3 of them, and usually all at the same time. At worst, now, I just need to be on-hand to be an extra pair of hands juggling towels, wash-kit and clothes.

Cat in the Hat pink cat ring

Pink cat ring, from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr Seuss

I’ve not been swimming in over a year, so one 4-bladed razor head, a clogged drain and half a pound in hair later, and I was ready! My hair is currently bright red so I brought Midi’s fetching blue swim cap to avoid a Cat in the Hat pink bath ring around the pool. I looked like a blue baked bean. Still, I’m glad I wore it – after 15 minutes of fun, we were all ordered out of the little pool and told to shower with soap before going into the big pool. Someone had blown chunks and the vomit needed to be cleaned up. Poor soul and ewwww in equal measures!

Mini seriously impressed me. For the past 6 months I’ve not watched any of the girls swimming because of the timings of their lessons – I spend the entire time moving bags and kit from locker to locker and to and from each girl, and feeding them. Maxi goes straight to Cubs afterwards, too, so that’s a LOT of kit to juggle. Last time I saw Mini swim, she’d been moved back down from Level 3 swim lessons to Level 2 because she refused to get her face wet, even in the shower. So you can imagine my expression when I watched my baby girl happily doggy paddle on a swim-noodle by herself, happily chatting away to me through constant splashes and mouthfuls of water. What a girl! She even asked for help with her current terror: jumping into the pool herself. Channelling her tenacity for good – fantastic!

Midi has just moved from Level 4 to Level 5 (after around 2 years of trying hard); Maxi is still in Level 7. They happily rolled in the water, did handstands, showed their proud Daddy how many lengths they could swim, and generally had a brilliant time.

Me and The Boss? We got to bob around in the cool water, watching our offspring with pride. But the best bit? Getting out was an absolute breeze. Six solid years of weekly trauma shepherd’s crooking kids out of showers and ushering damp minxes around finally paid off. Have I got across to you yet how smug and satisfied that made me feel?! Crikey, we might even go swimming as a family again soon!

After swimming we did a quick and cheeky Lidl run for some savoury pastries from the in-store bakery, then a seriously big shop. The Boss and I finally accepted that the weather within a 4 hour drive of home was just not good enough for us to take little kids camping, so we had a home DVD evening, with homemade popcorn and Daddy’s super hotdogs (they’re super because they include a free onion-chopping and cooking lesson for the kids). Fun and free. Well, we’ve got to start saving those pennies for a replacement Vango next year.

Two Swims For the Price of One

Mini Minx and I had gotten out of the habit of going swimming every week, so I decided to formally reinstate it, with proper swimming lessons. We’d done the same ones 2 years before, with Midi. Mini bloody hated them, which was why after that block was over and Midi ‘graduated’, we’d let them lapse into just going the odd time ourselves. So… how did Mini get on?

Well, she enjoyed them. Can’t say the same for the hitch-hiker, though… I’d put a big old waterproof dressing over my now stitch-less back scar, in a bid to keep manky swimming water out. I’m getting used to a permanent low-grade tickle over that area as it heals. But I felt like there were beads of water running down from my neck. Then it felt like they were running sideways. Hmmm… Nope, gravity was still the same as normal. I brushed at my shoulders and back in case a wee insect was fluttering about. The tickling kept up, so I looked over as much of my shoulder as I could. I thought I caught a glimpse of a body. Oh God…please don’t be a wasp! I asked a fellow-mum if I had any insects crawling on me.

“Nope, nothing th-ARGH!” and she looked in horror at my shoulder at the front. Assuming everyone has a wasp-phobia like me, I thought the worst, and kind of levitated out the water while brushing madly at my skin.

It was a little bigger than this

It was a little bigger than this

“Plop”, went the big thing that had been hitching a ride on my shoulders – a big old house spider. It was one of the bigger ones that I’ve seen: maybe palm-sized. Me, I have a soft spot in my heart for cows (and a soft spot in my tummy for lambs, yum) and quite like spiders, so I scooped it up from where it was dancing frantically in the water and threw it over the side, where it sat lurking and miserable for the rest of the swimming lesson. It wasn’t dead, as it had disappeared by the very end.

Just in case you thought I had unusually small hands...The actual lesson was fine: Mini refused to put her face in the water and didn’t like being told what to play with and when. She wanted to rocket down the slide all lesson. I tried to trick her by dropping toys in the water (“Oops, silly clumsy Mummy! Please can you help me pick them up so my back doesn’t get wet?”) but that only worked twice before she scolded me and insisted, “Just leave it be, Mummy!”

