Young Love

Well, we survived the NE Scottish floods. We survived the local transformation of the landscape into ice (no thanks to my neighbour: lovely man, but what was he thinking washing his car in -3degC and leaving a huge puddle of ice on the hill for the neighbourhood to slither over today? I refused to grit the cul de sac on principle that I’m fed up hurting my back doing it. No-one stepped in. I give up). More importantly, though, the kids have gotten over me traumatising them about emergency drills. Phew.

Maxi’s ASD diagnosis is progressing – the psychologist reviewed various questionnaire submissions from us and the school and agreed that it’s not been in my silly head all this time after all – Midi’s in love and Mini’s got a cold.

Today nearly made me cry. I felt such a turmoil of emotions when the psychologist confirmed that Maxi should now go ahead for the last bit of the ASD assessment: relief that my constant niggling for Maxi’s needs and quirks be taken seriously hasn’t been in vain; pity that poor Maxi really isn’t going to have an easy time over the next few years either; determination at now being able to go get all the resources and advice that I can to help her understand other people and be understood better. Oh, there are a million other feelings muddled around in there, too, but alas this blog isn’t the place to unleash them.

I’d innocently thought today would be all about my eldest: taking her to the hospital, discussing her welfare with her, The Boss and the psychologist; spending time with her alone between the appointment and her sisters coming home, chatting over lunch and helping her with homework. But no, it never happens like that, does it? Midi’s ‘only friend in the whole world’, the boy who’s already asked The Boss if he can marry her when they’re 18, told her today that he’s moving hundreds of miles away very soon.

Midi’s distraught. My ever-hungry little grub couldn’t eat her dinner and just got herself ready for bed silently, saucer-eyed. I sat her on my lap and asked how she’d feel if we brought her birthday celebration a month forward and did everything she’d planned to do with her friend the weekend after next instead. Her eyes came alive again. I asked her if it would be ok and not embarrassing if I sorted out a wee birthday cake and sparklers to be brought out wherever they have lunch, and that they could go to the cinema together by train to the city with The Boss as chaperone. She smiled. I said that her friend’s mum and I had talked about setting up email addresses for the pair so that they could write to each other every afternoon after school, and maybe Skype. “Yippee!!” she shouted. They’re only 8 and 7 years old. Awwwww…!

Maxi decided that her sister needed solace and has bunked on her bedroom floor. I suspect Maxi’s needing a bit of reassurance herself, so I’m a bit loathe to scold the 3 of them for still giggling and squealing at 10pm on a school-night. We will all suffer for it tomorrow morning, I know.

Striking a Stance Against Anxiety

A lovely friend sent me a link about Power Poses to read and think about and it’s ringing lots of bells with me right now.

Image from Renee Jain’s Boost Your Child’s Confidence in 2 Minutes article on blogs.psychcentral.com

I know how confident and strong I feel when I’ve held the Warrior pose in yoga for a few minutes. And waaaaay back when I used to regularly speak to large groups, I’d been taught to get my body language right before I opened my gob, and it definitely helped me appear to be, and feel, more confident, calm, open and in control.

I’m going to try this with my most anxious minx, because I’ve observed how much calmer and settled she is after doing gymnastics compared to other sports. Maybe before we leave the house in the morning and not in the playground, though, eh..? ;-)

Have you tried Power Posing, or felt its effects in other activities? What do you think?

Changing Me, Changing You – Aha!

Another New Year. Another year I vow to write something every single night, like I used to, even if it’s just boring drivel about our day. Another year I monumentally fail to stick to it, right from the off. I’m not very good at making or keeping New Year’s Resolutions. Or any kind of resolution, for that matter – in my life Pre-Kids I had shelf upon shelf of shiny, colourful self-help books that, even if I actually found time to read them, would go back on the shelf, un-actioned. But I guess deep down there still lingers the desire to make my life even better, happier, more efficient and more productive.

The Book of YOU

The Book of YOU

So you can imagine how eager I was to grab the chance to review a brand-new self-help book: The Book of YOU. It’s a small, beautiful-looking paperback filled with 365 short ‘micro-actions’ and some unobtrusive photos. The idea is that you complete one of the actions every day (so micro-action = daily challenge, if you like) to “achieve a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life”. Each challenge is a sentence or 2 under one of the 4 areas Food, Mind, Move and Love that you can complete very quickly. Although you might think from the cover that it’s been written by Jamie Oliver, there are 6 expert contributors as well as the young team of 5 behind the book.

