Trouts Go Brambling in Moray

Normal people decide to go brambling, set off, pick brambles, have a nice time, come home. Not us…

It took us a whole hour to get out. Well, 2, really. Straight after breakfast I recognised the signs of a sluggish family on go-slow, so suggested to The Boss that he go shower, get dressed, get the kids dressed, get the bikes out, and in the meantime I’d dive into town and do a grocery shop. It took me 45 minutes. When I came back everyone was mostly dressed. Ish.

I chivvied and nagged and they were ready to go after maybe half an hour. Then Mini Minx decided that she hadn’t had a tantrum in, ooooo, an hour. Perfect time for it. She didn’t want to wear her bike helmet. She wanted her bike. She didn’t like the rule ‘No Helmet, No Bike’. She didn’t want to wear a hat. She didn’t want to wear mitts. She didn’t want to go on my bike. She did want her bike. She didn’t want her helmet, still. She did want to go to sleep in her buggy. With her helmet. And her bike. She wouldn’t go in her buggy without them. She didn’t want to hold Evil, End-of-her-Tether Mummy’s hand. She’d hold Daddy’s hand if he begged. Well, he had to notice her, first – up till now he’d been staring vacantly into space, hoping that I’d organise everything and everyone. She decided that she would walk after all. So she did.

With a long line of neighbours tutting at the windows, we did the Walk of Shame down the road, a full 20 minutes after shutting the front door, Mini still sniffling, me gnashing my teeth. Foster Cat decided that it was all a disaster waiting to happen, and followed us. We spent a fruitless 5 minutes trying to shepherd him back home, eventually giving up and just plodding / walking beside the bikes the half-mile down out of town, across a few roads, to the coastal path. I even got to do my now-traditional “Slow down, you moron!” yell and hand-signals at a speeding orange car. Go, me…

I got 3 kids, 2 bikes, a sulky adult, an old cat (and a partridge in a pear tree) safely across the road, down the hill, and straight onto some of the shiniest, juiciest brambles I’ve seen in a long time. Brilliant! We abandoned the bikes, jackets and cat, and picked and picked. With a 1kg fruit jar full, we decided to cycle on down the path a bit. Foster Cat got nervous and started to miaow-cry. Poor old boy! OK, let’s set off back for home. Foster Cat bounded off happily, shepherding Mini and slow-coach Midi along the path back up the hill. Till we came across 2 big black labradors…

Exorcist Cat

I yelled to Maxi and Midi to stop cycling and wait. Mini clung to The Boss. The Boss glared at Foster Cat. I shooed the dogs away. I guess the dogs have heard Exasperated Old Bag before, because they obeyed me! Get out of town! So I lavished some Good Boy! praise on them till their owners caught up. Foster Cat decided that this was boring, so arched his big back till he was bigger than the dogs and spat at the biggest one: “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough, Fleabag!” The dog was having none of it, so bounced at the cat. The cat made a  faux-pounce at the dog. The dog yelped. Mini burst into tears. Maxi and Midi got bored and started to cycle around. I lunged at crying Mini to scoop her up. The Boss lunged at the cat to scoop him up. The cat obviously wasn’t in the mood, so turned tail and sprayed cat-diarrhoea straight at The Boss, and bounded under a gorse bush.

Maxi and Midi were now out of sight. The Boss was staggering around like Shaggy out of Scooby Doo moaning, “My eyes! My eyes! He got me up the nose!” Mini was near hysterical. The dog owners were saying: “You took your cat for a walk…?” I ran up the hill to call the elder minxes back. I ran back down the hill to dab at The Boss’s face. I ran back up the hill to drop Mini off with her sisters. I ran back down the hill to coax Foster Cat out of the bush and frog-marched him back up the hill. We set off for home, Maxi proudly yelling to anyone who’d listen, “This is the first time EVER that my Mummy’s let me cycle on the pavement by an actual road!”…

We’re now safely home. The cat peeled off as soon as we hit the outskirts of town and went for a browse in one of the big, posh, manicured gardens. I hope he returns soon; The Boss doesn’t. Our dog-poo strewn shoes are in a big pile outside the front door, humming gently in the sun. The bikes are a big pile of metal alongside. The Boss is going for his second shower and the minxes are lying in front of CBeebies, exhausted. Me? I need gin. Lots of it…

“We’re not going on a bramble-hunt again!”

(Till next time…)

Mucky

…muddy, grubby, manky, filthy, dirty, soiled.

That’s been my day, that has. The end.

I really, really love snow. I love the snow on the hills behind the Cromarty Firth because they look golden and the cliffs shine pink in the early morning sun on the first school run of the day. But alas, the snow hides dog poo. And not all dog poo has been frozen. On one 15 minute walk I trod in both dog poo and cat sick. I’d been avoiding the 3 spatters of the latter for 2 days now, but my attention wandered to the rose garden that’s *still* flowering (aye, in nearly mid December!).  Thank God for hose-down wellies. But I’ll come back to this…

I’m fed up mopping down my floors with Flash. I think it should be renamed ‘Food Magnet’, then it would do exactly what it says on the label. I read somewhere that Flash is incredibly poisonous to cats. Well, if Daisy Cat drags in another half-eaten mouse over my newly de-muddy-pawprinted floor…

I’m getting really slick at getting Midi and Mini ready for the second school run of the day. Or so I thought. As I smugly whipped Mini upstairs for her post-lunch pre-walk poo change, I stopped to admire the snow-laden clouds in the sky for literally half a second. Silly mare! I should know better – Mini dunked the clean nappy I’d given her to keep her hands occupied *into* her caked nappy. The one with the barely-digested Brussels Sprouts. While I yelled “No, no, no, no!”, in one fell swoop she smeared the foetid contents over the change mat, up her sleeve, over her hand, over my hand, over my (new, posh, cashmere) jumper, and up to her lips. She’s now 20 months old. She cackled as she did it. Tell me she didn’t know exactly what she was doing..!

