Midi’s Favourite Cubs Badge

I think I’ve written thousands of words about Midi Minx and her love of cooking and baking (and my love of troughing her creations). Ha, my Instagram page features more of her baking than my own! Recently, she’d been grizzling about Maxi’s speedier accumulation of Cub Scout badges than her own. I can see why: when she’s in Cubs uniform, Maxi looks like she fell out of a cornflakes packet… I explained to Midi that she’d need to be patient and earn her badges slowly, as she learned new knowledge and skills. No, she wants more badges NOW. She asked whether she could get any badges for existing skills. For instance, was there perhaps a baking badge..? Crafty minx! I explained that she wouldn’t get badges just for turning up and that all work for badges has to be equally taxing for everyone. I had a chat with her Akela, who was game for her to work on the badge at home. After a quick check that Midi planned to make something that would be appropriately difficult for her current skillset, she was off!

We checked the requirements of the Cubs Chef Activity badge and any available resources – no point reinventing the wheel, eh? The online pack certainly contains lots of activities (pretty handy, as it appears I’ve now merrily volunteered myself to help other Cubs get their Chefs badge!). Like her sisters, Midi’s been drilled in food hygiene and safety since she was tiny, so we just quickly looked at the relevant exercises in the activity pack and discussed them so that I was certain she’d sufficient knowledge of the areas covered. We didn’t do the food techniques game, as I felt that was a bit too easy for her. Instead I grilled her (badoom-tish!!) on which cooking techniques she’d choose to best cook different foods that I listed.

When it came to planning the menu, I know that the Eatwell Plate listed in the pack was updated and replaced in March 2016 by the Eatwell Guide, so I used that instead as a basis of discussing the food choices with Midi. We talked about food groups and proportions, and because this was already old hat to her, I added the challenge of also varying the flavours, textures and colours of the food. She’s only 8, so I didn’t enforce The Boss’s suggestion of also only choosing seasonal or local produce (!) Maybe next time…

I ended up cutting her a fair bit of slack when it came to actually cooking things up and changing the menu: the preparation took far, far longer than expected, and she desperately squeezed in a quick bike ride with her Dad in the middle of the cooking before it got dark. As a result, there were fewer fruits and 1 less vegetable than she’d originally planned. I helped her change her plan for a seasonal fruit salad into a quick yogurt, honey and nut side-dish with just the one fruit to go with the biscotti. And the swede mash didn’t happen at all because her chopping skills aren’t yet safe enough to slice the thick skin off the swede (and not her hand) competently. Maybe if we’d had (much, much) more time

So what was her Showstopper Menu for 5, then? Midi chose to make a vegetable and lentil soup for a first course to show that she can prepare vegetables, follow a recipe and safely use a liquidiser; she decided on cottage pie and mixed greens for main as they’re quite easy to cook, used different cooking techniques, and are a standard winter dinner in our household; for dessert she made some super-crunchy hazelnut, chocolate and lemon biscotti, with Greek yogurt, honey, nuts and pomelo segments alongside, just because they’re her favourites. They all tasted fantastic, but the best bit for me? She had to serve, clear up and wash everything up afterwards. What a treat for the rest of us!

I’ve written this post partly because I’m desperately proud of her emerging cooking skills and am constantly encouraging her independence, and also so I can send a link to her Akela as proof of what she produced. The photos got fewer as she needed closer supervision / time was running out! I’ve added 2 of the recipes she used (weeeeell, one recipe and one set of directions), so I hope you give them a try, too.

Vegetable and Lentil Soup For 10

Ingredients

  • tasty-lentil-soup

    The finished soup. No garnish needed

    tablespoon of olive oil

  • 2 small / 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • crushed clove or 2 of garlic
  • teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 175g lentils (we used a mix of red and white because it was all we had)
  • 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • scant tablespoon of tomato puree
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • bay leaf

Method

  1. Serving up - a new skill

    Serving up – a new skill for Midi

    Heat the oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion over a medium heat for about 10 mins till it’s soft and transparent.

