Friday Nights Chez Trout

The Friday before last The Boss passed his probationary period in his new job. Phew! We didn’t think there was any danger that he wouldn’t, but it’s a relief that he’s had that ‘tick’ and he seems to be doing very well. He likes the job and the people very much, which probably accounts for why he’s standing more upright, is no longer quiet and withdrawn, and is generally more outgoing, assertive and happy. It makes such a difference when you’re treated like a capable adult in work, don’t you think…?

So what do 2 nerdy geeks do to celebrate, then? Do you really want to know? Well, The Boss brought home a bottle of Prosecco and some bars of good chocolate. We stayed up late in bed, drinking, troughing, talking about Dr Who plotlines and telling dirty jokes about Daleks. Bet you feel very normal now…

Last Friday night we stayed up late doing something similar: watching the latest Lovefilm DVD (Flight with Denzel Washington). It was on quiet; we had subtitles on. It was too much for Midi, though: she marched into her bedroom and waggled her finger at us.

“Turn it down, guys”, she warned, “I’m not very happy about the noise!”

Since when did our 5 year old address her parents as ‘you guys’?!

Oi, Furballs: gerrrrrrrraway!

Oi, Furballs: gerrrrrrrraway!

She didn’t have a great night: both Killer and Foster Cats wanted to cuddle up with her in bed. She was having none of it. After getting tired of pushing them off, she took to barking and yipping like a dog for 20 long minutes. Close to midnight. Then she carefully left her toy tiger outside her bedroom door as guard. The cats legged it back to their own room pretty quickly. I’m not sure what worked: the toy, the maniacal barking or Midi’s sleep-deprived eyes rolling in different directions.

She’s Got Those Autumnal Blues

Mini's latest scar, from a see-saw accident on Tuesday (sheesh)

Mini’s latest scar on her lip, from a see-saw accident on Tuesday (sheesh)

Mini Minx has been a wee bit under the weather the past few days: she’s had a crackly chest since Sunday, and sounded downright wheezy and rattly yesterday. Although she hadn’t got a fever or any pain, I took her to the GP. She’s just fine. I almost felt a little bit guilty taking the elder 2 out of school 15 minutes early so that I could make the only appointment available that day, which clashed at home-time, and in a different town to the girls’ school, but best not to be blase when it comes to littlies and their breathing.

So, although she’s ok, because the rattle and the raspy throat remain I decided to keep Mini off gymnastics yesterday and swimming today. Hmmm, what to do all morning before nursery, then? We both agreed that baking would be a very good past-time and that gingerbread or parkin would be just spot-on. Well, it would have been if I’d not run out of cinnamon… Doh.

We nipped out to the local shop to get something in for dinner instead. Have I told you that our nearest shop is a farm shop, and that it’s usually cheaper than the closest supermarket, and the quality is streets better? How smug do you think I feel about that? It’s a greedy-guts’ paradise! Local meat, fruits, veg, herbs, chutneys and pickles, cakes and bakery things, dairy produce, etc. etc. The lady who runs it is lovely and friendly. The dog and puppy there are friendly, and I’m sort of using them to try to help Mini stop panicking around dogs (distrust is ok. A tiny bit of fear is also not too bad. But panic is bad). We’re getting there. Slowly, but surely. She’ll now let the older, calm dog sniff her so long as I’ve got my arms around her, and so long as the dog sniffs then walks away disinterested.

Anyway, on the way back home, I was thinking about asking around where the best deciduous woods were to find colourful leaves at this time of year. At that moment, I noticed a little stand of trees that were starting to turn, and had little patches of yellow, orange and brilliant red. As I looked properly, I realised the trees were the ones in our back garden… OK, so now I’m feeling *super* smug, and it gives me an idea…

This afternoon, Maxi and Midi are staying late at school because their teacher is doing a leaf-printing activity with all the juniors: it’s the start of a series of outdoor after-school activities that they’ll be running. I tell you, this school is just getting better and better in my estimation! I saw a wee sheet on the wall last week, asking about the different ways you could tell how well you were doing. (It was phrased more succinctly than that; I forget, and I’m not having an eloquent day today. Sorry). And the morning tuck shop is selling great quality fruit for 10p a piece. Seriously! I think the cash I’ll save from buying the girls’ morning fruit snacks at tuck shop every day might cover lots of the diesel used driving them to and from home!

Anyway, the trees and the elder girls’ activity gave me an idea: let’s do leaf-printing with Mini! I won’t mind the mess. Too much. Ish.

