Start of the Christmas Holidays – Yippee!

The Christmas holidays started the minute The Boss got home from work on Friday.  On a whim I’d booked us a table at a local cafe for pizza – an enormous treat for us all.  The minxes stayed in their party dresses from the last day of school and I even changed out of my sopping-wet jeans into a dry pair.  Woo!

We arrived at opening time to an empty, pristine cafe.  The minxes saw candles and Christmas crackers laid out at our table and shifted from ‘hyper’ into ‘20,000ft and climbing’.  I spent the first 10 minutes trying to calm them down and press 3 little bums into 3 seats.  Any seats.  I don’t care.  No, she doesn’t smell.  No, she’s not my Favourite.  Yes, you can have a cracker.  Just.Sit.Down.NOW!!  The waitress came over to collect our drinks order and tactfully suggested ‘a large one?’ when I asked for a glass of house red.  How could I refuse?!  The Boss was driving – payback for me being Nominated Driver throughout 3 loooong pregnancies over party season.

When we only had 1 or 2 minxes and my income we ate out a fair bit (we’re greedy and love our food).  With 3 minxes and The Boss’s income, it’s a rare treat.  But look on the bright side – trips to McDonalds and Burger King become a very big deal.  (Actually, I’m not sure that’s a good thing, either).  Anyway, 2 adults and 3 tearaways isn’t really conducive to savouring great food, atmosphere or alcohol.  So we’re not really sure how much food to order.  I mean, if you’re going to spend most of your night ferrying minx after minx to the toilet, you start choosing your restaurants by the cleanliness and availability of their loos rather than their standard of food.  We settled on 4 pizzas between 5: a marguerita (Maxi), a deluxe marguerita (me – still addicted to basil), a spicy pepperoni (Midi – I think she was hoping it was really chorizo (she’d loved the paella I’d made on a stupid whim. She was the only one who ate it)) and a seafood (The Boss).

Well, what delicious pizza!  I was very impressed.  And the Bakewell tart for pudding was equally delicious.  The minxes got a kick out of drinking fizzy water and Sprite (fizzy pop is a birthdays-and-Christmas treat) and eating pizza whilst wearing a black plastic moustache from the cracker (always my favourite as a kid, until I couldn’t bear the pain in my septum anymore).  Midi ate her enormous bowl of ice-cream as well as Maxi’s, who started to fade around 7pm.

Midi got restless again towards the end and found all the gift items for sale dotted around the table irresistible.  My hands were full keeping her little sticky fingers away.  As I turned to pay Maxi a little attention, Midi’s elbow caught her glass and dumped water on the windowsill.  I attacked it with some napkins, chastising her soundly.  “But Mummy!” she wailed, “My little elbows haven’t got eyes in them, you know!”  I even laughed.

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Last Day of Term Chaos

Friday 21 December

It was the last day of school and my first 2 babies were dressed up to the nines to go to their school party.  But they’re too young to wear pretty dresses and sparkly shoes!  They’re only… oh. Six and 4.  Already!  I think they were ready to leave faster, with less fuss, and with less nagging from me than I’ve ever experienced.  If only every day were Party Day…  The Boss got up early, despite still feeling very duff*, and made us all sausages for breakfast.  I think his cunning plan was to fill them up with a decent breakfast so that the mid-morning sugar onslaught of the party would have something to sit on.

*He took a day off work sick with a sore throat, joint aches, sweats, fever, and spent it in bed or on the sofa, exhausted.  Then he was sent home from work, and the GP told him to take a week off.  The poor man was sleeping 10 hrs at night, and dozing for 8-10 hrs during the day.  Glandular fever was the suspicion, but his blood test didn’t really confirm or deny.  He’s still not 100%, 3 weeks later, but at least he can form a coherent thought and join it to another one, now.