So. Let’s cut to the chase. How did I get on?

essential bedtime reading for grumpy old trouts

essential bedtime reading for grumpy old trouts

Well, I was never going to be one for reading just one action a day and trying it out in a disciplined fashion, was I? Instead, I had a bit of a browse each morning when I woke up: after slamming off the alarm clock I’d reach for the book and find an action that felt good (or easy…).

Example:
Action 6 was all about reflecting on my personal commandments and writing them down. Oof, I can barely see just now, never mind grip a pen and make sensible scribbles. Turn that page. Next!

7. Take Care of Yourself… “Today schedule an appointment with a doctor, dentist, accountant or neglected friend. You’ll feel more relaxed immediately and it only takes a phone call.” Go on, then – I’ll make that dental appointment for a possible filling. Well, after I have a coffee first. And walk the kids to school. And sit down and have a big old fret about it. And wait on the engaged phoneline for long enough to get very anxious indeed. But I have to admit that after the appointment, I did feel good (perhaps because I didn’t need any treatment at all?). In fact, I felt so good that I scheduled the whole of the next day to fighting with little bits of paper and get my tax return done. That was so traumatic that I’m still giddy with relief that it’s been submitted before the deadline. Ha!

Onward to 8. Enjoy the Weather. Oh, this could be pushing against an open door – I’m a confessed cloud-spotter. “All weather is beautiful in its own right. Today take a few minutes and enjoy the weather outside…”. This was the day after the floods cut off nearby villages, stopped many people in my village getting home that night, and all around us houses and fields were under water. And it was still raining. Beautiful? Really? Crikey, this was going to be a challenge and a half! So I took a little stroll to the burn near our house and felt incredibly relieved that although it had burst its banks and was gushing over the footbridge, the gravel beds beside it were doing their job and stopping the floodwater reaching the houses. On the way back I nodded at neighbours doing the same, in a silent, grim recognition that whilst the weather might not actually be beautiful, the forethought of the estate developer certainly was…

Throughout the past few weeks I’ve been carrying on similarly: I ignore some actions; do others repeatedly; do 2 on one day and nothing for 3. I basically dip in and out of the book whenever I sit down for a coffee if I’ve not read it first thing in the morning.

It’s early days yet (I’m only 20 days in!) and I can’t say that my life has changed noticeably – maybe there’s an action later on how to stop pesky night-time palpitations and a dodgy memory?! – but I do enjoy completing the micro-actions. I don’t think that the haphazard approach I’m taking will have a long-term benefit because none of the positive actions I’m taking will be done repetitively enough to turn into habits and therefore become truly life-changing. But completion and success feels good, I’m not hurting anyone, it’s entertaining and it’s keeping me out of trouble.

If this kind of daily challenge is your favoured motivator, then you can get the book from lots of booksellers. I’ve linked to Amazon at the top of this post where it’s currently retailing for just under £7 (RRP £8.99). It’s published by Penguin under ISBN 978-1-405-92413-9. You can also sign up for an App that sends you a daily challenge, but personally I’d find failing to achieve it every single day a new source of anxiety. And the New Me of 2016 is no longer an Anxiety Monkey, seeking out new and improved worries…

Footnote: I should also say that Mumsnet gave me the book to review honestly. I didn’t receive payment.

Doomed. We’re All Doomed, I Tell You

Emergencies have been on my mind a bit, lately: there have been the terrible floods across the country; there’s been the ongoing Middle East refugee crisis; I’ve had 3 near-misses on the roads with crazy, swerving, speeding drivers in the past 2 weeks; and we’ve been burning candles at home this past fortnight, which the minxes seem determined to either knock over or burn themselves on.

I was quite disparaging of the hysterical headlines about Storm Frank and it being allegedly ‘the storm of the century’, as one outlet gasped. Pah. Standard winter weather, but with a label on it! Then a friend of mine was flooded suddenly out of his home – his Facebook posts were heartbreaking. Today, too, I saw a photo on Facebook of the 105 year old Cambus o’ May bridge that spans the River Dee that we visited in September:

Now that is a LOT of water! Also today I saw photos of the village just the other side of the main dual carriageway from us: it’s under water. I think when disaster is close to you, whether in terms of physical distance or because it’s happening to someone you know, it makes you think and feel more.

