Mondeo Minx

Our car is poorly.

It’s been a bit meh about starting for ages. Being analytical, I noticed that there was no consistency to its lethargy – there was no pattern associated with the outside air temperature, engine temperature, car load, previous journey length, anything I could spot. Sometimes it would start first time, other times it would labour. Occasionally it wouldn’t start at all, and would sound and look like a totally flat battery. Yet after a quick head-thump of despair into the steering wheel, and it would start fine.

Eventually I realised that it needed to go to the garage (cue music of dread). Me and garages don’t have a great track record. But our main Ford dealers have actually been a bit fantastic the last 2 times I’ve taken the car there. So I’m defrosting a little.

To cut an awfully long story short, after ruling out crankshaft sensor problems (I reasoned that there were only problems on starting, not whilst driving. Ever), they reckoned it was a “lazy starter” and perhaps a going-flat battery. I couldn’t really get them to be more specific, and was loathe to spend £400 on something that may or may not fix the trouble. I didn’t get the work done, opting instead for the software upgrade The Boss read about on his last Google-Fu session that would fix the known fault of the central console display unit draining the battery if there was a delay in passengers getting out after the engine stopped. Oh yes, that’s us! At least one, usually 2, minxes refuse to exit the car on stopping, demanding to be carried out. Do I need to tell you that I always, always refuse? Doesn’t stop my tenacious trio trying it on, though!

Anyway, anyway – the software upgrade looked like it worked, until I drove 45 mins to ASDA on Sunday night. Where the car would not restart, despite head-thumps, threats, biting the steering wheel, coaxing, wheedling, getting out the car and giving it a thump and a bounce… The carpark was mostly empty; the few cars I could see in the dark were little, with little batteries, and probably not going to jump a big ole Mondeo that thinks it’s a minx. I took a fraught Maxi with me to the customer service desk, where a very nice lady took pity on us and persuaded the equally-lovely security guard on his tea-break to jump-start me from his big people-carrier. They were keen to stress this had nothing to do with ASDA and was just them helping us out. I understood. So instead of a thank you letter, I gave them a hug. I think they would have preferred the letter…

So yes, the car will be going back to the garage for a new starter and battery after all. The garage were lovely, as always, about squeezing in the work to fit around school times and days off (they really are great like that), so we’ll see if that fixes it. I’m really fed-up of having to cancel routine dr appointments, haircut appointments, swimming and dancing lessons because the car won’t start and there’s only one bus a day (I can go, but I can’t get back!). But I do have to tell you about the first time that the car went to the garage for assessment the week before last:

I’d taken Mini out of nursery to accompany me so that I didn’t need to flap about getting back in time or finding a babysitter. I knew the garage waiting area had a coffee machine, some toys and a tv, so I brought along some books and snacks and we settled down and made ourselves comfy for the long wait we’d been warned that it would take. Mini was extremely well-behaved for the first hour, playing on the floor with cars. The second hour, she took off her shoes so she could wriggle around the sofa and play the longest game of I-Spy in the world with me. For the 3rd hour, we counted the number of vans vs cars that went past, then the cars of each colour that went past. Mini stropped when the colours I chose kept winning on the First to 10 rule (though I was amazed that more blue cars went past in any time that we watched than red, black or silver. Blimey!)

Aware that the patient garage staff might be as fed up of I-Spy and 4 yo loser strops as me, I decided that as we were the only ones in the waiting area, it really wasn’t anti-social to change the tv channel from BBC News to CBeebies. Oh, Same Smile‘s on. Great (!) Mini was delighted, though. I guess the mechanics felt the same as me, because it only took 5 mins of being subjected to that programme before the car was out and re-booked for another time.

So there we have it: if you need the garage to speed up a little, just turn on CBeebies.

A Good Daddy…


A Good Daddy…doesn’t just paint his daughter’s fingernails; he asks her which colours she’d like best.



Hello again! It’s been a manic couple of months: I’ve been teaching knitting and crochet at weekends and evenings, designing patterns, testing patterns, and volunteering at the school twice a week (hehehehehee, Minxes: there’s no escape from Big Bad Mummy). And I’ve been shuttling back and forth to the GP with Midi Minx.

