Midi The Stunt Weevil

Sun 2 Sep 2012

“Yeehar!!!!!”

At 1413hrs today, Midi learned to ride a bike without stabilisers.  At 1418hrs she started doing stunts.  And shouting, “Yeehar!” as she weaved in and out and pedalled up and down pretty substantial ramps like she’d been cycling for months, rather than minutes.  Under all this blue, my hair must be very grey…

How do I know the precise timings? Ah, that’ll be thanks to the videos I took (which alas I’m not going to share on here.  You wouldn’t understand them, anyway: all you can hear is me laughing maniacally).  And

“Mini: Stupid balance bike – I hate you!”

what was the prompt that finally got her on 2 wheels?  Was it to keep up with her elder sister?  To impress her younger sister?  No… it was to show off to the big boys on the BMX stunt ramps.  Oh hell, we’re going to have trouble with this one…

Oh my word, I just checked posts, and it appears that I completely neglected to add a post from when Midi first went on 2 wheels with no stabilisers!!  Probably because I put it in the Little Trekkers blog; I tend not to repeat them all that much between there and here.  OK, here we go:

On or about 3 June 2012, we took the girls to the school playground with the bikes.  We dressed them in their down jackets partly against the cold, and partly against injury.  After the speed Midi had zoomed around forest tracks on her stabilisers in Roseisle,

Short-lived success

we honestly thought she’d be up for going on 2 wheels.  And she did it!  And was doing great!  Until she noticed how well she was doing, frowned, got off her bike, put it on the ground carefully, lay face down on the playground and refused to get back up.  For the next 3 months she refused to get on her bike at all.  Till today.

No, they’re not being defiant for a change – they fell off the tyre swing a half-second prior to the photo being taken

Faster, Stronger, Higher, Farther

Friday 24 Aug

This week the eldest 2 minxes have returned to/started primary school, and resumed their twice a week after-school sports.  Last year it was swimming and ballet; this year it’s swimming and gymnastics.

I know I’ve written long and wrung my hands hard over Maxi Minx and her swimming, so starting an entirely new swimming block, a year after starting the previous block, was a big deal to her and to me.  Naively, I thought that by conquering her fear of the deep end, and successfully meeting the objectives to move on a block, Maxi would be fine in this block of lessons.  Um, that’ll be a great big NO, then.  She clung to the edge with every stroke.  Poor Nic, her teacher, kept going to hug her, but moving back before actually making contact, so it looked like she was flapping her arms around.  At one point Maxi stood and cried.  Had I been able to get to her side within even 3 minutes, I’d have gone and given the poor wee soul a huge hug.  But I couldn’t.  All I could do was stand and feel my own eyes fill up with tears.  Nic is obviously a very experienced teacher, though, and she knew how to encourage Maxi.  After a few more lengths, Maxi was smiling and Nic was waving her a big thumbs-up.  But Maxi was still regularly grasping the side of the pool.

Maxi’s idea of hell: a deep end 24 floors up, with a glass floor. Photo from Daily Mail, May 2012

After the lesson, I asked Maxi why she’d cried.  “My eyes swelled up with tears as I remembered that I’m scared of the deep end!” she wailed, Drama Queen to the last.  I gave her a huge cuddle and did my best to reassure her whilst not making a big deal of it, but I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to have some problems…

Midi, meanwhile, went bounding into her new block of lessons.  They’re also with Nic, the half-hour before Maxi’s lessons (poor Nic).  Every time I looked down at Mini to read another page of her book to her, then scanned back over the pool to spot Midi again, it was easy: just look for the massive fountain of water from her flapping flipper feet.  I could see Nic telling her not to kick so hard, but Midi is a very strong little girl, who’s yet to learn how to control her muscles properly.  The first thing she’ll be learning to control, though, is her mouth: I caught her squirting seriously impressive long jets of water out of her mouth.  Out of earshot, I giggled at the sight: they were proper long, arcing, cartoon-style jets.  In earshot, though, I scolded her roundly for being dirty.  Ahhhhh, the duplicity of being a mother!

Ballet was abandoned this year because it was really just a dressing-up social event for the minxes.  Socialising is fine and good, but I can help the girls meet their friends on a day that suits us all better and without paying good money for the privilege.  I think 2 days of planned post-school activities is plenty for little kids.  And on my mission to bring up fit, healthy, strong daughters, I’d rather they did something a little more physically arduous on those 2 days than jump gently around looking pretty.  As luck would have it, the day I sat down to email the (lovely) ballet teacher to let them know that I’d decided that they wouldn’t be coming back, she wrote to inform me that she was dropping the classes because they could no longer use the school.  Good timing!  Although I could have tried another ballet class, I felt that the time was right to move onto something quite challenging – gymnastics.

