Our Neighbours Love Us Lots and Lots. Honest.

They didn’t learn to bath ‘babies’ like that from ME!!

Apart from the adventures of Foster Cat, what else has been going on with us today? Mostly annoying our neighbours 😀

After dropping off Foster Cat at the vets, we got home, had enforced pee breaks, then set off on the 30 minute walk to the hairdressers. The minxes were bribed to sit still for an hour and they received their reward of a ChuppaChups Lolly right afterwards. For a change, it wasn’t pouring with rain or howling with wind, so we detoured to the swing park.

“Mumma, help me onto the swing!” yelled Maxi.

“Mummy, heeeeeeeeelp!” cried Midi as she got her legs stuck in a baby swing.

Mini, meanwhile, said nothing at all but got on with trying to kill herself on the chute. Those minxes like to keep me on my toes, attention split 3 ways…

On the loooooong dawdle back up the hill, poor Mini was helping push Midi in the buggy, tripped over my feet, and made a perfect prat-fall. The wee soul grazed her little knees right through her leggings and dress. Midi felt so sorry for her that she let Mini sit in the buggy for a whole 20 yards before turfing her out, again. Unlike her sisters at 2, Mini’s a bit short of spare flesh and padding, so the bash on her knees must have really hurt. I plastered it in germolene for the local anaesthetic and put a suitably enormous graze plaster over it, but she still limped every time she remembered to.

After lunch, with Mini safely napping, Maxi and Midi were shaping up to having yet another grouchy, yell-y, crotchety day. So I decided it was time to role-play Snow White, Cinderella and their Wicked Stepmothers, and set them to do some terrible chores. The Boss is trying to sell our old car, so I started them with some little buckets of water, a splash of Fairy liquid, 2 brooms and the plastic boot liner of the car. After 20 minutes, even I was impressed with the job they’d done. I’d even added to the atmosphere by urging them to brush harder or they’d not get any gruel and dust for dinner. I think Midi thought that sounded more tempting than the reality (Butter Turkey Curry). On a cleaning high, they then set to work scrubbing other big plastic furniture things that sit mouldering in our garden.

The sun popped out; it got hot. I decided that it was time to have some fun, and we bathed some dollies. Midi got overexcited and tried to immerse herself in the basin. My own inner minx is never far below the surface, and so I fetched some towels, dry dresses, dry underwear, and stashed them somewhere safe in the corner. Then I got a big watering can of freezing cold water, decanted a little into a bucket, and got the girls to act as moving targets. They quickly stripped to their pants and screamed their little heads off.

Now, I should tell you that I have a good aim. I win prizes at carnival shooting galleries. I’m not at all bad at instinctively assessing the trajectory of a wriggling minx and throwing a nice wide arc of water to meet said minx. However, when it catches her right smack in the chest at the perfect sweet spot of the water-arc, it even caught me by surprise. Maxi cried hot tears of indignation, Midi hooted at the sight of her sister being drenched, and I couldn’t breathe from being doubled over laughing. Poor wee soul! She was cross because I’d caught her unawares. So we spent a happy half-hour of them racing back and forth and me emptying the watering can cup by cup. The neighbours weren’t impressed at the shrieks and squeals: one loudly shut her window in disgruntlement, and another lurked loomingly at the window. Till Midi whipped her soaking knickers off and raced around nude, yelling, “Yippitty-yay! Yippitty-yay!”. He vanished pretty instantly. Well, I guess attack is the best defence, and all that.

We watered the entire veg patch, picked some barely ripe peas, talked to the bees and just had a really fun afternoon – not too much angry yelling, lots of nice sisters-helping-each-other. I think tomorrow I’d better give the neighbours a wee break and take the girls further afield. I’ll save breaking out the paddling pool, BBQ, bubble-machine and boogie box till the next day, eh?

