I Can Still Hear You!

Today (January 25 – I found this lurking in my ‘drafts’ folder. Sorry…) was Midi Minx’s 2nd follow-up after her grommets operation. After a lot of shenanigans*, we got an appointment at the nearest children’s hospital for today. Because the appointment was too early to pass on childcare to The Boss and too late to get back in time to pick up Maxi after school, I had to take all 3 minxes with me. Ha. It was always going to get messy…

* I got the standard letter saying “You may now phone to make an appointment”. Constantly engaged the first day I tried to call. And the next day. And the next day. I started to get really irked. The letter is phrased in that really aggressive and patronising tone that rubs me up the wrong way. I’m warned in the letter than I *must* contact them within 14 days of the the letter date. Or.Else. Hmmmm… postal delays meant that I didn’t get the letter till Day 4. Then Days 5-7 were days the telephone line wasn’t open. Days 8-11 I couldn’t get through. So I gave up and cheated, and called the switchboard. They put me through to the wrong hospital. I tried again. Wrong ward. I couldn’t understand the woman who answered, but reckoned the numbers she rattled off before hanging up just might be a phone number. One of them got me through to a very apologetic woman who made an appointment for me, but again, she stressed that if I didn’t turn up then Midi would go to the bottom of the many-month waiting list again. I bit my tongue, but honestly, why feel the need to hector me about attendance? I’ve never missed a medical appointment in my life. I’ve never been a No Show. Why automatically assume that I need to be rebuked and scolded before I’ve done something that I’m not inclined to do anyway? Argh! Makes my blood boil!

Anyway. Anyway. I picked up Mini from nursery. They’d been having a wee party to celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday, so all the children were jumping around wildly to some traditional Scottish music when I went in. Mini’s eyes were whirling. She looked flushed and tired. Oh-oh… She had her first meltdown within 10 yards of the nursery door. “I hate you! You not park in the school car park! I HATE the school car park! Hate it!” she shrieked, foaming at the mouth.

“But Mini, you get upset when I *don’t* park here, and park beside the play-park! I parked here because you asked me to!”

“Waaaaaaah! Hate it!”

I distracted her with some lunch and fed her bits and bobs while I rustled up 3 packed lunches: ham on oat bread, cranberry and raspberry juice cartons (found in the price reduced section – bonus), cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, sliced cucumbers and a share of a bag of fried root veg crisps (also reduced – double bonus). I folded up wee kitchen roll pieces and tucked them inside the boxes to tart them up for the kids. Then I nipped over to the school with a happier, full-tummied Mini.

Midi greeted me with a “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, hello, good to see you, I got everything right in my spelling and got another sticker and I’m great and I did really well and I worked hard and my teacher gave me another sticker and I’m ready for hospital and I can’t wait to go.. <whumph>” and threw herself at me. Maxi meanwhile started a slow search for a bag, then carried out a few languorous conversations. I’m asking Santa for a shepherd’s crook for Christmas.

Finally stuffing them in the car, we stopped for a mandatory attempt-to-pee-before-long-car-journey and grab of packed lunches. They approved of the lunches, so all was quiet and well for the hour-long journey. We arrived at the hospital. All was quiet and calm walking to the entrance. We arrived at reception. All was quiet and safe. We arrived at the WRVS cafe. Chaos descended. “I want those crisps… No, those ones! I want chocolate. Where’s the chocolate? Where are the sweets? Need sweets. That one. And that one. Gimme! Go away <shove>”. They were plonked in their seats, given a bag of Quavers each and told to sit down, sit still and stop demanding. Didn’t work. Maxi realised that her audience of 2 small boys had disappeared to look at the helicopter, so she wandered over to show-off in their general direction some more. She was followed by her sisters.

