I Have a Cunning Plan

28 Feb 2017

Start of Week 8 running accountability post.

So in my last accountability post I was telling you about how Mrs P talked me into signing up for a 10k race with bells, whistles and jingles on: the Banchory Beast. Described as “a 10k obstacle race in Aberdeenshire over rough muddy terrain, dirt tracks and forest. It has over 20 mega obstacles on route”. It’s graded as ‘fairly tough’. We are beginner joggers. It’s in 6 months. How? Why?

Well, Mrs P does like a challenge, and I’ve got the breaking strain of a warmed-up Kitkat on a sunny day in the desert, so am easily persuaded. So we joined a team of much-fitter friends and paid up. Nothing like parting with hard cash to focus your mind on getting out the door for a run 3 times a week, eh?

And yes, we started from not being able to jog longer than between 2 lamp-posts, and in 6 months time we’re going to be running one hell of a long, tough obstacle race. What’s the plan, Stan? Well, we’re going to continue with the twice-weekly JogScotland runs for 3 more weeks until the 10 week course is up. Then we’ll swap one of those runs for a local parkrun course that we heard has a beast of a hill in it. And once a week run with the Intermediates in our JogScotland group. We’ll continue our once a week solo runs and work on things like distance and speed through interval training and other things that Professor Google and JogScotland recommend. Or we think up. And training for obstacles? Well, we’ll get the running sorted first, I think, but general MuTu for continuing to strengthening our core muscles in the meantime. More on that in the next accountability post. I shall come up with a cunning plan.

To keep us fully-focused on our 6 months of training, Mrs P found a shorter, entry-level mud fun run to do very soon: the Rebel Dubbit Dash It’s got mud, obstacles, tough terrain, and is only (‘only’!) 5km. However, as sharp-eyed Mrs P spotted, your entry-fee also gets you a bottle of free beer at the finish line. I tell you, you were shang-haiing people to form a team with us! So we’re going to be doing that in April.

At the moment, my goal is to become fit enough not to die on the Beast or Dash course.

Let’s check that objective: is it specific? Measurable? Achievable? Realistic and relevant? Timely? All ticks. Great! And the sub-goal is to get fit enough to actually enjoy them. What’s not to love about slithering around in mud with your pals?!

So: how is training getting on? How much progress have we made this fortnight towards our goals?

Well, I had a wee setback and had to miss a run (and cancel some teaching I was really looking forward to!) when I thought I was coming down with another cold. I normally get one cold a year, so to have 2 within the space of 3 weeks is just not on. When the cold kind of lingered, but didn’t become anything more than mild, I analysed a bit harder. It coincided with me choking on some cake (I know, I know, I’m sure you can’t believe that of me. Ahem). And actually, 3 weeks previously I’d choked on some of my dinner then had 5 or 6 days of sore chest, coughing, congestion, runny nose too. Oh… To cut a long story short, I’ve now added to my training plan: “Stop snorting your cake”. Winner.

And the times? Well, as of last night, I can now run for 6km – 50 mins – without stopping (and that included 6 sprint intervals). The best times are creeping away from total snail pace:

1km – 6 mins 56
1 mile – 11 mins 17
5km – 39 mins 46

Even better, I’m beginning to unlearn some of the unhelpful stuff I’ve believed up till now:

‘You’re a quitter’ – 7 unbroken weeks and 50 mins solid running say that’s not true.
‘You can’t run’ – see the above.
‘You’re so slow’ – partially true for a short while longer. But I can sprint at 16kph and my average pace is increasing every single week.
‘You can’t do it’ – I am.

The Friday before last we tried a run in a local park. It was fun in that the warm-up was a very effective and interesting trot along tree-rooted tracks that I found quite exhilarating, but I wasn’t mad on running the same dark circuit twice. And I think we annoyed the 20,000 dog walkers, as the footslaps, lights, heavy breathing and hi-vis upset some of the dogs. So last Friday we did our usual 6km local run and arrived at the road bridge that’s been closed for weeks at our halfway point. We normally nip between the barriers because we’re not as heavy as cars (!) Only this week, there was no bridge. It was gone. Empty. In its place were a few diggers, workmen in hi-vis jackets and some enormous room-sized grey lego blocks. We asked whether we could still cross. The man smiled and laughed and waved at the sandbag dam across the rushing stream. We thanked him and nipped across, starting our mud obstacle race training a few weeks early. My trainers are not as grippy in the  mud as I thought…

Talking of hi-vis, the other big development for me this fortnight is stopping feeling quite so self-conscious about running. Yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could suddenly look like I’m a runner first, before running? As in: having lithe toned legs, fewer chins, cheeks that don’t switch to ‘beacon’ for the rest of the day after the first km? It took a bit for me to properly accept that runners don’t look like runners; they look like people. If you move along the planet’s surface with both feet off the ground at once, you’re a runner (or a crazy, mixed-up jumper, but that’s another story for another time). It takes me a long time to see very obvious things, sometimes.

...Speedbird 294 Heavy, you are clear to land on Runway Grumpy 18...