Me: “What do leaves do in the autumn?”
Mini: “Sway inna trees and go WHOOOOOOooooooOOOO and whoosh and swish and…”.
Me: “Um. Yeeeeees… Em, do they change colour?”
Mini: “Yep. Dey go green an’ blue an’ purple”.
Me: “!”

leaf 1I took her outside and showed her the little colourful patches of leaves on the sycamores outside. See? Mostly green, then lots of yellow, and a bit of orange and a splash of red. Right? Right! We marched about with Foster Cat, collecting some different shaped leaves, then in to the dining room to get squidgy.

Mini had a great time mixing colours and handling the paint. She preferred to use the leaves as paintbrushes than to actually print with them, but hey-ho. I think she had a good time! Especially because I use her fleece top as an apron: covers more of her, keeps her warm and washes up easier than most aprons. Bonus!

leaf 2When she was finished, I decided to wrap up our activity ‘properly’. “Wow, what a beautiful colourful picture you’ve made! It’s of autumn leaves, isn’t it? What did we use to make it? (leaves) Yes, that’s right, real autumn leaves. And what colours do leaves go in autumn? (green and blue and purple) …. Oh I give up!” So we hit the biscuits instead 🙂

Frrrrreedom!!

We now live about 30 yards from a very busy, fast dual carriageway. In fact, it’s so fast that I’ve seen 3 speed traps set up opposite the house in the few weeks we’ve lived here. I regularly get terrible frights when trying to drive onto, come off or cross that bloody road, and I’m normally a very determined, careful and in control driver. OK, so we’ve established that the road is a horrible one…

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

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

Foster Cat has been free to roam the English and Scottish countryside since birth, about 16-ish years ago. He’s taken to his frequent moves with aplomb, and prefers to sit outside in the rain and cold that sit indoors. The photo (left) is from 18 months ago, when he first got to sniff the sea air of our last home.

So: what do you think happens when you move such a cat indoors because you’re too scared to let him out for fear of him swiftly becoming an Ex Cat? Yep – he gets depressed and sad. He spends his days wistfully sniffing at draughts and ‘snapping’ at birds through panes of glass. He stops using his hated litter tray altogether and pees and poos where he likes.

He and Killer Cat share the enormous downstairs boot room, which has a massive toilet room and double shower, so I can easily clean it and can also close a door between them when they’re winding each other up. I was happy to soldier on cleaning up after him and getting more and better toys: think ‘Alton Towers for cats’ already, to paraphrase a friend. But Foster Cat has been getting sadder and spending more time glaring at the wall from his cushion instead of his usual watchful interest in the rest of the world.

Nearly as big as a 3 year old

Nearly as big as a 3 year old

His owners conferred and agreed better a happy cat for a brief period than a miserable cat for another few months till they pick him up: let him go outside!

So this morning, full of trepidation, I let him out.

He sat on the step and sniffed the air. Cautiously he stepped down, and sniffed again. His ears twitched and he looked alert. Spraying the door, he ‘prinked’ off to explored the trees (no trees at our last house – too windy for them to grow!). Mini Minx and I watched him circle the garden and trees, sniffing and licking. He came racing back to the door when I called, but wouldn’t come in. It was like he wanted to feel safe, but made sure to tell us He.Was.Stayinging.Outside.OK? He nipped through the fence and trotted down the next door to our landlords’ house, checking out the cows in the field. I shook his bag of crispy treats and he bounded over for a few. Eyeing up that tree again, he took a huge run up to it, and with a flying leap attacked it: loads of positive thinking. He clung on, spreadeagled for a few seconds, then slid off, gracelessly. Well, he is a cat OAP…

See Rob? He was actually out. And came back! Look at those ears - much happier big boy

See Rob? He was actually out. And came back! Look at those ears – much happier big boy

I let him sniff around for maybe half an hour while I attacked the hated ironing pile, calling him back when he got out of sight. Each time he came running, but didn’t come in the house. I coaxed him in with some treats, made a huge fuss of him and shut the door. After 15 mins or so, I let him back out again, and repeated the process: let him sniff around, call him back, ‘pet’ him verbally, and repeat.

He’s back in now for the rest of the morning, purring on the living room rug happily.

I’ll let him out again later, and I hope it keeps going as well as this morning. I’ll continue to hope that if he *does* stray on the dual carriageway and is hit, that it’s an instant splat and not a terrible lingering clip. And that no-one swerves to avoid him and causes a pile-up (me? Paranoid? Noooooo….) But Killer Cat is staying indoors because: (a) she’s happy staying in the warmth and being stroked and played with, unlike Foster Cat, and (b) I don’t think I or the minxes could cope with both cats being squashed on the road.