I rounded all 3 up. I guess the hour of sitting still in the car had sent them bonkers because I had to restrain all 3 and make them look at me to hear me say, “We’re going!” Then we waited maybe 40 minutes all in, never sure when we’d actually be called through, so 2 of the minxes had close toilet calls. Actually, wouldn’t it be cool to have a toilet in the same bit of the building as the waiting area? Wouldn’t it be cool to have some kind of system to tell the staff you’ve just taken your kid to the toilet to save them assuming you’ve just given up and wandered off home? Leaving easily-distracted 7 yos to listen out for their sister’s name with strict instructions of what to do is about as useful as telling the pot-plant in the corner where you’re going. I’d left Midi with Maxi and frog-marched a cross-legged Mini to the toilet (yet again). When I came back, there was no sign of the other 2. It took me a worrying few minutes to track them down to the hearing test booth.

The doctor Midi finally saw was lovely (he established a great rapport with Midi, addressed everything to her, was clear, pleasant, brisk, friendly), and the upshot is that Midi’s hearing is ‘boringly normal’ (hooray!) and that he’s happy for her to be discharged (woohoo! At last!) but for me to get her re-referred if the grommets don’t fall out by late summer. Excellent.

On the way back, driving through the city on a Friday afternoon, I played my favourite traffic jam music: anything from Holst’s Planet Suite, so long as it’s at full volume. I tell you, when Mars gets going, it properly drowns out the racket of 3 whingeing, whining girls..! I played Saturn and used words like ‘menacing’, ‘scary’, ‘dread’ to describe it. The kids stopped fighting and really listened. It’s finally overtaken One Direction’s “One Way or Anuzzah” (sic – ta, Mini) as the most requested car tune.

Midweek Visit Home

Last week Midi Minx had an appointment with the ENT consultant to see how her hearing is. She was first referred 3 years ago after near-constant ear infections, and after lots and lots of messing around, watchful waiting, and multiple eardrum perforations, she got grommets last year. The difference was immediate and amazing. This check-up was to see if the grommets were still there and how Midi’s hearing was.

As we’d been waiting 6 months for this appointment rather than the 3 months it was supposed to be, I decided to take Midi out of school for the entire day and drive 100 miles each way, rather than ask to be referred to a colleague a little closer to home and go back into the interminable waiting pool yet again. I refused to feel guilty about it. It was one day. Hopefully it would be our last visit. And poor owl-mad Midi would be missing a visit to the school by some owls and their handler. And if we were going almost all the way back to our old house, we might as well nip back, carry out a bit of garden maintenance, and give it a quick air and a clean. I thought Midi would be distraught, but no, she was beside herself with glee – a whole day out with Mummy! All by herself! I was enormously flattered, and secretly pretty gleeful myself – Midi is a very funny wee girl and fantastic company. The Boss took a day off work to shuttle the other minxes to and from school and nursery, and had the grace to pale when he saw the day’s schedule that I’d written down for him. I think he still fondly remembers the days when he was the stay at home parent to a 3 and 1 year old who both took naps in the middle of the day, and didn’t need to be driven anywhere for any specific time.

The morning of the day trip, all the minxes had dentist check-ups first, though. I think the lovely dentist was on his first day in the job, judging by snippets I overheard the dental nurse say. He started off by asking about their oral hygiene. I explained that the girls drink milk and water; they rarely drink fruit juice or diluting juice, and they get fizzy pop on special occasions only. Their snacks are usually fruit, sometimes vegetables. Biscuits, sweets and cake are special treats only, and tend to be with meals. They never eat or drink after brushing their teeth at night. They brush twice a day, supervised. They use fluoride toothpaste.

The dentist blinked. Then he repeated everything I’d said back to me, phrased as advice.

I blinked at him. Then smiled just a leeeetle too widely and said, “Then it sounds like we’re doing just perfectly, then. Great!”

He blinked again. He looked confused and a little uncomfortable. I think the poor man was nervous.

Say 'ahhhh', Midi. And don't eat the nice dentist

Say ‘ahhhh’, Midi. And don’t eat the nice dentist

We chatted about Midi’s ground-down teeth. Contrary to popular opinion, her teeth haven’t worn away from biting other kids… With a clean bill of health, me and my girl zoomed off to hit the long road north-west, while The Boss took the other 2 girls in.