…Speedbird 294 Heavy, you are clear to land on Runway Grumpy 18…

In that spirit of just getting on with it, I’ve added to my night-running lights. I’ve been using the minxes’ shoelace lights that flash with every movement, a headtorch around my wrist, and 2 flashing red clip-on lights on a hi-vis vest. My MIL sent me a wonderful surprise: a proper, real, runner’s hi-vis jacket! To that, I also treated myself to a pair of trainers heel lights and a pair of armband lights (£10 for all 4). I tell you, there are aircraft leaving the Aberdeen Approach paths and setting up their landing patterns on me! But the way I see it, if I fall over into a ditch with only my feet sticking out, I’ll still be seen. My fellow runners sing “O Christmas Tree” as they pass me, but I don’t mind. I don’t care that I’m danger of having ‘All the Gear and No Idea’ because that’s slowly coming together.

So that drivers coming up behind me don't mistake my butt for a new roundabout

So that drivers coming up behind me don’t mistake my butt for a new roundabout

And finally, talking of my MIL, she and FIL were visiting recently. She’s known me a very long time and so the running was a bit of a surprise to her, too. Rather than just raise an eyebrow and let me get on with it, as the rest of my family discreetly are, she eyeballed me and told me how much she admired me and was proud of me. What a lovely, sweet thing to say! I was and am really touched. There’s just something about getting praise from your mother / mother in law that top trumps all other possible praise. I’ve tucked that away in my Motivational Memory Banks for long-term keeping.

Oh aye, and finally-finally, with us running over 5km 3 times a week without stopping by Week 7, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve done better and faster than the (brilliant) Couch to 5k plan that I originally thought was beyond me. Big thumbs up! Let’s see what the next fortnight has in store.

Can I Send Them To School In Their Jammies?

Nooooooo, don't make us go clothes shopping!

Nooooooo, don’t make us go clothes shopping!

A massive box arrived today full of every single pair of school trousers that M&S do that could vaguely be in Maxi and Midi’s sizes. They’re growing like weeds, up and outwards, and have already outgrown most of the uniform bought in August. We fought from 3.45pm till 4.30pm tonight trying all 16 pairs of trousers on. After lots of squeals and yells and yanks and tugs and if-you-don’t-stand-still threats, both found 2 pairs each that vaguely fit.

Not bad, I thought – max out the credit card temporarily till the returns get processed, but save myself a long, arduous journey with 2 grumpy kids to the city, and no guarantee of any trousers in their size anyway. Bonus!

The weather forecast for the rest of the week is freezing cold, so in a desperate fit of organisation I washed and tumbled the trousers straightaway, ready to take up the hems tonight and be worn tomorrow.

Maxi’s favourite pair have shrunk so badly after one wash that she now can’t walk in them.

I’d already taped up the box of returns, so got the ‘fun’ of fighting with botch tape anew to get them in with the other eleventy-thousand returns.

I hate online shopping for trousers for kids that only list waist sizes (which are adjustable anyway) and not hip / bum widths (which aren’t), so you have to guess what size will fit. I hate that different styles have totally different fits even when ostensibly the same age size. I hate clothes that shrink. I hate ‘skin kind’ clothes that are anything but, for both the wearer and the fitter. I hate clothes shopping!

Maybe we should turn nudist and move somewhere much warmer?


A Geeky Halloween

These past 3 months I’ve been indulging in watching old boxsets of Doctor Who, covering the 9th to the 11th Doctors. The minxes have been watching some of the less scary episodes – basically everything not written by the brilliant Steven Moffat. Well, I think I’d rather the girls continued to sleep at night than introduce them to Blink and Silence in the Library too soon…

So this year for our Hallowe’en theme we decided to be Doctor Who characters: Maxi, the wannabe teenager, chose Rose Tyler; Midi wanted to be a Dalek; and even though she’s only a bit aware of who they are, Mini dressed up as a Weeping Angel. The Boss made a fine dude of an Ood, and I discovered that my reading glasses made me a passable 10th Doctor. See what you think yourself:

The girls spent all weekend hacking at cardboard and painting it. I loved Midi’s yogurt carton lights on her Dalek head: she put some motion-sensitive lights she’d been given for her trainers laces inside, so that the lights actually blinked. And yes, that’s a plunger and the inside of a paint roller. Maxi’s attitude as Rose just creases me up – perfect! And I’m relieved about my own outfit – originally I was going to wear black teeshirt, black jeans, a black leather jacket, slick my hair down and wear a pair of huge cardboard ears and go as the 9th Doctor. But an hour before I got dressed up, I discovered that my previously-treasured 30 year old leather jacket was covered in mould (ewwwwwwww!)

We were all set to go out guising, but the forecast of heavy rain came true. Drat! Luckily lots of other children came round to share their party pieces and, as well as sweeties and satsumas, were ‘treated’ to the reward of us 5 hanging out the door and having a fake sonic screwdriver waggled at them. We let the minxes eat some of the sweeties we’d bought, as they weren’t collecting their own, and they shared their own party pieces to visitors. We dooked for apples and the girls snouted for sweets in flour. The Boss played spooky-themed music and we 5 danced and goofed around for a bit until the last of the guisers came, around 7.30pm.

Round about then, Maxi had a huge meltdown, and her sisters declared it the worst Hallowe’en ever. No one thing set it off, but I suspect the lethal combination of giving them a small dinner, a lot of sweets, lemonade, the rollercoaster of dressing up, then not going out, then screaming and dancing and playing, all on top of the clocks going back just the day before, so they were all shattered.

The Boss and I didn’t take it personally. Besides, 3 of the 5 of us get to do it all over again at the Cubs Hallowe’en party later this week!



Sports Week

One of the drier bits of the route-march, the Sunday before...

