Monday Morning Holiday Blues – Not!

Monday 4 April: Day 3 of the Easter Holidays

After a very eventful weekend abandoning the tent and then making the most of it, you’d think we’d sleep in on Monday morning back at home, still on holiday. Well, we probably WOULD have done, had The Boss not set his alarm clock to his normal 0645hrs. Meh!

We didn’t unpack because we still harboured hopes of grabbing the little 3-man tent and heading off for a night or 2 camping locally. In the meantime, we spoke again to Kim at Waren Mills campsite, scene of our tent catastrophe, and the lady who tried so hard to help us out at the time. She did an awful lot of to-ing and fro-ing and talking to other people on our behalf, out of the goodness of her heart. The end result is that our booking has been transferred entirely to another date. As we won’t be able to afford a replacement family tent anytime soon, she suggested we stay in one of their wigwams instead. Wow! I’ve never seriously considered glamping, but the prospect of being able to drive down to Northumberland after work on a Friday night, drop the sleeping bags in and get our heads down, and even have a kettle and fridge there, is just amazingly luxurious! We prefer to sleep in one big huddle anyway, so the one-big-bed approach is just perfect. Even better, we *will* get to explore that beautiful campsite and heavenly location after all – driving away on Saturday with the site and beach unexplored hurt so much.

So, I’ve gone from being distraught at losing lots of money with no holiday week to show for it, to now having a weekend in August to seriously look forward to. I absolutely cannot wait and The Boss and the minxes are very excited too. And all because someone at the campsite cares very much about how their customers feel. I’m looking forward to meeting her and saying thank you again in person.

On a high, then, we were inspired by the freezing cold rain and sleet outside to go swimming in our local pool. The minxes have swimming lessons there every week, and I’ve noticed finally (finally!) how independent they’ve become. Gone are my days of having to do absolutely everything for all 3 of them, and usually all at the same time. At worst, now, I just need to be on-hand to be an extra pair of hands juggling towels, wash-kit and clothes.

Cat in the Hat pink cat ring

Pink cat ring, from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr Seuss

I’ve not been swimming in over a year, so one 4-bladed razor head, a clogged drain and half a pound in hair later, and I was ready! My hair is currently bright red so I brought Midi’s fetching blue swim cap to avoid a Cat in the Hat pink bath ring around the pool. I looked like a blue baked bean. Still, I’m glad I wore it – after 15 minutes of fun, we were all ordered out of the little pool and told to shower with soap before going into the big pool. Someone had blown chunks and the vomit needed to be cleaned up. Poor soul and ewwww in equal measures!

Mini seriously impressed me. For the past 6 months I’ve not watched any of the girls swimming because of the timings of their lessons – I spend the entire time moving bags and kit from locker to locker and to and from each girl, and feeding them. Maxi goes straight to Cubs afterwards, too, so that’s a LOT of kit to juggle. Last time I saw Mini swim, she’d been moved back down from Level 3 swim lessons to Level 2 because she refused to get her face wet, even in the shower. So you can imagine my expression when I watched my baby girl happily doggy paddle on a swim-noodle by herself, happily chatting away to me through constant splashes and mouthfuls of water. What a girl! She even asked for help with her current terror: jumping into the pool herself. Channelling her tenacity for good – fantastic!

Midi has just moved from Level 4 to Level 5 (after around 2 years of trying hard); Maxi is still in Level 7. They happily rolled in the water, did handstands, showed their proud Daddy how many lengths they could swim, and generally had a brilliant time.

Me and The Boss? We got to bob around in the cool water, watching our offspring with pride. But the best bit? Getting out was an absolute breeze. Six solid years of weekly trauma shepherd’s crooking kids out of showers and ushering damp minxes around finally paid off. Have I got across to you yet how smug and satisfied that made me feel?! Crikey, we might even go swimming as a family again soon!

After swimming we did a quick and cheeky Lidl run for some savoury pastries from the in-store bakery, then a seriously big shop. The Boss and I finally accepted that the weather within a 4 hour drive of home was just not good enough for us to take little kids camping, so we had a home DVD evening, with homemade popcorn and Daddy’s super hotdogs (they’re super because they include a free onion-chopping and cooking lesson for the kids). Fun and free. Well, we’ve got to start saving those pennies for a replacement Vango next year.

Grumpy McGrump From the Land Grump

The Good

Essential item on The Trout’s list to Santa

Midi coughed at dinner and sprayed me and the wall and my food with a mouthful of snot-streaked milk. Mini rubbed her eczema-covered flaky face and hands over my jumper to scratch it, and left a few million flakes of skin on me, like a leper. Maxi howled over me after swimming, wailing that she’d failed her assessment because she’d not done half of it.

“I couldn’t hear what they asked me to do!” she wailed. Why not? “Because I was still halfway down the pool!”