I’ve been fretting about Midi’s health for a year or so now, punctuated by the odd visit to the GP, but these past 6 weeks she’s noticeably unwell. At parents evening, her teacher collared me about Midi’s constant abdominal pains, skin colour (grey) and general demeanour. I shared with her the long list of things that taken all together have me worried literally to tears, and she’s pretty concerned, too. I think I’ve exhausted everything I can achieve at the GP’s surgery, short of dyeing my hair to a conventional colour and growing a penis. So The Boss is going to go in with her tomorrow and see if that helps. On the bright side, though, we now know that she’s definitely not allergic to penicillin. Though it didn’t seem to work too well…

Noooooo! Don't chop me up in vain!

Noooooo! Don’t chop me up in vain!

Anyway. This isn’t the place to share a 6 yo’s symptoms – she’d be mortified. I could also fill a page fretting about how I think she’s losing weight (I’d no idea until last month what weight she was, so can only use her now-baggy clothes as evidence of either weight-loss or rubbish laundry skills) and how her once-chubby hands have grown slender and Big Girl-like. Instead, I’ll write another long list of points for the doctor to ignore tomorrow, and share this photo that definitely sums up the Family Trout’s feelings about my cooking: I’ve been experimenting with Japanese-style food. Let’s just say that I’m not a very good cook.


Fruity Sprinkles

Midi and Mini were out of bed and eating breakfast before Killer-Dirty-Stopout-Cat got back home this morning (0700hrs). I appear to have broken Maxi from last night’s cycle ride, though: I had to wake her up at 0830hrs. I can’t remember the last time she slept past 0600hrs, regardless of the time she’s eventually fallen asleep. Midi’s throat is no better. So with 1, possibly 2 minxes ill, I checked the met forecast and suggested places to visit.

strawberry punnet“I absolutely do not ever want to visit a boring old stone circle”, kiboshed Maxi. Oh. That’s 10 planned outdoor trips put on hold till next week, then… I checked the weather: gorgeous. Checked the fridge: empty. Time to go pick some stobbies (strawberries) then!

I like going to PYO fruit farms. Well, I like going to them when the memory stobby pickersof the last visit has faded. In my head I imagine the minxes patiently selecting Grade 1 ripe, delicious, perfect fruit, then gently plucking it and carefully nestling it in a punnet, to be eaten daintily later. The reality is me furiously trying to keep 6 clompy feet in between fruit bushes (as opposed to *on* fruit bushes) and 30 little fingers desperately grabbing at anything remotely red-coloured, whether it’s a fleck of red on unripe green, or a smear of red amongst hairy, mouldy white. *Usually* said unsuitable fruits are jammed under normal fruit, to lurk there until after they’ve been paid for, or occasionally shoved into defiant little mouths, despite me indoctrinating them that this is stealing.

stobsI keep going back because if you go at the end of the season when the fruits are scarcer and it takes longer to pick, then you get an hour’s outdoor activity that engrosses them, and a (paid for!) healthy fruit snack at the end, for less than most soft play centres and the like.

Today, it worked a treat! I didn’t see the minxes eat a single stobby, and they mostly picked brilliant fruits. Even if they were a weird mix of apple- and currant-sized…

gooseberryAfter filling a punnet each, we walked to the other side of the farm to find and pick gooseberries. Despite directions, we struggled to find them. Well, I can recognise lots of fruit bushes from a distance, but gooseberry…? And we were all a bit mislead when we reached the red gooseberries first. Yep – red. Gooseberries. Who knew?! We merrily set about picking a large handful for The Boss. It took me a fair while to realise that I have no idea at all whether a gooseberry is ripe or not. Hmmm. We’ll see if he complains…

Midi really started to flag (sore throat still), so we walked back to the car. Well, we *were*, till she spotted the go karts and zip wire, and raced off to have a play. Maxi played happily with her, and Mini raced around the 2 storey fort with me.