One of the drier bits of the route-march, the Sunday before…

All week the kids will be doing something sporty at school. Fantastic! Well… it would have been fantastic if I were one of those super-organised mothers. In fact, if I were forward-thinking *at all*.

I got on the back foot on Friday and have been playing catch-up ever since. It was only on Monday morning, for example, that I realised that Maxi only had a pair of wellies, her school shoes, a pair of party shoes and a pair of indoor plimsolls to her name. Och, plenty shoes, you’d think. But: what would she wear for outdoor sports? All week?


Cue one swift visit to Tesco after Mini’s swimming lesson. I basically bought every vaguely outdoory kind of shoe in vaguely her size, took them all home to try on at lunchtime, and will take all bar one pair back at the weekend.

(Tesco shoes. I know. I’m going to Non-Clarks Hell when I die).

I’m relieved I found one pair that fit – most shoes from Tesco are seriously random sizes. One pair of 12s will be too small, whereas another pair in the identical style with the identical barcode, will be too big. I found one pair of shoes so wide that the velcro straps couldn’t be fastened tight enough to hold the shoes on her (wide) feet, and this despite leaving 10″ long tails. I guess Donald Duck was that factory’s shoe-last model…

Today, we went on a sponsored walk. I sat the girls down at lunchtime and laid down the law. Kids, it’s not going to be a family walk where we can bimble and go see things and talk about things and look around: it’s going to be a route march. Maxi and Midi are to stick together like glue or I will botch-tape you side by side, and Mini will be on my back in the Wompat. You don’t need to enjoy it. Just get through it. Questions? Issues?

Well, I didn’t actually think it would be a route-march. But you know what? It was. We set off in a wiggly worm of staff, kids and parents: big kids and adults With Something To Prove raced off immediately, and the buggies and tiny nursery tots clotted in the middle and strung out the line. It was drizzling as we set off, and the cloud-dam burst within 5 minutes. I discovered that my waterproof jacket wasn’t waterproof; I learned that Mini didn’t care that she was wet through because she could snooze on my back all afternoon; that Midi thought it was funny to sing “Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside” with me; and that suddenly me and the minxes were at the very back of the line when the folk who’d come to a dead halt earlier decided to about-turn and go home. I don’t blame them – the route ahead wasn’t fit for buggies or small babies.

I’m ashamed to admit that I spent the rest of the entire walk stressing and narking at the girls to hurry up / wait for her sister. On and on I nagged to get them to stay together. Unknown to me, Midi was suffering the consequences of not wearing knee-high socks with her wellies as I’d instructed, and was now sporting 2 big long friction blisters (cue a ton of guilt when she told another adult about her sore calves instead of me). Maxi was pretty good and only came to a dead halt 20 times or so. I growled at her until she cried. Yep, like shouting at a committed daydreamer on perma-chat is ever going to actually achieve anything (!). I’ll feel guilty about upsetting her for years. I mean, I’m supposed to be a capable adult. I could have just decided to amble round at Maxi’s pace – just me and my 3 girls – enjoying the views and the thunder and the birdsong. But no, stupidly I was On A Mission to keep up with everyone else. Dolt! One helper hung back to walk with us, but basically everyone else zoomed off. With 20kg on my back, soaked through, overheating as I squelched through the thick mud the path had become, and struggling with 2 little girls who really didn’t want to be rushed around a 4.5km walk (I know, because we coincidentally walked it with the in-laws on Sunday afternoon), watching everyone else head off in the distance, I can’t say it was the most fun afternoon I’ve ever had. Though to be fair, the others were probably just rushing to get away from my snarling! Anyway, I’m sure that the activities they’ll do for the John Muir award will be entirely different, and will embrace having space and time to look to left and right, instead of marching left, right… And I *will* conquer this stupid bad temper and intolerance! (Or will I…?)

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.


The playground and Facebook are full of talk about Hallowe’en.  Even “Are the kids going out guising?” has replaced “Mingin’ weather, isn’t it?” as the usual morning greeting between neighbours.

Guising…  Yeah.  It’s what we’re doing instead of Trick or Treating.  Call me a rabid, old-fashioned, stick in the mud if you must, but this family isn’t going to take on an American tradition that has strong overtones of threats, violence, begging and social disorder (! We’ve got that down pat already, thanks…)  When I was a child, going round the neighbours’ houses on Hallowe’en night, dressed up, was called guising.  You knocked, you showed off your outfit and saw if the neighbour could see through your disguise.  Then you had to perform – a little song, dance or joke (everyone went for joke) – and in return you were given tangerines, peanuts, sometimes sweets and very occasionally some money.

One good import from the States, though, is that the lit pumpkin outside the door has become the Internationally Recognised Symbol of ‘this is a Hallowe’en-friendly house, feel free to knock’.  As the minxes have never been out guising before, we’re only going to knock on the doors of friends and neighbours who I’ve already cleared it with in advance, or people we know with lit pumpkins outside.  I suspect what will happen is that all the families will all be out at the same time and we’ll all just cross on the street.  Maybe I’ll take a sack of goodies with us, then…?

I understand that some Christians have an issue with children mimicking and dressing up as witches.  Actually, I do understand that point of view: it does follow-on logically that if you believe that there is an actual Devil, wreaking havoc in the world, then it’s not great to dress-up and pretend to be one of his followers.  I don’t hold that view, personally, but can see where folk are coming from.  At the school that’s not really an issue because rather than have Hallowe’en parties or dress-ups, they have one of the regular ‘Come As You Please’ days instead.  So yeah, the world and his dog is dressed for Hallowe’en, but the children who don’t want to be witches, devils, scary things, can come in jeans and tee-shirts or as fairies or whatever, and it’s not necessarily for Hallowe’en.