Torture By Nursery

Day 1 of nursery went well for Mini. So did Day 2. She had Wednesday off and we went swimming. Day 3 was fine, also. Then she had the weekend to think about it. By Monday morning, she was begging not to go back. “I got sore tummy! I don’ wanna go to nursery!” she wailed. She also had a cold, so I decided she should stay off. We pottered about and made coffee buns again (I can’t get to grips with this bloody oven. The only way to learn its foibles are to make cakes. Lots of ’em. Often. I’m LEARNING, I’m not being greedy… OK: oink)

Meltdown...INCOMING!

Meltdown…INCOMING!

The next day, she threw a shrieking tantrum about going to nursery. Proper screaming, squirty tears, drumming heels, incoherent ragey shouting, tugging hair, clenched teeth, waving fists at me, the lot. It was hard to keep calm. God, it was also hard not to snigger! All that rage in one so small! Poor little mite.

I applied a multi-pronged approach: a little explaining (“Mummy doesn’t meet up with anyone here: you need to go to nursery so you can meet other people”), a little insistence (“Whether you stay or not, you are going. You can tell your teachers that you’re not coming, in person”) and as much empathy and understanding as I could muster (“Poor tummy. My tummy gets tight and sore when I’m doing something new… I can see you’re very upset about going to nursery…). I tried asking her why she didn’t want to go. No coherent answer. I tried to teach her simple exercises to loosen up her tight tummy muscles. No joy, she refused to try them. I tried the confusing-but-gets-you-straight-answers of “What would have to change to make you want to go to nursery again?” Aha! That got a result: she said she didn’t like the wee boy hitting her. Oh? She was vague about whether it was an accident or if he’d said sorry or if a nursery teacher knew. I reassured her that it was an accident, and to tell someone: all the usual good stuff.

Dear Childline... My Mummy tortures me with nursery 4 times a week...

Dear Childline… My Mummy tortures me with nursery 4 times a week…

The staff didn’t fail to notice Mini’s new attitude. Neither could the kids. One wee girl raced off with her hands over her ears to protect them from certain extreme volume damage. All 3 ladies took it in turns to try to distract Mini and engage her in different activities. I asked if there were any other kids who liked to play with each other rather than alongside. One lovely wee girl was quickly ushered over, and she tried to hold Mini’s hand. Miss Truculent was having none of it.

I stayed, and over the next half hour gradually backed away a bit more and a bit more. “I’m going to sit down. I’m tired. Look, you can still see me. I’m just over at the coats”. It was a hard balance, because although the staff were encouraging of me staying, it was upsetting for some of the other kids (“Where’s *my* mummy?!”) I said goodbye when I had told her I was going to go and Mini went ballistic, lying on the ground, clutching at my ankles, screaming for me. I smiled and waved and walked. I deserved an Emmy for that acting performance!

The next few days were very similar. The staff were all, 100%, entirely behind me. They were happy for me to take a Tough Love approach, and they were happy for me to stay. Or do whatever I felt suited me and Mini. I was very grateful! Because I didn’t need to be at work for a certain time, a tough approach wasn’t right for us (never mind philosophically – she’s not being manipulative: she needs me there just now). But it wasn’t fair to the other kids for me to stay. I suggested I phase it, spending less time each day.

One lovely lady took a photo of me and uploaded it to the computer so that Mini could look at me whenever she felt lost or lonely. Another wonderfully empathic teacher came in on her day off to drop-off a dressing up outfit for Mini because they’d talked about it earlier in the week. They laughed with me when I said goodbye to Mini and hid for 5 minutes to make sure she was ok, then had to crawl on my hands and knees to attract their attention to get the door unlocked to get out without Mini spotting me. They commiserated when I felt terrible when my little girl was shrieking, “I want my Mummy! I want to be with my Mummy! I need her! Mummy, don’t leave me here!” They also wryly smiled with me when we all watched little Mini switch from those desperate, heart-rending screams to smiley inquisitiveness at another game within 10 – 20 seconds of me disappearing from sight.

I fussed and fretted over the right thing to do. Had we still been ‘home’, she’d only be doing 2 or 3 half-days a week at nursery because I’d a thriving social life with a really wide variety of friends. I don’t ascribe to the notion that children need to be ‘socialised’ by mixing solely with kids of the same age. I think they get far more from meeting babies, young children, teens, young adults, old people: a really wide variety of humans. But with me having zero social life here at the moment, this was the best opportunity for my most gregarious of children to meet others. And she hated it.