Don't get a job designing garden furniture, darling

Don’t get a job designing garden furniture, darling

After half an hour of racing and climbing and sliding and zipping and trampolining, the haar rolled in from the coast, so we set off for home. Nice and sunny here! Maxi made herself a strange seat in the garden and read in the shade. Despite being Calpolled to the eyeballs, Midi decided to be extremely obstinate and awkward. I’d just had a great time (!) shoving a week’s summer shop into our little fridge, so found it a doddle winkling my 6 yo out of her tv seat and shoving her out the door to the library. Where she suddenly turned into a whirling dervish.

sprinklerI wonder if the change in mien had anything to do with me promising to unearth the sprinkler…? It was such a hot day and our front lawn was yellow. Living in Scotland, there’s no hosepipe ban here, so I let the kids jump around the sprinkler on the front lawn as I moved it all over the place. There were very few rules: Don’t Get Mummy Wet (never broken – they know the fun will instantly end), and Don’t Sit on the Water Jets (broken every 10 seconds).

I meant to cook up a tasty, nutritious dinner, but let the girls scream their heads off for 45 minutes instead. When The Boss got home and could help keep an eye on them, we bunged pizza in the oven, corn-on-the-cob in the microwave, got the kids to shell peas (hey, that counts as a craft activity! 10 bonus points!) and ate outside. Picnic dinner was followed by cherry and yogurt pudding, then being allowed to play in the garden till 2030hrs because they were playing together so kindly and quietly.

But don’t go thinking that the day ended on that note of sisterly bliss: 10 minutes ago Maxi was threatening to kill herself because Midi wouldn’t return the library book that she wanted to read. One thing this household is never short of is hysteria.

Nursing Deja Vu

Still not much sleep – Mini was in and out of my bed all night long. I had to wake her at 0830hrs, so she wouldn’t end up ‘jet-lagged’, and I was so tired that I cancelled all my plans that involved driving. After yesterday, I banned the TV going on at all today. Perfect baking day, then!

Midi and I made a huge Dundee cake to take to some relatives. “Well, we nearly live in Dundee”, reasoned the ever-logical Maxi. That was fine, but I miscalculated how long it would take to bake. Alas, it meant lunch would be nearly an hour later than usual. Och well, that would give me lots of time to make home-made houmous and naan breads, and chop up some veg for dips.

While I was faffing around with that, the minxes decided they were fed up with loom-band crafting and drawing and wanted to run around the garden for a bit. Excellent! I coated Little Miss Alabaster-Crisp-In-10-Seconds in sunblock, nagged them all to put on sunhats, and insisted that they wear sandals or shoes. Four times I told Mini to “put something on your feet!” and asked her sisters to help me out by sweeping the sharp stones off the pathways and grass and back onto the gravel-bed things around the house.

In perfect synchronicity, the washing machine, oven and dishwasher were beeping at me, demanding attention. I ignored the 3 little humans demanding attention and went in to remove a cake from the oven, whack the grill onto ‘Nuclear’ and put the naan breads under it.

I watched the heavy, metal oven tray warp and twist under the fiery grill. Good grief… The naans puffed up and toasted beautifully. I put the first 2 under a tea-towel and got the 3rd under. Just as Midi came rushing into the kitchen yelling that her sister was bleeding.

Mini hobbled / hopped in to the kitchen, fat drops of blood dripping off her big toe. I turned off the grill and searched in vain for somewhere to put the stupid oven tray. Nowhere (the table was covered in loom bands and paper; the baking and cooking dirty dishes were on every other surface). I sat her on a stool and grabbed a square of kitchen roll. I gave her toe a quick check for foreign objects then pressed the piece of roll to her toe.

“Midi, come over here and be a nurse: press this onto Mini’s toe for a few minutes. Don’t let go. Not too hard. Hold her heel up high for her. Gently. Right. No-one move!”

Then I spent the 5 minutes it took the blood to stop finishing the stupid naan breads and trying to remember where I’d hidden the steri-strips. I was sure I’d not seen them when I’d patched up The Boss’s finger. Mini told me she’d trodden on a stone on her bare feet. So all those warnings and orders to put the shoes on were for nothing. She screamed blue murder when I cleaned up her foot in the bath. She shrieked at the Germolene. She roared when I made a steri-strip out of a roll of leukosilk. She sobbed at the sight of the Omnifix coming out the cupboard. All patched up and kissed better, she pouted that she still didn’t want to wear sandals and that her toe dressing wasn’t good enough to be able to run around outside on in bare feet.