Rainbow halo around Midi

Rainbow halo around Midi

I made the girls’ hair as fancy as I could (Midi Minx is currently loving the rainbow bobbles in a halo look and Maxi is happy so long as there are sparkles in there somewhere), then checked the weather.  Stormy.  Pants!  So by the time I’d found the girls’ waterproof trousers and dragged out the big old buggy and fought with the plastic raincover that’s as big as a king-size duvet, we’re all running late.  And I’m not sure I’ll manage to ship 3 wee girls and 5 boxes of cupcakes to school, vaguely in one piece, and hopefully dry (ish).  I got ridiculously stressed leaving little Mini in the buggy outside the school, while I spent maybe 6 minutes wrestling her sisters out of wellies, rustling trousers, and enormous parkas, cramming them into sparkly shoes and stacking cupcake boxes onto little arms, kissing 2 shiny little faces, and going back for a second hug and kiss (how can I resist…?)  I do feel torn, needing to be with my toddler yet wanting to take my time unhurriedly sorting out my elder little girls.

cupcakesCupcakes…  I just don’t do presents to school-teachers because I struggle to do Christmas presents even to my entire large family, never mind friends.  But Maxi and Midi’s teachers are absolutely exceptional.  My girls love them, and are clearly loved in return.  The 2 classroom assistants are pretty wonderful too.  One in particular has cleaned and plastered Maxi’s skinned knees more often than I have, I think.  So last night me and The Boss stayed up baking and wrapping and boxing.  I didn’t take photos of the finished product, which is a shame, because I was really proud of how they looked: I did a batch each of Nigella Lawson’s espresso and cappuccino cupcakes, added a wee thank you note, and The Boss made little cardboard boxes to hold them, wrapped in paper covered with children dressed as Nativity characters.  Twee?  Yeah.  Tasty?  Gosh, yes!  There were 2 cupcakes left that me, The Boss and Mini shared the next day – droooool!  I hope they liked them and didn’t think, “Oh God, not more food and chocolate… ”

DSCF5973I legged it back up the hill in the driving rain with Mini then whizzed round tidying up before it was time to walk back down again (still raining and windy) to watch Santa giving out presents to 3 school-years of hyperactive, very excited, very noisy children.

On the looooong walk back up again, against the rain I let Mini have a bit of fun in the puddles.  Well, why not?  This time we had 2 hours before we had to be back walking down that bloody hill again (still in the rain.  But with a wee bit of sleet, just for variety’s sake), so it didn’t matter if she got wet.

I think I must have gotten hypothermia and it addled my brain.  After lunch I thought, well, Midi’s school-made card made me cry (little angel with her hand-prints as wings, her best 4 year old handwriting inside wishing her family a happy Christmas, and an “I love you” that made me bubble), so why don’t I let Mini make one?  A completely out-of-character, trilling, sepia-toned, Oh I’m Such A Good Mummy moment.  One day I’ll learn.  We got out the paints…

I sploshed some bright green paint in a big plate and found some card.  I held Mini’s hands in the paint and giggled about the squelching and the oozing, then pressed them on the card.  Cool – good antlers!  Then I discovered that it’s generally a good idea to have plenty of wipes and paper towels waiting *before* you begin – you turn your back on a painted 2 year old at your peril.  I practised shrugging off the mess (I was going to paint that wall green anyway next year.  Just maybe not quite such a bright, radioactive shade…).  I added some red onto the now-slopped-over plate and made a good brown to do a reindeer face.  Squealing with delight, Mini stamped on it. Then on the card.  Then on the floor.  And me.  Caught the edge of the plate (splot).  And kicked the cat.  Yep, the white cat…  With the pristine, thick, white fur.  While Killer Cat drew us evils, I dead-armed Mini upstairs to the bath and got busy with some soap.