Midi: "I hate you!" Mini:

Midi: “I hate you!”
Mini: (*taking notes*)

Over the 2 weeks that this went on, she’d cry every time nursery was mentioned. She’d burst into tears suddenly whenever she thought about it. I tried asking more. We established that the ‘hitting’ was possibly a little boy who was deaf and patted you to get your attention. I explained that, and Mini never mentioned being hit again. But she still couldn’t explain why she hated nursery so much.

In the end, perhaps my initial instincts were spot-on (!!) One day she came home with a smile on her face, said she’d had a lovely time, and talked the whole afternoon about another little girl who coincidentally has the same name as Maxi. The next morning, there were no tears. The other little girl came up and held Mini’s hand and the pair skipped off. Mini flung a quick “Bye, Mummy” over her shoulder and I was instantly forgotten. And that was that. The end. No more nursery angst. Woohoo! Happy 3 year old!

Midi: "I still hate you!" Mini:

Midi: “I still hate you!”
Mini: (*taking more detailed notes*)

So: all she’d needed was a friend to play with! And it’s hard, because lots of ante-pre-school kids haven’t taken that developmental leap yet – it’s normal still for them to want to only play side by side. But Mini will be one of the oldest in her class and she has 2 big sisters, which is perhaps why she so desperately wanted to play with someone. I’m so relieved that she’s actually enjoying nursery now, and not just the (yummy) snacks…

Mini’s First Day At Nursery

I’m including this entry from my paper diary so that I can laugh at and deride it later.

Mon 26 August 2013

From the minute she woke up, Mini Minx was champing at the bit to do her first day of nursery. “Is it time? Is it time, yet?” she asked again and again.

nursery first dayMini insisted on wearing a dress. To nursery. Where there’s paint and glue and mud and snotty noses. And glitter. Shit – glitter… Oh man, I forgot all about the glitter… I suggested trousers. She looked defiant. I tried to sell the advantages of the trousers. She stuck out her bottom lip and glowered at me. She won: black and pink Mickey Mouse dress with mismatched navy tights and shiny purple shoes it is, then!

It went well with the little drawstring bag I made her last night to hold her plimsolls and change of clothes. There was just enough of the blue cupcake fabric left from making her apron and chef’s hat for her birthday to do it. Well, I’d made her sisters little double-layered, velcro’d playpiece napkins* for their first day at school that they actually liked and still use, so I needed to do something for Mini, too.

The drawstring bag!

The drawstring bag!

*Napkins?! Naw, I’m not going poncy: both older girls had specifically asked that I hand-make them something they could take to school on their first day. And I was really fed up with fruit that was too big for plastic pots ending up mushed all over books. So wrap-up napkins it was.

But the poor mite had a long wait, even after I dropped her big sisters off at school; we had a really exciting (!) day ahead. I patiently repeated the plan: go back and put on a washing, do a little cleaning and hoovering, and make lots of phonecalls (2 x estate agents, window cleaners, car service, trying to book Mini’s MMR booster, Midi’s hearing test appointment [if she passes, she’ll finally be discharged from the ENT consultant!]).

Mini had a very serious snack (orange juice carton and orange juice raisins). I say serious because she sat up at the breakfast bar quietly and just got on with eating and drinking till it was all done, and then insisted on getting down herself: “I a big gi’l, Mummy! I can get down myself!” she hotly declared. “I don’ need your help! I a nursery gel!”

She helped me wash my hair at the sink with the big plastic jug and giggled over helping me blow-dry my hair. Baby girl, have you seen your own fluffy cloud of hair recently? Stop laughing at your mother’s bad barnet!

To kill time, I took photos of her all ready to go, with her drawstring back on her back, her little bunches in, and a look of devilment in her eye. She carefully inspected her coat, shoes and plimsolls, pointing out to me where her name was (em, yeah, what a surprise – do you think they just magically appeared there?). She put them on with great, serious pride and pomp and ceremony. We had time to go to the recycling centre (she reminded me that the signs said that children had to stay in the car. “Not like last time, Mummy; I not allowed out”. Yes. Oops) then the pet supply shop for clumping cat litter. That the man carried out to the car for me because it was too heavy. Bless – I probably could have carried him and his bag out, but it was very kind.

Finally, at long, long last, it was time to go to the nursery. When Mrs M opened the door and beckoned us in, Mini marched seriously in, ignoring the nice compliments her teacher made about her dress. I discovered that she wasn’t expected until the next intake, on Friday. But honestly, the letter had said today, in Group 2! They were great about it, and found a little tag for Mini. She decided where she wanted her peg to be, and put the name tag beside it. Luckily, she can recognise her name! And what a contrast to her elder sisters’ arrival at school.