Over a river of snot (hers) dribbling down my jacket, I repeated the monologue I give her every single week: if she’s too slow or distracted or absent-minded to do what they want her to do, in the time they give her, then she absolutely has not met the criteria to progress. There is no blame or fault. I will not ask her instructors to make allowances. They do not have to bend to her need to set off in her own sweet time, 3 minutes after everyone else.

I feel sorry for the poor child, as I’m only properly realising now that she honestly doesn’t have the ‘hurry’ or ‘time aware’ software uploaded in her brain that everyone else has, and also that I don’t have the skills to teach her. I just don’t. I’ve given up. It causes us all too much distress. I also fully understand the frustration and anger on the part of adults dealing with her in time-important situations. It’s easy for me to tell them that she’s not actually being selfish or precious or naughty, but it’s not easy for them (us!) to really, properly understand what’s going on in her head and cut her some slack.

The Bad

In tonight’s 30 minute journey from one small town on the east coast of Scotland to the next, I think I ran the gamut of the aggressive eejits who think the speed limit is a minimum limit. I ignored the white van towing a ride home on my rear bumper. I also restrained myself from shouting more than ‘Dickhead!’ at the moronic Jaguar driver who finally overtook, but on a solid white line in a known accident blackspot. I finally had a very petulant outburst at the BMW driver who tried to shunt me onto the dual carriageway, before he doubled-up in the central reservation and blocked my view out, then tried to undertake me on pulling off: I drove the remaining half-mile into town in 2nd gear, just for shits and giggles (mine). I wondered if the aggressive walrus would have a heart-attack? Obviously I hoped not. Ish.

I'll either send it to him as a Christmas present, or just use it as shower gel...

I’ll either send it to him as a Christmas present, or just use it as shower gel…

The Ugly

This morning I walked to the local shop with a pile of parcels to post. It was bitterly cold, but I took the time to look around at the beautiful winter sky. I watched a man open the main dog poo bin and remove the full poo bags with his BARE HANDS and sling them into the back of the Council wagon he was driving. While I repressed a bit of vomit, he drove past me and up to the shop, where he emptied their outdoor litter bins into his wagon, too, giving them a good old scoop out with his (still bare) hands. He then went into the shop, where he had a lovely big chat with the people in there. As I walked out, parcels posted, he made a joke that I stiffly replied to. “Awwwww, are you tired?” he chuckled and enveloped me in a big bear hug. He patted my jacket with his big rubbish- and dog-poo-touching hands. I detached, smiled that very icy smile that you need to have about 100 generations of British in your genes to properly do instead of punching someone in the face, marched home in a seething rage, and put the jacket straight in the washing machine. OCD? Maybe. But at least I can sleep tonight. Ewwwwww!

And that, children, is why we don’t touch our faces after shaking the hands of strange men. Or being shaken by strange, touchy-feely men.

Not a hand basin

Illegal Wave Riders

Just another unpublished draft:

May 9: I could really have done with a huge long-lie this morning – for once, no minx invaded my bed, no Killer Cat meowed me awake begging food at silly o’clock – but I had to go meet a man at his house to fill in a form to extend my PVG clearance (I’m now volunteering at a couple of places involving children a week; keeps me out of trouble and my beady eye on each of the minxes). While I did that, the minxes and The Boss hit a nearby coffee shop. The girls whispered round-eyed about the seesaw floorboard hidden under a carpet in the toilet, while The Boss muttered darkly about the whole place needing a good clean. I wouldn’t know: I only sat down long enough to trough a doughnut and a coffee (wannabe policewoman) to fuel me up for going swimming.

Well, I say swimming, but really I mean bobbing about in chlorinated water being splashed by the entire population of Aberdeen. Ach, it wasn’t that bad. Midi Minx has been squealing with excitement about going for a family splash around every few minutes since I told her our plans last night. Her sisters were just as excitable. And to be fair, when I looked back over today, my best bit was definitely watching all 3’s huge smiles at the pool, listening to Mini squealing with delight for the entire hour, and zooming down some flumes with Midi gripped between my knees.

Oh, those flumes were a hoot! It was Mini’s first time and she did exactly as she was told, sitting between me or The Boss’s knees, holding her breath when we told her to, lying back or sitting up more, and generally squealing her little head off. Midi is fearless in water, so she and I were most interested in going faster and faster. Maxi, however, bottled it each time. I think she wanted to sit at the top for half an hour and build up to going, but she just didn’t have that luxury. Not with The Entire Population of Aberdeen standing in line behind her… I got very impatient and led her away each time. I tried not to be angry, but found it hard to repress my exasperation. I’d described the flumes to her and let her watch the other kids popping out at the bottom and setting off at the top, explaining that I didn’t think she’d like them. After 4 or 5 failed attempts to go down, we abandoned the whole flume-going, and she howled in devastation.