I had 2 gymnastics clubs to choose from locally: one that I knew absolutely nothing about, and the other that I’d heard churned out very good gymnasts, who insisted on an audition first, and was run like a military dictatorship.  I sent emails and phone messages to both.  I heard absolutely nothing from the latter, but had a very swift response from the first one.  The coach who phoned me back was very patient with my barrage of questions, and agreed that it would be best to keep the girls together, as beginners, rather than split them up based on their ages.  I signed the minxes up forthwith.

On the first day, though, I had some serious doubts!  It opened late.  The first person to go in was a young woman with 4 or 5 dogs, who then stood around and chatted, leaving the new little gymnasts and some confused mothers standing outside, doing battle with the wasps.  I was told that I absolutely could not come in and see the girls*, and when I asked what most parents did while their kids were in the gym was told, “Oh, they go to Burger King”.  Riiiiiiight…

*When I thought about it afterwards, I think this is absolutely a good call.  Although it would be great for me to watch, it would distract the minxes.  And they would be less likely to give their full attention and effort in the class.

Maxi and Midi, ca. 2024?! Photo: Wikipedia

To be fair, though, my first iffy impressions were unfounded.  The minxes absolutely loved it.  They spent 45 minutes bounding around, doing what they were told, actually being instructed.  Maxi struggled a bit with not only being told what to do, but being challenged to push herself beyond ‘easy’; Midi relished the chance to move her physical boundaries further.  They were both full of tales of using springboards and being helped to do handstands.  Excellent stuff!  But will I feel the same by the end of term…?

First school lunch

Friday 24 August 2012

The end of Midi Minx’s first week in school, mornings only, and a special treat: she got to go to school dinners!  And so did I 🙂  Last year The Boss went with Maxi, so I was looking forward to my turn.  I wasn’t a lover of school dinners as a child, but I had to try out something that consistently impresses Maxi so much: my picky little eater asks for chicken fajita wraps and jacket potatoes for weekend lunches, because she eats them at school.

I picked up Midi at 1130hrs, then hung around in the drizzle till 1200hrs when we were allowed to go in.  As Midi and Mini were messing around, we were at the back of the queue.  Great.  It might be around 25 years since I last set foot in a school dinner hall, but even I know that you need to be near the front to get the best lunch!

Slowly, slowly inching forward, 2 of the supervising staff came over to say hello to Midi.  “Ah, I’ve been hearing how independent you are, L!” said one.  Midi beamed from ear to ear and rolled her huge green eyes around in her head for a bit.  I think she was pleased.  I wasn’t sure how to take that: did she mean independent as in ‘you’re only 4 but you can do so much for yourself that other kids still need a grown-up to do’, or independent as in ‘you know your own mind to the point of being bloody-minded’.  I suspect the truth would be a bit of both.

I also got another surprise: apparently Maxi is the only kid in the school who always takes a big selection from the salad bar.  What?!  Twice a week when I ask what she had for lunch, she reels off an incredible list of vegetables and good food.  I’ve never believed her, because none of it was on the menu.  I didn’t realise there was a salad bar that the children could help themselves to.  Oops!  Am I proud that she’s such a good eater of diverse things?  Well… no, because that’s how we brought her up, but… och,… yes, I am.  She even chooses soup instead of pudding sometimes – something her greedy, sweet-toothed, undisciplined mother could never do!

Speaking of pudding, on that Friday it was sponge and custard.  I couldn’t resist.  Now, I know that I’ve not had school dinner sponge OR custard since I was 12, so nearly 30 years.  But oh my God and the stars above, it was lovely!  I’d taken a special, grown-up, boxed packed lunch for Mini to eat, but even she had to have some of the sponge and custard.  Except she seemed to be a little confused about who was sharing their pudding with whom, and threw a strop at me eating any at all….

Another favourite from the era of my old school dinners! Pic from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

I suppose it was quite comical: me, Mini, Midi and Maxi all in a line, perched on the little round table seats, all troughing our custard and sponge like it was going to be stolen away from us (Maxi had come racing through at the bell and joined us, proud as punch at joining her little sister for her first school lunch).  Some of the other mums certainly gave us some strange looks.  I thought it was maybe disgust, but we were quite neat and quiet that day.  Then one mum smiled at Midi, who’d stopped *just* short of licking the tray-plate, and noted: “Ooo, aren’t they all good, she’s even eating her vegetables!”  It felt quite strange just to smile back and mutter something about aye, she’s always been a good eater, but if only she slept!  The reality was that I was appalled at so many little kids, sitting beside their mothers, but *not* eating.  One wee boy poked at a bit of mashed potato, frowned at the gravy, had no veg on his plate at all, ate a little bite of the pudding (I had to hold Mini back from ‘helping’ him) then insisted he’d had enough and it was all yuck.