Soap must have fumes that killed my remaining brain-cells – when I got down I thought how amazing the antlers might look with glitter on them.  Aye, glitter!  You know me and my Hate-Hate relationship with glitter…  I thought, “Och, it’ll be fine.  I’m a grown-up.  I have manual dexterity.  I’ll just shake a tiny bit over the wet paint.  Tap-tap.  Oh, a wee bit more.  Tappity-tap.  Just a… HOLY CRAP the lid’s flown off!!”  And the whoosh of blue glitter enveloped me and Mini like the gases from an erupting volcano.  Mini sniggered.  The cat tutted and rolled her eyes.  Sod it!  I’ll just let the cat outside to fester in peace, shut the kitchen door, and leave the mess for a few hours.  And a few coffees and glasses of wine later.  And so I did 🙂

Pantomime

This morning, Maxi and Midi went with the rest of their school to the pantomime. Today, like many of the other parents in the village, I fretted about their safety.  Tonight, like every parent whose happened to catch the news, I’ve given them an extra kiss and hug and whispered, “I love you” in their sleeping ears.

It’s hard to write about our little, mundane day, when so many young children have been senselessly killed in a school in Connecticut.  But it’s impossible for me to write about the Sandy Hook shooting because I can’t process the enormity, tragedy and senselessness of what’s happened.

The children at the minxes’ school went on a heavily subsidised trip to the Pantomime today.  It was at the nearest city, an hour’s drive away.  Although Maxi is a veteran of 2 pantomimes so far, this was little Midi’s first.  It was also the furthest she’s been away from the bosom of her clingy mother.

For the past few weeks some of us Playground Mums have been quietly admitting how nervous we’ve been feeling about letting our babies go on the trip.  We’ve joked about our clinginess.  Today alone I must have said to 3 or 4 parents, trying to reassure myself as much as trying to acknowledge and salve their fears: “Oh these are high-calibre teachers – they’ve done this so many times before.  And they’ll have thought of things that we won’t have!”, thinking about necessities like spare clothes in case of toilet accidents, sick buckets, spare packed lunches.  I constantly reminded myself that for most of the teachers, they’re in loco parentis emotionally as well as physically, and that goes both ways.  One of Midi’s teachers in particular obviously adores all her little charges, and is loved dearly back.  Still, like a lot of over-anxious mums I gave the girls another quick revision on Stranger Danger, Procedures To Be Followed In The Event of Becoming Lost, and What To Do If You Think You Need Mummy.

I just read a news report allegedly from a child eye-witness in Sandy Hook saying that she had been in her classroom and heard sounds like pans falling.  Her teacher had looked out into the corridor, come in, locked the classroom door, piled the kids into the classroom cupboard and kept them there, quiet, while a man banged on the door demanding to be let in, before going away.  I wonder how many lives that teacher saved?  How many lives did Lisa Potts save by stepping in front of a machete?  I saw my mother spring into action plenty of times to help a child in the street.  Parents, teachers, people just do, don’t we?  We look after children, whether they’re our own or not.  Worrying about leaving our children safely at school are irrational.  Aren’t they?

The Boss and I made little packed lunches for the minxes that were full of all their favourite things (well, that were allowed!  Sweeties for the bus were banned so Maxi pouted about being denied sherbet lemons).  The Boss went out last night to buy some of their favourite sliced ham even though he’s ill and should be resting; I got up half an hour early to bake some cranberry muffins to fill their tummies with all the love I could bake into them.  You do these daft things, don’t you?  It’s maybe a way of quietening down the little dark voices that are only ever one listening-to away from becoming hysterical and panic-mongering.  What if the bus crashes?  What if someone tries to abduct my baby?  What if my child gets lost on the way to the toilet?  What if someone tried to hurt them?  What if…?, filled with increasingly silly and ridiculously unlikely scenarios.  But the horrible part of you knows that they’re still possible, however unlikely.  So you blot them out by doing what little you can – slipping in a favourite drink that you normally wouldn’t buy, telling them how much you love them a few more times than usual, racing home from the doctor’s so that you can wave goodbye to them like a maniacal loon from the other side of the street as they set off on the buses.