She made a bee-line for the first toys at the door, then drifted from one solitary play activity to another. I kept very much in the background, just seeing that she was happy and content to get on and play. I intervened only when she wanted to paint – Put on an apron! She studiously painted many long lines of thick splodgy paint in the red, yellow, pink and blue available. She artistically mixed a few lines and declared it all done. “I like stripes”, she said. “Lots and lots of stripes”. She got really excited about the wooden food toys. We had a lovely time making a proper ‘Mr Strong’ breakfast with her cooking up wooden boiled eggs and setting them out, then pouring us tea.

Soon she was taken away to wash her hands and have a snack. She chose milk and apple. She entirely forgot to say any pleases or thank yous, which probably showed how uncomfy she felt – she’s normally a very polite child. Even whilst she’s beating up her sisters. I think she felt quite cowed by these older, adult women making a fuss of her. She only really needed me there once or twice, otherwise she was happy to play by herself. We’ll see how she is tomorrow when she’s there all morning on her own!

At home time (2.45pm) she was happy to leave, but happy to know she’d return. She was desperate to tell her sisters all about her time at nursery. Her Grumps rang to find out how today had gone, and Mini was delighted to be able to tell him and Grandma all her news. It was so thoughtful of them to remember, and to care enough to call her!

——————————————————————————————————————–

Another first today: homework for the elder minxes! Maxi’s reading book was the one immediately after the last one she read in June (excellent!), so she polished that off, 2 pages of coin arithmetic and her spelling homework, all in one half-hour.

Midi had been given a reading book that was a whole level above where she’d been. Crikey, I wasn’t looking forward to this… I listened to her read in amazement – where had she learned this fluency?! I’d known that she’d kept up her reading through the summer, but I’d no idea that she’d improved so much! She read with great gusto, infusing the dreary Biff, Chip and Kipper books with life and expression. What a girl! She also did a sheet of simple adding arithmetic and her 4 word spelling homework in one half-hour.

I probably shouldn’t have let them do their week’s homework in one go, and turfed them out in the sunshine (with the eerie ribbon of haar sea fog just the other side of the A90), but they were so keen! They literally begged me to let them do it all. How could I refuse?!

I let them watch the rest of the Cars 2 DVD on the laptop after dinner and stay up a little later than normal, as a treat for being such well-behaved girls this afternoon. Yep, we still haven’t plumbed-in the TV. I’m not missing it at all. And listening to Midi gibbering nonsense she was parrotting from a TV program at her poor Grumps over the phone (he was well and truly Midi’d), I won’t be letting them near CITV or CBBC anytime soon.

Forever New Kids?

Thurs 22 August 2013

Week 1 Day 3 and the minxes were so tearful and unhappy about going to school that I decided to pay a visit to their teacher before class. We had a good, productive chat.

I explained that Maxi was a very anxious child and that moving house one weekend and starting a new school the week after was bound to affect her adversely. The teacher hadn’t realised that we’d moved house too. Yep, right across the country. She instantly came up with half a dozen examples of Maxi’s anxiety bubbling over. See? Told you she was unsettled. It gave me a beautiful opening, though, to explain that not having named coat and tray tags would be no big deal to most, but when a child is already very anxious, upset and feeling friendless and like a misfit, it’s A Very Big Deal indeed. I let the words ‘friendless’ and ‘misfit’ and ‘outsider’ sink in. The teacher apologised for not doing the tags: she’d forgotten again. I let a little silence descend instead of reassuring her that it was ok. Well, that’s what you normally do when someone apologises to you, isn’t it? But it wasn’t ok. The girls had asked for 3 days, now. When the silence got painful I suggested that she get the girls to do their own. She brightened. Then I asked what the Normal Procedure was, when new kids joined the school: did they get buddies? Helpers? She un-brightened and didn’t answer that question, but instead suggested that Maxi sit beside a responsible kid. Yes please. Instead of the little kid who it seems has been in trouble constantly from the first minute. Lovely child, I’m sure, but probably not the best to help ease Maxi and Midi into new surroundings.

Kim Jong Il, from Team America: World Police, Paramount Pictures 2004. He was “so roneree”, just like Maxi

Naively I thought that would be that. I like the teacher: she seems very approachable, friendly, interested and caring. But the girls continued to struggle to settle down and make friends. Perhaps they were finding it hard because they’d been effortlessly gregarious before? Maybe. But Maxi only got to sit beside a responsible kid for 2 days before being moved back to sit beside the original one for the forseeable future. Most days I had at least one minx tearfully cling to me at the school fence, begging me not to leave them. A couple of the other kids came up every single morning to say hiya (bless ’em!), but Maxi and Midi reportedly didn’t have any friends.