Maxi and Midi wanted to be Harry Potter and Hermione.  Eh?  Sheesh, in my day everyone wanted to be a punk.  That was easy.  How do you turn a girly-girl of 6 into a teenage boy?  The minxes have 2 boxes full of dress-up clothes, but the requirement was for home-made fancy dress.  It’s amazing how satisfied little kids are with some bin-bags, wrapping paper and an old pair of Daddy’s glasses, eh?  And when they’re old enough not to be, they can dress-up themselves.  One thing me and The Boss aren’t going to relinquish though – carving the pumpkin!

Ahhhh, Hallowe’en… the first milestone of fun on the run-up to Christmas.  I might be an old fart now, but I still feel the faint shadows of the excitement I felt as a child in fancy-dress.  Maybe I’ll get busy with the bin-bags, cling-film and face-paint myself later on?  Now that will properly frighten the kids!

Lucky, Lucky, Lucky!

Monday 3 April and Day 3 of the Easter Holidays…

My original plans of heading out on a woodland trail fell apart when we woke to a freezing cold gale. The snow forecast possibility was now a certainty. Flexibility being the key to both Air Power and staying sane as a parent, I quickly replanned: trip into the heaving metropolis of Inverness to spend some birthday vouchers, Tiso for new approach shoes for both me and The Boss (I’d found photographic proof that mine had been worn many days each week for the past 6 years, so were justifiably in need of an upgrade), treat lunch, cinema, quick shop, put the tent up in the back garden, camp in the back garden instead of a snowed-in campsite near Aberdeen.

I loaded the car boot with 100 bags*, got everyone’s jackets and wellies on, lined the minxes up on the stairs ready to ferry them into their car seats, nipped out to the garage to grab a buggy, then spun round when I heard The Boss yell.

We had a puncture. A bad one. The tyre was totally flat and coming off the rim.

I could have cried. Instead, I shepherded the kids into the car while The Boss did the necessary, then insisted on watching him carefully and doing bits myself. Mostly bouncing up and down on the nut lever thing. That was fun. Besides, I never want to be stuck by the side of the road, flapping ineffectually at a flat tyre. So now I know I can change a tyre on a Grand Scenic with 3 screaming kids in the back seat, because I did! Also looking on the bright side, we had to put the winter tyres back on the car because Scenics don’t have a spare tyre. With snow looming and temperatures back below 10degC for the foreseeable future, this was no bad thing at all.

*100 bags might be slight hyperbole. But I need a nappy change bag, a complete change of clothes for Mini and Midi Minx, a bag of bags to pack shopping into, a bag of snacks and drinks for the kids if we’re going to be out all day, a bag containing phone, keys, purse, lip-balm. I could go on, but I’m losing the will to live…

This was just the start of our luck. We’d run out of time to do anything in Inverness before lunch, especially because we got caught behind a tractor and 2 very slow lorries, so went straight to the carpark. And straight into the perfect car park space. Cha-ching! Screeching past HMV en-route to lunch, The Boss decided he’d nip in and have a quick look. And immediately spotted Toy Story and Toy Story 2 on a 2-for-1 and costing the same as his birthday voucher was for. Cha-cha-ching! That’ll be 2 quiet afternoons next week sorted! We went straight to Pizza Express (serious treat lunch!) because I had a few vouchers to use there. We had our choice of tables. But in the time it took us to get coats off and Mini Minx strapped down, every single table had filled up. Wow, if we’d been only 5 minutes later… Seriously, seriously lucky or what?

Lunch was lovely: we all love garlic butter, with or without dough balls. Mini ate hers with a spoon like yogurt. The pizzas were good, desserts pretty fabby, and the girls thought drinking Bambinocchinos was impossibly glamorous. The service was fantastic and we left an hour later, full-up, happy and relaxed.

Walking back to the car, our luck was still in: H&M had a sale on. I love their simple, super-cheap summer dresses. At £2.99 you don’t expect them to last more than a year (though they usually do), but they’re brilliant on their own or layered with long sleeved teeshirts and leggings. I swooped in, grabbed a huge armful in 6-7 years for both Midi and Maxi, more leggings and out. Smug, smug, smug.

The cinema was another lucky time: it was 10 minutes to the showing, but The Boss, Maxi and Midi went straight in, barely had to wait in the queue, got tickets at 25% off because it was a quiet time (?! really? It looked like loads of Inverness folk had the same idea as us on what to do on a cold, wet day!). Still, we spent the money left over from our budget on the most enormous bucket of popcorn: I think Midi could have hidden in it! They saw The Pirates, and it was Midi’s first ever trip to the cinema. Maxi’s been once before with nursery, so she was An Old Hand, and talked Midi through it, especially when she got scared when it went dark (awwww, bless!). They had a brilliant time, and even The Boss enjoyed the film.

Meanwhile, me and Mini went for a jaunt through all the shops in the retail park. I can’t stand shopping, but this time I enjoyed aimlessly wandering about with my mind switched off, just relishing the time to smile at my baby daughter drifting off languorously to sleep. An hour later, when she woke, she ‘helped’ me carry some daft wee purchases from Homebase, then we went to look at the fish in the pet shop. As she’s only just turned 2, I suspect she enjoyed that more than she would have enjoyed the film.