As it turned out, little Midi screamed in terror at the first part of the pantomime, begging for me and being cuddled by her teachers, but had relaxed enough by the second part to have been laughing and dancing in her seat.  She declared it, “Fun. Liked it. Can I have a chocolate treat now?”  Maxi loved the show but talked non-stop on the coach home and I think tested the tolerance of her poor Buddy.  She also managed to polish off her entire packed lunch (I’d packed enough for her entire class…) so went to bed after just a cup of milk, looking worn-out.

The pantomime also extended to the pick-up.  I’d stood with some other parents at the side of the road, discovering that I, too, had not been one of The Few who’d been told to send their children’s packed lunches in poly bags and not to send them to school with school bags.  Still, we had plenty of entertainment at the shenanigans on the road: some people thought it would be absolutely fine to park right across a minor T-junction, but effectively blocked the entire road.  The 3 buses holding the children were biiiiiig, monster, luxury liners, with the turning circle of the QE2; they found it pretty hard to turn in a road lined on both sides with parked cars.  One car came down the blocked T-junction and halted at the offending parked car.  People are very polite in this village – anywhere else they’d have leaned on the car horn, but here they just gave a quiet and polite little flash of their lights.  Realising that it was a bit rude to stand, gawp and giggle at the car pantomime (Where’s the bus? It’s be-HIND you!!!!), we walked over into the dark playground, where parents were clustering round the gate, preventing any kind of easy in-and-out.  Och, it’s Friday night, it’s 3 hours later than we’d normally be here, we’re all tired, we’ve been fretting all day and we just want to grab our babies and get them safely indoors and in their beds.  Tucked up, dreaming innocent dreams.  Where adults can’t descent out of the blue to harm them or brutally wrench little souls apart from their tiny bodies.  May they ever rest in peace.

Edward The Elf Part 1

I first heard about the American Elf on a Shelf tradition this year.  In a nutshell: you buy an expensive doll, register it online, then spend Advent threatening your kids that the elf is grassing them up to Santa, and every evening posing the elf in increasingly imaginative hiding / posing places.  Apparently it’s very popular.  Although there’s a lot about that tradition that I personally don’t like, I felt that there were a few things that I’d like to incorporate in our Christmas for this year and this year only.

What kicked it off? Well, it occurred to me that now Maxi Minx is 6, it’s possible that this Christmas will be our last where all 3 girls whole-heartedly believe that Santa Claus is rewarding their good behaviour with presents; when Christmas is still utterly magical and mystical to them.  Based on me and my siblings, we learned and understood the awful truth about Santa sometime between the ages of 5 and 8.  Although I know that Maxi will be happy to join the team and promote Santa’s magic to her little sisters, I want to prolong the innocence and downright fun of all their childhoods as long as I can.

So… we’ve been using the free PNP (Portable North Pole) service for 3 (4?) years, now – you upload details and photos of your child and ‘Santa’ emails them a personal, fun video.  Me and The Boss absolutely love watching the girls’ expressions and reactions when they get their video at the beginning of December, after they’ve written their letters to Santa.  It’s been the same actor all this time, so Maxi and Midi absolutely, categorically believe that THIS is Santa.  The annual video message from Santa makes Maxi’s eyes sparkle like no other event.

This year I felt that I wanted something a bit more long-lasting than that 3 or 4 minute message; something that would keep that magic at home with us.  I thought that an adaptation of the Elf on a Shelf tradition might work.  A fortnight in, I have to say that it’s been a bigger success than I’d hoped.  Here’s what I did:

Edward the Elf

Edward the Elf

I want this to be a one-off, so decided to knit a little elf, rather than buy one or make a huge fancy one.  I wanted to make it myself, knitting every stitch full of love for my daughters.  This free Tiny Elf knitting pattern from Spud fitted the bill.  Then I wrote a letter from Santa to the girls.  It would have been easy to fill it full of warnings and threats about bad behaviour consequences, but do you know what?  My wee minxes are good little girls; they frequently show each other lots of care and love.  What a brilliant opportunity to acknowledge that!  So Santa introduced Edward to them as an elf who worked on the chocolate orange factory line who wasn’t getting along with the other little elves.  Santa wanted Edward to learn by watching my minxes in action to see how well they got along together (none of them spotted the throwaway line that he’d also be telling Santa how they were behaving).

