Happy New 2019!

Well hello, hello, long time no see! Happy New Year! How have you been? Are you glad to see the back of 2018? Looking forward to 2019? Or just quietly accepting the turn of the year?

I’m not even going to pretend that this post marks more regular blogging from me. With 2 pubescent daughters who veto every post and photo (quite rightly!) it doesn’t give me a lot to talk or rant about. And I’m being kept busy with the minxes, Killer Cat, The Boss and 8 (yep, eight) part-time jobs. Lots of juggling. But it keeps me out of trouble.

I wish it kept the youngest pair out of trouble. Poor Midi came down with a very sore throat late on 30th December. She spent most of yesterday in bed or in a big nest of duvet and pillows on the sofa. For the first time in 5 years she’s not dressed up and bounded around at the bells. She managed half a cocktail sausage at midnight, and that was only to try to put some food in her stomach so she could take ibuprofen. This morning I’ve got another wee soldier down – Mini. As they’re getting so old, now, I doled out liquid paracetamol to the pair of them and bang, there’s another brown bottle emptied for the bottle bank and the judgey-judgey clattering of the glass cascade.

Wee Mini blinked up at me: “Mummy, I’ve got such a sore head!”

“Ah,” I said, trying to make light of it, “You’ve either got what Midi has or you’re hungover. Did you drink any alcohol last night?”

“Yes”, she replied, to my open-mouthed stare. “I had a whisky chocolate”.

Poor wee thing! I hope your New Year is a healthy and optimistic one, and if it’s not, that it becomes so.

bee and allium

The Untold Tale

The Untold Tale

… behind a photograph.

I posted this snapshot of Midi on my Instagram feed this afternoon, and attached the usual proud mum strapline:

Rainy day baking. 7 yo Midi made these buns all by herself #homemade #baking #currantbuns #clevergirl #delicious

So far so nauseatingly cute, yes? Well, you know me and the minxes very well by now, and you’re not taken in at all – you know fine that there’s a background, unspoken story:

The kids have been driving each other up the wall all day. All. Day. Long. I’m a bit short on tolerance because I’ve had maybe 4 hours sleep, one of those completely unbroken (go me!) thanks to a tickly cough I picked up from Germ Vector 2, who’s been kissing boys again. Boys with coughs. So now the whole family is hacking away at night. Hey, I have no dignity, here’s how bad it is: I’m drinking hot liquid all day long to quell the tickle, so have to pee constantly because if I cough more than 10 times in any one long hacking bout, even if I have a totally empty bladder, then I end up with wet pants; my head throbs from my little brain rattling against my skull all day and all night; my stomach hurts (ripped a muscle again – I can see it doming when I cough); my chest hurts; my throat feels raw; I croak; I can’t breathe deeply or talk or laugh or else I cough. And then I can’t breathe at all. Joy…

So. I’m really not in the mood for any nonsense, or much of anything at all. They won’t watch tv or DVDs without bickering over the channel or the volume. They won’t read their enormous stack of library books. They won’t play together, whether nicely or not. All they want to do is scatter Lego over every square inch of carpet or floor, and torment each other in a competition to see who can make Maxi howl or Mini screech the loudest.

I tried distracting them with a bit of compost, some seeds and baby spider plants that need potted. But that involved going out to the garage for 28 seconds. After about 23 seconds, Mini raced out the house screaming about Maxi, Maxi was trying to drown her out with her own complaints, and Midi was just chanting something incoherent, just for the sheer hell of it.

Eventually I needed cake. Either that, or my bleeding ears were going to make me abandon them to a feral life of eating cat kibble from Killer Cat’s bowl and making a living selling popping candy and sherbet dip-dabs. I had a cunning plan: Midi loves baking. I think it’s because she gets to use sharp knives. That child will choose the huge meat cleaver to delicately slice off a bit of butter to mix with sugar. Anyway, I dragged her (literally) off her elder sister to come and ‘bake with Mummy’. Silence reigned briefly until Mini and Maxi happily agreed on some music for the CD player (Justin Bieber. Dear God, have my ears not suffered enough?!). It didn’t take much persuading for Midi to merrily take over the baking – The Glasgow Cookery Book’s coffee buns, so-called because you eat them with coffee, not because there’s any coffee in them – and give me time to actually have a coffee while she made them entirely herself.

There was a 10 minute period of total silence while the girls troughed the buns, then it was back to the shrieking and whooping onslaught. Last time I checked on them they were jumping off tables and setting up rope ladders in the pitch dark, screaming about air ambulances rescuing injured rich skiers in a power cut. Surrounded by aliens.