Apparently Maxi has 2 tiny cavities but no decay, and Mini was a model dental patient (BIG change from her first few dentist visits, then!) The Boss said that he had to interrupt and insist *3 times* that he didn’t want Mini’s teeth to have fluoride varnish painted on them. He said the dentist was merrily preparing it, without listening to him at all, and he looked very perplexed when he realised what The Boss was saying. The Boss challenged him gently to convince him on any additional benefit the varnish would give Mini when she already had excellent teeth and a great diet. The poor dentist didn’t answer. So that was that.

Midi patiently sat in the back of the car, singing along to Alanis Morissette (her choice) or chattering about the whichness of what for the 2.5 hours it took to get to the hospital. This was lovely for me, just listening to the crazed meanderings of the mind of my 5 year old. Normally she’s drowned out by Maxi’s bletherings.

The wee soul concentrated so hard during her hearing test that she held her breath and caught up with great big occasional gulping sighs. Her hearing was nearly perfect. Hooray! The consultant said her grommets are still in, but definitely on their way out. He wants to check on her hearing a few months after they fall out, so in 6 more months. Hmmm… in that case, could we could see a colleague of his nearer home instead, which he agreed to. Both me and Midi thanked him for everything he’d done over the past few years, and that was that! Midi had privately said that he was her “favourite doctor ever. Ever!”, but we didn’t tell him that; we’d already terrified one medical professional that day.

Straight after, we nipped into town for a swift zip round M&S Food to use up some vouchers on total rubbish: biscuits, coffee and Percy Pig sweets! Big treats! The irony of buying them after a dentist check-up wasn’t lost on me. The mum of one of Maxi’s friends saw us and said hello. I had a big pang of homesickness. Then we went to our favourite Elgin restaurant, Scribbles, for lunch and a lovely long catch-up with one of my friends. I was dying for the beef chilli melt but it wasn’t as good as in my memory (it was one of my cravings throughout my pregnancies with Midi and Mini).

Back to the old house, gulping back a lump in my throat throughout. I spent 3 hours mowing the lawn, weeding the front garden, pruning the bushes and generally tidying up, then filling the boot with warm clothes and bits and bobs that we needed. Meanwhile, Midi lay on the sofa gorging her eyes on real, live TV.

applesOne of our lovely neighbours nabbed me while I was mowing and came over with a huge bag of apples from her garden that she’d picked that morning. She’s been giving us tomatoes, plums and apples from her garden in autumn for years (can you see why I’m so sad to be leaving with such lovely friends and neighbours?!) so it was wonderful to take home one last bag.

Finally finished at 5pm, we set off for Midi’s biggest treat of the day – dinner at the all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. She set off like a Queen, all tucked up in fleece blankets in the back seat with her toys artfully gathered around.

At the restaurant we ate enough for 7 people. Well, Midi is the daughter who most inherited my prodigious appetite for fried food. Actually, make that ‘any food’. Me, I just enjoyed chatting with her and eating lots of yummy stuff, whereas she got a real buzz out of being allowed a glass of lemonade, being allowed to fill her own plate and carry it to the table, not being told to hurry up. “It’s so great not having to talk over Maxi!” she giggled to me. “I can talk to you when I like and not save it all up”. After insisting that I sat beside rather than opposite her, she spent most of the meal hugging my arm to her chest, kissing me and telling me how much she loved me. I tell you, you can keep your candle-lit fancy dinners and fine wines – life doesn’t get much better than a good uncomplicated scoff and a giggle with your adoring daughter!

Sighing with a belly full of pleasure, I granted her ‘last, last, last, final’ wish of a lolly at the end and we waddled back to the car for the 2.5 hr drive back home through the dark, rain and fog. I thought Midi would have slept, but instead she chattered incessantly (most unlike her!) and kept me awake and free-ish from road rage.

Oh don’t even start me off – what is it with some people who drive aggressively because you’re driving under the speed limit when the road is wet and slippy? Don’t they realise that I don’t have a teleport device, so actually have to consider boring old-fashioned things like stopping distance…? I got home at 9pm, truly frazzled, especially when a weaving lorry must have thought my flashing indicator and brake lights were me just teasing him, and nearly shunted me on the right turn off the dual carriageway to the farmhouse. I hate that road…

Say That Again Slowly?