  2. Add the carrots and celery, and sweat for a few more minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ground spices. Stir for a minute.
  4. Add the lentils, stock, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, a bit of seasoning, bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 mins till the veg is soft.
  5. Cool slightly, then liquidise. Check for seasoning. Serve. We stored half in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch!

Cottage Pie and Mixed Greens

Ingredients

  • cottage-pie-dinnertablespoon of oil
  • 1 large / 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 750g beef mince
  • pint of beef stock
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • about 500g potatoes
  • large knob of butter
  • about 500g brussels sprouts
  • about 300g frozen peas

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes, chop into even chunks. Place in cold, salted water, bring to the boil, simmer for 20 mins or until soft enough to mash.
  2. While the tatties are coming to the boil, put the oven on to heat to 210degC / gas 7.
  3. While the tatties are simmering, heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion till soft, then sweat the carrots. Tip onto a bowl.
  4. First attempt at serving dinner in fair portions to 5 hungry people

    First attempt at serving dinner in fair portions to 5 hungry people. And aye, although she’s tall she still needs a step to use the cooker safely

    Turn the saucepan heat to high. Fry the beef mince till browned. Add the vegetables, stock, Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer gently while you’re getting on with the tatties.

  5. Drain the potatoes when they’re ready. Mash roughly with a large knob of butter and a little pepper.
  6. Put the mince in a deep ovenproof dish. Put the mashed potato through a potato ricer and squeeze it in noodles over the mince. Place in the hot oven for 15 – 20 mins until the potato has browned and gone crunchy.
  7. While the cottage pie is in the oven, cook your brussels sprouts (trim the tails, cut in half, pop in a little saucepan. Cover with boiling water, bring back to boil and simmer for 5 mins. Drain, serve with a small knob of butter swirled over them.
  8. While you’re serving the cottage pie and brussels sprouts onto plates, cook the frozen peas in the microwave according to the package instructions.

Hazelnut, Chocolate and Lemon Biscotti

I promise to add more details for this when I check what amendments Midi and The Boss made to the original Paul Hollywood recipe. I can’t reproduce his recipe because it’ll be copyrighted, but I’ll at least link to it.

The Finale… tidying up!

And she’s still smiling. Will she willingly tidy up from now on? (Don’t be silly – you can’t get a badge for that!)

 

Young Love

Well, we survived the NE Scottish floods. We survived the local transformation of the landscape into ice (no thanks to my neighbour: lovely man, but what was he thinking washing his car in -3degC and leaving a huge puddle of ice on the hill for the neighbourhood to slither over today? I refused to grit the cul de sac on principle that I’m fed up hurting my back doing it. No-one stepped in. I give up). More importantly, though, the kids have gotten over me traumatising them about emergency drills. Phew.

Maxi’s ASD diagnosis is progressing – the psychologist reviewed various questionnaire submissions from us and the school and agreed that it’s not been in my silly head all this time after all – Midi’s in love and Mini’s got a cold.

Today nearly made me cry. I felt such a turmoil of emotions when the psychologist confirmed that Maxi should now go ahead for the last bit of the ASD assessment: relief that my constant niggling for Maxi’s needs and quirks be taken seriously hasn’t been in vain; pity that poor Maxi really isn’t going to have an easy time over the next few years either; determination at now being able to go get all the resources and advice that I can to help her understand other people and be understood better. Oh, there are a million other feelings muddled around in there, too, but alas this blog isn’t the place to unleash them.

I’d innocently thought today would be all about my eldest: taking her to the hospital, discussing her welfare with her, The Boss and the psychologist; spending time with her alone between the appointment and her sisters coming home, chatting over lunch and helping her with homework. But no, it never happens like that, does it? Midi’s ‘only friend in the whole world’, the boy who’s already asked The Boss if he can marry her when they’re 18, told her today that he’s moving hundreds of miles away very soon.