What’s a mum to do? I can’t go in and make their friends for them. I can’t force their teacher to introduce them to the rest of the class. The golden moment for giving them buddies was gone by Day 3. I don’t want to mollycoddle them – learning to fit in is a really important life skill that I, as a social retard, struggle with now. But on the other hand, I don’t want them – ok, Maxi – to go through this massive angst unnecessarily. What’s the right balance to strike?

Maybe by the end of Week 2, start of Week 3 I saw some glimmerings of hope: they got invited to another girl’s birthday party, and Midi started talking about friends. Yep. Friends, plural. It didn’t bother Midi so much that she didn’t know anyone – she’s quite happy to barge on in and introduce herself to anyone. As I’ve said before, how I wish I were more like my second daughter with her calm, assured, self-confident approach to life! Maxi, however, still insisted that she had no friends at all and rarely spoke to anyone.

Last week (Week 3) I went in to see the headteacher when both girls complained that an older boy had tried to punch Midi in the dinner queue, and had threatened Maxi a few times. The head didn’t seem that concerned, though a curious expression filtered over his face when I said, “I mean, I’m happy teaching them how to deal with that kind of bullying myself, but I thought you should know first”. As my hair is a nice, conventional bleached pale lemon, I don’t look like a scary aggressive blue-haired monster, so I wonder if it was the word ‘bully’ that triggered a reaction, rather than the thought of me teaching the kids to defend themselves? I also landed on him that the girls hadn’t settled in at all; they weren’t meeting or talking to people and felt that they had no friends. I asked again about Normal Procedures for new kids arriving, and pointed out that Midi was younger than some of the P1s who still had buddies helping them, despite also having a transitional period; she’d had neither. He also didn’t answer the question, but explained that the kids were all encouraged to seek out and befriend lonely-looking children. (To be fair, I’d certainly seen some of the younger children especially do just that, every morning). I asked that he could keep an eye out for any opportunities coming up where Maxi and Midi could maybe meet and talk to more children that they would otherwise. He faithfully promised.

And blimey, within a week, Maxi was in the Pupil Council and had spoken on her own at assembly twice, representing the News Group and describing what the burning of the clavie was!

It’s now the end of Week 4 and I’d say that I’m finally no longer concerned. They still have the odd wobble (Maxi sobbed on me yesterday when I dropped her off, and at the beginning of the morning. Her teacher had established that she was missing her old friends and school) but they’re both looking much happier: I see them talking and playing with other kids in the playground in the morning; they don’t have meltdowns if I drop them off then leave before their lines are called in; even Maxi is giggling again. They’re also grumbling about “too easy homework” (ha – it’s not too easy!) and about school dinners being better at the old school (probably – 6 week rotating menu there instead of 4 now, and they got more vegetables in Moray), so situation normal.

And my impressions of the school? I like it. I like it a lot. I’m really impressed with the staff, even if my moaning above hints otherwise! I think their teacher is very caring and thoughtful and I like the ideas and direction that the head is leading the school in. The staff seem like a happy team, as far as you can judge from observing them every day shepherding kids onto buses and to waiting parents – talk about herding cats! And it’s little things: one wee boy wasn’t really sure where to get off the school bus or whether anyone was going to meet him, so the head reassured him that he’d follow the school bus in his car and make sure he got off ok and was met. The wee boy stopped crying and looked so grateful it made your heat pang!

From Adventures of a Gringa in Brazil: http://gringagoestobrazil.blogspot.co.uk. Probably better that the minxes sing Bonjour la Classe…

I love the curriculum. I was happy with what they did at the old school, but now they also get Drama, Music and French once a fortnight, and seem to do more science (they were deeply impressed with an experiment involving vinegar and bones). At PE the other day they learned yoga. I’d love Maxi to learn yoga because I’m sure it would help her chill out and focus, and I told her teacher how brilliant I thought it was. As for listening to 3 little minxes swaying on the back seat of the car, singing, “Bonjour la classe! Je m’appelle (insert name of appropriate minx)“, well, I don’t know what to make of that! There’s something about hearing your little 3 year old lisping in French that makes this grumpy old heart melt.

All Change!

No, you’ve not hit the wrong site – I just decided that my blog needed a cleaner feel. So instead of orange on black, I’m now using a very conventional black font on white background. For my header I’ve chosen my photo of a very pissed-off looking mother gull with her 3 chicks. We watched them grow for week, and although all 3 were a real handful, one was constantly pushing boundaries, getting up to mischief, leading the others astray. I can’t think who this little family reminded me of…

Still New Kids

21 August 2013

I sent the minxes off to school on Day 2 probably more nervous than they were. Well, I was the idiot who’d been telling them for weeks how wonderful their new school would be and how easily and quickly they’d settle in. So I’d downplayed yesterday’s events and tried to make their miserable, awkward experiences seem normal. We’d agreed some strategies for them whenever they felt lost or alone (Find your sister. Ask an adult. Smile at your sister. Tell someone you’re new and that you need help. Say Hi and introduce yourself). Just in case, I went in to the school early and had a chat with the lovely Administrator: I could ask her about the school transport snarl-up as a conversation-starter.