Heinlein’s Cat

One of our cats understands English and can walk through walls and locked doors.

sleeping cat

Foster-cat: happy and dreaming of the seagulls he can chase

Foster Cat had to go to the vet today to get his broken fang removed under general anaesthetic, and have the second of his vaccinations done. The poor old boy had been starved since 6pm the night before and he was a bit confused as to why his life of luxury had changed. He protested loudly at the indignity of having to use a litter tray. He told us in no uncertain terms that he was hungry. Last night he lifted his tail and sprayed on The Boss because he’d said the V-E-T word aloud in Foster Cat’s hearing. This morning he peed on me for daring to put him in his cat basket.

Assessing the weight-velocity ratio of the local seagulls, and likelihood of catching one

On the 10 minute drive to the vet, Foster Cat amused himself by pretending to be dead: he miaowed plaintively, then gave a long, loud, truncated howl, then made no noise until I stopped the car and ran round to check on him. Then he started up the cycle again. Me and the minxes got to the vets, nerves in tatters.

I think I’m now looking for a new vet. Two weeks ago when I took him initially to our usual vet, I was told that he needed to have a complete primary vaccination course again (ie 2 jags, some weeks apart), a fang out, and a scale and polish. I agreed to the extraction (he was in pain – can’t have that!), but explained that he gets really stressed travelling – could we save him a journey and get everything done at once? The vet agreed, said that he could have the 2nd jag 2 weeks later whilst he was having his tooth sorted, and so we booked in for today. You can imagine, then, how grumpy I got when I was told at lunchtime when I phoned to check on him that he in fact *couldn’t* get the jag, and would have to return next week – there needed to be a gap of 3-4 weeks. I tried to pressurise the surgery to have the vet visit him at home to do it and save him some stress – her mistake, so surely it was the least she could do? Non. And don’t even start me on the impact this almost had on a last minute short little holiday I’d booked, with the cats at a friend’s new cattery. The owner and I pored over a flow diagram explaining when cats were safe to go to a cattery. I’d rather miss the camping trip than put Foster Cat’s health at risk, but we both think he’s fine to go. Phew!

When he returned home tonight, he looked a bit groggy, so we gave him his favourite dinner: pouch of chicken cat food in gravy (he’s no connoisseur). He settled at the top of the stairs and looked a bit out of sorts. I stroked his big, panther head for a bit. He stretched right out and put his head on my lap, purring like a lion, rubbing his chin on my knees. We had a bit of a moment, there, me and the old boy. He’s never let me tickle and rub and stroke him for so long – he’s strictly a “60 seconds and that’s enough of all that nonsense, thanks, where are your standards, stiff upper lip, what?”, kind of cat. I’d been a bit worried about him having an op, but I hadn’t realised just how much till then, when he was safely home and had forgiven us for bundling him in the basket! I think giving him second dinner helped with that…

“Bow before me, Furball” said King Cat

I guess that’ll be him back to normal, then, letting himself in and out. He can open any door on a mortice lock by balancing on his hind legs and pulling down the lever handle until the door opens. At night, he regularly scares the bejasus out of me by suddenly appearing at the sliding doors, up on his back paws, mouth open and front paws squeaking eerily down the panes. Foster Cat? More like Zombie Cat!

And the claim about walking through walls? Well, how else can a massive cat lumber from room to room totally unseen and unheard? Although his favourite spot in the house is at the end of Midi Minx’s bed (aye, he recognises a kindred rascally spirit in my 4 year old!), sometimes he goes missing. Then, The Boss will start at one end of the house, I’ll start at the other, but despite searching everywhere, we regularly can’t find him. Only to have him appear a minute or 2 later from somewhere that it’s *impossible* to hide in, eg the bathroom.

His owners (my brother and his family) are abroad for a few years and miss him terribly. They call him the Terrorist and say he’s always been like this. Today I’m reflecting on how much this tricksy, wilful, gentle, funny old cat is loved, and by so many people: Maxi whispered that she loves him even more than Killer Cat (shhhhhh, her real name is Daisy).

PS In case the title is bothering you, Robert A Heinlein wrote a book titled “The Cat Who Could Walk Through Walls”

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?

Painted Stones Pt 2

It took a few days to get over the trauma induced by my eldest 2 daughters’ frenzy at painting stones. When the memories had faded a little, I got on with letting all 3 minxes paint the second coat.