On Sat 1 Dec, while everyone was busy helping The Boss make pancakes for breakfast, I sneaked Edward to the front door, holding the letter, and let the girls find him.  Maxi read out the letter to her sisters.  Mini just chuckled and wanted to waggle his bell; Midi’s eyes got rounder and rounder.  They were instantly convinced that he’d come from Santa.  Hehehehe!

From that night, he got up to little pranks.  Within a few days he’d transformed mornings in our house – instead of having to haul the girls out of bed, they wanted to immediately bound downstairs to see what Edward had been up to.  Even better, they wanted to gather together as a trio to go see, together.  It’s been working better than an Advent calendar!

Dec 2: he was obviously missing his chocolate oranges, because he was found with his nose buried in oranges

Dec 2: he was obviously missing his chocolate oranges, because he was found with his nose buried in oranges

Dec 3: making snow angels in the flour

Dec 3: making snow angels in the flour

Dec 4: spelling his name out in sultanas

Dec 4: spelling his name out in sultanas

Dec 5: Santa sent a chocolate orange and a letter of praise to the girls

Dec 5: Santa sent a chocolate orange and a letter of praise to the girls

Dec 6: getting to know the other toys

Dec 6: getting to know the other toys

Dec 7: hiding in the wreath

Dec 7: hiding in the wreath

Dec 8: re-decorating the tree then hiding under the star

Dec 8: re-decorating the tree then hiding under the star

Dec 9: what the kids think happened (the trail of flour leads to the fridge, with a big jug of pancake batter inside)

Dec 9: what the kids think happened (the trail of flour leads to the fridge, with a big jug of pancake batter inside)

Dec 9: what actually happened..!

Dec 9: what actually happened..!

Dec 10: fun with soap

Dec 10: fun with soap

Dec 11: getting to know (!) the doll's house doll. Watched by a pair of smiling OAPs...

Dec 11: getting to know (!) the doll’s house doll. Watched by a pair of smiling OAPs…

Dec 12: more toilet roll fun

Dec 12: more toilet roll fun

Dec 13: a letter from Santa congratulating them on their gymnastics competition and some special good-sister efforts. A new leotard for Maxi and Midi, and paints for Mini

Dec 13: a letter from Santa congratulating them on their gymnastics competition and some special good-sister efforts. A new leotard for Maxi and Midi, and paints for Mini

Nativity

I’m 41.  I have 6 siblings and 3 daughters.  I have sat through as many nativity plays as some teachers.  Don’t tell anyone, shhhhh, but they make me cry the more I see!

Maxi and Midi Minx took part in theirs today.  Midi was typical Midi and made me laugh and cry in the same breath.  Dressed as a star, with her wispy white-blonde hair framing that angelic little face, she looked so sweet and full of the wonder of Christmas.  My inner scold reprimanded me: “You take those children for granted!  They’ll not be young for long!  This might be the last year they’re all so innocent and believe in Santa Claus!” (sometimes I wish the narky auld witch would just bog off or shut up…).  As I stifled a little gasp at the sight of my 2nd baby confidently smiling at the audience, she picked up the wand one of her fellow-stars had dropped and, for all the world like a Mother Hen, gave it back, then shepherded her friend away from the edge, then gathered them all into a little skipping circle.  She’s the youngest child in the school (9 days younger and she’d have been in the following school year instead) but she looks after her school-friends like she’s their older sister.

Maxi, meanwhile, confidently spoke her narrative piece.  For an anxious little girl, she does relish a good audience!  And to the right of the stage, wrapped up in a white blanket, was the Little Baby Jesus, aka Mini’s baby Annabel doll, complete with blue biro-scribbled cheeks.