Have we just been lucky that our minxes inherited our greed enjoyment of food, any food, all food?  Or is it because anyone in the house at the time always, always sits together at the table for 3 meals every day?  Even 3 day old infant minxes in car seats?  I honestly don’t know.  It’s just always been what we’ve done as a family, from the day we returned home from hospital with 3 day old Maxi.  Does it make a difference?  I’m not sure; we have the usual table fights, same as every family (You.Are.To.Try.Everything.On.Your.Plate, Young Lady).  Does it even matter?  Well, I hope it does.  I’m a bit afraid of what the minxes’ relationship would be like with food if we didn’t.  I’m determined to innoculate my girls from all the insidious body-image poison they’re already coming up against (yep: aged 4 and 6 and they have friends who poke fun at other perfectly normal girls for having ‘fat’ tummies and ‘fat’ legs).  I’m doing my damndest to teach them that all food has something yum about it (if it tastes yuck it’s because it’s not been cooked or prepared properly); all actual food has a purpose to serve somewhere in the body (eg fat makes your hair shine and you can store vitamins in it; iron stops you getting tired; protein makes you stronger.  That kind of simplistic stuff).  You eat till you have Happy Tummy (feel full) and stop.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it works – you can only do what you can do.

Anyway, anyway.  On the last of 3 double school runs of the day, I found myself dragging 3 tired little girls uphill in the rain.  They were whingeing and moaning and getting slower and slower.  I had Mini in the sling on my hip and was carrying school bags and a shopping bag.  Hell, I was tired!  I threw a huge shouty tantrum, halfway up the hill.  Suddenly all 3 started behaving.  No way!  That’s a first – usually they get worse.  I slathered on tons of praise to salve my own guilt at yelling.  Amazingly the good behaviour lasted till after dinner, when Maxi curled up on my lap for a long cuddle.  The snuggle was all the sweeter because we so rarely get the chance to, and she’s never been much of a cuddler, even as an infant.  As I got back to work fulfilling a knitting order, all I could think was ‘sod knitting for pennies – I want more time free to cuddle my babies and knit for *them*!’  Though maybe dressing them in my rainbow creations won’t exactly help stop them being teased…!

First Day of School (aye, this post is as long as last year’s)

Tues 21 Aug

Sadly (for me), the day finally arrived when I had to pack off my tempestuous, funny little sausage (Midi Minx) to school, to join her big sister. She’d been looking forward to it as much as I’d been dreading it. Now her teachers get to hear her jokes and 4 year old witticisms. Now she’ll spend all her energy doing things away from me. Now she’ll give all her best smiles to other people. Yep – I’m just deeply jealous at having to share her a lot more.

When Maxi started school, we bought her a pretty pink Timex watch, even though she couldn’t tell the time. Midi knew we were getting her a watch, and had requested a black one (her favourite colour) with owls on it. A quick internet search showed only one that was also reasonably suitable for telling the time and coping with 4 year old hand-washing (ie a measure short of hosing down). So on Sunday, screeching through Inverness, I stopped by Argos and nabbed the only watch that Midi would love (and it was the last one in the shop – must have been fated). I was desperate to show her, because she’s bonkers about owls; has been for a few years, now. Instead we waited till this morning to show her. Her little face lit up and she cried, “My owl!”

I never iron my own clothes – ever – but do iron the girls’ uniform. I was about to ask the minxes if they minded wearing the same clothes as each other for a few days to make things easier for me to organise*, but they beat me to it and asked if they could be ‘matchy-matchy’. So blue gingham dresses, school cardigans, matching black patent shoes, matching blue gingham-edged socks it was. And they giggled over choosing identical hairbands and pants, too.

*organise: well, suddenly the amount of uniform to be stored has doubled. Or put it another way: of 21 minx-days in a week, 10 are in uniform. So that takes up a fair bit of wardrobe space.

I started the obligatory photo shoot with some pics of a double-decker bus and a tissue box that Maxi had made for her new teacher, Mrs L. Gosh, I hope she’s gentle of Maxi’s feelings and realises how much love and hope my little girl’s poured into those home-crafted gifts! (She put them on the special display bit of the room, to Maxi’s delight. And mine. She sounds like a really lovely teacher, and Maxi adores her already)

We took the uniform photos out the back garden, and I know I’ll be looking at them fondly again in years to come; the girls’ personalities really shines through. Maxi’s looking fretful, Midi is over-excited and so expressive, while Mini doesn’t know what’s about to hit her (her Fun 2nd Mummy is about to leave her for a big chunk of each day in the care of Boring 1st Mummy). Of course, I’m only showing you the funny one!