So: whilst Family Trout is lucky enough to live somewhere where we’re unlikely to be flooded (though never say never), it made me think. The Troutlings are 5, 7 and 9. When was the last time we talked about emergencies? Over a year ago. What a wonderful opportunity! I thought.

Spoiler: this is probably how NOT to teach your kids Emergency Action drills.

I explained to the kids that we were going to agree a couple of Emergency Action drills that each family member would be able to carry out without thinking if the emergency ever happened. We all agreed that the time to think and talk about drills was now, when there was no risk (though that didn’t stop little voices getting more screechy and loud as they started to get keyed up…). I stressed that the chances of any of these emergencies ever, ever happening was really unlikely. They’d probably live to 250 without ever being in any real danger.

We talked about floods first because we’d been looking at pictures of people being airlifted out of our favourite campsite (! In hindsight, the kids probably didn’t perceive that moment as being a perfectly non-risk time to talk about possible future emergencies..). I explained that if there was a flood and we had to leave the house, we’d not have much time to think about what to take and what to leave. We discussed possible actions for each person (kids: grab one teddy, put on wellies and jacket and get out. Adult 1: get kids, grab Go Bag and get out to pre-agreed Rendezvous Point. Adult 2: spend maximum 2 minutes while kids are putting on wellies and jackets moving 2 pre-agreed family treasures to a top shelf, then lock up, get out and meet up). Easy. Straightforward. I got ready to talk about smart RV points.

“What about Killer-Cat?” interrupted little Midi.

“If we left her outside, she might not ever, ever come back!” wailed Maxi. “She might not find any food or shelter and she might die…!” Maxi gulped back tears and her chin wobbled.

Privately, I thought my beloved Killer-Cat would just have to take her chances. Publicly, I explained to the kids that we couldn’t take her with us. How would we feed her? Where would we let her go to the toilet? How would she feel stuck in a pet carrier cage for a week? In the face of 3 upset daughters, I quickly suggested that maybe my drill could include sweeping all the living room pot plants to the floor and quickly sticking some cat food, water and a cushion on the top shelf for the cat. The kids brightened up. Maxi stopped crying. I felt no guilt at all about lying.

Mini: “But what about all my teddies?” she sniffled “I couldn’t choose just one!” I explained that she could only grab one or none at all; she’d have no time to think about it. Now she was crying. That set off Maxi again.

“Ok, ok!” I yelled above the din of 2 crying minxes, “The adult staying behind for 2 minutes will put food out for the cat on the shelf and move all your teddies to the top bunk bed”. I mentally crossed my fingers. I knew that explaining to the kids that there’s no way I’d ever countenance risking my life to save their 10 million soft toys would just end in upset and no lessons would be learned. Then again, were they learning anything now, anyway? I was just frightening them.

I decided to change tack. Let’s go for an easy one: fire! I asked them how they’d know that there was a fire in the house (fire alarm, smoke, flames, a parent shouting, “Fire, fire, fire!”). I stated that their individual Emergency Actions were really easy: drop everything and get out the house. That’s it. Simple. Memorable. Achievable. Perfect.

“But what if we’re in the shower when the fire happens?” pondered Maxi. Doesn’t matter; get out, even if you’re naked. “But what if it’s snowing?” Doesn’t matter; get out, even if you’re walking through snow. “But what if it’s only a little fire?” Doesn’t matter; get out, better to walk back in sheepishly than not get out at all. “But what if there’s no-one at [Neighbour 1] or [Neighbour 2] or [Neighbour 3]?” Doesn’t matter; get out, get out, get out.

Ah me… Maxi refused to accept that when it comes to fire, there are no ifs and buts and maybes: you get out the house, run to the neighbour across the street and get them to dial 999. The harder she argued, searching for possible loopholes and exceptions, the more exasperated I got. No-one was learning anything, here!