Midi’s distraught. My ever-hungry little grub couldn’t eat her dinner and just got herself ready for bed silently, saucer-eyed. I sat her on my lap and asked how she’d feel if we brought her birthday celebration a month forward and did everything she’d planned to do with her friend the weekend after next instead. Her eyes came alive again. I asked her if it would be ok and not embarrassing if I sorted out a wee birthday cake and sparklers to be brought out wherever they have lunch, and that they could go to the cinema together by train to the city with The Boss as chaperone. She smiled. I said that her friend’s mum and I had talked about setting up email addresses for the pair so that they could write to each other every afternoon after school, and maybe Skype. “Yippee!!” she shouted. They’re only 8 and 7 years old. Awwwww…!

Maxi decided that her sister needed solace and has bunked on her bedroom floor. I suspect Maxi’s needing a bit of reassurance herself, so I’m a bit loathe to scold the 3 of them for still giggling and squealing at 10pm on a school-night. We will all suffer for it tomorrow morning, I know.

Why So Super-Smashy-Nicey?

What is it with minxes and bugs and holidays? Last week was the first week of the long-awaited Tattie Holidays. The Boss took a week off week and we’d planned to go camping, climbing, mountain biking, harvesting everything in the garden and generally having a blast. Instead we fed the contents of a big bottle of paracetamol to the minxes.

They go loopy on calpol, so have been alternating between lying wanly in bed and roaring up and down and off the walls and ceiling of the hall, shrieking gibberish.

It’s just some kind of virus that’s giving them head, tummy and joint pain with a fluctuating appetite. Nothing too serious. So we’ve gotten out of the house occasionally: a wee jaunt to the library, a 90-minute shamble around the woods poking at toadstools, that kind of thing. The Boss took the eldest 2 out on a beginners mountain bike ride in Fetteresso Forest. They were broken the next day, so only Mini was left to accompany him on a cycle round the local woods. The next day she too was draining green slime out of her face.

Only Mini’s been up for helping me in the garden. This year we started to turn the front lawn into a fruit and veg garden and have done better than I’d anticipated:

  • 5 weeks of spinach
  • maybe 6 dinners-worth of broccoli (dinners-worth: feed a hungry family of 5 for dinner. Obviously)
  • 2 dinners-worth of potatoes
  • 2 dinners-worth of runner beans, with more still to come
  • 10 dinners-worth of broad beans
  • 4 months of continuous lettuces and rainbow chard
  • 20 tiny apples
  • enough chillis to make a 6-jar batch of sweet chilli jam
  • herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, teeny bit of tarragon, chives)
  • and…
  • …3 beetroot (yep, 3. Three. One more than 2. All the size of gnomes’ golfballs. Out of a whole packet. I give up. I obviously cannot grow beetroot!)

The squash just rotted in the ground; the radishes all bolted; blueberries, raspberries and strawberries got nicked by birds before we got more than the odd one or 2; but the cabbage, garlic, spring onions and brussels sprouts are still in the ground and looking great. And we’ve got 4 eggshells filled with cress…

As for the 10 nasturtium seeds I planted to attract bees? They turned into triffids. They took over 3 raised beds, spread over and along the paths, climbed fences, grew over sunflowers and ran down other paths. The local honey smells like nasturtiums. There are no bees anywhere except the inside of my nasturtiums. Never, ever, ever plant nasturtium seeds in compost, no matter how much you’re tempted! They really went bonkers. Me and Mini are out every day collecting seeds to dry and give away. Or maybe sell – well, we need to make up the lost couple hundred pounds a month in tax credits* somehow, and I can’t see me selling enough jars of wild bramble jelly or teaching enough people to knit and crochet, can you?!

*I’m still bitter – The Boss got a little pay rise. The extra money and a bit more got taken off us in tax credits. But because Student Loan repayments are calculated on your gross pay, they suddenly needed paying. So all in we’re down a few hundred every month. Ouch, ouch, ouch. So what’s the impetus to get a wage rise again…?

I’ve been struggling to write this past couple of months, too, because Maxi’s been taking up all my worry-capacity. After a promising start at school this term it soon all plummeted. To cut an extremely long story short, she eventually had a bit of a breakdown so I involved the GP as well as the school more formally. Within a week she was referred to be assessed for High Functioning Autism.