We walked down to school and in some ways it was like we’d never had a school summer holiday: the usual uncontrolled kids came bounding over, and my eldest 2 started veering towards the kerb, towards the path of some very sleepy, speeding, swerving drivers. And artics. My mouth switched into Nag Mode faster than I thought possible. Mini was ok, strapped to my back in her Fire Rainbow (which she’s started asking for!), but man, I wish some of the mums / grandmas / carers would have a think about NOT distracting other kids when they’re in the middle of crossing roads… Or if they’re going to do that, at least have the courtesy to keep their faces expressionless when I yell at my precious babies to watch out! or STOP! Because here’s a newsflash: my role is to get them to school safely, not to shepherd them to you every morning for a cuddle – cuddle your own!

There was a little boy, S, who Midi loved in nursery last year. He went through a biting phase, and bit a chunk out of her. I thought she was wary of him, but when he left to go to another nursery, she was broken-hearted. I discovered he was starting P1 with Midi and told her. She was so excited, and talked about it endlessly. So I mentioned it to his mum when I saw her. I don’t think she really believed me. But he walked through the school gate this morning right after Midi. She spotted him, shrieked his name, and launched at him with a huge bear-hug. Memories of Maxi and J last year!

I felt a bit torn as the bell went: Maxi stood at the front of her queue while I stood with Mini, half a playground away. I pushed through the thronging fellow-P1 parents to give a bewildered Maxi a kiss, then stood with Midi, ready to go in. Up till now all my attention had been on Maxi. I felt a bit like I was abandoning her, but I had to take Midi in. Well, I nearly didn’t – I had to push past some parents taking photos of their Little Darling in the queue, with one friend, with another, walking through the door, etc.

Now I know that despite being only 4, Midi is ready for school. She herself said only yesterday, to my consternation: “I’m ready for school! I can do tricks!” However, she walked into the class as nonchalantly as a very cool cucumber. She found her peg herself and hung everything on it. In the class, I fumbled a bit: “Oh, where’s your tray? Where should I put your water bottle?”

“Over here, and over there, Mummy”, she replied brightly.

I stood with her as she decided what to play with. We giggled at the Home Corner having a boiled egg breakfast laid out on it (what we had this morning), then stood around some more, gawping at Photo-Documentary parents recording every moment. Actually, I shouldn’t scoff – maybe there’s something wrong with *me* that I’m happy with a wee pic in the garden. After a minute of this, she turned to me and said, a note of exasperation in her voice: “OK Mummy, you can go now. Bye-bye, Mummy! Bye R!” and she kissed me and Mini and virtually ushered us out the door. So we left!

Me and The Boss had a bet that Midi would be on a warning within half an hour of arriving and on red by first break-time. I find it hard to believe that our little tempest actually appears to be a bit of a goody-two-shoes. I wonder how long that will last? Until she’s lulled everyone in a false sense of security, probably!

Two hours later, Mini and I walked down to pick up Midi. She was deeply disappointed at not being allowed to stay to have school dinners, and was very sad that she’d not been taught to read or write. I interviewed her over lunch with the camera, and on the video you can hear me choking back laughter at one bit:

Midi: “I saw my old teacher this morning, Mrs F!”
Me: “Oh? That’s nice”
Midi: “But I didn’t see Mrs M. She’s at a new school now. She had to go because she was too bossy”
Me: <splutter> “Oh? Who said that?”
Midi: <mumble> “My friends”

Blimey! Mrs M was lovely. I wonder where that came from?!

That evening, the minxes were over at their friends’ house, for L’s 4th birthday party. Old Foster Cat followed us all the way there, in the pouring rain, and waited outside for the 2 hours we were there. All the kids had a fantastic time. I enjoyed catching up with 2 of the mums, but felt very, very frazzled: when J (Maxi’s future husband, apparently) gets over-excited, he scream/shrieks. It’s the most piercing sound, ever. And he does it a fair bit. My ears were bleeding. I guess I’m not very volume-tolerant – teaching little kids would be the world’s most hellish job for me, if it didn’t come with a volume-control button.

I suspect that night there were a lot of very sleepy, tired children. Ours conked out within minutes.

Weekend in Gairloch Part 3

Sunday 19 Aug

Yes, taking the little Storm 300 for the weekend was a much better idea than the Maritsa 500. It took about 1/10th of the time to pack it up, for a start. We tried to get the minxes to help pack up, but first Mini Minx fell asleep on the job, then they got distracted turning their sleep mat into a boat.

So why is it so important to pack up first thing in the morning? So you have more time to have fun! We killed the hour between car-loading and buying more pastries from the shop by counting Mini’s midge bites (Maxi lost count, Midi lost interest) then saying hi to the pigs. I have a bit of a soft-spot for pigs: beautiful, smart creatures. Who also taste seriously yum. Maxi nervously fed the biggest pigs with grass and Midi got a bit confused about why boy pigs have nipples.