We didn’t abandon the flumes because of Maxi, though. Oh no! One of the more vigilant pool attendants was doing her job, scolding and correcting some of the eejits messing around on the flumes. As Midi and I started to settle into our tucked, safe position, ready to go, the attendant checked me over and asked where my wristband was. I showed her the grubby orange rubber band I’d been given at the front desk. “No, no”, she said impatiently, “The other one. For the flumes”. I looked blank. She explained that you needed to pay extra for the flumes and I should have an additional wristband. Oops… I apologised immediately and jumped up to go, but she waved me and Midi down. I’m glad – that was the fastest ride yet! But I gathered up the troops when we got to the bottom, explaining that we’d been flume-riding illegally. The Boss hadn’t seen any notices about it either, but then, we are both chronically sleep-deprived…

To round off our Bad Parent day, we stopped for a McDonald’s on the way home. I felt grubby and soiled and dirty afterwards. Ish.

Standard Half-Term Rollercoaster

You're fooling no-one, Mini

You’re fooling no-one, Mini

Thursday was Day 1 of half-term. If the week continues like this, I’ll have aged a few decades before they go back to school.

It started really well with a playdate early on Thursday morning with one of Mini’s nursery friends and her little sister. The little sister is at that fantastic age when toddlers are becoming properly independent, able to walk where they want, use some words to express what they want, and in to absolutely everything. I say fantastic: it is to me, watching with reminiscing eyes and NOT the one with the sleepless nights, having to hover and Not.Blink.Not.Even.Once. Ha. I do remember and even blogged a bit about it… I guess this is what being a granny is going to feel like, but with the ‘affection’ feeling dialled right up into ‘unconditional love’.

The day got even better: a letter arrived addressed to me and The Boss from the school, telling us that Midi had gained 50 ClassDojo points*, that her teachers were very proud of her and that we should be as well. To reward her, she could come into school the next full day in whatever clothes she liked. Midi read it herself and literally bounced to the end of the house. I think she’s pleased… I’d thought they’d already made a big fuss of her for reaching 50 points: the whole of that day, she’d gotten to be first in every queue, her table were first to go anywhere, she got picked to be the one who did the weather chart, etc. etc. What a lovely thing to do! I suspect she is going to remember this achievement for the rest of her life!

After the world’s fastest lunch of fishfingers and beans (parp!), we got to swimming for Mini just in time, in our now-reliable car, and had a jolly old time while we waited on her lesson ending: I got to blether to my friend whose eldest daughter is in the same swimming class, and treated my eldest 2 minxes to crisps and fancy-pancy water.

So, you’d think they’d all be in a fairly good mood later that afternoon when we got home. Non. First, Midi was sat at the table, jabbering about someone (I wasn’t listening – I was mentally totting off a list of things to do for her birthday party on Sunday). Suddenly I heard the words “f**king w**ker” trip from the rosebud lips of my 6 yo. She also looked slyly at me. I didn’t get angry or shout. I just pointed out that if I told her teacher, she wouldn’t just lose one ClassDojo point, she’d have them all taken off her. I told her I was very disappointed as she knew better than to swear, and never in front of Mini. Midi went red, burst into tears and raced to her bed.

Well, I couldn’t shout, could I? That would have been hypocritical of Potty-Mouthed me. But I tell you, her accent when she pronounced those words was definitely not Glaswegian, so I think I can claim innocence – it had a definite ‘FOO-ging WANG-er’ sort of mid-Englandshire twang to it. So I’ve no idea where she heard it. And I reckon Mini is probably already gleefully repeating it. Bah.

I went to her room to calm her down and have a chat. Midi was sobbingly apologetic and promised not to say it again. I told her I believed her. “Don’t tell Daddy!” she begged, “You tell him everything!”. While we were quietly talking, we heard Maxi’s siren wail go off. I’ve had nearly 6 years of Maxi’s Drama Siren Shriek shattering my ears (since she was 3). Although nowadays I try to ignore it, it sets my nerves jangling every time. It sounded like she’d had a limb severed. This is normal for her, and usually signifies that Mini’s threatened to lick her soft toy Bagpuss or some other equally horrendous terror. The siren kept on. I went to investigate.

I don’t know why Maxi had been rolling on the floor in the first place, but Mini had decided to sit down on her face, hard, to get her own back on Maxi for something. Neither girl was clear on the reasoning behind any of this. Those were the only facts I got. So it seems Mini’s tail-bone battered off poor Maxi’s nose. From the initial swelling I suspected a broken nose. Luckily it wasn’t, and the new banana bend in her previously slim and pretty nose faded after lots of cold compresses.

I tell you, I really needed to get out for a glass of wine at the pub that night! My wallet didn’t – I never buy whole bottles for wine at home that cost that much – so had to nurse it all evening. Still, it was great to get out and have a laugh and a blether with a big bunch of women similarly escaping half-term demons.