Again, I insisted on old clothes and shower hats. Mini I just dressed in an old waterproof all-in-one. I sat the girls down and explained very seriously that I was going to let them open only 1 pot of paint at a time. They all had to take care not to spill the paint because the terrible mess would kill the grass and be wasteful. They were to sit quietly until it was their turn. They were not to hit each other with the paintbrushes. They were not to throw paint at each other. All 3 nodded seriously and sagely. Three seconds later, it had flown out of their feather-brains and they were creaming and fighting like a flock of seagulls scrapping over a herring.

Maxi and Midi were attempting to open pots of paint with their teeth; Mini was blithely sploshing paint over her feet and her sisters’ backs; Midi threw away a tube of black paint which was *instantly* grabbed by Mini, who squeezed it as hard as she could so that a thick glob of never-wash-that-out-in-a-million-years goo flew in the air and hit them all.

I attempted to gain control by shouting. Nothing. No reaction. I lowered my voice and growled. They just shouted over the top. I whipped away the sloshing paintbrush from Mini. She threw back her head and unleashed a banshee howl. I snarled, snapped and made a very horrible noise myself. They just looked at me like I was being a bit annoying. Where was the instant compliance? When had my skills at gaining immediate attention disappeared? I grabbed pots and stones and brushes like a snatchy octopus. All 3 howled. I threatened them with being sent to bed. They pouted. I tentatively handed over a single pot. They looked at it warily. I passed over a brush. They slowly picked it up. I moved back a solid centimetre. They snatched a pot each, applied it to teeth, and started squabbling again. I seethed. Painting done as quickly as possible, they were stripped, attacked with baby-wipes, and dispatched to run around the garden like over-excited, hyperactive savages.

The photos make it look like we had a lovely, calm afternoon of fun. But now that you know the real story of what happened, you can maybe spot mania in those 6 beautiful little minx eyes…

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Painted Stones Pt 1

Day 19 of the School Summer Holidays (17 July), and my plans for heading off strawberry picking fell apart because I had to take Midi Minx to the doctors and wait in for a biiiiiig online supermarket delivery. That had a lot of strawberries in it. Oops.

Well, I think Midi has thrush. Rather than self-diagnose, I thought I’d take her to the GP, to make sure. I think we saw the senior partner today. Nice man, but I guess that me plus 3 little girls in a tiny room with one chair kind of intimidated him: he gave a prescription without examining Midi, listing all sorts of reasons why not. “It would be less embarrassing for us both”, was one. I didn’t explain that none of the minxes are very body-conscious (except that my beautiful Maxi has recently complained that her gorgeous, perfect, round ears are “far too big and I hate them”. Yet the identical ears on Mini are “cute”. I despair).

Sorry, I digress – where were we? Gp. He quickly listed reasons why Midi might have ‘inflammation Down There and a discharge’, eg recent antibiotics, 4 year old dodgy hygiene, ‘perfectly normal and age-appropriate masturbatory explorations’. I stiffled a very non-middle aged mummy snigger, was inwardly highly amused though sympathetic at his obvious discomfort (he actually said “Down There” in a Les Dawson style whisper), I agreed with everything he said, then drove to the next village to fill the prescription for Magic Cream. I was sniggering because last week Midi had proudly informed The Boss that she’d finally found her willy, but that it was only a little one, and that Maxi had helped her find both of theirs. Bless! The innocence of little kids, eh? The Boss completely bottled out of explaining what a clitoris was for – he said that 2 pairs of earnest little eyes were just too much for him.

So: chemists and filling prescriptions. The minxes and I discussed what to do that day as we drove to the chemists. “Paint!” demanded my eldest artist. “Throw rocks!” sniggered my thug. “Eat cake!” suggested Mini-me. Then Maxi came up with a blinder: “Paint rocks like cake! Or dinosaur eggs!”

So, a quick stop-off back at home to pick up my purse and usher little girls in to do a pee-stop (spot the experienced, battle-scarred mother…) then off to B&Q. To throw in a bit of maths practice, I told them they had a budget of £10 to buy whatever they wanted. We spent some time discussing the merits of buying 2 tins of shiny metal lacquer versus 9 bright colours and using the varnish lurking in the garage. I thought the tester pots would be a brilliant idea because they only have a little paint (economical, not too much waste) and they come with a paintbrush in the lid (less mess, less waste, easy and instant use).