Predictably, it wasn’t the swimming that was the traumatic bit – it was the showers before and after. I tried putting her goggles on for them and it helped a little, but not enough to get her properly rinsed. But the brilliant thing about only having one child to worry about: after lunch I gave her a leisurely bath, long massage with thick moisturiser, and slow blowdry. She is now a calm, drowsy, happy little thing again. Result!

The Strength of Mini’s Head

Tuesday 9 April 2013

I’ve been very quiet recently because we’ve been away on a week’s holiday in Orkney. It was brilliant, despite me being a hormonal, shouty old bag. As usual, I took my paper journal to offload all the minxy goings-on, and I may or may not share them on this blog over the next week or so (though all the outdoorsy things will go on the Little Trekkers Ambassadors blog, as usual). I also have about 40 unpublished draft posts from the past month or so sat waiting to be finished… So, as usual, I’ll have to revert to dating each of my next few entries to make some kind of sense (!) to this. Anyway, despite all that, I really need to offload today.

We’re onto Week 2 of the Easter Holidays, now, and The Boss is back at work, so I have the job of keeping the minxes from killing each other or me every day on my own.  Yesterday’s trip to the beach totally failed to tire them out*, so today we met up with some friends and little Merida Minx at Brodie Castle, between Nairn and Forres.

*They’re like dogs: if they don’t get enough exercise they fret (Maxi), get over-excited (Mini), don’t sleep well (all) and chew shoes (Midi). It has to be vigorous enough to “give me the sweats”, as Midi puts it so delicately. Bless.


Hey-hey we’re the Minxees


See? Sailing ship. Two Leaves. Twigs.

After a long, loud, but excellent lunch, we took the 4 girls over towards the castle grounds because they could be as noisy and scampery as they liked without me nagging and scolding the poor things to sit up / eat up / be quieter / etc. and it would be free (I’ve pretty much run-out of fun tokens).  They had fun trying to tempt the bread-stuffed swans and ducks to eat more, then raced around the pond like 4 mad things on speed. Actually, I lie – like 3 mad things on speed. Maxi was doing her usual Dreaming Tortured Artist act, wandering around with her head in the clouds. Other kids grab a stick and chuck it in a stream to play Pooh Sticks. Not mine: Mini mostly remembers that sticks float whereas stones sink. Every. Single. Time. And Maxi has to craft and whittle out a perfect replica of a 17th Century sailing ship out of 2 rhododendron leaves and 2 twigs, and use *that* as her Pooh Stick…

They startled a huge Clydesdale Clopper out for a ride. The poor rider apologised to us after it had bucked and reared and kicked before she’d gotten it under control, yet it was our shrieking, flailing minxes who’d half-frightened the horse as it had drawn level and just forward of them – luckily for kids and horse that they were many, many metres apart the whole time. Then they headed straight for the Adventure Playground to wreak havoc there.

I think by now you know I’m a helicopter mother: over-anxious, paranoid, smothering, controlling, wrap-them-up-in-cotton-wool, very risk-averse kind of parent. Every day I try so, so hard not to be, even though it physically wrenches my guts. I have a huge struggle with not being the clingy parent I am, and trying to be the hands-off parent I think I should be. Well, I’m sure I stunt their emotional growth with my shouty bad temper, so I really should make an effort not to stunt their ability to assess and take on risks and hazards.

So: when Mini wanted to follow her sisters up the big tower to the high tube slide, my instincts screamed NO!!, but I found myself reasoning out loud: “Well, if you can climb the ladders by yourself with no help, then ok”. I shouted over to Midi to go with her, and in fact to go first, to stop her toddling off one of the open ‘windows’ in the tower. One risk dealt with: next? I then started fretting about little Mini falling backwards. I went to shout over to Maxi, to get her to follow Mini, so she was marched up the tower in a sort of sister-sandwich. I even shifted my camera across my body to prepare to nip up the tower myself. But not in time…