Suddenly the sun came out! We had to go say goodbye to that lovely beach. I think that only lasted 10 minutes before the minxes wanted to go paddling. I let them leave their sandals and socks on the sand. “Don’t get wet; we need to go, soon!” I warned. Yeah, right, like they ever listen to me. Literally 5 minutes later Midi and Mini are naked, Maxi is shedding her clothes, and they’re squealing and shouting and having a really lovely time in the hot sunshine. How could we possibly drag them away? Only one thing for it – pony-trekking.

Luckily Mini fell asleep for a post-lunch snack in the car, otherwise I think there would have been tears that she wasn’t included. I thought that given the ages of the minxes that they’d get half an hour on a lead rein only. Nope – they circled the little exercise square once then went heading off on a trek. When they returned, I realised me and The Boss had unleashed a demon. Maxi had talked everyone’s ears off the entire time. Midi had pressed her lips tightly shut the entire time. I asked her why. “It’s my grown-up girl look,” she whispered, “Cos I’m going to school this week! You have to smile like this! An’ it stops me squealing”. Awwww! Midi does make me laugh with her random squeals out of the corner of her mouth. Well, laugh *after* I’ve jumped back into my skin. Please stop being in a rush to grow-up, my funny wee girl.

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Weekend in Gairloch Part 2

Sat 18 August 2012

For the first time *ever* when I’ve been camping, I woke up at 7am (lie-in!) feeling rested and full of life. Wow! Maybe it was because Mini Minx had her little arms squeezed tightly round my neck and was snoring in my ear. What a way to wake up – cuddles and baby’s clean hair smells in my nose. Just lovely. The Boss woke and kindly volunteered to get up right away and put the coffee on. And there the lovely morning came to a screeching halt.

Now, I’ve met midges before: I’m Scottish. But these weren’t ordinary midges. These were FuckinBazzaMidges. Vicious, voracious, vindictive. And they cut about in thick clouds of a few billion. I sprayed Smidge on everything and everyone. To be fair, it stopped them biting, but it didn’t stop them marching on an expedition up my nostrils, in my ears and crawling all over my eyelashes. Argh! So much for the forecast stiff breeze – it was sunny and still and we were a stone’s throw from the sea – of COURSE they’d be out hunting for fresh blood!

A brief reprieve from the rain

We slowly got ourselves together, took the minxes in relay to the toilet block, and… suddenly the heavens opened. Eh? But the forecast was sunny intervals, breeze and warm. It was still, chucking it down, and freezing. I guess the Met Office were still away on their summer holidays and Colin the Janitor’s Dog was still in charge of forecasting. The Boss was a bit of a hero and legged it back to the tent and car with Mini, and drove back to rescue me, Maxi and Midi. We didn’t know that – we were about to brave the torrents, and he pulled to a halt in front of us.

Breakfast of pastry

We sat steaming up the car, wondering what to do. Well, easy: buy some freshly baked croissants and pastries from the campsite shop (see? I told you it was excellent!) and sit happily munching them, waiting to see what the weather will do. (Have you ever burnt your mouth on a croissant? I hadn’t. Till now. An interesting new experience).

The clouds emptied, but didn’t really lift, so we got the minxes dressed, and went out to explore Gairloch. First on the list was the museum, as it had free entry on Saturdays. We ended up leaving a decent donation – what an interesting place! Mini loved turning on the lighthouse and her sisters had fun making flour. I was desperate to read the entire section about wool and knitting, but the minxes were too busy trying to dismantle or handle

“Ts-ips…. nice!”

everything within a minx-arm-length.

We left faster than I’d have liked and hit the fish and chip chop. The woman behind the counter very kindly followed us outside with a big roll of blue paper and wiped down the seats and picnic tables in case we wanted to sit down. The fish was delicious and certainly made a change from ice-cream…

After a mooch around the harbour, we decided to go back to the beach near the campsite. Oh my word, what an enormous stretch of sand! It was still cold and windy (aye, NOW the forecast wind arrives! Long after the midges have departed) so we didn’t spend that long building sandcastles (Midi and Mini Minx) or elaborate huge sand forts (Maxi the Artist). We strolled down the beach, past the washed-up dead seal (oh…) and explored the rock pools, shells and amazingly colourful rocks: thick bands of blue and white stripes, and crazy paving of red and green. Beautiful!

Eventually tiring of the beach we tried the playground on site. I’ve never seen a playground with a slackline before! The kids absolutely loved it, and would have still been there now had they not gotten hungry for our now-traditional camping dinner of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce. Speaking of which, we had the sense to cook and eat it in the big garage-building. We could have used the coin-operated microwave, but (a) it was more fun for the kids with the burner*, and (b) it was more fun watching the German couple having a nightmare microwaving pasta in teeny tiny containers – they giggled more than we did.

Trout Bolt

* Remember: little kids will eat anything if you either call it ‘picnic’ or cook it on an open flame. Anything. Seriously.