Mini got exceptionally excited about painting stones. I persuaded her to have a nap first. Now I meant to only start it off with the bigger girls, but I turned into the “No! Not like that! Look at the mess!” screeching shrew of a mother and ended up just getting all the stones done in a oner, inwardly promising to let Mini paint the next coating. The smartest thing I did was insist on Midi and Maxi wearing the thick shower hats their Grandma had bought them. I remembered all too well the trauma caused a few years ago when the nursery used paint that didn’t wash out of hair… I also insisted on old clothes. Phew! They really weren’t messy, but the few paint splashes there were *didn’t* wash out.

Edited to add: I’ll show the photos of the stones in a later post – they’re pretty cool!

The Most Amazing Bunch of Flowers Ever. EVER!

bouquet of clover flowersposy of clover flowersMy eldest minx loves me! She picked these clover flowers (I love their scent and hate to mow the lawn when they’re in flower), hand-tied them painstakingly with her favourite pink ribbon, then made a little holder with pink card and stuck a white love-heart on the outside.

Who needs Interflora? This bunch of flowers have stamped themselves on my heart forever!

How Many Beaches in One Day?

I felt pretty yuck yesterday (11 July) – my Mum would have been 64, and it suddenly really upset me. I guess that’s the thing with grief: you think you’ve learned to live with it, and it suddenly kicks you up the arse. Anyway, I could either have mooched around feeling sorry for myself all that grey day, or I could gather up the minxes and get out to the beach in the bracing wind. What do you think I did..?

I asked the minxes what they fancied doing that day: CBeebies or how about the beach? They each bounced up and down in glee and asked if they could have boiled eggs in their picnic (Note: normal kids would have asked about buckets and spades, sandcastles, etc.) So: eggs hard-boiled, cartons of juice packed, sandwiches made, little pots of raspberries, cherries and baby tomatoes compiled, a ton of tissues (Midi’s sporting green bogeys) and nappies packed, and we were off.

Yeah, it’s tricky with 3 little minxes and just me to keep them out of mischief. I’m often asked how I cope. I reply that I don’t. The reality is that I employ strict discipline and very low expectations. And take a car if we have to go further than a mile. Well, the weather threatened to turn to ‘downpour’; a car offers an impromptu picnic and nappy-change spot; it can also cart the Sherpa-load of food and clothes changes you generally need.

We hit the middle of Cummingston beaches, the one that’s normally really interesting for beach-combing. Last time we were there we found enough good green sea glass to make 2 necklaces, and even a bit of red sea glass and a little cowrie shell. Yesterday? Nothing. Unless you count the red plastic diesel container. And the hundredweight of limpet shells that Maxi attempted to collect, probably for her latest beach sculpture. Hmph. Even she agreed it wasn’t a great day for beach-combing, so we ate half the picnic and wandered to the next beach (oooo, all of a few metres) and checked out the rock-pools. Nope, no sea anemones or starfish today. So we toddled a few more metres along to the next beach, a clean, sheltered, sandy cove. Maxi built some castles that looked suspiciously like the mountain sculptures from ‘Close Encounters fo the 3rd Kind’, Midi scampered around the sandstone slabs checking out the relative traction of her bare feet versus her wellies (that’s my girl!) and Mini licked the baby barnacles that made the rock face look like Moon rock. I got the hint that she wanted the rest of her lunch…

We watched a huge group of people from an Outdoor Centre set up 2 top-ropes over on Cummingston stacks. Bless, with all their orange helmets they looked like baked beans on toast! Watching the nesting seagulls catch food for their hatchlings reminded us not to go near the natural arches or caves. After an hour or so, we moved camp all of 2 minutes walk to the swing-park, where the minxes really enjoyed themselves. Midi especially clambered up and down the mini climbing wall, and tried to teach Mini how to place her feet and do it. Obviously I had to stay spotting for Mini, so Midi took some pictures because Maxi was busy dangling upside down on a rope somewhere. With Midi’s sudden speech development, and new climbing and photography skills, she’s becoming quite the accomplished little 4 year old!