I decided to change the focus. Let’s actually DO drills! Yay! We all got excited about that. Instead of setting off the fire alarm to emulate a fire (too noisy), we agreed that I would shout ‘Fire, Fire, Fire, Get Out [insert a minx’s name]’. That minx had to immediately drop everything and actually get out the house and we’d time them from me shouting to when The Boss could see them outside the house. The Boss and I wanted to make sure they could physically do everything: not pause to think, or fumble with the unexpectedly locked front door, or hesitate on the soaking wet doorstep. I wanted them to properly learn by actually doing.

Maxi was great: 12 seconds from command to splashing on the front path. She barely registered that the front door was locked! Little Mini was next. The instant that I cried the magic words “Fire, Fire, Fire, Get Out Mini!” she was off out her seat like a rocket, little arms pumping. Then she hit the locked door. She looked confused. She wasn’t allowed to unlock the door. She wasn’t sure how to unlock the door. Which way did the lock turn? She burst into tears. She wailed and shouted at the door. She screamed against her confusion. The Boss calmly coached her on the door lock until she was finally standing on the doorstep. 43 seconds. She got lots of hugs and encouragement and Well Done, Good Efforts from us both. Midi struggled with the door-lock too, finally getting out in 32 seconds. We gave them all a few minutes to calm down, talking about how we were going to do more drills over the next few weeks, then when they were ready we tried again. This time Mini managed an excellent 13 seconds and Midi an amazing 7 seconds.

Phew, that’s better – end on a success!

But of course, I didn’t leave it there, did I? Oh no. Another big mistake. Instead I let Maxi engage me in conversation about emergencies in general. Somehow we ended up talking about what we’d do if we saw someone drowning in the burn behind our housing estate. Mini the Innocent said: “I’d find a rope and throw it to them”. She looked confused when I asked where she’d get the rope from, and when was the last time she saw a rope by the burn? Midi The Big Hearted stated that she’d jump in to save them. She refused to believe me when I said that she would be better instead running to a house with a car outside to get help and dial 999; she wouldn’t be able to save a flailing, panicking person. So I decided to demonstrate (hint: BAD parental decision…)

“OK, Midi, come save me!” I said. “I’m in the water over here by the cupboard. ‘Ooo, save me, Midi, come get me!” and threw my arms around melodramatically.

Midi pretended to swim up to me. I mimicked a panicking swimmer and grabbed her, pushing her little shoulders down in a mime of trying to pull myself out of water. She burst into huge sobs.

Aw, pants. Stupid Mummy.

Over a long hug on the floor, she explained that I’d not hurt her, I’d just given her a big shock. So we talked about what panicking people do. I related for the umpteenth time all the different reactions of people (some trained, some untrained), in an aircraft evacuation due to fire that I’d been in many, many years ago. She laughed (hey, it’s the way I tell ’em…) but I think I finally got through to her that when you’re a kid, the very best thing you can do in any emergency at all is get yourself safe first, then get someone else to go help.

It’s hard for children, isn’t it? We drill them relentlessly from when they’re toddlers into not being selfish or self-centred, then we criticise them when their first instinct in a life-or-death situation might be to think of others before themselves.

Those of you with children: how have you taught your kids how to get medical help if you were incapacitated? How did you teach them fire drills? What do you keep in your Go Bag? Share your top tips and help me dig myself out of this Pit Of Emergency Doom I’ve dug!

Star Wars: A Spoof Awakens

The Boss and I watched Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens on Tuesday morning, while the minxes were in school.

Photo: from starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Gial_Ackbar

The night before, we’d watched all the Bad Lip Reading spoofs on YouTube. So as the film rose to its climax, tension built, regardless of whether you thought the film was brilliant or not. The lady in the seat next to me, who kept hiding her face at every space monster, gripped our armrest in anticipation. Seeing Admiral Ackbar brought out the minx in me. I leaned over to The Boss’s ear and made a ‘puck-puck-puck’ kissing sound from the Bad Lipreading Return of the Jedi spoof. He started giggling. Which made me snigger, too. The more his shoulders shook, the more I laughed. The more Admiral Ackbar’s big fishy face came on the screen, 10 foot high, the more hysterical we both got. I couldn’t see; The Boss’s glasses misted over; I started to consider my pelvic floor muscle tone; The Boss made strangled noises. The lady next to me looked at us in puzzlement and edged a little further away.