Predictably, Mini got to the top of the 3rd ladder, missed her handhold at the top, and fell backwards. She bounced off the first platform, then fell down the next ladder and collided with the next platform right on the top of her little bonce, and kind of twisted halfway out the wee open ‘window’. Well, I levitated up the first ladder before she’d even let out a scream (I think I managed a big loud “F***!”, though), and grabbed her up. My paranoid head was shouting inside about broken neck and spine injuries and not moving casualties until you know they’ve not broken anything, but the bigger Mummy Bear bit of my head just wanted to cradle my baby and kiss it all better. I know I probably sounded and looked very calm, but I just plonked down, halfway up the tower, and held her, rocking, for a few minutes. Partly to comfort her, partly because I was shaking too much to do anything else, and partly because I wasn’t sure that I’d managed to retain bladder control getting such a fright (I had. I stayed dry. Just in case you were wondering). After a bit, I dared to look and check that she was waving her hands about, kicking her feet, and seemed to have full control over her limbs as well as her lungs. When she’d calmed down a bit, I handed her down the ladder to Merida’s mummy. She instantly demanded to be let back up. No chance-eroony, little daughter! Baby playground for you! Where to be fair she demonstrated some nifty footwork on the rope bridges and happily scowled at all the boys in a 10 foot radius.

No apparent damage. Ish.

No apparent damage. Ish.

Actually, the afternoon was a bit of a parenting fail. Maxi fell off the big round hammock swing, Midi fell off the aerial slide multiple times onto her (rock-hard) head, and then for an encore tumbled down the tube slide of that tower and out onto her bum. Although I made sure I could see the 3 of them at all times, and spent a bit of time hovering over each, I mostly stayed with Mini. But there’s only one of me and 3 of them. I’d never have gone to the playground had my friends not come too, and really lightened my load of both amusing and safeguarding the girls, but being typical children, they only fell when there wasn’t an adult immediately next to them.

Looking for trolls

Looking for trolls

Now that a wee bit of time has passed since this afternoon, I can see some funny bits: I could see that Midi was falling off into the soft woodchips and bouncing up, laughing, and making comedy bows, so didn’t need me to come over fussing. And when she fell off the slide, she made quite a funny “bang… bang… bang-bang-bang… thump” noise as she clattered down. She related it breathlessly to her Daddy later as: “I did a double-cartwheel and went over and over and over!” Um…. not quite. But nice story. When Maxi fell, she also fell onto soft ground, and had a good, solid, whole-body-contact kind of fall. I went over to check she was ok and one of the kids on the swing with her farted. I mean, I know my bright orange hair is a bit scary, and I’m a bit haggard-looking nowadays, but honestly, I didn’t mean to frighten him that much! I quipped: “Wow, who just farted?” and the 4 of them bomb-burst to opposite ends of the playground. Oh, the power!

Things did get better, though. In a bid to include The Boss in this week’s, um, ‘fun’, we picked him up from work at 5 then drove round to the swimming pool. I guess we picked the perfect time, because we 5 had the entire learner pool all to ourselves. Maxi and Midi threw themselves about boisterously in the water, and The Boss marvelled at Midi’s new-found water confidence, trying to swim under everything that she could. Mini was typically slow to get her water feet. But when the aqua aerobics class started, she had me in stitches as she danced along in delight. She bounced and twisted her little hips, chanting: “Wiggle-wiggle! Wiggle-wiggle! I wiggle my little fat bum-bum, Mummy!” After a bit, she got too tired to remember to stand back up again when she fell over in the water. And she forgot that she’s scared to go down the little slides into the pool and got almost as noisily splashy as her sisters. I think I laughed non-stop for half an hour at their antics.

After an hour, I called it quits and got them properly washed and shampooed in the showers. Trying to pin down 3 little soap-dodgers with long, thick hair is NOT easy! We spent so long in the showers that I think the pool attendants suspected we were jakeys in for our monthly clean. Then some bright little buttons decided to scrub the entire changing room floor with soapy, bleachy, smelly water, all in a oner. Great – so how are we supposed to stand in a little cubicle and avoid the bubbles flowing in? How do I get everyone dry and keep them dry? No point just missing out our cubicle, Clever Clogs: gravity and a big changing room on a slope will defeat you every time…

Looking at 3 tired little minxes who’d never last the journey home, I twisted The Boss’s arm, and off we went to Evil McDs, where I got to scare a whole restaurant full of people with my frizzy, half-wet, orange fright wig. Extra bonus points!