With imaginations like theirs, I think tomorrow will have to be spent outdoors, bad cough or not. I’ll just have to break out the massive night-time maternity pads I found the other day. Meh. Pass the linctus

Minxes Think They Know Better

7 Nov 2015

“So, kids, who do you want to dress up as on Childhood Hero day at school this month?” I asked the minxes on the way home from school.

“Midi!” said Mini, straight off. She didn’t even check out her sister’s reaction. Awwww! She really, really idolises her. In fact, this evening we’ve just been treated to a half-hour tantrum because Midi refused to sleep close enough to Mini on the floor. On the floor. Floor. Yep, they’ve taken to making a nest out of blankets and a rug on the floor so they can snuggle up together (bunk beds obviously aren’t close enough). I swear Mini’s going through a phase of Separation Anxiety with her sister waaaaaay tougher than when she went through that with me when she was an infant. Perhaps I should feel jealous…?

Family Skywalker: Queen Amidala, Whining Luke, Princess Layabout and Darth Vader without the mask

Family Skywalker: Queen Amidala, Whining Luke, Princess Layabout and Darth Vader without the mask. Maxi (Harry Potter) took the photo

Dressing Up: we took the kids out guising at Hallowe’en last weekend. It was their first proper time, going from door to door. The Boss and I taught them guising etiquette (only knock once, only knock on the houses with lit pumpkins / porch lights / Hallowe’en decorations, have a decent joke or song ready to go without being asked, don’t be greedy).

We came across a great idea: one mum left a bowl of sweeties outside the door with a note saying, “Sorry, we’ve gone out – please help yourself to sweeties from the bowl”. It was such a great idea that I raced back to the house to do the same thing so I could stay out with the family. Well, I need to be there to complete the set, really, because we went as the Family Skywalker plus Harry Potter: Mini was her favourite film character, Queen Amidala; Mini was Whining Luke Skywalker; The Boss was Princess Layabout and I was Darth Vader (without the mask). Maxi of course was Harry Potter.

Don’t let the cute photo fool you – not 10 seconds before the photo was taken I truly lost my bananas and was a shrieking, cursing shrew with the kids messing around and The Boss not even being dressed.

I blame our morning for my bad temper: the kids had each won their respective age groups at the local library for the annual competition. They’d been invited to the shire prizegiving. Now, I know that the minxes won because they were the only entrants, so I was under no illusions that the prizegiving would result in any further prizes, but I decided to go: it was rare that all 3 could go, plus parents; it would definitely be a different kind of experience for them; there might be a nice wee buffet lunch in it. So I accepted before really looking at where it was. I check the night before. Ninety minutes drive away. Good grief, had I been starving hungry when I accepted, or something?! So we had to leave home at the crack of sparrows on a Saturday morning to find a high school on the other side of the county.

Well, we got there in time and piled into the auditorium. The minxes amused themselves by counting how many people were there – just shy of 200. Busy! They helped themselves to the offered juice carton and biscuit and settled down. The speeches started: a man did the obligatory Health and Safety Here Are Your Emergency Exits thing and introduced a representative from the sponsor. She gave a speech and introduced the next speaker. She spoke for a bit then introduced the next speaker… In the middle of 7 (seven!!) speakers, an author spoke for an hour entertainingly about his books, but I felt that his jokes were pitched at a different level than the average age of the audience – I’m 44 and I’m just old enough to understand references to the shower scene in Dallas. When the 7th speaker came on just to do a Vote of Thanks (what?!) I’d really had enough and felt like kicking the chair in front of me. The audience of 90-odd kids did wonderfully well sitting listening for nearly 2 hours, especially as most were under 10, and especially as the mini juice carton and plastic-wrapped cookie were our lot. The kids all got a goodie bag made up of the prizes they’d already won lots of during the summer reading challenge already.

I understood the goodie bag when I heard the intriguing fact that there were 90 entries to the competition across the county. Hmmmm… the prizegiving invitation was for each prize-winner plus an adult. The hall currently held just under 200 people. I let out a loud snigger – pretty much every single entrant to the competition had won a prize and was here. So there were probably lots of prizes leftover from the not-too-well-supported summer reading challenge. Ah…

Still, on the bright side, the kids got one up on me. They’d been banging on about how they might see F, a little girl they met while we were holidaying in Shetland who lived in the same county as us. “No, no”, I’d insisted: “F lives in a town the other side of the county. It’s a very big place with hundreds of thousands of people. It’s likely you won’t meet F again”. They all folded their arms and looked stubborn. Well, they DID meet F – she was one of the overall prizewinners of the competition! It was lovely watching all 4 girls catch up like they’d all known that they would someday soon. I guess us adults know nothing, eh?