It’s Tuesday, so it’s swimming lessons. Sod reading the educational library books to the younger 2 while Maxi Minx swims – nowadays I kill 5 mins by letting Midi fill the vending machine with small change and another 5 letting them bicker over what tooth-rot we’re going to share. Today it was a Twix. So Midi devoured one finger and me and Mini shared the other. Right. ‘Shared’. I got a lick before Mini howled to the heavens in utter devastation. Old women tutted, the shop assistant reached for her Childline phone card, I went red, and Mini smirked. And ate the lot. 15 mins later and it was time to clear up the mess before collecting Maxi. Kidding myself on that I can multi-task, I attacked Mini in a pincer manoeuvre: I got her sticky brown cheeks with a wipe in distraction whilst I sucked her chocolatey fingers. That’ll teach me for being greedy – chocolate isn’t gritty. The only gritty thing I can think of near Mini today was the animal poo/sick that I’d trodden in this morning that I’d found on her wellies and washed off in the leisure centre sink not 10 mins previously. Oh God…

Me and 2 minxes baked these cranberry muffins today in between getting grubby.

I’m not a clean freak, but I spend so much time cleaning the toilets because 2/3 daughters still lick them; I get incandescent about dog poo because 2/3 chew their wellies; I like a nice clean kitchen floor because 1/3 likes to make pictures on it by licking big stripes if I don’t stop her.

This wasn’t the vision of stay-at-home motherhood I signed up to when I left my job. But I guess to keep the little blighters free from dysentery and worse long enough to go on *a* walk a week or bake at all, then I need to stay friends with Mr Bleach and Mrs Baby-Wipes. And my own immune system had better man-up, too…

Mop your floors with this and watch in amazement as it gathers all your kids' food and muck in its tractor beam and sucks it in!

Winter’s Nearly Here, Hooray!

Well, after last weekend’s shenanigans, this weekend has been just spot-on, thank you very much! To be fair, it doesn’t take a lot to please me:

  1. It was gloriously sunny on Saturday
  2. Found some very cool, el-cheapo royal blue/violet nail varnish in Superdrug that dries in a minute. I do own cool coloured nail varnish, but it takes ages to dry. About as long as it takes one of the minxes to get up to mischief. So this’ll do brilliantly. It’s not great quality, but what do you expect for £1.79? And it’s fun!
  3. On Friday The Boss and I found the perfect doll for Midi Minx for Christmas: Chou Chou’s Mummy’s Little Patient. I suspect she’ll be able to operate all the medical toys quite perfectly. She’s certainly had enough experience recently!
  4. Dundee Cake

    Wow, this tasted good. In fact, I might reward myself with another wee bit...

    On Saturday I found a great dolly buggy at half price in Argos. I’d been worrying I’d left all my Christmas shopping too late to get good discounts – panic over.

  5. Midi put buggy and dolly on her Christmas letter to Santa today – perfect!
  6. The Boss took Midi and Maxi to a train model exhibition in Elgin while Mini slept at home and I cracked on with knitting, cleaning, putting stuff on eBay – EVERYONE was happy.
  7. I baked a Dundee cake (recipe here) and The Boss made Steak & Kidney Pie – yummy!
  8. I got to the bottom of the washing pile today for 15 minutes.
  9. The Boss bought a huge ironing board with all kinds of doo-dahs on in, el-cheapo from Aldi. For *himself*!!!! He’s trying it out now as I type, cackling to himself. Bless…
  10. Midi graduated from a baby pillow to a proper adult pillow. She loves it! Now for the proper sized bed…
  11. I had a bit of a lie-in on both Saturday and Sunday. OK, so all 3 girls were squirming around in bed, bickering and playing and singing and elbowing me in the stomach from *before* I normally get up, but what the hell, it was lovely being able to wake up slowly and not have to jump to immediate Action Stations as usual.
  12. We noticed that Midi calls Brussels Sprouts ‘Special Sprouts’ (her hearing is still duff). I laughed like a drain.
  13. Mini’s vocabulary has expanded from “I want that-I want that-I want that-I want that” to “I want that, down there. There! There! Over there, Mama!” (pointing to a dropped segment of clementine).
  14. Mini toddled up to me mid-morning, signed for milk. I gave her some, and she signed thank you, before toddling off to the living room. Awwwwww!

But the 2 best bits of the weekend were this:

1. Today, we went for a walk to collect pine cones. I think the plan is to get the girls to paint them, coat them in tat and glitter, and put them on the Christmas tree next month. What was great about it was that all 5 of us had a lovely time, just bimbling along, pointing at mushrooms, toadstools, dog poo (!), berries, just chatting away. The only time I raised my voice was to call to one of the elder girls disappearing into the horizon to return and stay close to Mini as her legs are so small (and she gets cross when she can’t keep up). We collected a big bag full, then had a huge long chat about trees: how could you tell some had been cut down, how could you tell which ones had fallen over, how could you tell how old the tree had been, how could you tell which direction was the sunniest, blah, blah, blah. We even had time for the swings afterwards. Best of all, they all got tired out in the fresh air and Mini snuggled into my back in a sleepy doze in our Connecta.