I think around about then maybe the little glimpse of sun got to me. Either that or the BeeGees earworm that the local radio had inflicted on me, but I was seen in public doing a BeeGees / Usain Bolt impression. Ah yes, I don’t think I need to practice anymore to achieve full Embarrassing Mum potential.

Weekend in Gairloch Part 1

17 August 2012

In a final, last of the school summer holidays fling, we spent the weekend in Gairloch. The car was packed and ready to go the night before, I fed the minxes and had them in their pyjamas from 1700hrs, so we only had to wait on the The Boss arriving half an hour later and off we zoomed!

4 year old navigator

The rain stopped and the clouds parted as we left Inverness and headed west. The road was absolutely empty, so I enjoyed being Mondeo Mummy (like Mondeo Man but with more hormones). We inherited the car from my brother when he gave us Foster Cat to look after, and he always raved about the ride. Throwing it around the single track lanes to Gairloch*, I saw what he meant – even the minxes were comfy in the back. (*though I have to stress [this being a family show ‘n’ all] that I didn’t speed and was a courteous driver to other road users at all times. Even the biffs. Honest).

Highland clouds lifting on the A835

The view down to Loch Maree through Glen Docharty. Go on, click to see it larger!

The scenery got more and more jaw-dropping as we drove west. I found it hard to keep driving and not pull up at every parking place to gawp at the mountains. I caught sight of Slioch out the side window and exclaimed, “Oh wow, look at that bee-YOO-tiful mountain!”

Maxi looked up from her book: “Where? They’re just hills. I mean, they’re high hills, but they’re not that…OH WOW! LOOK at THAT!”

I love our big old Vango Maritsa 500 tent, but my God I cannot be arsed putting it up and taking it down every time I want to nip away for the weekend. That’s a half hour and an hour respectively when the minxes aren’t properly tethered supervised. Knowing that we wouldn’t arrive at Gairloch much before 2130hrs on a Friday night tipped the balance: this time we took our ancient, trusty Vango Storm 300+. That old tent did us proud before Maxi Minx arrived, and she even camped with us till she was 1. Best of all, it can be put up in around 5 minutes.

We drove through Gairloch town itself just after 2100hrs, straight past 2 people from The Boss’ work. He did the comedy double-rub of his eyes. Had we not been on a tight time-scale I’d have pulled up and made him walk past them nonchalantly, bidding them a cheerful, “G’d evening!” as he passed. But, we had to get to the campsite. I’d no idea if it locked up for the night. And the minxes were getting tired and sleepy…

If you think we’re sleeping tonight, you’re a …. <zzzzzzzz, snore>

Well, shortly afterwards we pulled into the best UK campsite I think I’ve ever stayed at. Amazing scenery, absolutely huge, and no set pitches: so long as you keep 7m away from any other tent, you can pitch where you like. Rather than head for a pitch with a view, we aimed for the pitch that kept our noisy girls the farthest away from everyone else. The ‘calm winds’ that were forecast felt like a steady 30-40mph to me, as The Boss and I pitched our tent by headtorch light. It took 6 minutes to get it erected (we’re out of practice…), another 15 mins to stake it to the ground and do the guy-ropes (they’d never been used, in hundreds of UK and French camping trips – I guess we’d been fair-weather campers after all!), 30 seconds to sling in the self-inflating mats, pillows and sleeping bags and 10 seconds to prise the minxes out their car seats.

I took them to the toilet block to case the place out, relieve little bladders, brush teeth, etc. It was like a scene from a horror film, Revenge of the Crane-Fly. I’m not scared of Daddy Longlegs, but The Boss sure is. And when you lose count of how many of the fluttery wee beggars there are in one toilet cubicle alone, you know there are a LOT… I did the honourable thing and warned him. I think he brushed his teeth outside… We sat up for a bit while the minxes snored almost instantly (Yes!!!! At last!) and watched the ISS go past. And again, 40-odd minutes later. It got a bit cold to be sitting outside in the howling wind, so we sat in the car, him playing with his iPhone and me knitting by headtorch (it was a gift, rather than a Rainbow Knits woolly creation, so that’s allowed). When the ISS went past yet again, we headed for bed.

So, how do you fit 5 trouts into a 2-3 man tent? Well, you put Grumpy and Scared-of-Cranefly Trout head to head in the middle with their feet at each corner, like a bottomless triangle. And you let the 3 minxy trouts doss in whatever position they find themselves in at any given moment. It was surprisingly comfortable and we all slept very well.

Wester Hardmuir

Burning off a teeny, tiny bit of energy

16 August 2012

The day before (15th) the minxes had their first play-date of the entire summer holidays. They enjoyed it, I enjoyed catching up with S, but I didn’t understand why she was so apologetic about not meeting up in the preceding 7 weeks; I think it’s great that we’ve all been too busy having fun with our own families to meet up! I’m dreading the day next week when Maxi Minx is joined at school by Midi, and wish the summer holidays were longer.