The minxes drew them; The Boss carved them. I think they were really trying to test him this year

The minxes drew them; The Boss carved them. I think they were really trying to test him this year

Which takes me back to Mini wanting to dress up as Midi, her hero. The Boss and I discussed how we might do that. “Put her in one of Midi’s owl dresses”, he suggested. I wondered whether we could get some plastic insects and let her carry them. “Dress her up like an owl and cover her in flies?!” he summarised. Ehhhhh, no.

Owly Nature Girl was in the bath yesterday and came out nonchalantly, blethering away about something or other. Except she had a big house spider crawling all over her bony little chest. She strolled into the kitchen to see me, letting it scurry down her arm and over her hands before she’d return it to her shoulder. “This is Lucy”, she announced (she names all the insects that seem magically attracted to her hands).

“Welllll….”, I warned, “If you annoy Lucy she’ll give you a big nip that will feel like a wasp sting!” Mini winced (she got stung on the cheek last month, the poor wee soul; Midi is still hurt about being stung herself this time last year). Midi quickly shook off Lucy. I insisted the spider stay indoors so s/he could go find its family and live in peace under the floorboards or something. Midi was happy with that, and wandered off to find some poor unsuspecting Daddy Long Legs (aka Plinky-Plonks) to love to death instead.

In other news: Maxi is still being plagued with tonsillitis so took the day off with a quick visit to the nurse in the middle. I finally raised a metaphorical 2 fingers to the speed of her formal education and let her fly free a bit. I just asked her if she knew what density meant. She spent a happy hour discovering the relationships between area, volume, density, mass and weight. We discovered that none of my measuring jugs or scales are very accurate. She likes my analogies of spaceships filled with astronauts, kit, computers, servers, etc. (Don’t judge me. I needed more coffee).

Last night The Boss pulled out his copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (? I don’t know, I’ve not read them yet – I’ve just started Anne of Green Gables on Maxi’s recommendation. She read it aged 5. I’m finding that it’s influenced her character and mannerisms more heavily that I’d realised). He told Maxi she could read it this weekend. So after a late lunch (that she made herself – she astounded me at how capable she was!) she settled down for a bit of a long read at her book. It was just as well – you could tell when the paracetamol was wearing off as she got paler and paler.

Maxi now also has a date for her initial ASD assessment. I’m still not very sure what it’ll involve, but I’m hoping it’ll include a check of the state of her mental health – this week’s shenanigans (not written about as promised to Maxi) have me more convinced than ever that she’s depressed enough to need actual, concrete help from outside the family. Having a mother with a less sharp tongue would also work wonders for her, too, I’m sure.

Anniversary Advice From a 7 yo

Anniversary Advice From a 7 yo

Talking of taking advice from a minx (Anne of Green Gables from Maxi – see above), Midi offered me encouragement and advice on my marriage on mine and The Boss’s 10th wedding anniversary. It’s now on display alongside the gold star trophy award I gave him for putting up with me so long.

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…

The Trouble With Theme Days

Day 10 of the school summer holidays and the total injuries tally is growing: by Monday the minxes had used 4 plasters, 5 steri-strips and half a bottle of calpol.

We managed 2 wonderful days in Legoland without real incident: a plaster, bit of insect bite relief and poor Maxi’s tonsillitis kept in check with Strepsils and distraction. Pirate Falls fear was a pretty big distraction (she tried to climb out before the big drop. Luckily Grandma was ready and prevented catastrophe with a timely ‘tight hug’). For the rest of the visit to their grandparents’, Mini seemed hell-bent on gouging out most of the skin of her knees falling off bikes. I watched her: she tripped over fresh air!

Then yesterday (Monday) it was rainy, so I went for our usual favourite school holiday at-home day standby: a theme day. I decided on Pirate Day, inspired by the mountain of pirate dressing up clothes the kids had strewn over every vaguely flat surface in the living room on Sunday night.

They had a hoot! I made them seagull eggs and hacked-up pig (bacon and eggs), scunnered Midi by doing skull and crossbones for lunch (a plate with a face on it; baked beans at the head bit that I called brains; 2 fish fingers in a cross at the bottom; then a round bread roll that I said was the skull the brains came from), and let them craft daggers and swords and pirate bandannas with paper, card, tape and scissors. They called me Captain Mummy, I addressed them as Pirate, and we play-acted our way about the house and to the library. Midi swept the kitchen floor unbidden because I’d called her a scurvy swab. So she replied, “I’ll swab the decks then, Captain Mummy. Aye-aye!” What a girl! I started up batches of elderflower champagne and elderflower cordial with Maxi that we’d foraged for the day before, using the explanation that pirates made their own food and drink. Especially drink.