2. On Friday we had our bi-monthly treat: fish and chips from the van! Oh my word, they’re good! And I finally, finally captured Mini’s reaction to her Daddy coming home. She shrieks, drums her feet, clenches and shakes her little fists, and generally gives The Boss a massive hero’s welcome. Hope you like it!

Maxi Ticks Scissors

Adult deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.

Image via Wikipedia: not the one that bit Maxi (that's still writhing in a plastic pot)

Yesterday was quite a day for my baby Maxi Minx.

She’d been up chattering and giggling with me as she crafted with pens and scissors as usual (she likes to make collages using shapes and their negative spaces(!)) and I cooed over a newly-arrived parcel of wool. As I was stroking the fibre, she asked shyly if I wanted to see the holes in her pyjamas.

Pyjamas: what, the ones you’re wearing? The really expensive, embroidered ones from Monsoon that I bought you when you were only a year old and tucked away, because they were so beautiful? What bloody holes? Oh, those huge actual-sized leaf-shaped holes you’ve cut out of each thigh at the front…

I didn’t shout. I didn’t scream. I just explained how sad I felt because they’d cost a lot of money, she’d worn them twice and now were ruined forever; she’d never be able to wear them again and Midi and Mini would never get to wear them at all. I thanked her for saying sorry (she went quite hysterical) and fairly successfully stayed calm. Well, I could see that my crappy sewing skills weren’t going to resurrect them, so what else could I do? Besides, my little Chicken-Licken* brain was whirling over the fact that if her ‘child’ scissors could cut through a double layer of material that easily, they could have made a mess of her 5 year old baby skin just as easily.  (Guess what’s been confiscated?) Also, she was utterly distraught at me banning her from any form of crafting for the rest of the day.

*Chicken-Licken: fairytale about the chicken who feels an acorn fall on his bonce and assumes the sky is falling down; goes into a total flap about something innocuous. That’s generally me, that is.

In a bid to not stay in the house all day, and seeing that the weather forecast was wrong (hooray!), I sent the kids out to race round the garden. Wee Mini happily staggered around in her lovely purple Tevas strapped over her babygrow – no point dressing her up for a stay at home day. All 3 girls played at basketball (chuck the little ball through a hula hoop held by a sister, and try hard not to chuck said ball at sister’s face…). On a whim, I put Mini in a waterproof all-in-one and put long sleeves and leggings on Maxi and Midi and headed off to the local woods at the bottom of the street.

Now, recently we’ve have little home-made cards posted through the letterbox warning us of Lyme disease in the ticks in the local area. I had Lyme disease back in 2005, caught whilst climbing at Fontainebleau outside Paris, and although I got completely well 2 months later, I really struggled to get sufficient treatment. As a result, I wrote a few articles, such as this one, and have a bit of a horror of the ugly things. My kids routinely wear long sleeves and trousers when out and about and are taught not to go wading through the bracken. Me and The Boss also routinely do tick checks of ourselves and the girls if we’ve been out in typically tick-y areas. But we don’t stress about it, don’t indoctrinate the kids and indeed this year have pulled one off the front of my armpit, one from Midi’s armpit, a few from The Boss, and found a few big buggers in the house (thanks to the cat). Oh, and one crawling over Maxi’s clothes last week in the car. She’d been moaning that she was the only one in the family who’d never been bitten.

Anyway, Maxi noticed new signs put up at the entrance to the wood to match the posted ones about Lyme disease and asked what they were. I explained a little about Lyme disease, really down-played it, and explained that I made them wear leggings and fleeces to help stop so many ticks getting to us. I mean, who wants to be an insect’s lunch? She chatted away, skipping around, plucking dandelion clocks and chasing speckled wood butterflies. Mini snoozed in the sling on my back, and Midi held my hand tightly saying how tired she was (till I suggested we hit the swings instead…).

Actually the swings were a hoot – Maxi and Midi both tried the long zip wire solo, holding the seat tight with their little hands, knees held aloft, zooming down the bark landing field, scraping it into their shoes and pants. Midi only tried it after seeing her big sister zip along so fast. I applauded each effort, and couldn’t help laughing – they looked so exhilerated! Midi seriously impressed me by only falling off once, when the seat boinked off the end of the ride, the first time only.

 

Well, at the end of what turned out to be a very nice day after a dodgy start, The Boss was getting the girls into their bath. And Maxi had the biggest tick I have ever seen stuck neck-deep in her precious skin, in the fleshy bit in front of her armpit (where my last one was).  Yuck! I can’t convey the sense of dread and disgust I felt. I’m not sure how successfully I covered it up and explained as nonchalently as I could to Maxi that Daddy was going to hook it out with a special hook, we’d put Germolene on it, and watch for any rash coming up for a few weeks, but it was no big deal (she has a real tendency to Chicken-Licken hysteria. Like me).

 

I resisted the temptation to go off the deep-end and race her to A&E (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know/knew a lot about Lyme, but this is my baby girl we’re talking about, here!). So I spent the evening Googling about Lyme prophylaxis treatment in children and getting my old knowledge up to date (like, when did they rename ehrlichiosis?!). I’m now very happy (!) to just observe her for a few weeks, and if she does develop Lyme symptoms (or HGA), then I know the most credible and recent articles to quote when I request specific treatment for her.