The children then sang Away in a Manger.  It’s not my absolute favourite carol, but it’s near the top.  However, I can’t listen to or sing the third verse without croaking or crying (I blubbed at our village’s Christmas Lights Turn-On when we sang it, but luckily it was in the dark..!).  I’m not sure why it seems to be getting to me more this year more than most.  It’s not that I’ve known of more little children and babies dying or becoming seriously ill this year than in other years (or maybe it is – the number is far, far too many); maybe it’s just all associated with my inner nark’s chant about the transience of childlike innocence, and how bitterly short some precious little lives are.

Seizing a brief moment of crunchy fun at the pink start to another day.

Seizing a brief moment of crunchy fun at the pink start to another day.  See?  I do pay attention to the Inner Nark sometimes.

Tooth Fairy Needs a PayDay Loan

Little Maxi Minx has spent the past month wobbling her 2 front teeth, requesting hard apples for her morning play-piece and furtively wiggling and wrenching them with her little fingers.  She wondered aloud if the Tooth Fairy would bring her a shiny gold coin for these teeth when they fell out, too, and that she hoped they’d be gone by Christmas.

“Oh no!” I teased her. “You’re one of the narrators in the Christmas Nativity. If you lose your 2 front teeth, you’ll probably get a lisp”.

“What’s a lisp?” she asked innocently.

“Well, you’ll be talking about baby Jethuth and the firtht Chrithmath“, I sniggered.  She thought for a bit.  “And you’ll be asking for Rith Krithpieth for breakfast”.  She smiled.  “Or juith and toatht”.   She threw her head back and guffawed.

On 28 November, she had a panic at breakfast time: she’d wiggled one tooth right around sideways in her mouth.  Although I was tempted to get her to yank it out, I remember what happened last time I said that… (She did, it made a gruesome ripping noise, and she bled profusely enough that I was scared.  Though she’d never have guessed as I’d hid my shaky hands and calmly got her to bite hard on some rolled-up kitchen roll).  So I talked her through rolling it back round in her tooth socket (“Left a bit, up a bit, in a bit, wee shoogle…”).  After I dropped her off at school, I made sure I had a £1 coin in my purse for that night.

Sure enough, when I picked her up from school that day she raced over to me, brandishing a blue envelope of paper hand-towel and sellotape.  But it was the *other* tooth that had gone!  Oh crikey, if that first one went in the next 6 hours till sleep, the Tooth Fairy was going to have to come up with a pretty convincing IOU!

Luckily, it held on till the next day – another pick-up, another blue envelope.  And again the kitchen and The Boss’s fingers mysteriously smelled of Brasso that morning. And were covered in glitter…

Maxi had decided that 2 visits from The Tooth Fairy in as many nights was beyond the call of duty, so on the way home from school she picked the few wild flowers she could find.  After her homework, she got a little scrap of paper and made a tiny bouquet for the Fairy.  I was so touched by her thoughtfulness that I had to think of some kind of reciprocal gesture.  All I could come up with was a smear of gold glitter under her pillow (and remember: glitter’s banned in our house this month till I stop sparkling when I cough).  Luckily, she was delighted with this exchange of gifts, and after trying to cast some spells with it (no Maxi, your sisters are still here, don’t have tails and don’t look like toads) she settled for keeping the glitter it on a strip of sellotape, and mounted it on a specially-wrapped box.

Oh to be 6 again, with such innocence and belief!  Meanwhile, Midi is attacking her own solid little 4 year old teeth with a greater intensity every day…

Scary Day

Yesterday (Nov 27th) was not a good day for my blood pressure.