*ClassDojo is a computer app that Midi’s class uses that tracks each child’s behaviour. The kids get awarded points for doing things like working hard, working well in a team, persevering, that kind of thing: there are 8 or so different areas. They can also have points deducted for bad behaviour. Typically, Midi gets one or 2 points a day. The sole time she had a point deducted she was devastated (she sobbed so much she made the classroom assistant who’d deducted the point cry). As the parents can view the points from their PC or smartphone, the app also lets the teacher send messages to parents in a whole-class broadcast or individually. Parents can also reply or send messages to the teacher. Handy! Midi’s teacher is experimenting with sending photos to parents, so the Dojo points are illustrated with examples of work that they were awarded for. I was skeptical at first, but am now a convert.

Things to Be Grateful For, Part 1

My friend AW nominated me on the current FB theme doing the rounds: list 3 things you’re grateful for, for 5 days. Well, I thought I’d be a bit more efficient than usual and join it with a blog post. And be awkward: I’m going to do 5 things for 3 days.

Local Library We have a brilliant little library in a room at the local school. It’s only open a few hours a week, and is only 2 minutes walk from home. So over the summer we’ve been in 2 and sometimes all 3 days a week that it’s open. The librarian, C, is very welcoming and helpful. Right now, Midi is in 7th Heaven because there were 4 books about owls on display. She read them overnight from when she got them yesterday, and returned them today. She earned another prize on the library Summer Reading Challenge and chose a green ruler/calculator, which she promptly gave to her Daddy to ‘help you draw pipes at work’. Awwwwww!

 

Stonehaven Open Air Pool: taken at 8pm after it shut. The big slide is in the middle of the photo, at the back

Stonehaven Open Air Pool: taken at 8pm after it shut. The big slide is in the middle of the photo, at the back

Family Fun After the success of last week, we went to Stonehaven Open Air Pool again, meeting up with The Boss as soon as he’d finished work. It was right on the verge of being a bit too cold, but it’s still a lovely luxury to bob around in clean, warm seawater after 6pm!

Lovely Strange Kids Maxi bottled out of going down the big slide at the pool twice last week. This week she bottled it once, managed it with an almighty scream on the next try (hooray!!!!) and backed down on the 3rd attempt. I expected the kids waiting in the queue each time to get impatient with her as she wavered at the top for literally 4 or 5 minutes each time. Not one little bit. The Boss said that one boy asked understandingly, “Ah, is it her first time?” The other kids offered advice and encouragement, but (crucially) weren’t pushy or over-boisterous. They waited so patiently: no arm-folding, sighing, eye-rolling. When she walked back down the steps, they said, “Next time!” Us adults generally aren’t anywhere as understanding.

 

Ice-cream from Aunty Betty's. Tasty, creamy, fun.

Ice-cream from Aunty Betty’s. Tasty, creamy, fun.

Being Skint When every penny counts, you really appreciate the big blow-outs. Tonight after swimming we treated ourselves to fish and chips from The Bay, Stonehaven. Juicy fish, onion rings that actually melt in your mouth with a delicate crunch, and super-posh San Pellegrino fizzy grapefruit. Eaten by the sea-front, in the summer evening sunshine. Followed by Aunty Betty’s ice-cream. All the ‘extras’ come free: sweets, rainbow drops, wafers, flakes… I had peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream. Oh my word… I think my face says it all!

 

A very rare pic of Midi and Mini finally, utterly, worn out (from 2 weeks ago). They were so tired that they crashed on the floor, waiting on me finding their PJs.

A very rare pic of Midi and Mini finally, utterly, worn out (from 2 weeks ago). They were so tired that they crashed on the floor, waiting on me finding their PJs.

Funny Kids On the drive home, the minxes played my favourite car game: what does the cloud look like? Thanks to Maxi’s wild imagination and infectious laughter, we all definitely saw a jointed chicken, a dog, and a scary clown in the sky! At home, trying to bath everyone, Mini was on the toilet. This past week, she’s finally realised that I don’t like an audience when I’m sitting on the toilet, so she’s decided that neither does she. “Mummy, go ‘way! I need some prizetsy! (privacy)” she wailed

Sunny Spring Evening

Half past 9 at night, and all 3 minxes are snoring – I think we got today right!

(Well, ok, me and The Boss didn’t have that much to do with it – it was just the lovely weather: sunny, cloudless sky except for a bit of evening lenticularis, tiny breeze, warm, warm, warm!)

For the first time since the girls’ first week at their new school, they all got up, got ready, and off to school without me being driven to yelling and/or screeching. I put it down to the sunny morning, beckoning the girls outside with its promise of warmth and interesting nature-things to explore.