Funnily enough, over dinner I was telling The Boss that if I had more time, I’d like to add my own sign under the Lyme warning ones adorning the woods, saying “Lyme won’t blind your children – leaving your dog’s poo on the path might. Get rid of the mess!” That path was downright disgusting. I hate lazy dog-owners more than I hate ticks!

Death and Alchemy

Our cat is very small, literally kitten-sized.  She is blindingly white, with luminous green eyes.  Her name is a very friendly ‘Daisy’.  However, she is Glaswegian and obviously thinks she is nails.

When Daisy was even smaller, her attempts to catch seagulls (or ‘eagles’ at Midi calls them: guess they sound pretty similar) or garden birds were farcical and a constant source of amusement.  Then in her second winter, it snowed.  Finally camouflaged, she discovered how to catch field mice and blue tits.  This continued into spring and beyond and now, aged 4, she regularly leaves me and The Boss presents of mice, voles, birds and baby rabbits under the garden seat.  Or sometimes in the veg patch (yuck).

On Tuesday I noticed the remains of a pied wagtail in Daisy’s favourite spot, in front of the chard, where nothing grows (Daisy’s white fur is impervious Teflon to the things I put on and in the ground to protect my baby seedlings in vain.  Bloody cat!).  When I went to pick it up, I found another, fresher wagtail corpse beside my little apple tree.  Cat, stop bringing Death to my garden!

I cleared up the bits then cleaned my rubber gloves with the spray bottle of Flash.  Except The Boss has been watering it down, again.  Now, I think he’s right to add a bit of water at the end of handwash bottles, for example, that are really thick.  But he adds so much water that they become virtually homeopathic.  Babe, Flash barely cuts through grime at full strength!  Leave it alone!

Then there’s Maxi, determined to make perfume.  The poor girl was on her 5th attempt.  She spent yesterday carefully collecting the very best petals in the garden: not wet, not too dry, not too fresh and not dried out.  She added just enough water, stirred carefully, put them somewhere safe to steep for a few hours.  When she went to check out progress, a sulky Midi got there first and tipped it over the kitchen floor (cue more squeals, wails and shouting.  And a profound lack of apologising).  The second attempt got spilled by the cat.  The third attempt was scuppered by the wind.  Mini Minx ruined the 4th attempt this morning because Maxi left the bowl within a millimetre of her sister’s grasp.

I sent Maxi outside with her precious bowl of petals, away from her sisters.  She’d asked for some pretty ribbon and a glass bottle with a stopper, but she got an empty plastic bottle of tonic water and a tea strainer.  I watched her shaking her pink-stained water furiously and holding it up to the sunlight, scrying its contents, before tentatively unscrewing the lid to have a wary sniff.  I think I’m lucky that I have a cold – she insists that it is her ‘Spring Perfume’ and that it makes her smell beautiful.  I just hope it doesn’t make her itch!

We all drove out to meet The Boss for lunch at his work, today.  It reminded me of 5 years ago, when I’d sometimes take a baby Maxi out to The Boss’s work for a picnic lunch, back when I was on maternity leave from work.  Those lunchtimes were the highlight of my week, then.  Today was similar – the girls were very excited about seeing Daddy during the day, and even his grumpy old face lit up over lunch.  They even behaved themselves in the wee canteen.

After The Boss went back to work, the girls had a play in the next-door playpark, then after some toilet shenanigans (thanks goodness we can all squash into a disabled loo, and thank goodness it was empty…) we went on a wee nature trail.  Midi had obviously forgiven me for being such a disciplinarian – she held my hand for the whole 45 minute bimble.  With Mini snuggled in a sling on my back, and Maxi skipping around, suddenly willingly independent, we had a really pleasant afternoon.  They actually enjoyed trying to spot thistles, daisies, butterflies and daft stuff.  We waved at a fork-lift driver filling up with LPG. They didn’t baulk at going into The Deep Dark Woods (maybe because we were higher than the houses when we climbed the steps). They even happily stuck to the path! I guess they got their Karma Reward because on the way back Maxi trod in some dog poo and the mess was too big to clear up at the roadside, so we abandoned going to the boring old supermarket. (Both feet. Brand new sandals, first time of wearing. Sandals, feet and ankles covered. I hate dogs. I really hate dogs).

Midi’s affection was explained by her crashing out in the car, then sleeping for 3 hours when we got home.  She even slept through Mini’s noisy demands for more blueberries: she empties her bowl, then bashes it on the table while shouting angrily till I fill it up again.  She thinks nothing of nicking her sisters’ or parents’ share and is never sated when it comes to sweet berries.  This is why I kept her in a sling when we went strawberry picking at Wester Hardmuir last fortnight…

Sunny Saturday

The bluebells are out!  Hooray!  See ‘May’ on my ‘A Year on the Moray Firth’ page.  But here’s another photo, because I can’t resist:

bluebell

Today dawned sunny and gorgeous and I woke up in a very satisfied mood because I finally whipped my new website into submission, through a mix of sheer bloody-mindedness, dropping my standards of how I wanted it to look and perform, and just not including the stuff that I miserably failed to get working.  Like some payment gateways… ahem.  Anyway, it’s www.rainbowknits.co.uk if you like vibrant baby knits.

So, we all ate a huge breakfast (even Miss Fusspot Maxi Minx), I hung out a washing (don’t I always?  I canny sneeze without hanging out a washing first), we packed half the car boot (3 little kids need a lot of changes of clothes, food, nappies and mini first aid kit) and off we went to Elgin Oak Wood.