Right on cue, she asked how the girls were settling in.

“Well, to be really honest, they’re not: they came home feeling lonely and like they didn’t belong or fit in.” Wham. No point trying to disguise a cruise missile as a fly-swatter.

The nice lady looked shocked. I asked if new pupils normally had buddies or helpers. She tactfully pointed out that the teacher was new herself and might have forgotten.

“Would you like me to have a word with her?” she suggested. I thanked her for her kindness and agreed that it might be better and gentler coming from her.

I spent the rest of the day with Mini hoovering carpets (again…), feeding and cleaning out 2 cats, ironing next week’s school uniforms and The Boss’s shirts (I owed him some Big Favours. No way would I normally do another adult’s ironing!), doing 4 loads of laundry (I’d stupidly put the bedding in drawers that I thought were sufficiently cleaned out. The thick orangey-grey dust clinging to the bottom of my entire bedding stack shouted how very, very wrong I’d been…), baking coffee buns together, having a 10 minute snuggle on the bed, taking a car-boot-load of recycling to the dump and going for a lovely long walk through the woods behind the school and exploring the short cuts. So *we’d* had a pretty boring day with some good snippets!

Waiting at the school gates, I even made some banter with some other mums. I’m shy, awkward and socially stunted, so this was a big deal for me. Unlike their old school, when you had to collect your kids from the school door, the other mums here wait outside the school fence. In fact, you rarely see another parent in the playground. I rebelled by lolling against the fence from the inside. Safer for an over-excited Mini.

Ursus arctos middendorffi /kodiak bear/ Kodiakbär

“Buddies. Name tags. Introductions. Now. Please”
Ursus arctos middendorffi aka kodiak bear aka Grumpy Old Mummy

Maxi and Midi came out earlier than yesterday. First impressions were that the day had gone better. Maxi rated it 6/10 and an exuberant Midi gave it a 10. On closer grilling, it seems that their teacher forgot to make the name-tags for pegs and trays again. This was a big deal to 2 little girls who still felt like “unwanted misfits” as Maxi put it. They’d still not been introduced to the class. THey still didn’t have buddies. This irked me because all the little P1s had buddies, but Midi, who at 5 was probably younger than a few of the P1s, didn’t. At drama, they’d done a little exercise to introduce the kids to each other. Yet Midi hadn’t been given a chance to be one of those involved and was still angry about that. Maxi noted that people generally thought they were twins. That’ll be interesting – there’s 2 years biological and social age between them even if their height difference is only an inch or 2. This might explain why Maxi is so frustrated at the easy classwork she’s been given the past 2 days…? They’d enjoyed their school dinners greatly and had started to mix with the other kids in their class, so that was progress.

I’ll give you an example of the minxes’ differing approaches, though. At school, the girls’ toilets light is activated automatically. Maxi didn’t realise this, and rather than cause a fuss or ask anyone, she assumed the toilet was broken and didn’t go in. Midi, on the other hand, barrelled up to the first person she met: “Hi, I’m new, my name is xxx. Why is the toilet light not working?” I don’t think I need to worry about Midi fitting in. I wish both Maxi and I were more like Midi! 😀

New Kids on the Block

20 August 2013

8am, excited about going to school

8am, excited about going to school

Day 1 of the New School and new school year and all did not go well: Maxi Minx summed up her day as 4/10 and Midi assessed hers as 2/10. What went wrong?

We arrived at the school in plenty of time because I needed to give the lovely, efficient Administrator more details for the 3,557 forms I filled in last week (we now have a landline and a GP) and pay her the money for Maxi’s school uniform. Luckily I had it all ready in a sealed envelope as the poor woman was busy with lots of other new arrivals: the school roll jumped by around 12% in the holidays, if my counting is right. I asked where we should go to start the day. She assured me that the Head would go outside and tell everyone where to line up. I was strongly discouraged from coming into the school, too. So I shuttled the girls outside and waited for the bell.