They were as delicious as you can imagine with clotted cream and freshly baked scones

As well as promising to have play dates, at the beginning of the summer holidays I’d also promised the girls that we’d go strawberry-picking. Last year we spent a lot of June at Wester Hardmuir fruit farm, near Nairn, picking the most juicy, aromatic strawberries I’ve ever tasted. This year, the season didn’t really seem to get going until very recently. When I looked back in my blog to see when we were picking ‘stobs’ (Mini’s word for strawberries), I realised that this past year I’m no longer an L-plated stay-at-home-mum. Last year I wouldn’t have dared go to Wester Hardmuir with just 2 adults amongst 5 boisterous kids, but this year I thought nothing of it. Maybe because I had a plan: set off after breakfast, give the minxes a big, treat snack, let the little blighters tire themselves out at the playground and on the trampolines, then, when they were on their last legs, let them go and pick fruit, before driving home for lunch. Easy! Sorted! (And it worked – only Mini nibbled a few ‘stobbies’, and all 3 snored in the car on the way home for lunch. Mission accomplished!)

Spot the Ball

In fact we had 3 adults for 5 children, as the minxes’ friends Nana came too, so it was easy. Midi Minx flexed her ‘caring big sister’ muscles as she babied Mini on the slide in the Wester Hardmuir playground. Mini wanted to follow Midi everywhere but was too frightened to go down the big, steep, black pipe by herself. So Midi sat at the top, persuaded her little sister to sit in front of her, then hugged her tight as they slid down together. It was so touching! They really adore each other. I’m dreading Midi going to school, but splitting up that partnership is going to be a bit traumatic for them, too.

The Long Road Home

12 August 2012

Time to pack up and go home. The Boss and I spent hours fighting our inner “stuff it in the boot and worry about it later!” demons and meticulously tidied, cleaned, wiped, folded and packed carefully. Just in case the tent doesn’t make it out again this year. We needed something to distract the minxes so we gave them a bottle of bubbles each. They blew them over the couple from the tent nearest ours who were eating breakfast a few feet away. The minxes surrounded them like gypsy violin players, enveloping the pair with bubbles instead of sweet music. Rather than be irked, they seemed charmed by it. I guess that’s the main reason why the noisiest family in the world (us) weren’t given a slow hand-clap as we left.

Reservoir?

We were so sad to be leaving, so stopped a little along the way at a reservoir for a leg-stretch. Reservoir? Looks like the sunny side of the moon!

…or near side of the moon?

We had to stop in Inverness, unfortunately, because it suddenly struck me that the girls needed school shoes, and with one week to go I was pushing my luck! Clarks measured Maxi and Midi Minx’s feet while I crouched down to play with Mini. I literally fell over when I saw Midi’s measurement: 9.5 H. But she was measured as an 8H only 6 weeks ago! How could that be? No wonder the poor child had been moaning about wearing her shoes and trainers – I’d just assumed that she was being fussy. Oops… <guilt, guilt=””> The assistant breezily waved away the fact that they didn’t have anything in the girls’ sizes, but hauled out that old chestnut of being able to go down a width measurement if you go up a size. Riiiiiight… I used to be polite, but nowadays I figure that it is my job and my duty to do the very best by my kids as I can, and to hell with my own popularity. So I second-guessed everything she did after she got their sizes mixed up AGAIN and didn’t notice. She asked my 4 year old how they felt and was happy to leave it at that. I don’t ask 4 year olds nebulous questions; I tell ’em to skip, hop, run, jump and take big strides around. I watch for slipping heels and bulging insteps. One pair of shoes she said fitted I disagreed with and showed how easily they slid off Midi’s skinny little heels (she has feet like a duck – really hard to fit). Eventually, we had 2 pairs of shoes that fit well enough. I was sucking my gums like a lemon-face because although they were black patent leather, they had red flashing lights and shiny bits. On school shoes?! Terrible! But beggars can be choosers. Next time I’ll get the shoes more than a week to go!*

*Incidentally, I found lots of more suitable pairs of school shoes in the right sizes on the Startrite website. Seriously speedy delivery, but alas absolutely none fitted: with Startrite a wide toebox = wide heel. Shame, because they were simple, robust-looking styles. No thin soles or bloody flashing red lights in sight!

What Maxi does instead of sleeping in the morning

Before we got home, Maxi let out a whoop – on the drive back she’d finished her Anne of Green Gables book. Aye – the book that caused consternation in our house when she asked, “Mummy, when will you teach me how to say my prayers?” She’s now moved on to Huckleberry Finn. Oh boy, I wonder how long it is before I’m summoned to the school to explain her

How to dodge helping pack up camp

language…?! I don’t know whether to forewarn her new teacher in case Maxi innocently repeats some words that were in common usage 150 years ago but are now considered worse than swear words. I don’t want to look like a pushy, proud, Mother-Of-A-Genius type, though. Och, I’ll just keep schtum and go on asking Maxi about what she’s been reading. Besides, I bet I can distract her with Heido, or something more innocent!