More luck followed us home: a few petrol stations were sold out of diesel all the way to Nairn. But the cheapest, Sainsbury’s, was still open! Brilliant! Around then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow…

Child’s Fleece-Lined Pocketed Hat-Scarf Pattern

The wool shop struck again – it got me in its tractor-beam yesterday and dragged me in. I spotted some Romano Chunky by King Cole, in Aquarius. It’s a beautiful mix of teal-coloured chenille, turquoise fluff, and slubs of soft brown, purple, blue and green. Those colours suit all 3 of my wee minxes, so I had to buy it. Couldn’t help myself.

This is what I did yesterday with 2 balls of the stuff and a dark purple fleece throw that I bought in the Tesco sale for £1.50. It’s as soft and snuggly-warm as it looks, and Midi Minx is pretty delighted with it. I didn’t follow a pattern or work one out beforehand. Were I to make another one, though, I’d buy 3 balls of wool and make the scarf bit longer and maybe even knit the hood. The pockets are entirely fleece-lined and at the sides of the scarf. When you look at the diagram it looks like I’ve got them upside down, but they’re meant to be like that: this makes the scarf stay crossed over without tying it or using buttons, etc.

It took me an entire day to make, probably because I hand-stitched it and have never made a fleece-backed scarf before. Therefore, although it’s beautiful, it’s not going to make its way onto the online shelves of my knitwear shop! I thought instead that I’d jot down what I did so anyone who likes it can make it, too. I’m not writing it up as a free knitting pattern, as such – more a chatty description of my thoughts.

Why supply it free? What’s the catch? None! Feel free to use this pattern however you like. The only thing I ask is that if you use it to make items to sell, it would be good karma if you credited me either with a mention or a link to my website (http://www.rainbowknits.co.uk). And if you use it at all, it would be really lovely if you would post a comment to this post (even anonymously!) to say how it turned out, or to share with everyone any improvements you made to the basic instructions. Of course, a photo of your scarf would be truly awesome – I’d love to admire!

Child’s Pocketed Hat-Scarf by Rainbow Knits


  • 2 x 50g balls of Romano Chunky (though 3 would give you more flexibility; approx £7.90 per ball)
  • pair of 8mm knitting needles
  • 8mm crochet hook
  • piece of thin fleece approx 85 x 42cm
  • appropriate needle and thread to sew the fleece to the scarf. I used a purple thread that matched the fleece, but you might prefer to use thick contrasting wool?

See? No seam at back of the head


Prepare the Scarf

  1. With 8mm knitting needles, cast on 24 sts using whatever technique you like. I used the thumb method to give a nice elastic edge.
  2. Row 1: (K3, P1), rpt to end
  3. Row 2: (K1, P3), rpt to end
  4. These 2 rows set up a nice, loose rib that shows off the gorgeous wool and adds a little bit of stretch without eating up all your wall. Continue repeating these 2 rows till the end of the scarf. Mine measured approx 84 cm.
  5. You can either cast off nice and loosely here, leaving enough wool to do the edge around the hood, or you can do what I did: don’t cast off, but leave the stitches on a holder, or scooted round into the middle of a circular needle if that’s what you used instead of straight knitting needles. In this case, find the end of the ball of wool and use from there when you start to do the hood edge. If you need more wool, just unknit the scarf a row at a time until the hood edge is finished, then cast off. This way you maximise your wool!

Prepare the Fleece Lining

  1. A purist would block the scarf at this point; a lazy person in a hurry (me) would just stretch it ever so slightly out on my knee.
  2. Measure your scarf.
  3. Figure out the dimensions of the fleece lining (see Diagram 1 below in the separate link – click the orange link that says ‘Diagrams for Scarf’ right at the end of the blog post. Yep, after Edge for Hood paragraph):
    • Take a centimetre off the length and width – this is the basic rectangle of the lining;
    • Add a square 21 x 21cm in the middle of one edge (or to fit your child’s head. You just make a square whose side is long enough to go from the middle of the child’s head to the where the top of the scarf will sit on his/her neck, or from the middle of the back of your child’s head around to where you want the hood to end at the front, whichever is longer).
  4. Cut out your fleece in one elongated T shape to these dimensions.
  5. Cut out 2 squares for pockets to fit the end of the scarf. Mine were 17 x 17cm.
  6. You don’t need to seam or hem the fleece lining (yippee!!) but you do need to pin it to your scarf before you start to sew.
  7. Pin the pocket lining squares to the edge of the scarf first. Sew as per Diagram 2 (same orange link ‘Diagrams for Scarf’ below at the end of the post), ie the very outside edges. I used a running stitch.
  8. Now pin the scarf lining to the scarf on top of the pocket linings. Sew as per Diagram 3, leaving a slit for the hands to go in. Again, I just used running stitch. At all times check, check, check that the scarf and the lining are sitting pretty rectangular. You should have half a centimetre of scarf showing all the way round the lining, except for the hood.
  9. Now do the hood: fold the scarf in half, right sides touching. Seam the top edge (marked in Diagram 3) so you get a nice straight neat seam up the middle of the head.