Alas, we had to get home to take Foster-Cat to the vet. I was aware that his Real Owners had let his vaccinations slip for lots of reasons, but I wanted the vet to check him over anyway. He’s about 13 years old, seems to be quite active, still, and is hungry all the time. He’s a big cat, but is it fat? Am I feeding him too much or too little? I also have a firm belief that he understands English: he’ll sit on the doorstep mat and look disdainfully at me when I open the door to let him in, not moving until I say, “No, no, after you, Your Majesty”. Also, ever since I mentioned the word v-e-t, he’s suddenly started peeing against the minxes’ tent, my tent, the sofa, the kitchen cabinets… Maybe he’s getting his own back on me, because when I talk to him I affect a fake old man voice, like Grandad Tumble on CBeebies. Oh man, you don’t think he can read, do you?!

Anyway, he miaowed pitifully in his cat basket, but was good as gold at the vet, relishing all the strokes and attention. The vaccination was trouble-free, I got good advice, he’s a fit, healthy cat, and… he needs his broken tooth out. Ouch. And ouch in my wallet, too, but I can’t have him in constant toothache, can I? Poor old boy – it’s been broken off for a while. But the vet assures me he’ll be fine under anaesthetic. Hope so.

Whilst at the vet’s, the minxes were super-hyped up. Mini had only had 10 minutes nap, so her eyes were spinning and whirling, and she was on a different planetary system to the rest of us mortals. Maxi was very interested in everything going on around her, with lots of new, exciting posters to read and comprehend, so was totally oblivious to her family and cat. Midi was a little star: I’d warned them all beforehand that I’d have my hands full with a heavy cat and 3 tired little girls, so Maxi was in charge of Midi, Midi was in charge of Mini, and Mini was in charge of Foster Cat. Midi decided that she’d actually be in charge of everyone because they just weren’t up to it, so tried to responsibly hold her sisters’ hands in the carpark, whilst holding on to me, the cat basket, and open all the doors for us. She just didn’t get that she couldn’t do everything at once (awwwwww) so caused many a snarl-up. She tried so hard! It left me wondering where my Naughtiest Little Minx had gone. Not too far below the surface I think. I hope… 😉

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Talking About Death

Just what every parent wants! ;o)

This is the letter Maxi Minx wrote me yesterday (Monday). Translation: “I suppose there is an end of life, like death. There will always be an end. You won’t live forever. Wrote by Poppy, your eldest daughter” and ended with a kiss, a hug and some love. Cheerful stuff, eh?

I’m not aware of them coming across the topic recently, so it must just be one of those things. We occasionally talk about my Mum, whose birthday it would have been tomorrow (11th July). The minxes always refer to her as “Nana-who-is-your-mummy-and-who-died”. I’ve always just explained death as being like going to sleep, but forever. That’s satisfied them as an explanation up till now. Now Maxi wants to know more details, whilst Midi is only just starting to understand what it means. As far as Mini is concerned, “Die-die” is her name for her De Li toy, so that’s easy. Besides, she barely understands what ‘sleep’ is, anyway (at least it feels like it today…)

Midi thundered downstairs about 9pm last night straight onto my lap. “I don’t want you to die, Mummy!” she sobbed into my shoulder.

“Well, don’t worry because that’s not going to happen any time soon” I reassured in as matter-of-fact voice as I could.

“But what if you die when we’re still children? How will Daddy look after us?” she pressed.

“But I’m not going to die for a very, very, very, very [I continued in this vein for a bit] very, very long time. So don’t worry”, I smiled.

“I dreamed that you died, Mummy, and I missed you!” she persisted. I gave her a huge hug and a kiss, and reassured her that I wasn’t going anywhere. Poor wee girl!

Scottish Gothic – Maxi’s portrait of me and The Boss. So I’m quite used to her little ‘presents’!