Still, it gave me the opportunity to shower praise on Midi for being a lovely nurse to her sister, and to Maxi for helping me clear the kitchen right after lunch (they liked the naans and veg, but hated the boiled eggs and houmous). Lots of days I get fed up with my own voice nagging and scolding.

I am the contrariest kid on the entire planet, and don't you forget it!!

I am the contrariest kid on the entire planet, and don’t you forget it!!

I hauled 2 huge garden tubs-worth of weeds out the lawn-edges, then I hoovered a beach-load of Orkney sand out the car, and used 3 buckets of water and Flash to wipe down the inside. It was truly minging! And I’d cleaned it thoroughly the day before we went on holiday. I tried to let Midi and Maxi loose to clean the outside of the car, but got irritable and bossy as I saw the time to dinner ticking down and they’d managed to clean a single car door window. Mini wanted to clean her scooter, but did a George (Peppa Pig’s squeally brother) whine at not being allowed near the hose. She pretty much whined or squealed the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I think we *all* need an early night. I need to be alert to properly enjoy seeing sunny, happy Mini once more!

How To Train Your Minx

It’s amazing what you can get little kids to do with the right bribes.
(No, that really doesn’t read right at all, but I’m not going to re-edit it again and again!)

I waggled the carrot of “A Very Special Treat, so amazing that you’ll scream behind your hand when I tell you” at them this morning. By lunch-time, not only had they gotten dressed and eaten breakfast without argument, but all 3 minxes had tidied the living room and their bedrooms, Midi had hoovered up the popcorn I’d made them and they’d dropped, and Maxi had wiped down all the dusty surfaces. Wow, wow, wow! They got an interim reward of glittery nail varnish on their fingernails, which delighted them all.

As we ate baked potato dinner at 3.30pm, Maxi said over a wrinkled brow: “Mummy, I think you’ll have to tell me what the surprise is: you know I don’t like not knowing what’s going on”. So I whispered to her: we’re going to the cinema to see How To Train Your Dragon 2. She punched the air. I think she was pleased.

I’d been bursting to tell them since I decided this morning. It was rubbish weather. It was Wednesday. I’m still an Orange customer. The 3 just go hand-in-hand: Orange Wednesday 2-for-1 film tickets. The Boss and I have been loving that offer for 9 years, now. And like last year, I’m trying to juggle the days around to save as much family fun as possible until the weekends or the evenings so that The Boss can join in, too – I remember what it was like being a full-time working parent, missing all the big day-time events and feeling like the other parent is having all the fun. So: cinema in the evening it was to be!

It was a right faff booking the tickets over the website, though: it would only let me have 1 free ticket, not 1 free adult and 1 free child. After a lot of footering, I figured I’d be faster making 2 separate bookings. So I did. But then discovered that you can only use your Orange code once. And that you only get 1 code. Doh! One emergency call at work to The Boss, new code received, and second booking made. Next time, I’ll just do it at the cinema and save myself the stress and 50p per person booking fee!!

So, we drove into the shopping mall in Aberdeen early enough to fetch The Boss a drink and sandwich (he was meeting us straight from work) and drift to the cinema. On the way from the food bit to the cinema bit, we bumped into our next door neighbour, her daughter, her mother, and the family from round the corner.

The Boss met us in the foyer, his little face lighting up in the biggest beam I’ve seen in years when I handed him some scooby snacks to keep him going through the film – bless!

The film was fine for 20 minutes, when suddenly the projector went off. Everyone looked at each other and pointlessly up at the projector space at the back of the room. The Boss got up and went to find a member of staff. He came back, saying they knew about it. After 5 minutes, the side-lights went on and the soundtrack finally stopped. Oh-oh… ominous! A staff member came in and addressed the audience.

