Tattie Holidays Week 1 Day 1

English: A 1-litre bottle of Hendrick's Gin wi...

Start your day / school holidays with a tasty, volume-controlling breakfast. Note: other gin brands are also available. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday 14 October, Day 1 of the Tattie Holidays

It’s bucketing down with rain, so there’s no way we’re getting outdoors. Still, I have a cunning plan – shell out for all 3 minxes to go to the local soft play area. Well, I say local, but actually I have to drive for 20 minutes. Still, they get to chase around for 2 hours and have a packed lunch with lots of trashy treats in it while I get to knit my first Christmas present (scarf in ruffle yarn – hate the bloody stuff. Never again!) and watch them with beady eyes.

D’you think they might be tired out by that? D’you think Midi Minx might be exhausted after throwing herself about, tearing after 3 thugs who were terrorising the little kids? (all 3 were male, needed a wash, a haircut, and to be told ‘no’ a little more often. In my judgy-pants opinion). Nope. Not one little bit. Doh. OK, Plan B…

I’m in town anyway, so let’s try food shopping. It starts off a fun exercise in counting how many times I have to tell Midi to stop clinging to the side of the shopping trolley because it sends it wonky and makes me steer the bloody thing into the path or legs of fragile little old ladies. I really start to get tetchy when the count reaches 20, and I’ve not made it out the meat aisle yet. The checkout assistant asks if I need help packing. “No, just help keeping these 3 safe, alive and preferably out of trouble, haha”, I grimace. I’ll definitely tell that joke again next time, because suddenly her colleague descends and keeps the girls amused while I ram shopping into bags as fast as I can. Fantastic! She even gives them colouring-in sheets to take home and bicker about all afternoon (“She scribbled over my drawing!” “She ripped my page!” “She won’t let me have the emerald green crayon!”).

By now I’m getting a little desperate to keep these kids amused, and am beginning to seriously think about how long their jackets would stay wet in this not-very-dry house for if I send them out to burn off some steam. So I pull out the big guns as Plan C: an Alvin and the Chipmunks DVD I picked up for £3. The kids pounce on it gleefully and take their places in front of the tv and dvd player politely, between my bed and my sewing machine. I pull out a sewing pattern and contentedly prepare to spend a pleasant hour or 2 relaxing beside the kids. I switch on the TV like a trilling Julie Andrews. Nothing. Oh God in Heaven, don’t do this to me! The TV’s broken. No…. No! You’re kidding… I turn it on and off again. I turn it on and off again at the wall. I hit the remote control buttons a bit harder. I try footering with the SCART cable. I know deep down that when you switch on a CRT-type tv and you get a bright flash in one line in the middle of the screen that nothing is going to resurrect this baby. But I try like a rabid optimist for nearly 20 minutes.

Admitting defeat finally, I slink downstairs to hide from the noise of the kids beating each other up and screaming. One of the cats has left a black poo on the carpet and the other one has left a dead mouse on the step.

The Boss takes one look at my dark, silent face when he walks through the door and wordlessly pours me a big glass of wine, gestures to the Secret Snack cupboard and stands aside. Good man!

Maximus Minximus

12th October, 2013

Sometimes it feels like Maxi Minx spends her days lurching from one tearful drama to another. She seems to go off the deep end about the littlest thing. And I seem to have less patience with her incessant chattering and daydreaming than a bag of Very Intolerant Things on National Impatient Day. So it’s lovely when we get a bit of undemanding time together.

Example: last night she was still reading at 10pm. As usual. (She gets 7-9 hours sleep a night, at age 7, but doesn’t seem to need any more.) Her sisters were snoring loudly. Me and The Boss were already in bed, laptop on a table at the foot of it, iPlayer at the ready, fleecy jammies on, about to open a bag of tortilla crisps and jar of salsa. Maxi came in to ask some silly question or another. Instead of growling at her to go to sleep, on a whim I pulled back the covers and told her to hop in, between her parents. With a giggle, she snuggled down and watched The Great British Year with us: 3 nerds in a row, oohing and aahing at the owls and the frost crystals. She committed the heinous crimes of dripping salsa on the bedclothes and getting crumbs on the sheet, though!