I Don’t Like Tuesdays

Tuesdays are tough, especially on not enough sleep. At least I didn’t have to cope with Midi Minx weeing everywhere – yesterday she peed on the floor twice before lunchtime, each time within the 5 min countdown to absolutely having to leave the house right now o’clock :/

Anyway, we managed to sort out getting school dinner tickets for Maxi (she was so excited about having salmon fishcakes that her little face fell when we discovered I’d been looking at the wrong menu, and today it was only her 3rd favourite: sausage and pasta bake. Bless!). She proudly marched into her class no problem and me and her sisters zoomed off to the swimming pool.

As we were early, I decided to go on in and just splash about for the extra 15 minutes. Tell you what, I won’t be making that mistake again! We had the whole pool to ourselves and both girls happily jumped and splashed and shot down the little dolphin slide. I worried that little Mini Minx was beginning to flag as her lesson started. By the end of the half hour, her lips were going purple and she was crying, so I knocked the lesson on the head. Up till then, though, both Midi and Mini loved it and did so well. Mini is starting to make doggy paddle movements on her tummy, almost relaxed into a starfish float and is so competent at ‘holding on’ at the edge of the pool. Her favourite thing is for me to sing Humpty Dumpty and her to fall into or jump into the pool/my arms with a huge giggle. Midi is such a little fish. She was swimming on her own on her front and back with 2 float noodles. She met every challenge her beloved teacher set her and really relished jumping and splashing around. I love seeing how confident and just so bloody joyful she is!

Getting out wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t as bad as last week – I even got to wash my hair and have a basic rinse of my body (so I only mildly honked of chlorine the rest of the day). Mini actually stopped crying for a few seconds in the shower, too. It’s all progress…

On a roll, we did a quick dash round Tesco to buy essentials. And lamb chops on a discount – yum yum for tomorrow! (Note: they were indeed fantastic: juicy and tender). Midi happily sang “Which Coloured House Are We Going To?” at the top of her lungs, completely unself-consciously. One woman started giggling at her  – she was obviously another Balamory Mum.

Another chase back home, quick lunch, march down the hill to park Midi in nursery with her new best friend, big march back up the hill, Mini down for a nap, mental race round the house for an hour turning it into a real human house from a chimps enclosure, chase back to the school to pick up Maxi, loiter for 30 mins, pick up Midi and back to the swimming pool. (And breathe)

Alas I didn’t get to see much of Maxi’s lesson because Midi and Mini were playing up, were far too hot, both needed the toilet and the parents were 4 deep at the spectators’ wall. However, what I could see suggested that Maxi’s swimming is going backwards. Today she refused to jump in the deep end, and not only insisted on holding onto the pole, she sat down first too. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, just mentioned it to her – she said she had felt too nervous, so I left it at that.

However, I’m putting this together with the way that she’s always last out of school because the others push in front of her (she says). I suggested she push back. She insisted this would be too rude. She also refuses to ever hit anyone back, even her little thug of a sister. I don’t know what to do. As her mummy, I want her to grow up able to hold her own, to stand confident and not be pushed around. She truly is meek and I don’t think this is a good or helpful trait in an adult (which is what I’m trying to teach her to grow up to become).

Though I’m not sure I’m fit to teach anyone a single thing about being a grown-up – the lack of sleep, the extreme swimming pool heat, Maxi’s extreme whingeing and constant dawdling pretty much sent me over the edge. As I nagged her to hurry up and get dressed I realised I’d spent most of the day nagging and chiding her – hurry up and walk smartly down the hill, stop wandering towards the road, keep up, stop talking, go over there, no you can’t have another cuddle I’ve already given you 5, hurry up and get undressed, hurry up and get showered, hurry up and get dressed, move it, move it, move it. Poor little girl! Those kind of messages are hardly going to make her feel loved and cherished, is it? (Note: it’s now Thurs and I’ve made such an effort to stop nagging Maxi: it’s mostly working)

As a kind of ‘sorry’, and to let us end the day on at least a nicer note, I said I’d wash and dry Maxi’s Rapunzel hair. We settled down to brush all the tugs out and it only took The Boss 6 reminders to get Mini away from us before he complied – bonus! So I chatted with Maxi about her hair, telling her how beautiful it is, and that she truly is a real-life Rapunzel. She airily chirped, “Yes, I guess you’re a lot like her Evil Mother”. When I stopped choking, I pouted at her. She lifted her bent fairy wand (thanks to Midi’s random violence), swept it in an arch at me and quipped, “I can fix that smile for you!” I couldn’t help laughing, so we had a right cackle together. God, I love listening to Maxi’s laugh – it’s a proper infectious gurgle. It’s been like that since she was a baby. I remember taping it for my mum for her to listen to when she felt at her lowest (right after she got diagnosed with lung cancer). Anyway, it’s one of the sounds in my life that I don’t hear often enough, and it just seems to hit the ‘sunshine and happiness’ note in my heart every time.