We weren’t disappointed!  I printed out some hunt sheets of things for the kids to spot in the woods from the Nature Detectives website.  So, a sheet of different leaves; a sheet of woodland flowers; 2 sheets of creatures and flowers and trees of things you find in the woods.  I thought the kids might still be a bit young for it, but not at all, they loved really looking at things and were elated at spotting a ‘find’.  And it helped that we spotted virtually everything on the sheets (except for an owl).

The last ‘spot’ was a spider.  Midi the Previously-Fearless suddenly announced that she didn’t like spiders and she was scared of them.  Eh?  Who’s she been listening to?  I used to let spiders run about in my hair to freak out my little sister (I was a horrible child), and even Maxi has learned to quite like them because ‘they eat dirty flies’.  Though she’s still a bit nervous about cobwebs.  Anyway, I found one in a web, eating a fly just as big as itself.  The Boss decided to gross out the girls by explaining how spiders eat their prey.  Maxi was obviously paying attention because she decided to plop her straw into a tomato that she had in her picnic lunch later and suck out the insides.  And it worked!  As I giggled, amazed, she proudly announced: “This is my Straw-amatic Juicer Sucker-Upper!”  Yeeeeeeeessss…maybe need to work on the catchy titles before you make a fortune selling your inventions, darling.

The walk through the woods was great fun because Mini snuggled in to the back of my neck and fell asleep, and Maxi and Midi were actually nice to each other, sharing Smarties and seemed like they enjoyed the nature…well, ‘lesson’, really!  Maxi even rummaged in her mini Smartie packet for a pink one especially to replace the pink one Midi dropped.  Awwwww!  Though she’d be mortified if she thought anyone had noticed.  The only downer was The Boss trying to track down why a bad smell seemed to be getting closer and closer (yet I couldn’t smell it), only to discover that it was dog poo smeared from Midi’s sandals onto his rucksack strap, right under his nose.  And his teeshirt.  Yuck.  Bloody irresponsible dog owners.  I guess he’ll never let Midi ride on his shoulders without checking her again.

We let the girls chase round a swingpark to properly tire them out.  It worked – while Midi snored in an afternoon nap, me and Maxi did a bit of mother-daughter brainwashingbonding in the garden: hanging out (yet more) washings, lots of weeding, tons of sowing (peas, beetroot, flowers) and watering.  I liked the watering best: while I had a hosepipe in my hand (it’s ok, I’m in the very N of Scotland, we don’t get hosepipe bans here), I decided to hose off some seagull poo off the car.  (Seagull poo?  Holy schamoley, I’d hate to see the size of seagull that sprayed the half-alive fish over the side of the car – more like a bloody pteradactyl).  Then because I was hosing the car and the water was bouncing off in a spray, I decided to arc some off to show Maxi and Midi a rainbow.  Then because they were giggling so much, I decided to ‘accidentally’ splash them with a bit of water.  Then a lot of water.  Then I was running after 2 shrieking, drenched little girls, who retaliated with wet, soggy cuddles and splashes (attagirls – never give up, even when you have no apparent weaponry!)

Seeds: we finally got the beetroot in the bed with the potatoes and garlic, and got a row of peas in.  And marigolds in between the broad beans, just for the hell of it (if it works, the colours will be lovely).  Then I found the seeds I collected from the weeds growing in the garden of our last house and let Maxi and Midi sprinkle them at will everywhere.  Although the flowers are pretty (and I don’t know their name and can’t find a link on t’interweb), they’re nothing special.  They just remind me of a very happy home and a generally joyful 2 years.

Destructive Morons

Nipping down the post office yesterday with Mini Minx in the buggy, I spotted an old man trying to do himself an injury with a massive big tub.  You know the 4ft diameter, huge flower tubs you get lining the side of the road in flowery villages?  It was on its side and he was cursing at not being able to right it.

Being a bit of a strong woman (under this flab are muscles of solid steel.  Honest), I shouted over to see if he needed help.  He was fooled by my ‘mere mortal’ disguise, too, and replied, “Naw, you’re all right, I can’t even shift it”.

“No really, you’ll hurt yourself; let me help”, I insisted.  On went the buggy brake (and triple checked – I nearly lost baby Mini in front of a car when she was 4 days old thanks to a dodgy buggy brake.  Despite a 4 day old caesarean, I leaped on the road and yanked the buggy and the baby clear off the ground and to safety.  It smarted somewhat, for a few days.  Moral: always triple-check your brakes).

Sorry, I digress.  So, I stood on the other side of the tub, did a count of 3, and sure enough, between us both, we righted it.  There was another upside down and we got that one turned over too, but unfortunately lost the contents down the steep hill to the playing field.  The man cursed the ‘kids’ who’d done it.  Yep, probably took a whole gang of them to do it, but one old man and one fat middle-aged mum to sort it out.  Another old man whose garden I complimented on the walk back up the hill pointed out more damage done by said ‘kids’: 3 huge beds of roadside daffodils completely trashed.

I wonder if they were local kids, or ones from the caravan site here on holiday?  Or ones from the other caravan site here on stop-over in their travelling lives?  It’s easy to blame ‘outsiders’, but I’ve only lived here 2 years and I’ve noticed that the phone box is only ever smashed up in the summer; the greasy, hooded, over-grown teenagers (ie in their 30s but trying to look cool) muttering furtively into their mobiles while they loiter at street corners only appear in the summer.  Graffiti only appears around now and ceases when the holiday trade stops.