Maxi BunnyThis morning (12 Oct) she yanked out her top left outer incisor. She could think of nothing but what she’d spend her shiny gold coin on; I could think of nothing but how she could now close her lips behind her 2 front teeth like a rabbit. Luckily she found that funny, too…

Today I woke up feeling really down. Not due to anything specific, really. I’m worried about our house not selling. I’m worried about what we’ll do when my savings are gone. I hate that my skin crawls when I touch so many things in this house every day – I can’t clean everything, and I wish I wasn’t so fussy and prissy about grease and grime! I hate the smell of stale tobacco smoke that I can’t shift from one room and the cupboard in the kitchen. I hate the stink of cat food and cat poo that I smell every morning. Logically I should have woken up happy that we’re all together: the kids are now home for 16 days all day with me, and it’s the weekend. Also, The Boss has a week off soon, his first time off since Christmas. So why feel so miserable? Grumpy auld trout, that I am…

The Boss did his best to help by pouring coffee into me and helping me take down the muckiest of the curtains to wash. He reckoned he could replace the cord you have to pull to open them, so I nipped into town to get 10m of cord to replace the greasy, filthy slime-string that was already there, and did a short job to earn some pin money (well, it’ll fund Mini’s snacks at nursery for the next half-term, so pin money all adds up!).

I still wasn’t feeling great but was looking forward to getting outdoors in the autumn sunshine with the family. They didn’t fancy it, though. So while The Boss painted with the girls, I made some cheese scones, some girdle scones*, a plum cake and a milk loaf. For a lovely hour, the house smelled of the delicious spice of the cake. Mmmm! Well, I had to make a cake, because it would have been criminal to put the oven on just for 8 minutes to make scones (plus a half hour to heat to temperature). And another thing: why is it called plum cake when there are no plums in it…?

*girdle scones: no, it’s not a typo. I didn’t mean to say griddle scones. You make them by blitzing 200g self-raising flour, a teaspoon of salt and 25g of butter in a food processor. Add enough full fat milk to make an elastic dough. Divide into 2 balls. Roll out thinly. Cut into quarters. ‘Fry’ on a hot, dry, non-stick frying pan for 3 mins either side. They’ll puff up a little. Cool in a tea towel. Eat as they are. Even better if you fry them in butter for breakfast the next day and eat with fried eggs and bacon and a gallon of coffee. That’ll be our Sunday breakfast, then…

DVD watchersWhile I was keying in the results of my little job, Midi and Mini watched a DVD beside me, cuddled up together like a pair of puppies, and Maxi headed off to the beach with The Boss. So that’ll be everyone happy, then!

BEACH WALKMy beautiful eldest, who will be exactly 7 and a half years old tomorrow, returned with roses in her creamy cheeks. Her Daddy even looked a bit happier, too. He told me that they had the most wonderful time, playing on the beach at *Maxi’s* pace; she didn’t have anyone nagging her to hurry up, catch up, put down that bit of driftwood, follow your sisters, etc. She could just be. Just what she needed, I think.

bombus lapidariusLast night on the way to bed, I found this little picture that Maxi had drawn me. I like bumble bees very much and my favourite is a black one with a red bum. I point it out every time I see one, and long ago told the girls its magnificent Latin name. Maxi actually remembered! I love this drawing, because she made it just for me 😀

Driving Me to Junk Food

I found this blog entry for last week that I forgot to hit ‘publish’ on. I’m having real problems with the photo editor, so they’ll follow later. Hopefully… Ha! Google Chrome to the rescue; IE9 is rubbish. ANYway…

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4th October 2013
Thursday. Swimming Day. Pass me the ear defenders…

Today didn’t start well – Foster Cat left The Boss a big stinking present in the hall for him to clear up before work. I’ve not been sleeping (various combinations of cats and kids needing my attention) and have been pretty much living in the car this week (additional trips to schools and vets beyond the usual), so am a fair bit behind in things like clean floors and ironed uniforms. In a surge of guilt, I skip breakfast to iron Maxi and Midi’s uniforms. Five minutes later, they’re rolling around on the floor licking each others faces and my work is wasted. Then they start to bite and hit each other. The place stinks of cat poo, sour milk and centuries of tobacco smoke and it’s making me feel ill. I have a headache. And a cold starting. I suggest to the kids that we all get into the car early this morning for a change so that I can drive them to the children’s home instead of school. They look at me defiantly then continue screaming louder than me.