“We’ve had a power surge”, he explained. It had caused the huge projector bulb’s systems to protect it and put it into power-save mode. It couldn’t be overridden. It would take a few minutes to warm down then switch back on. They’d start the film again as soon as they could. “If you’ll excuse me zooming off now, though”, he apologised: “I’ve got 9 other screens to tell the same thing!” and off he strode. We all settled back with a few audible ‘Ooooo, what a nice man!’s and amused ourselves cheering and booing as the screen size changed, the film found its place again, 1 minute before the cut, and the soundtrack finally started up. So it was perfect – we hadn’t missed anything, and even got a quick 1 minute refresher.

The film was great – we all really enjoyed it. Lots of the audience also seemed to enjoy Midi and Maxi’s reactions to the film, too. They both have very infectious giggles, especially Midi. The man behind us laughed only when Midi made one of her rising, maniacal giggle-shrieks.

Midi the Viking

Midi the Viking

**film-spoiler**: it’s a PG rating. In hindsight, I think Mini (4 yo) was a bit young to properly enjoy it, and even my own little Viking, Midi (6 yo), found some of the suspenseful bits a little too much. She wasn’t too happy when Stoic died, either. I wasn’t massively happy with Cate Blanchett’s strangely mangled accent, either. She’d done a fine English accent in Elizabeth I, that she’d famously based on Margaret Thatcher. But her ‘Scottish’ accent was a bizarre hotch-potch of Irish, American, Yorkshire and Highland. Quite strange. And not dissimilar to the sound made by Russell Crowe’s accent coach **end-spoiler**

At the end of the film, we were all handed tickets to watch another film for free. Bonus! Hooray! They didn’t need to do that, so we were all delighted.

On a happy high, we stumbled into Pizza Express, where they do 2for1 offers on Wednesdays, too. It was heaving, so we were really lucky to get a table. It was sooooo loud! My hearing is terrible, and I really struggled to understand our very busy and kind waitress. It took a fair few minutes for me to get that “dobbles” was “dough balls”. I think I may need a hearing aid… Dinner took 2 hours, but on the bright side, that meant that 2 out of 3 kids slept on the way home (in a strange role-change shocker, it was *MIDI* who gabbled all the way home!

Chop-chop, Busy-busy, Work-work, Bang-bang

After finally getting the kids to bed by 2200hrs (don’t judge me. Besides, all 3 were out of bed, screaming their heads off by 0700hrs), I had a lovely bath and settled in for an early night.

It never works like that, though, does it? Lovefilm had sent us one of the Breaking Bad DVDs, so me and The Boss decided to compromise between a much-needed early night and a much-wanted DVD-a-thon. So we watched one episode. Afterwards, The Boss stumbled into the bathroom for a quick teeth-brush before sleep.

I know I’ve moaned before about his love of decorating Every. Single. Empty. Surface. in the house with Stuff. I spend hours clearing a surface (I like empty surfaces); he immediately takes a few minutes to cover it in rubbish. Anyway, when we came back from holiday, the windowsill of the bathroom was empty. By the time he went in to the bathroom to clean his teeth, it was covered. He knocked over a glass bottle that he’d dumped on the windowsill, and tried to snatch it before it fell. Unfortunately, he grabbed his razor – which he’d also dumped on the windowsill – and sliced the top of his finger off.

It took about half an hour for the bleeding to subside and for me to stop mocking him. Within that, it took about 20 minutes for me to remember that, actually, he’s really, really rubbish around the sight of blood, and that maybe he might faint. The remaining 10 minutes were spent bickering about what kind of dressing he needed. He favoured the sliver-thin, invisible, tiny plaster; I preferred the monster dressing-and-bandage, topped with a tied bow, cartoon-stylee. Given that it really didn’t want to stop oozing blood despite over 10 minutes of direct pressure and holding above his head, I won. I swapped the bandage for sticky Omnifix instead, though, because I’m a truly loving wife and actually feel really sorry for him.

So neither of us has had much sleep. Again. As for a possible tetanus injection requirement, I think I might as well phone and book a GP for an entire morning to sort us all out: all 5 of us need to see a GP for various bits and bobs that really aren’t urgent at all, but probably shouldn’t be ignored. Wouldn’t it be great if I could count up all the issues that I need to discuss with a GP, and book a corresponding number of adjoining appointments with one GP, ship the zoo along to the surgery, and get it all over and done with in a oner?!