The referral is not a surprise and is a welcome move forward. I’d really love to write all about it in detail, but am conscious that a little coven of witches in her class who pick on Maxi would use anything they find here against her. The minxes’ privacy is something I’m beginning to consider much more, now. I’m finding that I’m writing 10 never-to-be published posts for every post that I do hit ‘submit’ on because I want to talk about things that I don’t think my kids would want attributed to them.

I’m not going to give up this blog, but I can see that it’s been mutating into a bit of a sugary-nicey Show and Tell kind of thing as the minxes have grown up, with the outdoor adventures mostly going to another blog these past 3 years, and the real dirt being dished on a barely-used anonymous blog or just sniggered over privately on sleepless nights.

whatever

Yeah… whatever, Mummy

Why announce that I’ve already stopped writing the crazy kid stuff? Well, I didn’t want anyone to read recent and future posts on here and think that the girls are suddenly behaving themselves, or that our life is all crafting, foraging, happy faces and wholesome outdoor adventures. Ahahahahaha! As if! Nope – more tears and screaming and tantrums than ever before (and that’s just me and The Boss), more near-misses and panics, more house-wrecking and stupid parenting fails. But with the girls now reaching the ages when reports of their antics would cause them to squirm at the very least, I do need to put attributable stuff elsewhere. I’ll keep the photos on Instagram, though, and keep the non-arrest-able stuff here.

Anyway, wish us a healthier week ahead – I’m getting cabin fever, and that never ends well…

Twas The Night Before School

Things you don’t want to discover the day before your kids go back to school Number 428:

– a mouldy banana that’s been festering in a school bag for 6 weeks that Maxi claimed to have emptied before she stuffed it in the back of the cupboard.

I tell you, this thing wasn’t just mouldy – everything touching it had grown white, hairy fur and was slimy and runny, whilst the ex-banana was now a black stick. A very smelly black stick.

(speaking minion): "...ban-nan-na?"

(speaking minion): “…ban-nan-na?”

I wish I’d taken a photo of it, but I was far too disgusted. Maxi’s book bag had grown a new personality from the mould. So I had to scrub it with a nailbrush (after beating it with a stick) and dettoled the heck out of it. The school bag got binned. Maxi cried. She hates new things and has had the neon hi-vis yellow bag since she started school. So I can’t complain too much about having to stump up the cash for a new school bag, really.

There was a silver lining to that (furry, mouldy) cloud: every year she acts like I’m ripping her arms off as I help her decide how much of the mountain of precious, treasured scraps of paper she’s taken home from school at the end of the year that she can keep. Most years we spend literally days while she tries to negotiate around my hardline “You can’t keep it all; choose your favourite 5 things only”. This year? She binned everything. Immediately. By choice. Bonus!

I also didn’t need to find out that Midi has sprouted in the past 6 weeks and no longer fits any of her polo shirts. And is too slender to wear Maxi’s polo shirts. I guess she’ll be wearing school dresses for the next week or so, then!

Mini Minx has been full of bravado for the past year about starting school tomorrow. She’s been desperate to read her own bedtime stories and indeed write her own stories to accompany her drawings. She’s always said that the thing she’s most looking forward to is doing homework (!) She took the news about her teacher leaving suddenly to be replaced by a teacher she’s never met in her stride.

Tonight, she confided in me that she’d “had a chat with my worry dolls”: she’s worried that her new teacher won’t like her. I explained that Mrs F was maybe feeling the same way right about now, as it would be her first day, too. Mini giggled. Then looked worried again. This evening we had a huge Mummy Snuggle, which is a very rare treat from the most independent of my daughters.

Mini the Dictator

Mini the Dictator

She’ll be just fine starting school tomorrow along with her sisters and her friends from the nursery and the older class. But it’s startling when she just occasionally lets me see that she’s still just a wee growing human, and not 100% dogmatic, independent, driven machine.