Maxi got a bit wibbly about what happens to our bodies after we die, especially our faces. I explained that they turn back into dust and dirt, because we don’t need them anymore. She wasn’t too happy about that. “But what happened to your Mummy when she was just ashes?” she asked.

“Well, we put her into the ground, beside her granny and her grandad”, I explained. We talked some more about cremation and burial, and I mentioned in passing that I wanted to be buried so that worms could eat my body and plants could grow from me. Maxi stopped looking horrified and gigled. “Well”, I explained, “your body rots and goes back into tiny, tiny bits. Worms eat the bits. And what do worms poo out?” I asked.

“Compost!” she giggled.

“Yep. Then plants grow in the compost. So the atoms that were me get eaten by worms. Some atoms become part of the worm, some become part of plants. Some end up as new plants when the first plants die and rot. And on and on”, I told her.

Her little face suddenly lit up. “Oh, I understand, Mummy! We get recycled!” she smiled.

Rainy Day Grumps

It’s Week 2 of the Summer School Holidays. The minxes have been testing me today on some of the toughest things mummies have to deal with: questions about death and rainy days.

This is the north of Scotland, so of course it’s raining in July. One look at the 30 year average shows it’s a very rainy month; always has been. So why are we all so surprised when it chucks it down?! The minxes got up, dressed themselves as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and settled down for a day in front of the telly. Er, I don’t think so! Not in this household, you won’t!

I talked about the rain with them. How it’s formed. Why it’s good. We talked about how you can tell how much it’s rained. I got them to think of ways to measure how much it’s rained. We legged it outside with a suitable container, then spent half an hour decorating a wooden measuring spoon to make a dipstick. With wool hair. (Of course – wool! Hasn’t yours?!) They got bored. So I got a bowl of milk, some washing up liquid, food colours, and chopsticks to drop the dye in. I *meant* to make rainbows, and got the minxes suitably excited. The reality was very dull: the colours sank to the bottom and barely mixed. So I tried to make fog: boiling water in a big tall pot for a few mins, pour it out but leave an inch of it at the bottom. Hold in an ice pack. Watch the ‘fog’ vapour rise. I was impressed, but the minxes must have been expecting flashes of lightning or multicoloured lasers, because they weren’t at all impressed. <sigh> OK, let’s make rain and talk about how and why water changes to water vapour and back to liquid form again! I poured a bit of hot water in a glass and put a saucer on top. We checked out the vapour. I put ice-cubes on the plate. It started raining down the edges of the glass. The minxes slunk off, disappointed because there wasn’t a torrent of rain from the ceiling. I think I need to work on my warm-up…

We went out to the garden to splash in puddles and check out the new flowers that they planted*. They moaned about getting wet and the flowers not being in full bloom.

*OK, I say ‘planted’: I really mean ‘opened the packet and dumped the seeds in a big mound’.

We went to the library. They zoomed around like unleashed tigers. I was mortified. So we swiped 7 books and came home.

I gave up and labelled Tuesday 10th July ‘One Of Those Days’ and let them get on with watching CBeebies in peace. Hmph!

PS If you’re wondering why they’re in Princess Fancy Dress, it was a little experiment I tried in getting them to tidy up a little after themselves. They role-played Cinderella and Snow White, and I played the Wicked Stepmother, and tasked them with some chores. It was enough of a success that I may work on this some more…

Camping

Remember I mentioned the yummy raspberry cheesecake we all made on Thursday night? Well, it made me and The Boss feel so mellow that we decided on a whim to go camping this weekend. I pored over the weather forecasts and settled on a particular campsite near Gairloch, NW Highlands, as that would (a) miss all the rain except for a few hours in the early morning, (b) had a low midge forecast and (c) it was highly rated in all reviews. Brilliant! So we told the minxes and spent all Friday day and night happily getting our old camping gear ready and packing the car.