All 3 girls had been happily turning a huge cardboard box into a Viking longship (they think Vikings = cool pirates) and got distracted by something. I bet you can imagine the sheer level of mess in the living room. Well, little Mini trampled over that mess and trod on the sharp serrated edge of a sellotape dispenser and cut herself a deep flapper in the base of her big toe.

I don’t know who was more upset: Mini or a very distraught and guilty Midi who had left the tape dispenser out in the first place. They both needed one-armed Mummy Hugs and kisses while I pressed hard for maybe 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. Gosh, that child is a bleeder, just like her mammy and her grandad! Poor Maxi was very upset but kept away from the commotion and puddle of blood on the kitchen floor and instead whipped Mini up a beautiful, huge card with a cut-out loveheart and a very heartfelt get better soon message – the little love! I love how she’ll express her emotions in written words so quickly and lovingly when she feels she can’t say the right things aloud. Those girls don’t half needle each other, but they also adore one another with such a depth of love that it’s sometimes breathtaking.

Mini’s cut was maybe 5mm deep flap, and the entire way across below her toe pad. I swished with water, applied steri-strips and plasters, and we all snuggled and hugged for an hour on the settee over Back to the Future 2 for comfort.

I tried to rally them with a Pirate Dinner: rum (honey, water and a teeny bit of red food colouring in a washed-out Caorunn Gin bottle) – they hated it; raspberry jelly with chopped up dog (jelly made with fizzy water, and with leftover chopped up strawberry and apricots in it) – they hated that, too. I made cannons (tortilla wraps), cannon-balls (lamb mince kebabs), and cannon-shot (frozen peas, broccoli and yogurt and mint dressing) and that went down fairly ok. They were still a bit upset about their little sister.

Today (Tuesday), though, they definitely perked up when my own mood lightened: I soaked off Mini’s failing steri-strips, put 2 decent ones on and took her to see lovely Nurse Lynne for reassurance. She declared my cack-handed first aid job as very good (it wasn’t – she’s just very kind), she applied a ton more steri-strips and taught me some nifty techniques in plaster origami around toes. So Total Days In The Garrison Without Accident = 1, and the tallies are plasters 6, steri-strips 15, gauze bandage 1, calpol bottles 1 (Maxi’s tonsillitis is very painful, poor girl).

Distracting Mini while her steri strips soak off - true sisterly love

Distracting Mini while her steri strips soak off – true sisterly love

Today’s theme was France because (a) I had bought croissants as a huge treat in the online shop, and (b) it’s Bastille Day. So we had fruit, cheese, croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast; I taught the minxes some dodgy French in a Glaswegian accent; they decided to dress in red white and blue; they made girl figures and fashionable clothes (snigger!) out of Playdo, and they happily drew a thousand tricoleurs. Tonight’s dinner was my very first quiche lorraine made entirely from scratch, a french baton (not so great: I had to stop it proving in the fridge while we went to the nurse, then stick it in a warm oven to hurry it up) and some greenery. I think I’ll be making it again! Maxi complained that it was ‘quite eggy’. Ah…

My first quiche lorraine - easy, tasty and popular. And from the Glasgow Cookery Book..!

My first quiche lorraine – easy, tasty and popular. And from the Glasgow Cookery Book..!

And tomorrow’s theme? Oh me, I’m out of ideas. We’ll see. Staying Alive?

Cough-cough

More unpublished draft clearouts: this one’s from 23 January

Last night I went to bed early, feeling a bit meh. Now, the last couple of times I’ve done this I’ve fallen asleep near instantly, only to wake up 3 hours later and be incapable of falling asleep again. End result: more tired than before. So I was a little wary of hitting the sack before midnight.

Sure enough, I woke up after a couple of hours. But it wasn’t the power coming back on or That Blasted Cat or That Damn Dog next door: it was Maxi setting up a siren wail. Turned out the poor child had earache. So after administering paracetamol I took her into mine and The Boss’ bed. Just like when she was a toddler, she instantly claimed that space, making it her own with her squirms and wriggles and flailing limbs. After a bit, she decided she was too hot and wanted to go back to her own bed. That lasted half an hour, before she decided she really wasn’t too big to get Poorly Mummy Cuddles all night, and wriggled back in.