Once in a blue moon, when the stars are aligned, the wind’s coming from the right direction and the gods are favourable, me and the minxes manage to get up, breakfast, get dressed and get to school without me having to raise my voice once. Yesterday was one such day. We strolled down the hill chatting about stuff (…just ‘stuff’) and I spent a precious 3 minutes watching my eldest daughter giggle and smile about something I’d said. Far too often our morning routine is of me yelling commands and reprimands, then virtually Drill Sergeant-marching them down the hill. So it burst my bubble when we got to the first bend and heard, then saw, the girls’ friends being walked to school. Don’t get me wrong, the minxes were happy about it! In an instant, they forgot all about holding hands nicely, watching where the cars were coming from, keeping away from the edge of the road, sticking together and looking out for their sisters, or anything boring old Mummy was saying, and enjoyed being made a fuss of by their friends’ grandparents. Well they’re kids, who wouldn’t?

I found myself at the front of the queue of 5 kids and 3 adults and because I’d taken Mini in the buggy instead of the sling (been feeling a bit yucky recently), I couldn’t hold a minx hand. I craned my neck around to check Maxi and Midi were at least holding someone’s hand and were safely away from the kerbside. Suddenly the granddad went skipping past us all with his grandson, with Maxi hot on his tail. I called Maxi back, who studiously ignored me, turned to check on Midi who was now unattended at the back of the queue, and fussily brought her forward where I could see her. By this point, Maxi was being held by the hand and was running down the hill with the granddad, getting further and further away. I yelled to her to keep in away from the road, but I could barely speak in horror an my voice cracked.

So this was what it would be like for someone to abduct my child. This was how easy it would be for someone only slightly known to Maxi to take her by the hand, say, “Oh it’s ok, your Mum knows!” (as she later told me) and lead her away out of my sight. She wouldn’t even look back, dancing and skipping happily and trustingly. And it would happen in an instant: 20 seconds to be out of earshot and 120 seconds max before she’d be gone, completely out of sight.

Now, I’m not saying that the granddad meant any harm by it. I could see that after I shouted the first time that he’d held her by the hand. But I’m still perplexed why he thought it would be ok to take the hand of a little girl he barely knows (I don’t even know their surname) and without checking with me first, run so far ahead with her that she was out of my sight. I accept that I’m on the clingy side of normal when it comes to my kids. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t put my foot down immediately and call her back again when I noticed how far she was going ahead of me and her sisters – a bit of analysis paralysis, as I chewed around the idea that perhaps I was massively overreacting. But when is it ok for a strange adult to take a child away from her mother without checking first? When is it ok to just do it, and assume the mother will immediately sort it all out if she has a problem with it? Is it always ok? Is it only me who thinks that’s creepy and frightening? Do I need to work a bit harder on letting my children go? Yes, I knew they were only going ahead to the school. But how can I teach my children that you don’t go away from your mother with anyone, yet I let it happen that morning?

That afternoon the grandma grabbed me and said that she’d had a word with her husband because “I know you like to keep your kids close”, and reassured me that he’d taken good care of Maxi and had meant no harm by it. She was so apologetic that I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so kind. I’m not a huggy kind of person at all, but (a) I felt quite overwhelmed, and (b) it absolutely showed her better than I could articulate just how grateful I felt. It also reassured me that my inner turmoil (seriously, I hadn’t known whether to cry with anger or anguish) was justified; that his behaviour hadn’t been completely ok.

On the bright side, it gave me and The Boss an excellent opportunity to have yet another ‘little talk’ with the girls. We covered Stranger Danger ages ago, but I’m very aware that more harm comes to children from people they know than outright strangers. So yesterday we also revised whether it’s ever acceptable to go away with someone you know (No, Never, No, unless they physically hear me, and only me, say that it’s ok). I impressed on them again that if a stranger, or someone’s Dad or Granddad *ever* asked them to come with them “and it’s ok, your Mummy knows” or “it’s ok your Mummy sent me”, that it would be a lie: I’d never do that. I asked them what they’d do if… and ran through some scenarios: some possible, some outlandish, some so feasible that it scared me. Midi got into the swing of it and gleefully enjoyed saying what she’d do. I swear that child is only a heartbeat away from extreme violence! Though to be fair she is also a sweetly kind and empathic girl with her sisters and classmates nowadays (seriously! She even gave her upset friend the longed-for puppet that she’d been awarded to take home from school overnight because her friend wanted it). We talked about times when the girls aren’t with me or The Boss. We talked about what to do or who to go to if they’re not sure about something. We talked about times when it would be very ok for the girls to bite, scratch, kick, poke eyes hard, try to pull off ears, scream and shout; Midi cackled at the prospect, whereas Maxi cried and said that she could never hurt another person. I worry about letting Maxi out of my sight most, of all my 3.