Oh right, the bell… they don’t have one. Or at least, one that I could hear. I saw the Head appear. He looked at 3 rough lines and started filing one line of kids in. Maxi, Midi and I huddled at the back of the playground looking lost. He filed in another line. Hmmm… I ushered the girls into the back of the last line and told them to remind him that they were new and where was their classroom, please? The door was slammed shut right behind them. So my last sight of my little 5 and 7 year olds was of them being ignored as they asked questions. I shushed my inner dragon who wanted to march round to Reception and sort it all out, and I walked away with an upset Mini, who was already missing her sisters. Her sisters are confident, resourceful little girls; their teacher knew they were new; they’d be just fine.

Except they weren’t. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled going to unusually supportive schools as a pupil 100 years ago and a parent, so I just expected that 2 new pupils would be introduced to the rest of the class by the teacher. I assumed that they would have a named coat peg and tray. I assumed that they’d be allocated a buddy who’d show them round for the first few days, or at least be given a named person they could ask things of. Nope. Nothing like that. Maxi claims to have spoken to 3 of her classmates all day; Midi to 4. They spent the whole day feeling confused and just following what everyone else was doing.

I asked about playtime – didn’t they talk to people then? Maxi was too horrified at some little boy legging it off to pee in the bushes. I wonder how many playground supervisors there are? Maxi also spent most of her playtime trying to find the toilet and find her way back again. She claimed to have asked other people, but not really gotten much help. I say ‘claim’ – she’s pretty reticent about speaking to strangers for any reason.

When I picked them up at 3.15, they were left till almost last, at 3.30. Even though Midi was pointing out that she could see me in the playground, she was ignored. Perhaps because there was a big mix-up with Maxi being on the school transport or not (her teacher was adamant that she was; she insisted that she wouldn’t go on without her sister. Either way, the school got it wrong, because the Council say that because we live 1.8 miles away from school, it’s ok for the kids to walk to school along a busy 70mph dual carriageway and we’re not entitled to transport).

Anyway, the girls barrelled out of school looking sad, fretful and upset. We had a long chat about it and I tried not be critical within their earshot. Apparently their teacher forgot to do their name tags and promised to do them tonight if she remembered. I reminded the girls how I’d found out where to buy their dinner tickets and where the office was (“Hi, I’m new around here. Please can you tell me…?”) and coached them to do the exact same. I explained that self-reliance and resilience were really important lessons for them to learn, but privately I didn’t really envisage them having to do this kind of thing till they were a fair bit older. Perhaps I’m babying them too much?

So while the elder 2 minxes were feeling vulnerable, lonely and like misfits (their words), me and the youngest minx had a boring old day hanging around waiting on an Ikea delivery – a new bed for me and The Boss! Ahhhh, no more sleeping in the softest, dustiest mattress in the world! (Yes, ‘in’, not on: it sank down that much…). Mini moped around a lot missing her sisters and her Daddy, but perked up when we played outside with the football, the Frisbee and the seesaw. She helped me do some cleaning and tidying (I can’t miss a single day – it’s too big a job. I stopped counting the number of Dyson-containers of dust emptied after the 7th one went, by Day 4) and happily helped me do a big shopping at the ASDA near The Boss’s work. I’d texted him to suggest we meet for lunch, but he didn’t get the text till too late. He said he’d arrived to see us turn down the slip road. Funnily enough, I was off on a quick drive-past of his work – I’d seen a fire engine head that way towards a plume of black smoke. It was the unit next to his work. And I’m not paranoid. Or a stress monkey. Oh no.

Feck and Bullocks

As an antidote to the last hand-wringing post:

There’s a wee Facebook Dr Who shared post out there that prompts you to find your Dr Who name (your current job), list your current companion (last person you texted), and say your catchphrase (your most-oft used phrase). Well, mine was really boring: I’d be The Knitter, with the bathroom tiler as my companion, a pair of knickers as my signature item of clothing, and my catchphrase would be ‘bollocks’. Well, it got me thinking…

Fuck you, I'm Iron Man
I do swear a teensy bit too much. Last night, me and The Boss watched Iron Man 3 and I might have repeated the punchline of a viral photo (right) about it maybe 100 times or so. I do try to moderate my language with at least one minx around me at all times. Well, that’s the plan. The reality is that I get hot under the collar, I try to bottle it all back, but in a sleep-deprived rage it all comes bubbling out in a big Weedgie Tourettes fountain. I pretend it doesn’t happen very often. Then again, at the weekend me and The Boss attempted to ignore the sound of 3 year old Mini Minx mutter “Fussake! Fussake!” in a very passable imitation of a Glaswegian accent. Yesterday, Midi walked along the hall and stood smiling over Killer Cat. “Piss off, Daisy!” she greeted the cat pleasantly.

I might need to reign it in. Or start swearing in the same accent as The Boss.