Ah well, tomorrow promises to be a better day

sunset over houses

Tonight’s sunset

Post-Holiday Blues

It’s our first proper day of the school holidays here – the previous 7 days don’t count because we were all in Orkney again, having a fantastic time. I did bring the laptop with me, intending to write lots of blog posts both here and on the outdoor blog, in real-time. Alas, my in-laws led me happily astray: I spent my evenings drinking Strubarb cocktails washed down with Wychwood Ginger Beard, and chased with peanut butter pretzels. And blethering nonsense. So: back home with a bump.

Mini Minx is on antibiotics and so her sleep is still iffy (when was it ever not?!): she came into my bed 4 times last night. I’d gone to bed really late (0100hrs. Oops) because I’d spent all day driving so wasn’t tired enough to sleep. End result – today has felt like swimming in treacle. Never mind – we had to hang around the house anyway because the hire car after The Boss’s accident was to be picked up at some random point during in the day. I spent the morning ploughing through laundry, while the minxes went goggle-eyed over 100 episodes of Horrid Henry. Midi’s read so many library books in this year’s Summer Challenge already that she chose to take out a DVD for 2 weeks for free as her prize.

I'm bored, Mum. What can I doooooooo?

I’m bored, Mum. What can I doooooooo?

In a half-hearted attempt to keep the girls active enough to stave off DVTs, I made them come into the kitchen for their snacks and water individually. I really wanted to be a Good Mummy and turf them outdoors for fresh air regardless of the drizzle, but today I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was also too distracted on the laptop, helping one of my brothers book flights, train journeys and a hotel from the other side of the planet (bank problems – Bank of Scotland have been categorically rubbish with him, not sending bank

Not brave enough yet to pull out that good old holiday standby: paint the stones

Not brave enough yet to pull out that good old holiday standby: paint the stones

cards, not returning calls, hanging up on long calls, etc.). We did manage a swift run round to the library, but because the hire car people didn’t show up till mid-afternoon when it was already raining heavily, we got no other outdoor time.The afternoon, therefore, was much like the morning. Except I managed to corral them into doing something creative for a few minutes – I printed out a sheet of paper each with a big empty square on it and the title “The thing I enjoyed most about my holidays last week was when I …” followed by 5 lines of dots for them to write on, and draw in the box. I’ll tell you what they wrote when they finish!

Oh yeah, and I discovered that the best way to keep them out of my hair for a few minutes when I really need to concentrate is to play classical music. I discovered that all 3 really hate Verdi’s Requiem: when I played it they ran from the room howling, with their hands over their ears. And Maxi finds ‘Abide With Me’ (from the soundtrack of the film 28 Days Later!!) “creeps me out”. I guess I need to find Classic FM on the radio dial then, eh?

child in viking horned helmet

She’s bored

Anyway, the general lack of exercise means that it’s my own selfish fault that the girls are not sleeping tonight! Midi has wrapped herself in a blanket and is lying across the threshold of Maxi’s bedroom, like a bright pink spotted Ancient Egyptian mummy – I think she’s trying to see just how long her big sister stays up at night; Mini is scuttling back and forth, demanding to be tucked in, and victoriously waving the Hello Kitty toy that I threatened to throw away if she wouldn’t eat her roast chicken (my comfort food); Maxi, meanwhile, is happily reading today’s library books (Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt).

child in horned viking helmet

… and so’s she

Tomorrow I hope to get more than a token few minutes sleep and to get the poor kids out and about. They have a play-date arranged with a wee girl who’s in the same nursery class as Mini. I’ll need to run some energy off the older ones first thing, then, before we walk round. And I guess tidying their upside-down rooms just won’t cut it:

(Me: “You are to tidy your floor up tomorrow morning. Look, it’s so messy that I nearly fell over, coming to give you a Goodnight Kiss!”

Midi: “But why, Mummy? Because it’ll take us such a long time to mess it all up again. What a waste of time!”

Me: <thinking> Huh?! Um. Right. I agree. But only if the window faced the back garden…)

The library has a competition on tomorrow afternoon, but I quite fancy checking out some of Aberdeenshire’s Neolithic monuments after a week of touring Orkney’s, instead. I’ll put it to Minx Vote after lunch, I think.