In The Olden Days Pre-Minxes we had 2 crates in the garage for camping: one crate full of small camp stove, cups, coffee, mini first aid kit, bits and bobs needed for a weekend away; the other crate was full of supplementals to take for a week or more away. It meant that we could get home from work on a Friday night, grab the tent, either one or both crates, climbing and/or cycling gear and a bag of clothes and GO! But the last time we went camping was in our old Vango Storm 300+, a week before Maxi Minx’s 1st birthday. So that’s 5 years ago… Ah, how much fun we had all over the Peak District when suddenly we were camping as a family instead of a couple! With our tandem plus baby seat at the back. Nowadays, it takes me all my time just to put together a comprehensive enough First Aid kit for the kids, never mind get the rest of the gear together. Hence why it took all of Friday.

I put up the old tent in the sun, left the doors opened and hoped that the stiff breeze would air away the musty damp smell (it didn’t). While I was at it, I aired my treasure stash of books that I’d liberated from their 17 year incarceration in my Dad’s basement. I don’t know which smelled worse! And kept 3 sun-creamed minxes from getting up to too much mischief. They went to bed all excited about the weekend ahead, heads filled with tales of new beaches to explore, croissants and bacon rolls for breakfast, Chinese takeaway for dinner, afternoon stop at the cake-shop and dodging midges. They’ve no real idea what midges are – I think they think they’re mischievious teddies or something. Ah, they’ll learn.

Saturday dawned bleak and wet. A quick weather check showed that the forecast had totally changed and that NW Highlands were going to get heavy rain some of Saturday and all day Sunday. So we and the tent would be wet all day. Hmmm. The Boss kyboshed the idea just as Maxi and Midi burst into our room holding aloft the soft toys they’d finally settled on taking. Maxi greeted the news with floods of tears. Poor little soul. I tried to cheer her up with a quickly cobbled-together story of how we could do all the things we’d planned here at home. She didn’t seem convinced…

One round of bacon rolls and cake in the oven for afternoon tea later, and Maxi still wasn’t convinced. She was allowed to make a huge painting mess with Midi, which cheered her up a bit. I started crocheting a round of red poppies on her granny stripe blanket which made her happier still. The Boss took her and Mini to the local Waste Busters in search of a new bike, then a quick food shop. The strange child loved that! But I think the thing that made her happiest of all was bringing home a Chinese takeaway and being allowed to eat it with chopsticks. Little Midi showed what hunger, greed, tenacity and a desire to out-do your big sister can achieve: she merrily showed off her chopstick skills picking up individual peas and rice grains, and crowing gleefully at her less skilful sisters.

indoor camping

Bedtime stories under canvas. Ish.

Full of takeway, cake, lemonade and wearing their new pyjamas, the minxes were finally ushered to their bedroom, where I’d managed to squeeze in the tent inner. It stank the room out with its musty smell, but they didn’t care! All 3 spent the evening thundering back and forth along the landing, in and out the tent, screaming their heads off. I guess the campers at that campsite will never know how close they came to having their Saturday night badly disturbed…

Around 10pm peace suddenly reigned: Mini had finally settled in her cot, Maxi had passed out in Midi’s lower bunkbed and Midi was snoring her head off, starfished in the tent.

home-made croissants

Flaky, doughy, munchy claws of buttery yumminess

Today The Boss baked the home-made croissants I’d made yesterday and brought out all 9 flavours of jam we have lurking in the cupboards. After that we had a day of messing about in the tent (they’re all up there now, at 2215hrs, still messing about in sleeping bags and arguing over whether the doors are going to get zipped shut or not. I’m contemplating padlocking the doors shut…), being educated in the Tour de France by The Boss, watching tennis (they got bored, and I felt all motherly to Andy Murray, greetin’ at the end, poor wee sausage).

Talking to Maxi over dinner, we discussed what we might get up to tomorrow. We agreed that we could pull out sleds for boats, use brushes as oars, they could get as wet as they pleased. And if the grass stayed wet, I might even pull them along in their ‘boats’. “Ooo, I wonder if the grass will get wrecked?” I pondered aloud.

“Who cares?” Maxi shrugged, licking her clotted cream with the odd bit of scone dotted round it. I laughed long and hard: this isn’t Maxi’s normal attitude at all. She’s so responsible and mature and proper that normally she’d have fretted and wrung her hands over the prospect of some grass being a bit put out.

“That’s my girl!”, high-fiving her. It looks like tomorrow might be quite fun after all!