Mini and I couldn’t hang about spotting bumble-bees, though: once her sisters were safely in school, we had to zoom back to unearth swimming stuff for Mini’s swimming lessons. She’s just started Big Girl Lessons, where she can swim with an instructor instead of being accompanied by her Horrible Mother forcing her do terribly scary things like jump in, go for a shower or actually swim. I’ve blogged loads of times about how traumatic other pool-users find going swimming with Mini. I pre-warned her teacher: she hated water on her head, in her eyes, her ears, in fact anywhere on her face; she hated jumping in; she absolutely would not put her head underwater; she’s refused to swim on her back for 4 solid years… The swimming instructor listened to me reeling off my dire warnings, her eyes getting rounder and rounder (the poor soul also has the ‘pleasure’ of teaching Midi and Maxi swimming). I handed Mini over for her taster session, sat back and… Mini made a total liar out of me, ducking and splashing and jumping and blowing bubbles underwater. And swimming on her back with a noodle. Afterwards, as I showered a child who absolutely was not sounding like she was being flayed alive, I asked what had changed.

“I a big gell now”, she grinned winningly.

Well, blow me down.

So, her first ever actual non-mummy-accompanied lesson was last week. The Boss had had a mandatory day off work, so he and me sat in the gallery, studiously saving £3.78 by not having coffees, and watched Mini. Both totally agog. This week, I ignored all the little lazy voices in my head (“You’re too tired; you’re too unfit; everyone will laugh at you in your bulging swimming costume; having a coffee in the cafe would be much, much cheaper than a swim”) and went for a splash about while Mini swam. I’m glad I’d already paid for the swim before I unexpectedly bumped into my friend and her beautiful little newborn – it was a real struggle to drag myself away from them and go do something vaguely resembling swimming. I may not have drowned, but I’m typing this with my elbows tight in to my waist, and I may struggle to dress myself in the morning. Or move my arms and shoulders at all. Maxi had given me lots of advice about how to swim, and was very complimentary about my half-length of crawl, 2 lengths of backstroke and 20 minutes of flailing breast-stroke. It’s strange being patronised by a serious little 8 year-old… But I must admit I do feel good. This is the perfect little regular chunk of the week when I can exercise regularly without having the additional expense of a creche or stop everyone else doing something fun while I disappear to go to the gym or the pool.

It took ages to get out the leisure centre and it was a 30 minute drive home, so when we finally got there with only 20 minutes to go before we had to be heading back out again I decided we should play hooky from nursery. OK, so that now gave us 25 minutes before we had to be at the *next* appointment – dentist. With Mini helping by grating and eating half a block of cheese, we made the quickest omelettes in the world, glugged some water, spent more time brushing teeth than eating lunch, and back off in the car.

It’s taken me 3 years of being on different waiting lists to get to the top of the queue and get an NHS dentist – one waiting list was a sham one that didn’t actually exist (it’s a long story…) – but apparently all I need is a scale. Bonus! I think the dentist was in a bit of a rush because he caught the inside of my cheek with his sharp pointy stick thing (youch! Blood!) but with Mini sitting in the chair I normally sit in, watching me intently, I couldn’t flinch too much. She asked if she could have my sticker for being brave, then threw a mini-strop because she had to settle for Tinkerbell. Well, I mean, what’s the NHS coming to, not having princess stickers?! Actually, in hindsight, maybe he was getting me back for unleashing the minxes on him last month.

Quick mooch round the local supermarket, planning dinner based on the contents of the half-price fridge (homemade stovies with goats cheese and beetroot chutney pizza. Em, maybe yum?) and back home, to finally have a coffee and a proper lunch. Mini was very subdued and quiet for an hour, not quite napping, but not totally paying attention to CBeebies. Good decision to avoid nursery this afternoon, then – she’s really tired after swimming and gymnastics. Must feed her more lard…

After school and making sure Midi’s new glasses were put away safely (my wee baby! Looks 6 going on 11 with her lovely dark pink glasses on), I pretended to be an indulgent mummy and gave the girls a cornet with a scoop of ice-cream pressed into a bowl of sprinkles, with a dot of strawberry sauce on top. I say pretend: it was *me* who wanted the ice-cream! The elder 2 played a bit outside then settled for zonking in front of the TV. When it looked like the stovies weren’t actually going to burn through metal and spontaneously combust (my stovies are a wee bit hit and miss…), I dragged the minxes out to play and had a cup of tea on the garden bench and watched them scoot and cycle up and down the cul-de-sac.

I love the garden bench! We managed to sell the dishwasher and spent the cash on a really sturdy wooden bench. I’ve had some purple, pale- and mid-pink wood stain lurking in the garage for 3 years, so painted the bench purple, with the 2 sets of slats in all 3 shades. I think it looks really pretty. I’ll add a photo over the next week and you can tell me how much of an eyesore it truly is.

After dinner, we went for a wee explore past the end of the street, where the builders have levelled the earth mountain and put down a sharp sand track through the fresh loads of topsoil. The first track took us down the edge of the estate to the shallow burn. What a pretty spot! The minxes spotted rabbits while I eyed up an awesomely fun-looking rope-swing. Definitely worth coming down tomorrow in wellies with Mini after nursery. The Boss and I strolled down the other track (dead-end), watching our shrieking, skipping girls, with the Grampian Mountain foothills as a backdrop.