Now, I used to just ignore mindless thuggery.  But the older I get, the less I even try to empathise with destructive morons who wreck flowers and things put in place to make a dreary old place look a bit nicer.  I can’t understand that mindset at all.  And believe me, I’ve tried!  My conclusion is that people who destroy pretty things for the hell of it are anti-social scum.  There is something pretty fundamental missing from their (tiny) brains.  Therefore they’ll never change or see why what they do is so wrong.  It makes me angry almost beyond words, angrier than I get with the lazy dog-walkers who bag up their dog poo then leave it in the middle of the path, for the Magic Dog Poo Fairy to come and collect and spirit away (Nnnngggggah!  I swear if I actually catch someone doing that, I’ll bloody rub their noses in it!  Literally.  I found a couple of abandoned poo-filled bags in a short walk along the coast today alone)

So, what to do with really horrible, aberrant humans like that?  Rather than get all Daily Fail and militant and ‘lock them up!’, I think they should be encouraged to stay at home with their Nintendos and Playstations, munching on pizza, drinking White Lightning and smoking their fags.  Get obese and ill and stay indoors for the rest of their hateful lives, away from normal people.  And preferrably don’t pass on their hateful genes.

Very Grumpy Tired Old Trout

Oh boy, today would have been rough enough without doing it on so little sleep: I ousted Midi Minx from the bed 3 times last night, then Maxi Minx came bounding in at silly o’clock and whacked my forehead HARD with the back of her head.  The c-r-a-c-k woke up The Boss.  Yep, it really hurt.

So, with the weather forecast of Scottish Standard (drizzle with a spot of rain for a change), I decided that if we didn’t get outside straight after breakfast, we’d be facing another indoor day of stir-craziness.

You’d have thought I was trying to drag the kids out to sell them off or something, not go out to do something fun.  As it was, it took a full hour to get organised and out.  Sheesh.  And all of that time was nagging Maxi Minx to eat ‘something. Anything. Just put a single Shreddie in your mouth and chew it!’  I was aware that my little brain had stopped working as I trecked back and forth, picking up things to take with us in the rucksack and forgetting other things (note to self: yes, using Bonjela as emergency minor injury anaesthetic is very clever, but you’re probably more likely to need at least one nappy in a size 4…)

Finally we got off, all 3 minxes howling, mutinous, grumpier than their mother.  Four pouts in a car – not healthy.  I didn’t like the look of the low cloud and just couldn’t face the inevitable trudge through dog poo on the lovely forest walks behind the caravan park, so kept driving (‘flexibility is the key to parenthood’.  I’ll keep saying it till you remember it).  On a whim I decided to head to the next town’s main park and show Maxi Minx the tree that I thought she’d killed herself on, aged only 2 (her little sled slammed into it and she flew into the tree.  I wasn’t the only one who thought she’d totalled.  I swear I aged 50 years and became an overprotective mother instantly).

We walked along a dead avenue and for 7 minutes I did the simpering, teaching, oh-wow Earth Mummy I always thought I’d like to be: pointing out buds, tree rings, moss, larches, firs, pines, blah, blah, blah.  I’d even let Maxi take her camera along, so she and Midi took turns dutifully photographing everything I pointed out.  I’m ashamed: I even got them to feel the sawn-off trunk rings.  Fool.  They would have had more fun chucking stones and mud at each other.

“I’m all wobbilaaaaaay!” whimpered Wobbly Midi.  Code for: “I’m bored.  This is your first warning”.

“I’m cold!” whined Maxi.  I was too engrossed in looking for the 2-year-old sled mark in The Tree to notice that it really was bloomin’ cold.

“I need a wee-wee!” howled Midi.  Code for: “You had your chance.  You Will Now Obey”.

So, we did a bit of juggling with double buggy, 3 cold girls, a huge raincover, 2 cameras, a rucksack (and a partridge in a pear tree).  Why is it that if you have a double buggy and you have the baby in it, you have to put them in the front.  But when the toddler gets tired and needs to get in, you need to take the baby out, replace with toddler, then put the baby in the back?  I need to find me a trusty heavy boulder to weight the buggy down and keep the baby in the back full-time.  Grrr, no wonder I prefer slings!

I have no idea what came over me, but I thought it might be fun to take the girls to Costa Coffee for a hot chocolate.  Alone.  Just me riding herd on them.  The cold must have addled my head.

We got there at 1050hrs and left as quickly as we could, at 1220hrs, with the kids as mutinous as when we set off, my blood pressure at Extreme and the staff no doubt putting in a call to Social Services…

(photo deleted) At first the kids sat beautifully and even drank their hot chocolates tidily.  Then they got bored sharing a croissant and mini cupcakes.  One wanted to wee.  One wanted to poo.  The other exploded out her nappy (and I’d left the change bag in the car – with the downpour outside it might as well have been the Far Side of the Moon).  The helpful waitress kept trying to take away my coffee and our food (“No, I’m not done with it, I’m keeping hot stuff out of reach of the kids…No, still not done with it…I’ll let you know when I’m finished…DROP IT!”).

We visited every toilet in that supermarket (the Costa was in place of the supermarket cafe), and by God there are some manky sods out there!  Flush the toilet, you creeps!  If it doesn’t all go away – flush again!!  If it escapes, wipe it up (or hit it with a stick).