Dinner was a bit hit and miss. I’m recording the recipe because The Boss liked it, though the kids were a bit more reticent.

Wrappy Old Trout

 Dry-fry a pork steak per person for about 12 mins on medium, turning it every few minutes. Let the pork rest for a few mins. Nuke a tortilla wrap in the microwave for 10 secs. Smear about a tablespoon of Philadelphia over the wrap, then smear about a teaspoon of seedy mustard over that. Slice the pork thinly and plop on the wrap. Add some spinach leaves. Add about 4 slices of tinned peach (with the syrup/juice drained well). Wrap, cut in half and eat.

Well, us grown-ups liked it and the kids liked the cheesy-mustardy peaches. If I made it again, I’d add slices of stem ginger and add some sliced garlic to the frying pork about 3 mins before it was ready. Now *that* might be yum!

The Trout Is A Big Softie

Midi Minx is now 3. Her birthday passed without serious incident or visit to A&E. In fact, we all really enjoyed ourselves. Even The Boss, who turned 32 the day before. (Yeah, I really tried to get Midi out on his birthday, but failed dismally. And the surgeon was too busy swigging from a can of Fanta and laughing at my previous caesarean scar to make the midnight deadline. So she was born at 0005hrs, 5 minutes too late).

Because my mother-in-law is visiting, we decided to take advantage of the 1:1 adult:minx ratio and took the girls swimming. Maxi Minx showed off her Real Swimming Without A Float, Midi got to thrash and splash her sisters around (I found Konfidence aqua-band things that keep water out of infection-prone ears: they’re brilliant!) and Mini Minx licked her rubber ring thoughtfully. Mini started shivering after 30 mins, so I took her out.  She started wailing when we discovered that the showers had no hot water. Although I’d brought a fluffy dressing gown for her (way easier than struggling with a towel), she started crying loudly when I lay her down on the change table. When I strapped her down so I could get undressed and dried, she went ballistic. The Trout’s 4th Rule of Motherhood is that the clumsiness of your fingers is directly proportional to the volume of your baby’s screams, which is indirectly proportional to your speed.

We decided to go for a long walk along the beach. I have a theory that anyone lazy enough to leave their dog’s poo on the pavement/path/beach is (a) a cretin, and (b) too lazy to walk very far. As well as (c) very dead if I catch them. So we only had to walk maybe 1/4 mile past the caravan park to find clean beach. The girls loved it, for different reasons. Maxi loves the pink glittery pebbles on that beach, and Midi likes the dead things. Mini is fascinated by the dogs. The dogs love me. The Boss thinks they can smell my milk; I think they’ll get a kick if they continue to paw me after I’ve used my best Naughty Minx Deterrent voice on them in a sharp: “Down!”. Anyway, we didn’t see any dolphins this time, but did discover a new path home through the woods, free of dog poo. The Boss even made noises about getting the baby seat out to put on the back of the bike for Mini.  Ulp – better crack on with the gymball core-strengthening exercises…

Midi got the cake of her dreams: she wanted a white triangle, with white decorations and white candles. I asked if she wanted sparkles and glitter. She looked disgusted. So this is what I made:

It was just a 2-sandwich Victoria sponge (weigh 4 eggs. Mix up the same weight in butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour. Bake at 180degC for 30 mins. Makes 2 x 7″ cakes).  I sandwiched it with buttercream and strawberry jam then cut it into a triangle (3 offcuts for Quality Assurance sampling – yum). Over that went white roll-out icing. Then about 30 cut-out lovehearts to hide the joins, her name, and the only non-glittery white candles I could find. They sparkled a bit, but weren’t too bad. Midi liked it a lot. She liked the taste even better. I am very, very proud. I made some rose and loveheart jellies with strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant jelly.  Cheesy I know, but we all like jelly, and they looked so pretty.

A loveheart for each infinity that I love her



The bottom pic is the Dundee cake I made The Boss. If you want the recipe, you have to comment on this post!

A currant for every time I think, "I really love that man"