“Not too shabby a view”, exclaimed The Boss.

I waved back at one of our neighbours, and ambled back to the bench, drinking decaf beside The Boss in the evening sunshine while the girls scooted and cycled and taught new friends how to skip. D’you know, I don’t think evenings get much better than this?

Happy, happy, happy.

Driving Me to Junk Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Swims For the Price of One

Mini Minx and I had gotten out of the habit of going swimming every week, so I decided to formally reinstate it, with proper swimming lessons. We’d done the same ones 2 years before, with Midi. Mini bloody hated them, which was why after that block was over and Midi ‘graduated’, we’d let them lapse into just going the odd time ourselves. So… how did Mini get on?

Well, she enjoyed them. Can’t say the same for the hitch-hiker, though… I’d put a big old waterproof dressing over my now stitch-less back scar, in a bid to keep manky swimming water out. I’m getting used to a permanent low-grade tickle over that area as it heals. But I felt like there were beads of water running down from my neck. Then it felt like they were running sideways. Hmmm… Nope, gravity was still the same as normal. I brushed at my shoulders and back in case a wee insect was fluttering about. The tickling kept up, so I looked over as much of my shoulder as I could. I thought I caught a glimpse of a body. Oh God…please don’t be a wasp! I asked a fellow-mum if I had any insects crawling on me.

“Nope, nothing th-ARGH!” and she looked in horror at my shoulder at the front. Assuming everyone has a wasp-phobia like me, I thought the worst, and kind of levitated out the water while brushing madly at my skin.

It was a little bigger than this

It was a little bigger than this

“Plop”, went the big thing that had been hitching a ride on my shoulders – a big old house spider. It was one of the bigger ones that I’ve seen: maybe palm-sized. Me, I have a soft spot in my heart for cows (and a soft spot in my tummy for lambs, yum) and quite like spiders, so I scooped it up from where it was dancing frantically in the water and threw it over the side, where it sat lurking and miserable for the rest of the swimming lesson. It wasn’t dead, as it had disappeared by the very end.

Just in case you thought I had unusually small hands...The actual lesson was fine: Mini refused to put her face in the water and didn’t like being told what to play with and when. She wanted to rocket down the slide all lesson. I tried to trick her by dropping toys in the water (“Oops, silly clumsy Mummy! Please can you help me pick them up so my back doesn’t get wet?”) but that only worked twice before she scolded me and insisted, “Just leave it be, Mummy!”

Predictably, it wasn’t the swimming that was the traumatic bit – it was the showers before and after. I tried putting her goggles on for them and it helped a little, but not enough to get her properly rinsed. But the brilliant thing about only having one child to worry about: after lunch I gave her a leisurely bath, long massage with thick moisturiser, and slow blowdry. She is now a calm, drowsy, happy little thing again. Result!

Baby Knows Best x 2

Yesterday was Swimming Day. I was also incredibly hormonal and the grumpiest of grumpy old trouts. Not a good combination…

We set off a little late because the minxes had refused to get changed quickly. To compound my bad mood, I was stuck behind a maroon Jaguar. I generally don’t mind tucking patiently behind slower drivers and being 1 – 2 mins max later than usual on such a short journey, but I was feeling very impatient and intolerant. As we came up to the one straight bit of the road where I could safely overtake, so indicated and started to pull out, the Jag driver accelerated from 30 – 40mph to over 60mph. OK, fine, I’ll stay where I am, then. Except that once past the straight, she was back down to 40mph and veering all over the road. Sheesh…

I vented my frustration vocally, but kept the language clean because the 6 little ears in the back seat have picked up a few too many Glaswegian-isms. I called her a fool, a dangerous driver, a menace, rude, ignorant, stupid, … Och, I’m sure you can imagine. The minxes didn’t comment and ignored me ranting away. As we came to the T-junction with the main road, Mrs Jag-Driver veered right. I cheered hooray and started to steer left. Then she swerved in front of me, indicated left and pulled out, causing the oncoming car to brake. Not hard, but enough.

“Ah”, I commented aloud, “Either drunk or lost”.

A little 5 year old voice piped up from the back: “Mummy, I think you should give her a happy smile and a big thumbs up, because she tried her best!”

I nearly crashed the car, laughing in astonishment. Sometimes little kids are actually wise beyond their years and experience…

After months of Maxi and Midi having their swimming lessons at the same time and the same day, they’re back to being staggered (Maxi finally passed out of the front crawl improvers class – attagirl!). So Mini and I no longer have our decadent weekly 20 mins treat  of munching through a shared bag of crisps and staring into space. Instead, we’re back to squeezing in a bit of the week’s homework with each older girl while Mini looks on, perplexed. Well, except for the reading books: she loves the ones about Kipper, Chip and Biff, can’t get enough of them, and sits rapt as Midi reads them aloud.