Romano loveliness

Edge the Hood

  1. This is fun! You can do whatever edging you like, eg knit or crochet one you fancy and sew it on around the hood face. I decided to try something else out:
  2. Thread a needle with either thin wool or a couple of strands of thread. Using a running stitch and securely fastened at each end, sew along the face edge of the hood. Leave about half a centimetre or more between stitches: you want each stitch to be spaced about a double-crochet width apart.
  3. Now take your crochet hook and the leftover wool. With the right side facing you and using the visible edge stitches, double crochet into each stitch until the end of the hood edge. Turn.
  4.  Chain one. Double crochet into each double crochet all the way to the end. Turn
  5. Repeat the last row. Fasten off.

Diagrams for Scarf

First Day of School (Very, very, very long)

(Tues 16 Aug)

We all survived and some of the minxes even enjoyed themselves!

We couldn’t have a normal First Day of Primary School in our household, oh no! It was first day of primary for Maxi Minx, first day of new nursery for Midi, first day of swimming lessons for both Midi and Mini and first swimming lesson in The Big Deep Pool for Maxi. It’s fair to say I felt a bit nervous beforehand. I mean, here was our timetable:

0900: Maxi start at primary
0940: be at swimming pool
1000: Midi and Mini start swimming lesson
1030 – 1100 if lucky: scream place down (all 3 of us) getting changed and out the swimming pool
1130: Midi lunch
1200: be out the door
1220: pick up Maxi
1230: drop off Midi
1300: Midi and Mini lnch
1440: be out the door
1500: pick up Midi
1600: Maxi swimming lesson
1700: get through door and get dinner on
1900: get the zoo in the bath
2000: big, big, big G&T or glass of vino


I ironed and hung and name-tagged Maxi’s entire uniform on Sunday so there was no mad rush. (And admittedly also like a madwoman, paranoid that anyone would nick my little girl’s £2 polo shirt from George at ASDA!) I knifed out a sliver off every pencil and biro’d her name on the flat wood bits. Not because they were valuable, but because my Dad did it for me when I was little, and because simple pencils ARE precious to 5 year old girls. I labelled every part of her water bottle and shoe bag. I even put a full water bottle in the fridge cooling overnight. Thinking ahead to the likely most chaotic bits, I got The Boss to make Midi a packed lunch that she could eat in the car if I was running late, and pulled out clothes for us all so I could minimise Morning Dither.

The Reality

The girls took it all in their stride – it was me who forgot the water bottle (doh! Cue one unscheduled run back to the school) and I even managed to squeeze in an online shop, fill the car with diesel and check of the tyres. And make a quick rhubarb crumble from scratch. I’m really smug about doing the extras. My, how my standards have fallen that I’m preening like a peacock over living through a fairly busy day and not losing any children!

Maxi’s Day

Child as Backpack

P1 with 'small' schoolbag that Maxi lusted after

Maxi admitted to feeling nervous beforehand, and she definitely has a propensity to hysterical anxiety. So I made sure we weren’t late, chatted about what it would be like and how she’d feel, and reminded her constantly that it was only a morning today. She stood by me quietly with her sisters, watching the other kids and half a thousand milling parents, as we waited in the playground. The bell went, we lined up. The poor wee thing panicked a little as she let go my hand in the line and marched into the school, so I followed her in. I wasn’t being an overanxious mother. Much. Some newbie mums went straight home, some newbie mums went in with their kids, other newbie mums got their partners to help carry in all their heavy photographic equipment…

Maxi stood with a crinkle in that smooth little forehead, happy that she’d found her peg, but unhappy at not having a school bag (why? For what?) or her water bottle (oops…). I guided her into the path of her new teacher, who swept her up and over to her new tray. She perked up the instant she saw that it was purple. I kissed her again, waved, and dragged a very quiet and overawed Midi out the room (Mini was on my back, sucking my hair, oblivious to everything except the flavour of my new shampoo).

Maxi didn’t tell me much of her day when I picked her up at 1220hrs, just that it was ‘really good’. She ate her lunch while I tried to settle Mini in a nap (fail. Obviously Madam prefers to sleep on her mummy’s back) and just wanted to watch CBeebies rather than do anything active (!) during the hour we had nothing to do before picking up Midi.

Eavesdropping on her phonecall to her Grandma later, I discovered that she had sat in a circle and when she was passed Little Ted to hold, she said what her name was and how she was feeling (“Very happy because I’m wearing my new watch today” – that’s my girl! We bought her a pink Timex from Argos to make a big deal of starting school, The Boss scratched her name on the back, and she’s as proud as punch of it). She only drew 3 pictures (that’s her normal hourly output – at nursery she did over 10 most days), and her teacher reported her as saying that the only (!) thing she wasn’t good at was the computer. Her P7 buddy is called Begonia (her name is Naomi and she’s an incredibly confident and kind 10 year old who’ll buddy Maxi all year, and who gave me a very professional handover at lunchtime: “Maxi has had a lovely day and enjoyed playing on the chute most of all at playtime”. Cripes!)

Maxi had also been very apprehensive about swimming lessons in the Big Pool – she burst into tears when she passed her last assessment and was told her new block of lessons were to be in the Big Pool. I took her swimming during the 6 week summer break just to keep her skills reasonably fresh, but as she didn’t swim properly (though we had a lot of fun!) I wouldn’t let her in the Big Pool. A week down south and me being ill stopped us doing much more, so I sent her and The Boss to the pool over the weekend and they had fun in the Big Pool. I’m glad – she was very hesitant during today’s lesson.