I woke in the morning feeling achy from the cold virus and from my eldest daughter’s thrashing around. My chest and throat were raw and hurt, so it was a morning of whispering and signing; the kids were delighted! Though intriguingly, they all started to whisper as well. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, but I think it was in empathy rather than mimicking me!

At 8.30am Maxi decided that despite being tired, she actually did feel well enough to go to school although her ear was starting to hurt again. Mini had a terribly wet cough and the eczema on her face had flared up something awful, and was unsure about whether she wanted to go to nursery or not. Midi was just Midi: desperate to get to school and cause some carnage! So I decided to walk the short, 2 minute walk to the playground to deliver Midi to school and think about the other pair. In that short time, though, Midi let out a bark, burst into tears and declared her throat raw. Maxi and Mini decided they really, really wanted to go to school.

So yeah, this morning I was that bad mother with the kids in a gaggle in front of the teachers, trying to decide who was staying and who was returning home with me. I felt doubly-bad: on Fridays I help out with art and craft things with the Junior class, so was letting their brilliant teacher down with minimal notice.

What I *should* have done was take all 3 home with me and had a pyjama day (hooray). Instead it was just me and Midi back at home. We went to my bed and watched TV till noon. If I’d felt a little better it would have been fun!

Muddy McMud of the Clan McMud

Just another unpublished draft, from May 16. Photos to appear later:

For a fat lass, I can’t half shift some dirt with a spade..!

The original plan today was to head off for a long exploratory walk past Ballater. But after spending the last week doing some vigorous sport every single day for a week, 2 of the minxes are nursing injuries (calf and knee). The last outdoor epic was a little too recent for my taste, so I decided to cancel the plan, despite The Boss’s sulking. Still, he happily dived into the alternative plan, which was plonk the 2 injured kids and Nurse Minx in front of a DVD and race around the house and garden Getting Stuff Done.

Yes, I suppose this is a bit of a boast, but it’s also me feeling satisfied at how much we can achieve when we don’t have littlies tying us up.

I dug a neat 4 x 4ft hole in the front lawn, pausing occasionally to let a male blackbird fill his beak with the worms I’d unearthed. He came back and forth 4 or 5 times in an hour, so I guess his little hatchlings are as hungry as my minxes! I placed all the turf-cuts upside down in a separate 4 x 4ft raised bed I need to rough-fill before I add compost.

I also collected all the stones, pebbles and cobbles from the layer of turf I removed, gave them a wash and put them on the little herb bed I’ve made round the back. I’m finding that changing my perspective about the stones has really helped: at first I felt angry at the sheer tonnage of stones in the ground and how difficult they made digging it. Now that I can see how pretty they are when clean, and how great they look as a mulch on the herb bed, and that each bucket-load is saving me an absolute fortune in decorative stones from the garden centre… well, I feel delighted now with each ‘clunk’ of the spade on another rock.

Finally, I malletted in the wooden frame that The Boss made weeks ago. It’ll be painted purple when the rain’s going to hold off reliably (July?!) and because it’s so exposed will probably be planted with little lettuces, radish, etc., whereas the broad beans, peas, squash and brussels sprouts I’ve got growing on the patio in toilet roll tubes will be in the deeper bed, over in the sheltered corner.

That lot took 90 minutes. Blimey, I’m getting faster!

The wind stayed high all day and I thought about the little sunken bed I’d made, and whether any plants would ever grow there. Maxi and I talked about her Cub Scout campfire and how much fun it was toasting marshmallows. The Boss and I bemoaned the fact that we appear to be incapable of lighting neither camp- nor house-fire together, blaming each other’s ineptitude. So one thing led to another, and I decided to set myself the challenge of building a marshmallow-toasting fire in the new raised bed.

I did blog about that successful wee fire elsewhere (Little Trekkers Ambassadors blog), but I’m not sure I clearly got across how amazed The Boss and I were at the bloody thing getting going at all! I am now Trout of the Hearth Flame, and feel the need to set fire to everything. Those minxes had better tidy their bedrooms sometime very soon…

Paint a Red Cross on the Door and Be Done With It!

Nooooo! Not the bleach! Anything but the bleach!

Nooooo! Not the bleach! Anything but the bleach!

Oh, I do love the mingling aromas of bleach and dinner in the evening!