The wee love

One Month After Maxi and I Finally Had ‘The Talk’

Remember back in September when Maxi first asked me about sex? Well, she never did get back to me about those finer details. She’s in a composite class with kids ranging from 8 to 12 year olds, so I figured they’re probably discussing sex amongst themselves. The subject didn’t come up naturally in conversation at home, and I couldn’t find a non-cringeworthy way to just broach the subject. So I finally pulled my finger out last month and sourced some books from the library to help:

“Let’s talk: about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families and friends”, Harris, Robie H; Emberley, Michael. Walker, 2007. It was listed as being roughly appropriate for ages 4-7 years.

and

“Let’s talk about where babies come from: a book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families” (same authors and publisher, from 2002). This was listed as roughly for ages 6-10.

The Boss and I read through them first to get an idea of what a pair of very well-researched books reckoned was about the right level of detail to explain to our 3 different minxes. I was deeply impressed with their straightforward content, the brilliant illustrations, their lightness of touch and whole approach. It all fitted very well with the no-nonsense way we (ok, I…) have been talking to the girls their whole lives about how their bodies will change at puberty, periods, and where and how babies grow. But I have to admit that The Boss and I still privately giggled over the books like a pair of immature schoolkids. We sniggered here and there, but I really creased up, laughing in shock, dismay and embarrassment, when I saw that the book for younger kids explicitly mentioned that sperm meet the egg because the man and woman get so close that his penis goes inside the woman’s vagina, and that it was called ‘having sex’. Oh… my… word! Yes, that’s a very straightforward explanation. Grand. So therefore we should be explaining in this much detail to Midi and Mini, too?! …Um, y’know, just hold on there a wee minute…

At that moment, I discovered just how old-fashioned and easily embarrassed I truly am. The mere thought of 7 year old Midi curling her lip in disgust at the idea of sex made me blush. Still, I could just about face my kids and give it a great shot of feigning ‘hey, this is no big deal, it’s just information about bodies and how you were made’. But I couldn’t face their friends’ parents hammering on our door, asking us to explain exactly why their little 3 year olds were running about shouting about penises: I absolutely, positively, definitely know that Mini would merrily spend the next 3 years telling the entire world (and his dog) all about what she’d learned. So I bottled it: I gave the first book to Maxi, asked her if she wanted to read it by herself, then said I’d ask her some questions when she’d finished.

The Boss and I stifled more nervous giggles while she read studiously. Putting on a face that was serious-but-nonchalant-and-a-bit-cool (well, it looked like that in the mirror when I practised – it probably just looked constipated), I asked her if there was anything in the book that was new information to her. She said she’d loved the ‘pretend x-rays’ that illustrated what people looked like inside. Hmmm, that’s not what I’d meant… I dived straight in and asked her if she’d known that sex was how sperm and eggs meet? I reminded her that a while ago she’d said that no, she hadn’t wanted me to tell her exactly what sex was. So was this new info to her? No, she said, she’d heard people talking about it ages ago. We chatted about the bits in the book she’d found interesting. Did she have any questions for me? Just one – could she read the second book?

She really enjoyed the older book. It didn’t go into sex in any more detail, other than that it was something only grown-ups did, but I’d already told her that.

I suggested that The Boss read the first book to Midi as a bedtime story. He suggested she read it herself when he was out of the house. I decided to put it all off for a wee while longer and chat about it with her in the summer holidays if the subject didn’t come up by itself in the meantime.

Anyway, fast-forward a month to this afternoon, on the drive home from swimming lessons.

Maxi: “Muuum, you know how babies are made and how sperm meets eggs? Like, exactly how the sperm meets the egg?”

I gripped the steering wheel a whole lot tighter. What timing, Maxi; what timing… “Yeeeeees”, I replied warily.

Maxi: “So you and Dad have done that 4 times?”

Me: “No: lots more times than that. Why?”

She looked at me in the rear view mirror, a look of abject horror contorting that beautiful little face. “Ewwwwwwww!!!!” she gasped.

Predictably, I sniggered. Well, it’s obviously my most eloquent answer to anything to do with sex, it seems.

Maxi: “Why would you ever want to do something like that?!”