The day doesn’t get any better – someone nicks my towel at the swimming pool. A nice member of staff offers to phone the school whose pupils were coming out of the pool as we were going in. I logically point out that if someone honestly thought that the towel was theirs, then it wouldn’t occur to them to later on check. And if they stole it? Well, they’d hardly hand it back, would they? I try to console myself with the thought that the towel-nicker had used my minging week-old towel to dry themselves (it was going to go straight in the washing machine after swimming), but it was cold comfort: I have to use Mini’s sopping wet towel to dry myself. Pretty pointlessly, though, because my jeans legs were soaked from the rain this morning and are soggy up to the knees.

Then Mini has a meltdown in the changing room about wearing trousers: “I’m not wearing trousers! Hate them! Hate them!” This is after screaming the place down because I dared to insist that she shower after swimming. I’d even brought along a plastic jug to minimise the stress. I want to cry or at least run away, but I honestly fear that if I put a foot outside the (ridiculously small) cubicle that I really will run, and keep on running, never to return. Mini demands a dress. Right now. I suggests she cast her own magic spell to conjure one up. She shrieks like a banshee in fury and stamps her foot (splash. More wet clothes). I give her an ultimatum: trousers or no trousers, her choice. She choses none and legs it to the car wearing her wellies, coat, teeshirt and pants. Mini 1 Mummy 0.

Any surprise that I’ve bought pizza for dinner tonight?!

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Mummy gets her own back by dressing them like this. In public. Ha!

Mummy gets her own back by dressing them like this. In public. Ha!

Actually that day got better: both Maxi and Midi had to go and get their swimming ability assessed so that they can go on the correct waiting list for lessons. Despite not swimming since June, they had a hoot: the instructor established an easy rapport with them. I’d assessed them as Level 1 and Level 4, based on the Learning Objectives of the swimming blocks. The professional assessed them as Level 2 and Level 5. They were delighted. It was completely irrational of me to feel pride that they’d done so well, but I did anyway.

And that pizza? Bloody gorgeous! Especially with the half bottle of red wine I plunged into.

Cars and Teeth and Babies

The car had to have an interim service (ie oil and oil filter change) and MOT, and I had to find a garage near the new place where we live. A normal person would have asked around for recommendations first; I left it to the last minute and had to just grab one at random who could squeeze me in. Luckily they could squish it in between 2 of the 3 school runs.

Well, surprise surprise, a bulb had gone (oh right, it must have blown overnight because I checked them all round!) and some minor work “had” to be done. So another £30 odd plus VAT on to the bill. And the dashboard is still squawking “Service oil!” Have I been diddled, I wonder…? I’m so bloody tired that I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to go complain. I hate taking the car to the garage. The only decent mechanic I’ve used – ever – is a total gem and is yet another reason to miss where we used to live.

On the bright side, having to hang around a new town for 2 hours completely childless gave me a change to explore the library and nurse a coffee and newspaper in the local cafe. Luxury? Well, you’d think so! Instead of feeling languorous and spoiled, I just fretted over how much my pea-sized brain had shrunken that I couldn’t concentrate on reading even the ultra-condensed mini-news of ‘i’.

This evening, poor Maxi Minx has a sore tummy so has barely eaten. This is very unlike her. I suspect we’re in for a long night with that one… At first I thought she just wanted to escape the banshee wails of her sisters and preferred to skip dinner to have a lovely hour to herself, tucked up in bed, with one of her favourite novels. God, I know I would! But she’s looking very pale too, poor thing.

If my middle entrepreneur could figure out a way to hock her teeth in one job-lot to the Tooth Fairy, she would!

If my middle entrepreneur could figure out a way to hock her teeth in one job-lot to the Tooth Fairy, she would!