Poor Maxi is ill. She started having smelly eggy burps and raging halitosis again yesterday, so I checked her throat – she’s got tonsilitis again, for the 2nd time this year. Liquid paracetamol seemed to be managing it. I saw her playing rounders outside when I picked Mini up from nursery before lunch. She waved weakly at me, ashen-faced. I hung around to watch, not because I’m interested in the kids’ sports class or their young teacher, but because she looked quite ill. Sure enough, 5 mins later, she asked to be excused back indoors. I agreed with her teacher that she could have lunch and see how she felt, and assured him I’d nip round in 2 minutes flat to pick her up if he called.

I waited for the call. No call. So Mini and I spent a lovely sunny afternoon doing gardening: I’d picked up some dinky metal buckets and herb seeds when I raced round the supermarket this morning (Supermarket! Without Mini? However did I manage without my little shopping buddy?! But it was so I could pick up one of her birthday presents unseen. A pink and purple Furby. It’ll be friends with Midi’s rainbow Furby. Three kids, 1 cat and 2 Furbys… I must be mad). Anyway, Mini had fun dunking the compost tablets in water and watching them whoosh up in seconds to fill the pot. She loved scooping up the compost and twirling the seeds on the top, especially when I said not to worry about the mess. She looked at me like I’d been possessed, then gleefully chucked a bit of compost at the cat.

Then in a fit of bravado, I decided to finally plant the tulip bulbs, outside in the howling gale. Forty of them. Yeah, the ones that should have been planted in autumn. Oops… Well, I’ve been enjoying counting all the little daffodil buds poking through the soil by the fence and in pots every day just as much as the minxes have. And we only planted them last month!

So, to work. Maxi and I had dug out the turf and a round tonne of rocks and boulders from a little 8 x 4ft patch in the back garden at the weekend. It’s one of those annoying patches that are really annoying to mow, and that no-one wants to play on because of the horrible, aggressive, yappy dog next door barking and salivating through the gaps in the fence at us.

I found some weed membrane and fought with 30m of that stuff flagging the air in the blustery gale. Mini and I managed to haul it down from roof-height and lay it roughly over the bare soil. I pinned it down with scrubby pot plants, boulders and a big old hexagon of wood that The Boss had made 2 years ago in a bid to build a climbing frame for the minxes (and that’s stood by the oil tank going grey for the past year). It would make a fine flower bed border. Mini and I dug and planted those bulbs (maybe a third looked ok, a third looked iffy and the remainder had blue mould on them), then shook some creeping thyme seeds over the top. I don’t care that it’s far too early to plant them – the packet said Sow By Year Ending 2009. Oops again… I have plans to plant herbs and strawberries all around the border, through the membrane, but that’ll be when the temperature is high enough for me to take the winter tyres off the car.

We just had time to water the hexagon bed, chuck everything into the wheelbarrow and wash hands before racing off to pick up the other minxes from school. Maxi came out of school looking pale and sad and burst into tears as I hugged her. Her teacher said she’d been complaining of tummy ache and a sore throat. Poor wee mite! She’s rarely ill and even then doesn’t complain much.

So I cancelled swimming classes yet again, parked Midi and Mini in front of the electrical babysitter with hot chocolate and marshmallows, then gave Maxi a big deep bubble bath. I’ve never seen an 8 yo enjoy a bath so much! She played with the bubbles like a toddler, and floated around in the quiet for half an hour while I got on with laundry, picking up discarded jackets and shoes, emptying schoolbags and asking how her day went. (She’d had her second double-bass lesson over lunch break. She’s called the instrument Brian and it’s bigger than she is. She’s so cool and she doesn’t realise it!). I washed and conditioned her beautiful hair, washed and dried her like she was a wee girl, trimmed her toenails, gave her Lovely Strokes (massaged her skin with moisturiser) then blow-dried her hair. She had a bit more colour in her cheeks and sighed with pleasure at all the gentle, quiet pampering. I made her a little nest on the sofa with cushions and blankets, parked a water bottle beside her, shooed away her fussing sisters who suddenly wanted to kiss her, then got on with making the monthly cauldron of bolognaise sauce.

I got as far as chopping onions when I heard a gurgling wail – Maxi had raced to the bathroom, catching her vomit en-route. The poor kid was stood at the sink, holding her Bagpuss in one hand, vomit in the other, balancing on one foot – the hand hadn’t been enough, she’d really needed a bucket, so it was *everywhere*). She was distraught at fragging her Bagpuss and her clean PJs that had been on for 9 whole minutes. I gave her a quick clean up and a hug, parked her back on the sofa with a big bucket, fresh water and different teddy, got Bagpuss into the washing machine and scrubbed the bathroom and hall.