Me: “Well, um, er, because actually it feels really nice”, to her disbelief. So I added: “But only when your body is completely mature and you’re a woman, not a girl. Otherwise, yeah, it would be pretty nasty”.

My cheeks burned. So did the back of my head, as my 9 year old stared at me in a strange mix of disgust and bemusement for the rest of the drive home.

I shared her observations with her Daddy later on, when just the 3 of us were in the kitchen. He laughed louder than she did, and agreed with me that every person who ever was, felt yucky about the thought of their parents having sex.

Yeah, right, Mummy. Crack on with those dumb-ass explanations. You're doing grand. I'm so not laughing...

Yeah, right, Mummy. Crack on with those dumb-ass explanations. You’re doing grand. I’m so not laughing…

Oh boy… Oh well, at least that’s now broken the ice for future chats with Maxi about the emotional side of sex. One down, 2 even more disparaging daughters to go.

Midi’s On a Roll…

A week or so ago, the school had a Burns celebration, so they learned some Scottish country dancing so they and the parents could have a wee ceilidh, the classes sang us some Scottish songs, they exhibited artwork about Scottish heroes, my 3 minxes did a little (60 second!) Highland dance, and the children had a Scottish poetry recital competition. The class winners were announced at the celebration. Maxi came 3rd in her group and Mini came 1st in hers. Blimey! So tonight Mini is off with The Boss shortly, with all the class winners, to recite their poems at the local Burns Supper.

I was reflecting on how self-confident the minxes are in front of audiences, especially Midi. They don’t seem bothered at all by the attention; indeed, Midi seems to revel in it. I asked her why she’s not bothered by performing in front of other people.

“Well, it’s like I’m the Queen,” she explained with a regal wave of her little hand. Hmph!

Practicing at home

Practicing at home

A Last-Ever Milestone

17 Dec 2014

Like lots of parents up and down the land, today The Boss and I sat through Mini Minx’s nativity and all 3 minxes’ carol concert. Well, The Boss endured them – he’s not feeling well at all and is varying between looking grey and looking pale.

Maxi’s similar, but has occasional bouts of energy (eg the carol concert). Also, the poor child has been embarrassed by burps that smell of rotten eggs. They really do. Proper fill-the-room-with-stink ones. Wee soul! Whilst I questioned her about how much water she was drinking and whether she was pooing enough, The Boss actually bothered to look in her throat. And instantly recoiled: red, swollen, with yellow pus-filled blisters. Bluerghy tonsillitis (bleurghy – it’s a technical term; a polite form of ‘minging’). No wonder she feels sick, has a cough and is smelly! That’ll be a trip to the GP tomorrow, then, to check whether she needs antibiotics or not.

So, today we joined with the rest of the school community in pooling our germs by sitting amongst the most effective bacterial vectors in the known Universe: small children.

We watched the nursery kids do their nativity play. Mini had a lot of talking to do in her part as the Innkeeper, but surprisingly she seemed shy of the older kids and parents watching her, and could be barely heard. As with other minx nativities, it struck me that the staff had obviously put in tons of effort and time, but many children seemed to stumble through the motions, not enjoying it, enduring it like The Boss was, and not understanding what was going on. Why do we do this every year to our kids? I get that for practising Christians, subjecting small kids to nativity plays is part of teaching them about their religion. But my logical little mind doesn’t really get why we all do it. Yes, yes, children learn lots of skills through taking part, such as being able to speak and sing in front of an audience, it’s a memory test, and it’s a wee introduction to drama. But why is it always the youngest pre-schoolers who’re made to perform whilst we parents coo over them? Perhaps the kids would engage in those new skills a bit more enthusiastically if it was in a setting that they understood or empathised with a bit more, like the older children are given? Like an interpretation of the latest Disney film…? Ah well, though, never again – the youngest minx has taken part in her last nativity. I guess the next nativity I attend and smile at will be for my grandchildren (gulp!)