She lost another tooth this morning over breakfast (7th one: her top right outer incisor), so The Boss is currently and furtively shining up a £1 coin with brasso for The Tooth Fairy that I’d tucked away when I’d noticed how many wobbly teeth she has. And Midi’s teeth are loosening too… thankfully they’re not all coming out at once! What with the car, monumental vet bills, OMG-sized council tax at the new house and having to fill the oil tank, this month is already heart-attack-levels of expensive. I started looking out for Christmas casual work for me to ease the blow, but found it hard to navigate between the mountains of jobs that you can fit around 2 schools and 3 kids. Even the Royal Mail will only accept Christmas temps who can work full-time. I was naively hoping for something that I could do part-time at unsociable hours. Better get knitting and selling, then, eh?

I hope all 3 little raging monsters go to sleep soon so we can swap Maxi’s tooth for the coin this side of midnight. Right now Midi is roaring in her bed and Mini is sprawled on top of her, under the covers. “We’re playing Mummies and Babies!” Midi cheerfully said in a break from shrieking, then chided her ‘baby’ for coming out of her tummy too soon. Both then screamed in unison at the top of their lungs before collapsing into sniggers. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, and frankly am too afraid to ask. I’m just going to hide in my bedroom for a bit. You didn’t see me, right?

Midweek Visit Home

Last week Midi Minx had an appointment with the ENT consultant to see how her hearing is. She was first referred 3 years ago after near-constant ear infections, and after lots and lots of messing around, watchful waiting, and multiple eardrum perforations, she got grommets last year. The difference was immediate and amazing. This check-up was to see if the grommets were still there and how Midi’s hearing was.

As we’d been waiting 6 months for this appointment rather than the 3 months it was supposed to be, I decided to take Midi out of school for the entire day and drive 100 miles each way, rather than ask to be referred to a colleague a little closer to home and go back into the interminable waiting pool yet again. I refused to feel guilty about it. It was one day. Hopefully it would be our last visit. And poor owl-mad Midi would be missing a visit to the school by some owls and their handler. And if we were going almost all the way back to our old house, we might as well nip back, carry out a bit of garden maintenance, and give it a quick air and a clean. I thought Midi would be distraught, but no, she was beside herself with glee – a whole day out with Mummy! All by herself! I was enormously flattered, and secretly pretty gleeful myself – Midi is a very funny wee girl and fantastic company. The Boss took a day off work to shuttle the other minxes to and from school and nursery, and had the grace to pale when he saw the day’s schedule that I’d written down for him. I think he still fondly remembers the days when he was the stay at home parent to a 3 and 1 year old who both took naps in the middle of the day, and didn’t need to be driven anywhere for any specific time.

The morning of the day trip, all the minxes had dentist check-ups first, though. I think the lovely dentist was on his first day in the job, judging by snippets I overheard the dental nurse say. He started off by asking about their oral hygiene. I explained that the girls drink milk and water; they rarely drink fruit juice or diluting juice, and they get fizzy pop on special occasions only. Their snacks are usually fruit, sometimes vegetables. Biscuits, sweets and cake are special treats only, and tend to be with meals. They never eat or drink after brushing their teeth at night. They brush twice a day, supervised. They use fluoride toothpaste.

The dentist blinked. Then he repeated everything I’d said back to me, phrased as advice.

I blinked at him. Then smiled just a leeeetle too widely and said, “Then it sounds like we’re doing just perfectly, then. Great!”

He blinked again. He looked confused and a little uncomfortable. I think the poor man was nervous.

Say 'ahhhh', Midi. And don't eat the nice dentist

Say ‘ahhhh’, Midi. And don’t eat the nice dentist

We chatted about Midi’s ground-down teeth. Contrary to popular opinion, her teeth haven’t worn away from biting other kids… With a clean bill of health, me and my girl zoomed off to hit the long road north-west, while The Boss took the other 2 girls in.