After the second swimming lesson, I plonked Midi and Mini together in a cubicle with a little shared snack while I waited outside the showers for Maxi. I made it crystal-clear that they had to stay together, and that Midi Was In Charge and Ueber Grueppen Boss. I could see them in the mirror, so headed off a few escape bids at the pass and enforced my rule. Except that the second I turned my back to ask Maxi to hurry up, Midi raced out the cubicle to get out of sharing her snack with her sister, who then promptly locked the door to keep Midi out. Great. This from the girl who’d wet herself twice that day (including one amazing one, timed to perfection, just as we were leaving the house on the morning school run). Exasperated was my main emotion that whole day… I heard my little 3 year old’s triumphant cackles change to frightened wails as I banged on the door. I tried to describe how she should turn the handle. She was panicking too much. I reassured her, then checked out the space below the cubicle – nope, too low even to send another minx under to rescue her. My sausage fingers were too chubby to grab the square lock bolt and turn it. I tried 2 coins on either side of the square, and twisted. Nope – too shallow. I bellowed, “Excuse me, please!” over to a passing staff member who nearly jumped out her shoes, then went to fetch the key.

Had this been 4 years ago and it was the first time one of my children had locked herself in, I maybe would have felt a wee frisson of panic myself. But this time, I admit I gleefully thought: “You’ll never do this again!” Mini exploded out of the cubicle like a cork, into my arms. Sod the stitches, my wee baby was shaking and gripping my waist with her little legs. After she calmed down, I took her back in the cubicle and showed her how to lock and unlock the door. She went back to looking smug, probably planning her next adventure with this new-found knowledge. Maybe I said ‘never again’ too soon…

The Strength of Mini’s Head

Tuesday 9 April 2013

I’ve been very quiet recently because we’ve been away on a week’s holiday in Orkney. It was brilliant, despite me being a hormonal, shouty old bag. As usual, I took my paper journal to offload all the minxy goings-on, and I may or may not share them on this blog over the next week or so (though all the outdoorsy things will go on the Little Trekkers Ambassadors blog, as usual). I also have about 40 unpublished draft posts from the past month or so sat waiting to be finished… So, as usual, I’ll have to revert to dating each of my next few entries to make some kind of sense (!) to this. Anyway, despite all that, I really need to offload today.

We’re onto Week 2 of the Easter Holidays, now, and The Boss is back at work, so I have the job of keeping the minxes from killing each other or me every day on my own.  Yesterday’s trip to the beach totally failed to tire them out*, so today we met up with some friends and little Merida Minx at Brodie Castle, between Nairn and Forres.

*They’re like dogs: if they don’t get enough exercise they fret (Maxi), get over-excited (Mini), don’t sleep well (all) and chew shoes (Midi). It has to be vigorous enough to “give me the sweats”, as Midi puts it so delicately. Bless.

monkees

Hey-hey we’re the Minxees

boat

See? Sailing ship. Two Leaves. Twigs.

After a long, loud, but excellent lunch, we took the 4 girls over towards the castle grounds because they could be as noisy and scampery as they liked without me nagging and scolding the poor things to sit up / eat up / be quieter / etc. and it would be free (I’ve pretty much run-out of fun tokens).  They had fun trying to tempt the bread-stuffed swans and ducks to eat more, then raced around the pond like 4 mad things on speed. Actually, I lie – like 3 mad things on speed. Maxi was doing her usual Dreaming Tortured Artist act, wandering around with her head in the clouds. Other kids grab a stick and chuck it in a stream to play Pooh Sticks. Not mine: Mini mostly remembers that sticks float whereas stones sink. Every. Single. Time. And Maxi has to craft and whittle out a perfect replica of a 17th Century sailing ship out of 2 rhododendron leaves and 2 twigs, and use *that* as her Pooh Stick…

They startled a huge Clydesdale Clopper out for a ride. The poor rider apologised to us after it had bucked and reared and kicked before she’d gotten it under control, yet it was our shrieking, flailing minxes who’d half-frightened the horse as it had drawn level and just forward of them – luckily for kids and horse that they were many, many metres apart the whole time. Then they headed straight for the Adventure Playground to wreak havoc there.

I think by now you know I’m a helicopter mother: over-anxious, paranoid, smothering, controlling, wrap-them-up-in-cotton-wool, very risk-averse kind of parent. Every day I try so, so hard not to be, even though it physically wrenches my guts. I have a huge struggle with not being the clingy parent I am, and trying to be the hands-off parent I think I should be. Well, I’m sure I stunt their emotional growth with my shouty bad temper, so I really should make an effort not to stunt their ability to assess and take on risks and hazards.