Ah, I think you just had to be there…

I don’t use Twitter much (I’ve only just got to grips with posting quick photos on the Grumpy Old Trout Facebook page), but there’s a fair few enterprising comedians who’re posting as Emo Kylo Ren. The wittiest by far is KyloR3n – Emo Kylo Ren. His (her?) tweets are going to provide hours of electronic entertainment for me this Christmas. I, too, am going to find a Vader breathing sound to set as my text message alert.

Return of the Elves: Dec 20 – 23

The 2015 Elf visit is coming towards its end. And there’s a new little elf in town

Dec 20

 

 

Dec 21: like all new families everywhere, Mummy Barbie falls asleep decorated in baby sick, Daddy Edward crashes out with the baby on him, and everyone else just groans and wants the non-stop crying and puking to stop.

Dec 21

 

 

Dec 22: I know elf babies grow fast (s/he’s more than doubled in size since yesterday!); I know elves eat different food from the rest of us… But weaning a baby elf on iced donuts?!!!

 

 

Dec 23: I see Baby Elf is a chip off the old block. Hiding in the minxes’ chocolate advent calendar indeed! (Unless… are they dooking for chocolate?!) Barbie: well, a Mummy’s got to grab those zzzzzzs whenever she can, y’know?

Dec 23: chocolate bounty hunters

Dec 23: chocolate bounty hunters

 

 

Return of the Elves: Dec 15 – 19

Mr and Mrs Elf returned on Dec 15 with these photos to go in their album of their time on honeymoon…

Good, eh? (!) So they recreated their holiday on Dec 15:

Dec 15: good, wholesome, innocent fun

Dec 15: good, wholesome, innocent fun

Dec 16: Barbie's gone psycho! Poor Olaf!

Dec 16: Barbie’s gone psycho! Poor Olaf!

Dec 17: all is not well in Newly-Wed Paradise…

 

Edward and Edwinn, gubbed on marmalade cocktails; Barbie drinking pickled onion vinegar like a lady. ... ...pickled onion vinegar?! ...!... Congratulations on your impending arrival, Mr and Mrs Elf!

Dec 18: Edward and Edwinn, gubbed on marmalade cocktails; Barbie drinking pickled onion vinegar like a lady.

…pickled onion vinegar?!
…!…
Congratulations on your impending arrival, Mr and Mrs Elf!

Return of the Elves: Dec 12 – 14

Countdown to Elf Wedding of the Year!

Dec 12 - I know weddings are expensive, but nicking from the kids' piggy bank is just shameful, Edward!

Dec 12 – I know weddings are expensive, but nicking from the kids’ piggy bank is just shameful, Edward!

 

Dec 13: awwwww! Good luck

Dec 13: awwwww! Good luck

Dec 14: what the kids woke up to! Contents of the photo album below. Though the photos still don't reveal why the bridesmaids have swapped dresses...

Dec 14: what the kids woke up to! Contents of the photo album below…

The photo album from the wedding of E and B Elf:

Return of the Elves: Dec 6 – 11

You know, these antics are starting to worry me… I’m also concerned with how much I laughed at Dec 11 – so juvenile :-D

 

 

Dec 8: bubble bath party. Mucky lot!

Dec 8: bubble bath party. Mucky lot!

 

Dec 9: Hide and seek! Or as one witty friend said: forking or spooning? ... And who the hell is that second naked Barbie?!

Dec 9: Hide and seek! Or as one witty friend said: forking or spooning? … And who the hell is that second naked Barbie?!

Dec 10: EEK! Will she say yes? Will she disappear to the North Pole with him on Christmas Eve? (Yayyyyy!) Will he stay here with her? (Noooooo!) And why are Edwinn and Chelsea holding hands?

Dec 10: EEK! Will she say yes? Will she disappear to the North Pole with him on Christmas Eve? (Yayyyyy!) Will he stay here with her? (Noooooo!) And why are Edwinn and Chelsea holding hands?

Dec 11: bum-shots - oldie but goldie. Glad to see Barbie's wearing her big purple gem (she must have said yes)

Dec 11: bum-shots – oldie but goldie. Glad to see Barbie’s wearing her big purple gem (she must have said yes)