Apparently Maxi has 2 tiny cavities but no decay, and Mini was a model dental patient (BIG change from her first few dentist visits, then!) The Boss said that he had to interrupt and insist *3 times* that he didn’t want Mini’s teeth to have fluoride varnish painted on them. He said the dentist was merrily preparing it, without listening to him at all, and he looked very perplexed when he realised what The Boss was saying. The Boss challenged him gently to convince him on any additional benefit the varnish would give Mini when she already had excellent teeth and a great diet. The poor dentist didn’t answer. So that was that.

Midi patiently sat in the back of the car, singing along to Alanis Morissette (her choice) or chattering about the whichness of what for the 2.5 hours it took to get to the hospital. This was lovely for me, just listening to the crazed meanderings of the mind of my 5 year old. Normally she’s drowned out by Maxi’s bletherings.

The wee soul concentrated so hard during her hearing test that she held her breath and caught up with great big occasional gulping sighs. Her hearing was nearly perfect. Hooray! The consultant said her grommets are still in, but definitely on their way out. He wants to check on her hearing a few months after they fall out, so in 6 more months. Hmmm… in that case, could we could see a colleague of his nearer home instead, which he agreed to. Both me and Midi thanked him for everything he’d done over the past few years, and that was that! Midi had privately said that he was her “favourite doctor ever. Ever!”, but we didn’t tell him that; we’d already terrified one medical professional that day.

Straight after, we nipped into town for a swift zip round M&S Food to use up some vouchers on total rubbish: biscuits, coffee and Percy Pig sweets! Big treats! The irony of buying them after a dentist check-up wasn’t lost on me. The mum of one of Maxi’s friends saw us and said hello. I had a big pang of homesickness. Then we went to our favourite Elgin restaurant, Scribbles, for lunch and a lovely long catch-up with one of my friends. I was dying for the beef chilli melt but it wasn’t as good as in my memory (it was one of my cravings throughout my pregnancies with Midi and Mini).

Back to the old house, gulping back a lump in my throat throughout. I spent 3 hours mowing the lawn, weeding the front garden, pruning the bushes and generally tidying up, then filling the boot with warm clothes and bits and bobs that we needed. Meanwhile, Midi lay on the sofa gorging her eyes on real, live TV.

applesOne of our lovely neighbours nabbed me while I was mowing and came over with a huge bag of apples from her garden that she’d picked that morning. She’s been giving us tomatoes, plums and apples from her garden in autumn for years (can you see why I’m so sad to be leaving with such lovely friends and neighbours?!) so it was wonderful to take home one last bag.

Finally finished at 5pm, we set off for Midi’s biggest treat of the day – dinner at the all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. She set off like a Queen, all tucked up in fleece blankets in the back seat with her toys artfully gathered around.

At the restaurant we ate enough for 7 people. Well, Midi is the daughter who most inherited my prodigious appetite for fried food. Actually, make that ‘any food’. Me, I just enjoyed chatting with her and eating lots of yummy stuff, whereas she got a real buzz out of being allowed a glass of lemonade, being allowed to fill her own plate and carry it to the table, not being told to hurry up. “It’s so great not having to talk over Maxi!” she giggled to me. “I can talk to you when I like and not save it all up”. After insisting that I sat beside rather than opposite her, she spent most of the meal hugging my arm to her chest, kissing me and telling me how much she loved me. I tell you, you can keep your candle-lit fancy dinners and fine wines – life doesn’t get much better than a good uncomplicated scoff and a giggle with your adoring daughter!

Sighing with a belly full of pleasure, I granted her ‘last, last, last, final’ wish of a lolly at the end and we waddled back to the car for the 2.5 hr drive back home through the dark, rain and fog. I thought Midi would have slept, but instead she chattered incessantly (most unlike her!) and kept me awake and free-ish from road rage.

Oh don’t even start me off – what is it with some people who drive aggressively because you’re driving under the speed limit when the road is wet and slippy? Don’t they realise that I don’t have a teleport device, so actually have to consider boring old-fashioned things like stopping distance…? I got home at 9pm, truly frazzled, especially when a weaving lorry must have thought my flashing indicator and brake lights were me just teasing him, and nearly shunted me on the right turn off the dual carriageway to the farmhouse. I hate that road…