Maxi barfed again later, so I guess that’s her confined to quarters for the next 48 hours and me cancelling a stack of appointments. Och well. So long as no-one else catches it! Midi had the vomiting virus a couple of weeks ago and my washing machine was on without a pause for 36 hours. A whole day and a half. Well, when you projectile vomit from the top of a bunk-bed, there’s an awful, awful lot of collateral damage…

Maxi’s now asleep on the sofa, spooning Killer Cat who is purring away contentedly. I’m fairly sure that the cat’s bucket of nails for a brain works fast enough so she’ll leap away if Maxi throws up in her general direction…?

Mini the Uber Minx

Today was brought to me by the word: “groggy”.

Mini Minx had had a nightmare and crawled into my bed for comfort. I don’t mind that at all, and am glad to be able to cuddle away her bad dreams. I do mind, however, when she spends the rest of the night whirling round and round like a Catherine wheel on my left, while The Boss makes a cocoon for himself out of the duvet on the right. They slept soundly; I didn’t.

When I picked Mini up from nursery, she’d made me a Valentine’s card with both “I love you” and her name chalked inside in pink, and about a million red sticker hearts pasted on the front. And she’d made her daily portrait of me in spatter-paints. Awwwwww! Melts my heart every single time. I suspect, though, that it’s because my purple hair is an easy thing to draw with the materials available to her; browny-gray would be far more difficult with standard issue nursery paints.

Anyway, we hung around the library attached to the school and I read her a quick story before it was time to pick up her sisters for a now-rare Home Lunch. I think Mini must have been as tired as me, because after the short walk home she lay on the floor like an Egyptian mummy with her arms folded, chin out, bottom lip out, and refused to sit up at table. She got short shrift from me – I’d gone all out to make Maxi’s favourite lunch: feta, garlic and oregano baked inside a half red pepper each, resting on a bowl of fried leftover rice and a ton of peas, with a drop of soy sauce, and apple juice as a treat to wash away the garlic taste. Mini tried to eat her pepper-half like toast. When I objected to her table manners, she stropped and whined and tantrummed, eventually giving in and asking me to cut it up for her. When I did, she snarled thank you, then pushed the bowl hard to the other side of the table with a pout. I told her she’d get no other food till dinner time, so to think carefully before she threw it away. She flounced off with her nose in the air, to go and torment her sisters (allegedly biting. Again. Makes my blood boil).

After dropping off Midi and Maxi at school, me and Mini had an exciting (!) afternoon of fighting with 3 beds, stripping and replacing all the bed-linen. What a wonderful opportunity for another tantrum! This one was because I refused to get her summer duvet cover out of the box in the garage (aye, that one under the other 788 boxes) and magically wash and dry it instantaneously for her to use.

By the time we’d done the return walk to school to pick up her sisters at 3.15pm, Mini was in a foul mood: hitting, snarling, whining, pulling toys off her sisters, grabbing their homework. When she smacked at me for scolding her, I bent down and eyeballed my bratty 4 yo:

Me: “Mini, you can’t keep biting your sisters and hitting me! It’s naughty and I’m not having it! No more bratty behaviour! I don’t do tantrums; never have. Stop it!”

Mini pulled away and sighed melodramatically: “But it’s soooo hard being good…”.

I might have smirked a bit…

I see your exasperation and I raise you 2 finger-bogeys. I win!

I see your exasperation and I raise you 2 finger-bogeys. I win!

On a cooking roll, I made Korean slow-cooker beef, with rhubarb and semolina cake. Not together. Obviously. Beef cake would be hideous. Beefcake, on the other hand… Speaking of which, The Boss’s stomach was in ecstasy eating that lot, mine was pretty happy, Midi thought it was just a little snack-ette, Maxi refused it all (pale, complaining of sore tummy, was shortly thereafter showered, hugged and in bed), and Mini used it as yet another opportunity to establish her will.

“It too spicy! It burning my whole mouth off!” she roared. Trust me: this girl eats garlic with most meals, so a 2-clove garlic meal, with half a tiny chili and a single thumb of ginger divided 5 ways is definitely not too spicy. She stropped when she realised we were serious that she had to eat at least all her beef and all the veg before she could have some of the cake she’d baked with me. Poorly Maxi was already tucked up in bed before Mini quickly relented at her final chance to eat cake before it was packed away in the fridge for the night.