We were a few minutes early (!), so poor Maxi sat and shivered on an empty bench, all by herself, hoping she was in the right place. I guess Mummy and 2 sisters waving madly from 20 feet away doesn’t help when you’re feeling awkward. After an eternity of 5 minutes, the bench filled up with 5 other kids; they met the new swimming coach, and off they marched to the pool. Poor Maxi wasn’t too happy, but unlike her normal Give Up At The First Big Hurdle, she showed some proper tenacity (my heart burst with pride) and kept on ploughing up the pool after every safety/reassurance stop. She didn’t feel confident enough to jump in at the deep end solo, but wanted to hold onto the coach’s stick. I regaled the poor thing with tales of our week’s holiday in Cyprus when Midi Minx was just a 4 month old embryo in my tummy, and a baby Maxi would continually leap into the hotel swimming pool whether there was a waiting parent there or not! How times change! Still, I waved and gave huge Embarrassing Mum signs (thumbs held aloft for far too long, and both of them) to encourage her, and it really lifted my baby’s spirits.

As a treat to us both, I gave her her bath tonight and blow-dried her hair. Normally this is The Boss’s job, but he’s very rough with her hair. We had such a lovely giggle. It was easy to make her laugh tonight as she has my puerile sense of humour – we discussed ways of keeping her hair out of her bum when going to the toilet. Maxi’s hair really is a sight – honey, ash, yellow, brown, white, gold tresses as thick as any head of hair I’ve ever seen. When wet, her hair reaches down her back, over her bum, and one inch onto her leg: no wonder she’s started singing Rapunzel’s song from ‘Tangled’! Hair finally dried and in a loose plait, she cuddled into me and declared that she loved me most of all, but would tell Daddy she loved us just the same, so his feelings wouldn’t be hurt. !! That big hug, for me, just capped my day too.

Midi’s Day

 Although she’s only starting a new nursery (class within Maxi’s primary school) for 5 half-days, Midi wanted to be in uniform too. With ASDA George uniform being so cheap and (to my eyes) so pretty, I figure she might as well trash a uniform as normal clothes. So Midi skipped to school with her big sister in an identical pinafore, but with a bright blouse underneath. She likes to know The Plan and be updated with the Next Step just before it happens, so she was fine about dropping Maxi off and then nipping in to the swimming pool because we’d verbally rehearsed it again and again.

At the pool, I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go and felt very first-day-at-school myself, but at least I’ve learned how to ask for help in the 25 years since I left school instead of just watching and waiting and inwardly panicking. As the other 2 kids in the class didn’t show up, Midi and Mini had just me and Nic the teacher (who taught Maxi to swim) and the entire learner pool to themselves! And oh my word, how they loved it! Midi is a confident little girl and revelled and glowed in the individual attention of an adult. She had no problem doing any of the moves (designed to build water confidence, which she already has), spent the entire half-hour giggling, and happily launched herself off the little water slide again and again.

Predictably, Mini went apoplectic in the showers afterwards. She screamed when I took her out; she screamed when I cuddled her; she screamed when I took her swimming costume off; she screamed when I showered her; she screamed most of all when I put her on the ground to deal with Midi in the shower (and don’t look at me like that, Mrs Fellow Showerer – if I didn’t put her down to deal with Midi’s hair properly, Midi would have legged it and been out to the car park before you could blink. It’s happened before. My baby’s crying hurts my heart a hell of a lot more than it hurts yours, trust me. So don’t look at me like that or I might turn all cornered lioness on your sculpted butt). Oh yeah, and Mini screamed as I wrapped her in the soft fluffy dressing gown I brought to keep her extra warm.

And that’s where Midi won You-Amazing-Girl, Best Big Sister award – she wriggled so she could climb up on the bench and poke up behind the baby change unit, and sang and chatted to Mini. Little Miss Busta Lung suddenly started cooing and giggling at her favourite person in the whole world (hint: that person is not me). As a result, she was dried and dressed in a few minutes, botch-taped strapped to her buggy and smiling, while me and Midi hurried into our clothes. This had been the bit I was most dreading about the day (I expected both to howl and both to leg it on opposite directions the minute I let go of them), so I was almost on my knees in gratitude to my 3 year old.

Midi polished off lunch in the car home (1100hrs) and happily posed for more First Day at School photos in the garden. She skipped merrily all the way down the hill to the school. She smiled at her big sister and held my hand cheerfully in the playground. Her eyes got bigger and bigger as we waited in line to go in, and she called out hello to her new friends, made in last term’s single hour visit. Her little face lit up when she got her name sticker on her chest. I kissed her, wished her a fun afternoon, turned to go… and had a limpet attached to my ankle. She wasn’t happy to see me go at all. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I felt hellish just going, but the staff had asked that we do this, and I remembered from last year that it really was best just to go. I peeped through the window a few minutes later and she was still cuddling her teacher…

Still, when I picked her up at 1500hrs, she said how much she’d loved her day. She couldn’t remember what or whether she’d had a snack, who she’d played with or what she’d done, but she assured me it was ‘great!’

Whatever she did, I guess it was active – she was a little monster at Maxi’s swimming lesson, tormenting both sisters, rolling around the wet floor kicking the baby’s buggy, biting hell out her dolly. No surprise that she fell asleep on the way home and roused only briefly after dinner. She came down around 2200hrs insisting she was hungry, and enjoyed a late-night dinner and chat with The Boss. I wonder if she did it on purpose? Minxy!

Mini’s Day

Lovely snuggles on Mummy’s back in the sling, most of the day – heaven!