The carol concert that evening was also lovely. It’s only a small school so all the children fit on the stage at the same time. Maxi tried hard to “engage enthusiastically”, whilst Midi giggled her way through the entire concert with her best friend. Many of the children got to speak a line in front of the audience, saying what they were most looking forward to about Christmas. Both older minxes talked about their Daddy being home for a whole week and seeing their grandparents. Awwww!

The older kids were asked to dress in a Victorian style for the concert. Maxi asked originally for a flat cap, breeches and waistcoat. I poo-pooed that idea and came up with middle partings and scraped back hair, severe dress (school uniform), a bit of tied lace as a kind of collar, another strip of wide lace pinned over the top of a minx head, and a folded over frilly pillowcase tied around the waist to form a sort of apron. It took 5 minutes and was a bit tenuous, but all I could manage without spending money.

The Bells, 2014

The minxes were indignant at the prospect of missing the huge secret party that all adults enjoy at New Year.

“But if you don’t wake us up for midnight, then we’ll miss the Footsteps!” wailed a very upset Midi.

It took a while, and a lot of tears, yelling, pouts and sniggers (me) before we realised she mean ‘First Footing‘. Bless…

Well, they won’t be doing that either! But like a pair of idiot parents, me and The Boss have agreed to wake them before midnight so they can join us in some (more) party food, a slice of black bun that I baked today, and some fizzy drinks (lemonade for minxes, Prosecco for us auld farts). I guess their 3 months of Highland Dancing lessons are about to come in handy. And yes, I know I’ll regret it tomorrow when we’re all fractious and over-tired, but hey ho, there’s got to be a first time for everything.

I know it’s traditional to look back and forward at this time of year, count your blessings, list your dreams, that kind of thing. And don’t get me wrong, Family Trout has had a lovely 2014, with exciting bits, busy bits, and frantically worrying bits, just like most families. We’re optimistic and hopeful about 2015. But right now I’m mostly thinking about friends who’re dreading 2015 for different, sad reasons. I wish I could take a big chunk of Hope, dunk it in a bowl of Joy and roll it in layer upon layer of Love until it’s indestructible, then gift it to each of those friends. Ah, if only!

Wishing all my readers a New Year that’s stuffed full of lovely, joyful, happy things:
as daftly fun as The Boss blowing bubbles in the snow at midnight, and as hopeful as Midi waiting to hear if Santa had her on his Nice List (he did).

The Revenge of the Evil Ones

Poor Midi!

She’s a right little Dr Doolittle. There’s something irresistible about her hands to animals. She can blow huge bubbles around the bathroom, and she can tempt newts from the garden. Or hoverflies from flowers. I don’t know what it is about her hands, but she’s usually got something crawling all over them.

This morning a wasp wanted to cuddle up to her. It buzzed all around her skirt as she balanced on the playground beam. It landed on her shoes, her skirt, her hands. It was determined to get close to my lovely girl! She rebuffed its advances, so the little fecker stung her on the inside of her wrist.

My poor, poor baby! She squealed in surprise at one of her Normally Loving Subjects daring to hurt the Queen of the Insect World. Then she cried in pain. She’s never been stung before.

I distracted her with a bit of a chemistry lesson as I marched her home again, and why I was going to put some vinegar on it. She’s 6, so she’s not got much of a clue of what an acid is, never mind an alkali. But a quick splash of vinegar, a spoon of anti-histamine, a big Mummy Cuddle, and she was fine to trot back to school, saying that it was feeling better. The sting quickly came up in a white donut against an angry red background, hence me giving her some medicine. Hopefully she won’t be too drowsy. And hopefully the fact that she smells like a fish supper won’t make her teachers feel too hungry…

EVIL!!!!! Photo: Wikipedia

Big Parenting Milestone

Yesterday morning I was lying groggily in bed, hoping that the coffee and morning news on the TV would wake me up enough to shamble out of bed and go get breakfast sorted. The younger kids often sneak into my bed for a quick 5 minute snuggle while they wake up; Maxi Minx normally prefers to stay in her own bed, reading.

Not yesterday. As she hopped into my bed I thought, oh, this is an unexpected pleasure – how nice!

“Muuuuuuuum?” she asked.