Mini Minx woke me up this morning by coughing wetly in my face. Wonderful. She leaned on my nose to reach over and grab a tissue, then politely coughed into it. “I got my cough off!” she proudly told me when I blinked stupidly at her. It’s a bit of a theme with her: she talks about turning the dark on and off (rather than the light). Talking of which, roll on Spring when I won’t need to turn on a light to see well enough to eat “lansh” (= lunch in Mini-ese)

And talking of the things kids say, I’ve not written any Midi-isms for a while, but only through lack of time; they’re still there. Example, a few Thursdays ago we stopped at McDonalds to have a cheeky burger dinner after gymnastics. On the drive home in the dark, Midi asked if we’d see any “meteorisers”. It’s a shame I didn’t indulge her by driving home the shore-route – that was the night that the aurora was very strong around 1830hrs, just as we were driving home. Doh…

This morning we had a Treat Breakfast of croissants and jam. I think you can figure out just how terrible my pronunciation is: Midi calls them “fossils” (oh, don’t look at me like that! Say it aloud! See?). And I definitely think it’s me, rather than her, or her hearing. She saw the ENT professor 2 days ago, following up her grommets operation. For the first time *ever* she had a hearing test and “it could barely be better”, said both the technician and the doc. Yippee!!!! My baby can hear! Actually, that’s been blindingly obvious – she still wears her ear defenders to bed, and Maxi’s snoring isn’t that loud!

Or Mini’s, for that matter… in a recent upheaval, the minxes decided that they’d like to all sleep in the same room. So now they do: we swapped a chest of drawers with Mini’s bed. The noise is no worse, and nocturnal wanderings haven’t changed, but the mess… oh my God, the mess of clutter on the bedroom floor each night has reached shovel-drastically-needed dimensions! And now Mini’s old bedroom (which they’ve grandly taken to calling The Dressing Room) looks like a jam-bomb exploded in a clothing factory: there are clothes piled on and against and around every single surface. I just can’t tidy as fast as 4 other people are un-tidying. One day, when they’re all at work or school, I’m going to get a big roll of bin-bags and unleash the Mentalist Minimalist Declutterer in me.

Last bit of news: yesterday Mini wailed, “I need a poo! Where my potty?” and scuttled off to find it. All by herself. Without me prompting her. The instant she sat down, she produced something that made her gasp and exclaim, “Why it so stinky? It horrible, Mummy!” I’m just glad I have a bad cold… A measure of how proud I was of our little girl: I gave her 2 ink stamps on her hands (instead of stickers, which fall off), texted The Boss, and updated my Facebook status. ‘Delighted’ and ‘relieved’ barely cut it as descriptors. Today we had the same performance, but in the toilet! She even insisted on sitting on the large toilet seat rather than the tiny trainer seat (“I need a big seat, Mummy, cos I gotta big bum. Jus’ like you!”). I’m daring to hope that the end of the daily grind of hosing down Mini, degunging her clothes and frantic cleaning of fragged surfaces may soon be over… quick, sell your shares in Domestos! They’ll plummet when the company find out I’m no longer their prime customer.

Eh? I Can’t Hear You!

Midi Minx’s hearing is duff.  But it’s getting better.

We had the follow-up appointment with the ENT consultant last Friday.  This time Midi was so good that she got to wear the headphones to have a more accurate test.  I hoped that this might show her hearing was actually ok and that she was just getting a bit distracted with the previous hearing test.  Even better, I had to leave the room because Mini Minx was playing up (hot, hungry, tired and wanted to play with the toys, too).  So I watched my big baby girl smiling and giggling behind comically huge headphones through a big one-way mirrored window.

It’s not often you get the opportunity to stand back and see your children a bit more objectively than usual.  When I ‘see’ Midi, I still see the enormous chubby baby with big curls and a bigger smile that she was.  Watching her from a distance, I was struck by how vulnerable she looked, with her little hands in her lap, shoulders shaking with glee and anticipation, her baby-shape entirely changed from toddler to wiry, skinny little girl.  She’s 3, but the height of a tall 5 year old.  Her smile is now 100% impish, and where did that cascade of beautiful, fine, white-yellow hair come from all of a sudden?!