So: when Mini wanted to follow her sisters up the big tower to the high tube slide, my instincts screamed NO!!, but I found myself reasoning out loud: “Well, if you can climb the ladders by yourself with no help, then ok”. I shouted over to Midi to go with her, and in fact to go first, to stop her toddling off one of the open ‘windows’ in the tower. One risk dealt with: next? I then started fretting about little Mini falling backwards. I went to shout over to Maxi, to get her to follow Mini, so she was marched up the tower in a sort of sister-sandwich. I even shifted my camera across my body to prepare to nip up the tower myself. But not in time…

Predictably, Mini got to the top of the 3rd ladder, missed her handhold at the top, and fell backwards. She bounced off the first platform, then fell down the next ladder and collided with the next platform right on the top of her little bonce, and kind of twisted halfway out the wee open ‘window’. Well, I levitated up the first ladder before she’d even let out a scream (I think I managed a big loud “F***!”, though), and grabbed her up. My paranoid head was shouting inside about broken neck and spine injuries and not moving casualties until you know they’ve not broken anything, but the bigger Mummy Bear bit of my head just wanted to cradle my baby and kiss it all better. I know I probably sounded and looked very calm, but I just plonked down, halfway up the tower, and held her, rocking, for a few minutes. Partly to comfort her, partly because I was shaking too much to do anything else, and partly because I wasn’t sure that I’d managed to retain bladder control getting such a fright (I had. I stayed dry. Just in case you were wondering). After a bit, I dared to look and check that she was waving her hands about, kicking her feet, and seemed to have full control over her limbs as well as her lungs. When she’d calmed down a bit, I handed her down the ladder to Merida’s mummy. She instantly demanded to be let back up. No chance-eroony, little daughter! Baby playground for you! Where to be fair she demonstrated some nifty footwork on the rope bridges and happily scowled at all the boys in a 10 foot radius.

No apparent damage. Ish.

No apparent damage. Ish.

Actually, the afternoon was a bit of a parenting fail. Maxi fell off the big round hammock swing, Midi fell off the aerial slide multiple times onto her (rock-hard) head, and then for an encore tumbled down the tube slide of that tower and out onto her bum. Although I made sure I could see the 3 of them at all times, and spent a bit of time hovering over each, I mostly stayed with Mini. But there’s only one of me and 3 of them. I’d never have gone to the playground had my friends not come too, and really lightened my load of both amusing and safeguarding the girls, but being typical children, they only fell when there wasn’t an adult immediately next to them.

Looking for trolls

Looking for trolls

Now that a wee bit of time has passed since this afternoon, I can see some funny bits: I could see that Midi was falling off into the soft woodchips and bouncing up, laughing, and making comedy bows, so didn’t need me to come over fussing. And when she fell off the slide, she made quite a funny “bang… bang… bang-bang-bang… thump” noise as she clattered down. She related it breathlessly to her Daddy later as: “I did a double-cartwheel and went over and over and over!” Um…. not quite. But nice story. When Maxi fell, she also fell onto soft ground, and had a good, solid, whole-body-contact kind of fall. I went over to check she was ok and one of the kids on the swing with her farted. I mean, I know my bright orange hair is a bit scary, and I’m a bit haggard-looking nowadays, but honestly, I didn’t mean to frighten him that much! I quipped: “Wow, who just farted?” and the 4 of them bomb-burst to opposite ends of the playground. Oh, the power!

Things did get better, though. In a bid to include The Boss in this week’s, um, ‘fun’, we picked him up from work at 5 then drove round to the swimming pool. I guess we picked the perfect time, because we 5 had the entire learner pool all to ourselves. Maxi and Midi threw themselves about boisterously in the water, and The Boss marvelled at Midi’s new-found water confidence, trying to swim under everything that she could. Mini was typically slow to get her water feet. But when the aqua aerobics class started, she had me in stitches as she danced along in delight. She bounced and twisted her little hips, chanting: “Wiggle-wiggle! Wiggle-wiggle! I wiggle my little fat bum-bum, Mummy!” After a bit, she got too tired to remember to stand back up again when she fell over in the water. And she forgot that she’s scared to go down the little slides into the pool and got almost as noisily splashy as her sisters. I think I laughed non-stop for half an hour at their antics.

After an hour, I called it quits and got them properly washed and shampooed in the showers. Trying to pin down 3 little soap-dodgers with long, thick hair is NOT easy! We spent so long in the showers that I think the pool attendants suspected we were jakeys in for our monthly clean. Then some bright little buttons decided to scrub the entire changing room floor with soapy, bleachy, smelly water, all in a oner. Great – so how are we supposed to stand in a little cubicle and avoid the bubbles flowing in? How do I get everyone dry and keep them dry? No point just missing out our cubicle, Clever Clogs: gravity and a big changing room on a slope will defeat you every time…

Looking at 3 tired little minxes who’d never last the journey home, I twisted The Boss’s arm, and off we went to Evil McDs, where I got to scare a whole restaurant full of people with my frizzy, half-wet, orange fright wig. Extra bonus points!