I was pretty apprehensive about her swimming, but was very aware that she’d had less time at the pool than her sisters at the same age, so decided to Man Up and get the little blighter into the water together.

Predictably, Mini was fearful at first and clung on to me tighter than I’ve ever felt my strong baby cling, like I was dangling her over a clifftop. As she watched Midi screech and giggle and splash around the empty pool, and as she realised I wasn’t going to drop her, she loosened up a little. As she discovered all the praise and smiles and cuddles she got from 2 adults and her sister for doing different things, she soon got into the swing of it. She even took to being submerged briefly. I was amazed at how well she clung to the side when I put her there. And I did leak a little tear (2nd one of the day – do I really need to tell you that I welled-up at baby Maxi going in to school?!) at her jumping into the pool, into my arms, with a face-splitting grin.

And Another Thing

…And another thing, why are Marks & Spencers school skirts so bloody short? I had to buy my 110cm tall 5 year old skirts in age 7 and pull them right in at the waist to get any to even reach her knee-caps. I’m not impressed.

Day Out With Maxi

Well, I finally went to bed around 2am this morning after hitting the ‘scholarly articles’ on ticks, Lyme disease and other nasties. I slept ok, given that I had some nightmares about one very graphically described study, checking the likelihood of passing Lyme on to mice compared to how long ticks were attached. Still, the study left me feeling very reassured that the chances of Maxi catching anything from a 7hr-attached adult female tick (female, cos the ugly brute was huuuuuuge, but not engorged) were just tiny. She’s far more at risk from all the dog-poo on teh paths round here.

Anyway, I remember checking the clock at 0230hrs. Then again at 0500hrs: Midi Minx stood wailing at the side of my bed. After a few weeks of being dry at night again, she’d wet the bed. The Boss sorted out her bed while I hosed her down, got her in dry clothes and settled her down. As Midi continued to wail, Mini Minx set up a big howl. I thought she was just jealous of me cuddling Midi – she’s going through a phase of screeching and hauling at her sisters if they dare to come to me for a hug (Mummy’s lap is MINE ALONE, she roars). I couldn’t settle her, so The Boss suggested I check her nappy (yeah, despite 3 kids, lack of sleep stops you thinking). Sure enough, she’d pooed so much she’d leaked all round her nappy legs, nappy back, nappy top, through PJs and sleeping bag. I can’t shake off this virus, hence why I couldn’t smell it.  Bleeeeeeee! Alas, the lukewarm water left over from Midi’s shower was gone, so Mini got cleaned down with cold water. I reckon you could hear her screams down at the harbour. After The Boss cleaned her up, she came to me for a cuddle and wouldn’t let go, like a little tick (hehehehehe!). So I let her sleep with us. While she thrashed around trying to get comfy, Midi came in for a cuddle and was distraught at my arms being full of baby. So she snuggled into The Boss and they quickly fell asleep. Around 0800hrs I finally fell asleep for an hour.

Although I looked somewhat more haggard than usual, I’d been promising Maxi a mother-daughter visit to town this past week, so tanked up on coffee and attacked the shops. She was a brilliant shop-friend, finding nice clothes in my size (! I detest clothes shopping, but I’ve recently dropped 2 clothes sizes, so needs-must) and cooing how beautiful I was. I mean, how could that not be fun?! We had a good blether, bought hairbands and bobbles for her and her sisters, then went swimming.

As we’d started late, it was just after 1300hrs, so we had a chocolate donut and an apple juice each (“So we don’t fight over it”, Maxi commented) before we hit the water. We spent an hour in the kids pool with Maxi relearning how to swim. Her right arm seems disconnected from the rest of her: she can remember how to do back-stroke and front crawl with each individual limb, and up to 3 going at once, but move her right arm with anything else and she stops and sinks. Doh! She wasn’t impressed at me refusing to let her go into the big pool until I was happy she could swim herself, but hey-ho. So we played with the cutes and the big floats and generally had a laugh.

After an hour, we hit the showers, when she laughed so hard she nearly peed herself, and I showed how tired I really was: I used rich, heavy body moisturiser instead of shower gel. I rubbed in a good double handful, mildly mystified as to why it wasn’t lathering. I think my new cozzie is now dead forever…

As a special treat, we went to Scribbles for lunch (! It was 15oohrs!) afterwards. Maxi chose calzone and a huge chocolate milkshake (pizza-pie) and I had my standard beef chilli melt, the meal that I think baby Mini was built on. Idly chatting, Maxi suddenly broke off with a very teenage, “Oh my God! Listen! It’s my favourite song! By Katie Perry! It’s… it’s… “Baby You’re a Firework!” I did snigger a bit.

Maxi got a piggy-back back to the car as a special treat, quick blitz at Tescos (failed utterly to find a replacement Vileda broom-head, and it feels stupid to buy an entirely new broom), then home in time for tea (Maxi’s favourite – sausages!) and to eat the biscuits The Boss had baked with Midi.

The bit had that me laughing for the rest of the evening, though, was at the Tesco check-out. Maxi was waggling around her shopping list, blethering on to the cashier about how she wanted a paper hat made out of it. He admitted to making paper aeroplanes for his kids, but couldn’t do anything else. We looked down adn Maxi had made a perfect paper hat out my crumpled list and cheekily perched it on her head. I was speechless, the cashier’s jaw dropped. “I’d no idea you could make paper hats – who taught you?” I asked. Maxi shrugged. Minx!