When we got home we refused to give up that holiday feeling, so ate an early dinner then legged it to the swing park. We had a lovely hour dodging the swarming flying ants and squealing on the seesaws. I knew fine that the flying ants wouldn’t hurt little Mini, and I’m not generally squeamish (I pick caterpillars off my cabbages for the birds and used to let spiders run down my face to freak out my sister, for goodness’ sake!) but my disgust at them waggling in my baby’s hair was visceral. Even Mini eventually tired of sliding down the chute to squash hundreds of them with her nappy, each time.

That night, the entire Trout household was snoring earlier than any other night that entire summer holiday.

Silent Slice of Skye Heaven

Scenery on the main road to Portree

11 August 2012

Another threatening-to-be-grim day, so we cracked on with boiled eggs and double espresso (adults) or a big mug of UHT milk (only minxes can face this) for breakfast. It took us ages to get going because all 3 minxes needed showers, one at a time, waiting in queues before and afterwards. We were all grouchy from accumulated lack of sleep so snarled and grumped a lot.

Black Cuillins over Camas Malag

After the previous day’s sights zooming down the south-east side of Skye, we wanted to see a little more, so set off again via the Road Bridge. And again, we used the drawn-with-a-Mars-bar rubbish tourist map. This time, we decided to follow our noses and just go where the scenery looked most interesting. However, very rapidly we found ourselves on a tiny little track road with no passing places. In a car with verylow profile tyres. Doh. Looking for somewhere to turn, we came across a big, ugly old quarry. Rounding the next corner, we discovered

Red and Black Cuillins over Camas Malag

Camas Malag: the track opened out into a kind of wild camping field. Instead of turning, I got out and had a snoop around just in case the promised sandy beach was just out of sight (it wasn’t – the map lied again).

The world’s most scenic picnic spot. Maybe.

The first thing that hit me was the utter, deep, profound SILENCE. The faint baahing of the sheep carried across in the wind, but that was it. I felt apologetic unleashing the minxes, but what else could I do? They paused long enough for me to jam sunhats on little blonde, fluffy heads, and off they zoomed to the shoreline, as if the sea was one big minx-magnet. Mini Minx showed a natural aptitude for bouldering (oh no – shields up…) while her sisters wanted to play at Rescue the Beautiful Princess with me. It’s been a looooong time since I flexed my

My bouldering baby

imagination muscles, but I had no choice – listening to Midi role-play 7 or 8 parts in a progression of sillier voices was high entertainment.

After tiring of playing on pebbles and all 3 minxes doing their synchronised poo (why can’t they all want to go in the morning when we’re within walking distance of a flushing toilet, soap and water…?!) we had a picnic in probably the most scenic picnic spot on Earth. We went for a little walk further along the track uphill. The minxes happily clambered over every boulder in sight until I spotted one at the side of the track with bits of balled-up toilet tissue at its base. It didn’t take much investigation to realise that my first suspicion was right – someone had pooed right at the base, wiped their lazy bum, and just left their detritus there. Disgusting! I know that sometimes you’ve just got to go (I’ve got 3 kids… I know! I know!) but it only takes a few seconds to go a bit further off-track. I realise that not everyone carries around nappy sacks or poly bags like I do, but would it have been so difficult to at least have attempted to bury it? I’m not expecting latrine depths, here, just a bit of an attempt to get rid of toilet tissue? Obviously not. Obviously that person believes that their personal comfort and convenience is of supreme importance; certainly enough to litter and poison a beautiful landscape and put my kids at risk of illness!

What a sight for sleep-deprived eyes! Thank goodness for burners and French coffee pots

We decided to move on and see a little more of Skye. We drove to Portree and had an ice-cream (aye – yet another ice-cream!) and picked up more provisions. The minxes saw the pastel-painted houses on the seafront. I suggested that they might be a bit like those in Balamory? They scoffed at silly mummy – that was a few islands over the way!

Tired and fractious, we went back to the campsite to cook up a classic dinner of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce, engage in the ritual fight of getting the kids to bed, and sit and read the last of the The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets

Mission Accomplished

Nest (I very rarely read fiction: no time and no motivation, but I made an exception for the Millenium trilogy). I think that night, though, it was a struggle because the minxes had passed out in the car on the drive home. Absolutely nothing would wake them when we got to the campsite. We knew we were trading peace and quiet to make dinner for peace and quiet at bed-time. And they looked so angelic! To be fair, they were snoring before the sun had completely set.