Oh-oh. I recognise that tone of voice. Maybe not so nice. 

“What’s S-E-X?”

Definitely not so nice! Wide-awake! Panic!

“Hmmmm…”, I said, playing for time. “Well, it can mean different things. In what context did you hear it?”

“Oh, like Gangnam Style!” she said, mimicking the cross-wristed dance.

??!

“Well,” I said, ever the teacher, “What do you think it means?”

“Some people in my class say it’s when a man and a woman get into bed together, naked”, she giggled. “And they never say ‘sex’: they always say ‘ess-ee-ex'”.

Oh no, she really, really wants to know. Right now. At 7.20am on a Thursday morning.

“That can be a little part of it. But sex is lots more than that”, I started. Then noticed that she looked a tiny bit disappointed. Hmmmm, why disappointed? What did she really want to know? “Basically it’s how men and women make babies. It’s how the sperm gets to meet the egg inside a woman. Do you want me to tell you how?”

“No, Mummy”, she said.

Phew!!! But… but… why not?! Isn’t that what you asked? Steel yourself, Trout, and dig some more:

“But I’ve not answered your question, have I?” She shook her head and sniggered.

Eek! My innocent 8 yo actually sniggered!

“It’s in Gangnam Style, when he sings Heyyyyy, sexy lady!” she elaborated.

Oh boy… I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but here goes…

“Ah. A man would call a woman sexy if he thinks she’s really attractive and he wants to have sex with her. And a woman would call a man sexy if she wants to have sex with him. But a child would never describe someone as sexy, because a child wouldn’t have sex. And an adult would never describe a child as sexy, because only adults have sex”, I started. “And Mummy and Daddy are married, so we only have sex with each other, not with anyone else”.

Inward wince. Actually, please don’t ask me exactly the mechanics of sex. I need another coffee first. I wish to hell I’d bought an Usborne book or gotten something from the library to help. I’m so unprepared! They only know the physical changes at puberty. They only know what babies are made of and how they come out. I should have elaborated. Should I stick to hetero sex only? Or be vague? 

Maxi looked pensive. I asked whether she wanted to know exactly what happens when 2 grown-ups have sex, or if she’d like me to tell her that another time.

“No, I don’t want to know that. I want to know about Henry VIII”, she said.

?!!!! You what…?

“How could he sex all 6 of his wives?” she asked

“Eh? But… but… he was only married to one at a time!” I explained. “And you say ‘How could he have sex with all 6 of his wives’. So it was just one at a time.”

Maxi chortled again. “Hehehehehe! So it wasn’t all 7 of them together in one bed?”

Noooooo! I’m not supposed to be covering orgies in my first sex education talk!!!!! Unfair!!!!

“No. One at a time”.

“And it’s between grown-ups?” I nodded. “So you can’t have sex with toys?” she asked, mischievously.

For the love of… Now we’re doing sex-play?!

I sniggered myself. “No. You don’t have sex with Bagpuss”.

“OK, Mummy. Thank you. Can I have peanut butter and jam on my toast this morning?” she pleaded, changing the subject.

I got let off lightly!

"No way - mummies and daddies don't do that!" "Way! Mummy said so"

“No way – mummies and daddies don’t do that!”
“Way! Mummy said so”
“Ah-hahahahahahahaaaaa!”

I was out teaching knitting last night. I thought Maxi might collar The Boss and ask him similar questions. The imp in me considered leaving him to it, cold. But I love him too much, so nabbed him as he got home and gave him a quick run down of the morning’s conversation, and to leave anything to me that he felt uncomfy with. He doubled up, giggled like a teenager and blushed. Bless!

When I got home that night Maxi was still awake. I asked her again whether I’d answered her question properly about sex. “Yes”. Did she want to know any more? “Not just now”. Would she ask me if she wanted to know anything? “Oh yes!”

I felt very honoured.

This morning over breakfast the conversation was about how some of the older girls are already wearing bras and cropped tops. “But their little boobies aren’t as saggy as yours, Mummy!” Thank you darling. Pass the milk.