I didn’t get a chance to scold her some more, though – Maxi had a sudden meltdown over knocking over a little blue pot of mine that used to hold my paintbrushes nearly 20 years ago. It fell off her shelf, boinked on her head, and smashed on her bedhead. I explained that I’d much rather the pot was smashed than her little head, and that I wasn’t angry (Jeezo, just the opposite: I’m desperate to do some major decluttering, but need to wait till they’re all out the house to sneak it out to the 2-week quarantine of the Cooling Off Area in the garage). Still, this was a disaster of the worst kind to my little 8 yo. I suspect a lot of it was because she felt ill, and perhaps some delayed reaction from last week: half her class were away for a few days on a trip, and the break in routine disturbed her enormously. We’d talked about it and anticipated it, but it still upset and unsettled her while they were away and over the weekend. Maybe the resumption of normality with their return today hit her hard, too? I don’t know. It’s easy to just say she’s being a Drama Queen, but I’m starting to spot that most of these wailing sessions tend to have triggers.

So, anyway, after all that I was really looking forward to a precious one-hour of knitting in front of Broadchurch tonight. Mini had other ideas. She kept running in and out, wanting her dolly tucked up, herself tucked up, her dolly dressed in a blanket like a toga; no, like a dress; no, like a sarong. She’s pretty astute about knowing just when I’m about to blow my lid, and usually picks that time to announce “Mummy, I love you allawaytoamoo nanback, hundred time” (Mummy, I love you all the way to the moon and back a hundred times). Anticipating it, I kissed her and said:

Me: “Good night, Mini! Last time! Bed!! I love you all the way to the moon and back a hundred times”.

Mini: “I love you more” (coquettish smile)

Me: “No, I love you more. To the moon and back the long way, infinite times”

Mini: “No, I love you more – I love you all the way to South Africa!”

Well, by golly, that is a very long way indeed. What a lucky mummy I am!

Cutie Pie

It’s winter, so I’m on a massive bake- and preserve-athon. Every year I say I won’t do it, and every year my greed overrules my mind.

It was all the fault of my local farm shop, What’s For Tea Tonight? Marie, the owner, had made a beautiful display of seville oranges and lemons that tempted me from their huge basket, backed with printouts of a good recipe for marmalade.

“Oh, go on”, I crumbled, “I’ll just have a cheeky wee 700g of oranges”.

That made 5 jars-worth of marmalade. As it always does, the heavenly smell of the marmalade cut through the stuffiness of the indoors-smell all houses seem to fill up with in winter. It also cut through a horrible cold I have. And after 6 years of making it every January, I finally made a fairly epic-free batch of marmalade that set, without chopping bits off my fingers, burning anything, spilling anything, setting fire to anything, swearing at the jam thermometer, smashing the set-testing saucer, etc. etc. So I had to make some more! I meant to make red grapefruit marmalade, because 1 big fruit makes 2 neat jars, but with one thing and another I ended up making citrus marmalade: red and pink grapefruit, lemon and blood orange. It ended up quite gently set, but oh my word, it’s a good batch! 5 jars again, and beautifully tangy and aromatic.

So then that set off my cravings for cupcakes. I’ve been thinking of cupcakes a lot. I’d love

Your mother's hungry - better ice another 20

Your mother’s hungry – better ice another 20

to teach the nursery kids more cake recipes, but am sticking to the brief of mostly going for healthy recipes. So I’m fantasizing a lot about really unhealthy, dirty, stuff-em-in-your-cakehole cupcakes. I baked 2 batches of peanut butter cupcakes last week alone. The Boss and the minxes made a fairly runny nutella icing that was far too sweet and sickly for the gorgeous cupcakes. It didn’t satisfy the craving at all, so I had to make another batch so I could try a dark fudge thick icing. Oh yes, lots better!

With my cold not shifting and growing into a horrible cold sore, I sulked and so me and Mini baked a big clootie dumpling yesterday. It’s perfect for baking with children because it’s literally measure out a long list of dry ingredients into a bowl, mix them all together, then bind them with milk, bung in a muslin, then boil for 5 hours. The dumpling swelled to about double its original size and was much lighter than it looks. I grated clementine peel into it instead of orange peel and the flavour really cuts through all the thick cinnamon and gingery spice. Delicious! We polished the lot off after dinner and lunch today, along with an entire vat of custard and cream.

cutie dumplingOh, and Mini’s christened it ‘Cutie Dumpling’ because she misheard ‘clootie’. I definitely prefer her version!

Next up in the kitchen will be some lemon and ginger marmalade and maybe another Delaware Pudding (I’m seeing that suet is featuring highly in my cravings right now…). Before I do, are there any recipes you fancy sharing with me or getting?