So going back to yesterday morning, after the school run… I sat festering over my churning stomach with a coffee and the internet for 15 minutes (say hi to some relatives; order some more Christmas presents; check the news headlines). For some reason, a little local report of a car accident made me click to read the whole article. Mistake. I read about how a car had collided with a transit van on the stretch of road The Boss had driven on, at the time The Boss had driven, and oh my pierced heart, the photo of the little that was left of the car looked exactly like The Boss’s car. The poor driver had been cut out and taken to hospital, condition unknown. I grabbed my mobile. I told myself to calm down and stop jumping to conclusions. I looked at the photo in the article again. I dialled the Boss’s number. He didn’t answer. I concentrated on just breathing for a few minutes. I looked at the photo more closely – was that a pink car seat in the back or not? Did our wheels really look like that? I dialled the Boss again. Still no answer. I left as normal a message as I could. I distracted myself with a game of dollies and Mini for 10 minutes. I rang the Boss again. When he answered, I nearly cried. I mean, his warranty ran out 7 years ago and there’s still plenty wear in him yet… 😉

Christmas Decorations

It’s that time of year again when we put up the Christmas decorations. The Boss brought down the 2 boxes from the loft that we’d packed up carefully 11 months ago.  We 5 settled into our annual decorating traditions: I hauled out as much mess as I physically could to make space for the tree and madly washed the windows and net curtains; The Boss blinked at all the mess and studiously tweaked every bulb in the light strings; the minxes paused briefly for breath then dived headlong into the boxes, shrieking, tearing, shaking, pulling, crushing, breaking.

As usual, I tried not to yell at them. As usual, I tried not to get stressy at them putting the tree decorations wherever they wanted (50 on one branch, 3 on the other side). As usual that lasted no more than 15 seconds. Midi Minx was banished to the living room on a Time Out within 3 minutes. Mini was physically restrained from chomping the plastic tree. Maxi made a beeline for the most delicate and glitter-shedding home-made decorations from last year and got yelled at as a cloud of golden glitter wafted up my nose and settled in my lungs. Again. (Well, it’s really not fun to cough out gold shiny stuff; it plays havoc with my teeth).

Some things never change, like my stash of booze-sloppy Christmas cakes, festering away in the garage.

Some things never change, like my stash of booze-sloppy Christmas cakes, festering away in the garage.

I don’t even dream of having a chocolate-box family as in the adverts. You know the kind: all dreamily smiling, passing ornaments to each other with a tinkling laugh and throbbing eyes, shiny clean house in the background, Christmas muzak playing, as the snow falls… Yuck. Barf. Probably all stoned out their minds. Give me my noisy, messy, riotous family anytime. The family who learned to pull Christmas crackers when one sister tried to snatch the cracker from another. The family who shake out the hand-made tatty snowflakes and bashed, crushed paper chains from the poly bag that they’ve been smudged into all year and drape any surviving ones over the tree. The family who’re still young enough to believe whole-heartedly in Santa, for perhaps the last year, now that Maxi’s 6? The family who’re still innocent enough to ask Santa for chocolate oranges, a fairy wand and a wooden recorder, again probably for the last year ever.

My kids drive me bonkers often (why can’t you come with adjustable volume controls?! And ears which are permanently switched to ‘on’? Then I’d we’d all be so much happier!) But this year I’m so painfully aware that they’re growing up quickly and won’t be little children for much longer. Christmas will always be fun (and noisy, smelly and chaotic) but it won’t be the same when one or more minxes no longer Believe.