Anyway, the physiologist who did Midi’s hearing test declared that the hearing in her right ear was “borderline normal”.  Oh.  Pants.  My poor girl.  “And the hearing in her left ear isn’t as good”.  Oh!  Double-pants.  But because her hearing is better than it was 3 months ago, the consultant wants to wait another 3 months to review her yet again before deciding on grommets / adenoid removal.  Suits me!  If it’s not causing her any more pain, I’d much rather just leave things alone.  Bonus!

We had our post-hearing test in The Big Smoke treat – big shopping blitz in H&M for a ton of little girl basics (and ballet stuff) – then a quick whizz round The Big Out Of The City Tesco.  Normally shopping with 2/3 girls is quite fun (and I detest shopping…).  But that day Mini just wanted to tug and pull Midi’s hair.  I kept explaining that she loved Midi and was just trying to stroke something beautiful.  I was lying – my youngest minx was wilfully yanking it to get a reaction from her favourite person in the whole world.  And to her eternal credit, poor Midi didn’t hit Mini back, just cried.  She’d been a fantastic Big Sister Helper to me all day and just hit the end of her tether.  A year ago, she’d have tried to eat Mini, so she’s made enormous progress.

Midi Minx is Such a Demon Because…

She can’t hear.

Well, she can hear, but not very well.  I’ve had my suspicions for a while, now.  Example: from when she learned to speak, she’s stared intently at people’s lips.  Her speech has a garbled ‘underwater’ quality to it.  Although her vocabulary is fine now, after a late start, she still misses out a lot of sounds (eg ‘ballallee’ instead of ‘vaseline’).  I’ve always had to yell to get her to listen to me (I’d stopped noticing – I assumed she was being disobedient / inattentive / too wrapped up in what she was doing, so always spoke to her face to face if I wanted something).

Mr Tumble

Midi's Hero

Anyway, last March I asked for her to be referred to a specialist to get her hearing checked.  I also wasn’t happy at her having ear infection after ear infection.  She had 8 between Christmas and August 1st last year (yep – average of 1 a month.  And she had the mass of yellow pillow gunk 4 times, which after a night of screaming in pain is pretty indicative to me of eardrum perforations).  In May I chased up the referral.  Nothing had been done.  I chased it up again in July.  It had gone to the local hospital.  Midi Minx was seen by a paediatricion in November.  He asked why we were there, as he couldn’t do hearing tests and would have to refer her to a different hospital.  And they had a long waiting list.  Gnnnnnnng!!!  I just wanted someone to look at my little girl and tell me if (a) there was anything we could do to stop her being in pain so regularly from ear infections, (b) if she should be on antibiotics with every ear infection (every 4-8 week?!), (c) were we doing something wrong?  (we stopped her swimming or putting her ears under water in the bath.  It seemed to help a bit).  We finally saw the right paediatrician on Friday.

I watched Midi get a hearing test.  A nurse held a hand-held tone-emitter behind Midi’s head.  At the ‘whistle’, she got to drop a car down a track.  My heart just about broke in 2 watching my bright, giggling little girl looking at the other nurse with a huge expectant smile on her face, waiting excitedly to hear the notes that I could hear and she couldn’t (and my hearing is duff – I spent my teens plugged into headphones set to 11, and too much loud live music and too long flying).  She can hear, but just not that well.

So the professor said she has glue ear, and to wait 3 months.  If it’s still there then, she’s to get grommets and her adenoids out.  My poor baby!  I’m dreading her having an operation, but if she needs it…

I also feel Mummy Guilt.  It explains lots.  Like why she kept running towards the road when I yelled, “Lily freeze!”  No wonder she looked so thunderstruck when I yanked her back, shouted and smacked her.  And I guess it might explain all the biting after all.  I thought she was being a little demon who’d been dragged up, rather than brought up.  Most nursery teachers said it was a phase, not to worry, but one said it could be frustration with not being able to hear or speak properly.  I guess she might have been right.  And there was me thinking Midi liked to sign (Makaton) because she loved Mr Tumble so much…