I thought I couldn’t get more stressed till I decided to grab some milk and bread.  The minxes were like The Red Arrows: Minx 1 on left, Minx 2 on right, grab double handful and disperse on my mark… BREAK!  We made it to the checkout and foolishly I thought a self-service till would interest them for long enough for me to pay.  “Unexpected item in the baggage area…unexpected item in the baggage area…Unexpected…”  I hissed, I threatened and finally shouted at Maxi and Midi to Get Off The Silver Thing Right This Minute Or You Are For It!!!  A helper took pity on me and scanned stuff while I hauled the girls back (Thank you, whoever you are.  You saved all our lives, but your disdainful look still stings me to the core.  I was provoked: I’m not normally that much of a harridan).

Sigh.  Home.  Usual quadruple trip of empty car boot, frog-march Maxi to the house, carry sleepy Midi on walking strike, carry sleeping Mini to cot.  I thought it might be nice to have a coffee.  Nope, Midi’s curled off a real Elvis-killer in the potty.  And when I get rid of it, it splashes back.  Sheesh.  Today’s getting better and better.

So is it any wonder I nearly choked when the dentist’s receptionist phoned to remind me of The Boss’s check-up tomorrow?  I’d only taken a long and grumpy call a few weeks ago to get him seen at the same time as the kids, even if it was at the end of April, and had real trouble making myself understood that I didn’t want 2 separate appointments regardless of the day.  No, not even on a Wednesday (aaaaargh!)

But at least Mini Minx is showing some real intriguing brain power: she found both her socks from opposite ends of the living room and scurried off as fast as her little knees and hands could piston.  I asked her if she wanted them on and she screeched and cackled hysterically.  Eh?!

L Plate Mummy Part 2

The Trout loves 'Minx Mayhem Remover'

In the words of Baby Bud, “Aaaaaah’ve had a fabby dayyyyyy!”  Well, I was on a roll after braving the beach with the 3 minxes on my own on Tuesday, so today I upgraded in difficulty: 3 hours on the same beach with 3 minxes, not such great weather, another little girl and her mummy.

As expected, it took me 3 hours beforehand to get ready, but that was mostly because I was on a mission to use up some leftovers and make Cornish pasties (ok, ok, I’ll come clean – I ran out of bread for sandwiches).  Except they were probably Kiwi Pasties, because they were full of lamb and sweet potato.  Actually, here’s a quick recipe before I forget, because they were pretty yum: 

Bottom right Kiwi Pasty half-demolished for <ahem> Quality Assurance purposes

Kiwi Pasties Ingredients

*200g shortcrust pastry (made with 200g plain flour, 60g salted butter, 40g lard)

*leftover lamb from last night’s leg roast

*leftover mashed sweet potatoes from dinner 2 nights ago (boiled sweet potatoes mashed with salty butter and a good shake of cinnamon)

Method

Roll the pastry into 6 shapes roughly circle-ish.  Mix the lamb and mashed sweet potato together,  then dollop it onto the circles.  Brush the edges with milk, then join (do whatever shaping takes your fancy).  Brush with more milk and stab in the side to let the steam out.  Bake at 220degC for 20 mins then 180degC for 35 mins.

They went down a treat, but would be even better with chopped onion and gravy, I think.  What a shame, I’ll just need to try that recipe out this weekend, then…!

I digress.  So, I loaded the car boot with pasties, boiled eggs (decorated again by minxes, which kept them occupied for 15 mins while I got stuff together), cake, apples, juice cartons, cheese sticks, pepper fingers, big flask of coffee for me (it was a rough night…) and a ton of spare clothes, and off we went for an 1130hrs rendezvous.

We had a hoot!  Loads of beach-combing (I spotted oyster shells larger than my palm – I was more excited than the kids!), being flown over rather low by a Hercules, bubble-blowing (I’m proud of that – I brought a bottle of bubbles along as a distraction tactic for when I needed the kids to stay in one place while I did Mummy-guff), lunch-munching and general puddle splashing.

Why the praise for the bottle of antibac in the top picture, though?  Well, the minxes were true to form and all 3 poo-ed within the space of 10 minutes: one in a nappy, one in a portaloo (it nearly blocked the chemical toilet – I did a muscle in pumping the flush) and one in a hastily dug latrine.  With a toy spade.  Being a complete dog poo Nazi, you can imagine how deep I dug that hole and how well I filled in and stamped on it.

The 3 eldest girls had lots more fun at the playground while the youngest one yelled and squealed at them (through the goo of her eye infections – they had gotten so much better so I’d not gone to the docs, but today was a set-back.  If no better tomorrow, I’ll battle the vaguaries of the appointment system and get her checked out, even though she seems ok herself).

To top off their day, it was a ballet day, so I plonked the minxes in the car and drove half the beach to the class.  4 wet wipes and a hair brush and they almost looked human (ballerina-like they were not).

Was today a success, then?  I have a wind-burn glow, Midi Minx was so worn out she fell asleep in her dinner and Maxi Minx declared it ‘My Best Day Ever.  Ever.  Really’ before wolfing her pasta bolognaise as fast as her sisters.  I’m very proud: eat well, play well, sleep well – just what I want for my growing kids.  And dealing with their synchro-poos without disaster (yet) has made me confident enough to start properly resuming my former outdoor life, so time to venture further afield next week – yippee!!

Spot the Ball

Outminxing a Minx or Being a YTS Mummy

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my time as a stay-at-home mum:

“I didn’t give up my career to mop a perma-filthy floor instead!”

“I didn’t give up my salary to constantly clock-watch and rush, rush, rush to get the next meal made, only for you to smear it on the walls!”

“I didn’t sign up to spending most of my waking time following 3 minxes and a man around to just pick up everything they lazily discard!”

I think like a lot of soon-to-be SAHMs, I’d had a real rose-tinted view of what life would be like:

What I Thought It Would Be Like

Me and the kids baking every day, then doing messy crafts, maybe a story or 2, a walk after lunch (cooked, and from scratch of course), coming back via the swings and afternoon snack in the garden.  Home-cooked dinner, more stories, bed.  Lots of laughing, “I love yous” and fond sighs.

The Reality

Me and the kids yelling at each other every day, them making incredible amounts of mess (food, toys, each other’s hair), a Naughty Step each or 5, parked in front of CBeebies while I get 3 meals ready (proper food – why does it take me so long?!), route-march to the shops occasionally strapped into the double buggy, run around the garden for 5 minutes until Midi Minx starts to rip up newly-budded bulbs or Mini Minx starts to wail (she’s such a limpet, that baby!).  All sit down to family squabble-athon dinner when The Boss gets in from work.  Pass kids to The Boss for wash, story and bed so I can be Bad Cop and scold them when they get up again and again, and turn the Chimps Enclosure back into a house for 10 mins or so before bed.  Free time spent shopping, cleaning or feeding Mini Minx.  Breaks: one pee break if I’m really, really desperate.  Lots of angry yelling, crying, and strops (adult as well as child).

Pants, isn’t it?  So I’ve decided to get a grip and stop letting this frustrating life just happen to us.  I’m the adult – I’m in charge.  Who cares if every meal is a proper one, made from scratch?  Who cares if the carpet is hoovered?  (OK me, if Mini is crawling over it).  Who cares if the kids stay clean or their clothes stay in one piece? (Um….)  Why spend every single meal fighting with the little beasts to eat – why not let them go hungry if they’re determined not to eat?  It won’t hurt them long-term.  Why not let Midi Minx wet and poo herself if she’s being too stubborn to use the potty before we go anywhere?  I can handle the smell (and God knows, she has enough clothes for anything too badly messed to just be binned).

So I did.  Today dawned cold, crisp and sunny.  Perfect beach weather!  And being the original Mega Minx, I know that little girls who won’t normally eat lunch will eat a scabby dog if it’s called ‘picnic’.  So I checked the tide tables, decided when to go, then got the girls to draw over a boiled egg each while I made sandwiches.  They practiced for Easter while I cut loveheart shapes and teddybear shapes.  Best of all: it counts as a ‘craft session’.  10 bonus points to me.

Minx picnic

Tarted-up Scabby Dog

We live on a little jobby of land that pokes out into the Moray Firth, so have an embarrassment of beaches and rockpools within 15 mins walking distance.  However, supervising 3 minxes on my own (remember: I still have SAHM L plates) meant I felt more confident taking a mountain of stuff in the car ‘just in case’.  Besides, it was only 4 mins drive to the nearest long flat EMPTY beach, bereft of dog poo (have a had a rant about dog owners yet…?)  So that’s what I did, and unleashed the minxes.

Midi and Maxi took charge and shook out an old rug onto a little platform stand by the beach.  As predicted, they wolfed down their lunches, especially the wee loveheart chocolates in shiny red foil I’d taken as a treat-surprise.  We had a really lovely 20 minutes scoffing, looking out to sea to spot dolphins, blethering about the oil rigs floating past and deciding where the North Pole was in relation to our house.

What is it about my daughters, though, that they can’t spend an hour out of doors without needing to poo?  And usually all at the same time?  And usually with 5 seconds advance warning?  Thank goodness for nappy sacks and a strong stomach…

Mini Minx soon set off her siren wail – as well as still being my little cling-on, she’s got an eye infection too, poor wee soul.  I’m guessing it’s from rubbing her bogeys over her little face (Germ Vector Midi brought this evil cold virus into the household the week before last and all 3 girls are suffering).  So I walked her in her buggy in ever-increasing circles round the eldest 2 minxes as they explored, pondered on why oystercatchers are so-called yet they catch mussels (Maxi), ate sand (Midi), climbed old WWII anti-tank defences (Maxi), ate empty crab claws (Midi), looked under rocks (Maxi), licked rocks (Midi), threw rocks (both. At each other).

Mini’s screams wouldn’t stop, so we slogged back to the car.  Typically, she stopped just as we got to the car park.  Luckily there’s a wee playground right there, so flexibility being the key to being a vaguely-adequate mummy, I let them run off more steam while I fed Mini cheese sticks and coaxed out a few grins from her. 

Midi Minx Planning Her Next Ambush

Getting home, I played with the girls for an hour or so before dinner (shocker!), so dinner was a cobbled together thing that was weird but fast (pasta twirls, sliced cold roast beef, boiled broccoli and carrots, mashed sweet potato, cinnamon and butter).

The day was a success because: Midi fell asleep in her dinner tonight, and both girls ate a decent meal.  The best bits for me: hearing all 3 giggle and laugh (and myself – nearly scared the wildlife); taking the time to just cuddle each girl, get snuggled back and tell them I love them.  Bits to work on: I’m really not comfortable around mess and dirt!  I let them get filthy and wet and didn’t fuss or scold, but it was a surprisingly big effort not to.  The minxes weren’t bothered and enjoyed the day all the more for it.  I need to work on embracing my grubby side.  Based on the weather forecast, we should have a chance for another practice at being a normal family the day after tomorrow 🙂