Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Santa stuffed

Love this time of year:

It's the look in their eyes tomorrow morning that does it for me.

Four-legged-friend also stuffed. The look in his eyes is one of confusion; why is there a  red man hanging on the door? And why does he smell of chocolate?
But whatever puzzles him, he is always happy to snuggle up to a hot oven:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Felonious kleptosquaters

A new, invisible kleptomaniac is squatting in our home.

I can picture him, and the other thieves already in residence, stealing out from their various hidey-holes from beneath beds, behind doors, and under chairs, in the middle of the night and tiptoeing to the linen cupboard, where they hunch down in a felonious ring around a lighted candle and plot their next raid.

They believe we don't know they exist, but actually, I know more about them than they would care to think: the one with a penchant for footwear is colour blind, because he only ever steals odd socks; the new one, who is partial to pencils, has toothache, because, if I find any he has hidden, they are invariably chewed; the one who slides half-finished mugs of hot chocolate beneath the children's beds has perennial rhinitis, because only a permanently blocked nose could be oblivious to the awful smell of rancid, sugary milk; and the one who tosses dog biscuits all over the utility room is perhaps a little different - I suspect he has four legs, whiskers, a longish tail, squeaks and answers to the name of 'Mouse!'

Friday, 25 November 2011

Inequality at breakfast

The mum vs. dad balance of early morning duties are a little lop-sided in our house, but I suspect this is nothing unusual. I also suspect that although the mum could be accused of being the creator and perpetuator of this imbalance, she would choose not to alter it. Why? Because the dad wouldn't cope. Brutal, but true.

Take today for example: I got up this morning, reluctantly, after snatching a few extra minutes since the 'getting up' was not for the first time, because Four-legged-friend wanted to go out at ten to five. Woke Littlest - the hot little body tucked into mine, squeezing along the edge of our bed. Came downstairs, after gathering her schooliform and waking Middle Daughter. Put the kettle on. Fed Four-legged-friend and put him out twenty seconds later when food gone. Emptied dishwasher and loaded it with last night's dinner plates. Put a load of washing in machine and switched it on. Made hot chocolates x2. Found Littlest's homework and piano bag. Made Littlest breakfast. Took tea to husband (thought about throwing it at him when he helpfully reminded me of the things I forgot to do yesterday. Didn't, because didn't have time to clear up the mess.) Found hairbrush and hair ties for Littlest. Sent her to brush her teeth. Made husband his lunch. Took Four-legged-friend to run and filled his bowl with fresh water. Ransacked Littlest's room and found scarf and gloves. Had shower, washed hair, got dressed ...dried hair???Don't be silly! Got Littlest into school coat. Rubbish collection day, so put out the bins. Left home for school - remembered to put children in the car first. Forgot to have breakfast myself ...

Husband lay in bed for 10 minutes, ran bath, lay in bath for 20 minutes, drank his tea, dressed and ate his breakfast (crumbs, plate, knife and jam abandoned for the clearing fairy to deal with later) and went to work.

Hmmm ... redress the balance? Probably not.

Deserved the coffee and croissant after 'kiss and drop' outside school? Definitely!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

On sleep

Beset with poorly child who cannot sleep and feeling guilty that I told her I needed to sleep, my guilt is now keeping me awake.

Sleep is a funny thing - we love it, especially in the winter, when we can wrap up warm after a hot bath, and snuggle down under the covers; we hate it when we are too busy to stop, when needing to sleep slows us down and makes us slow and jeopardises deadlines; we appreciate it when a noisy, restless child finally closes his eyes and snores softly; we are grateful for it when we can rest our weary limbs; and without it, we would cease to exist - we need it.

Sleep is fragile - it evaporates if we are afraid, anxious or worried. It is sometimes elusive and although we chase through our memories and thoughts it sometimes hides away too well.

We can do it in funny places - at the cinema, in the dentist's chair, in the classroom, in front of the television, on the beach, and in bed. We can do it lying down, sitting up, slumped on a sofa, but not normally standing up. Famously, some people can get by with very little, or they practice power naps, but others need much more.

Some people talk in their sleep; some masticate (yes! read it carefully - m-a-s-t-i-c-a-t-e - which means they chew and grind their teeth); some snore and some even stop breathing momentarily, which is awfully worrying for their partner lying next to them, who can't sleep because of the snoring.

But the best thing about sleep ... well, hopefully I'm about to find out ... is that when off in the land of nod, you can't procrastinate.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Recipe for a bonfire that is all flame and not much smoke

Bit of a gripe follows - sorry:

First, ensure that you are really, incredibly tired: Littlest couldn't sleep last night, and the result ... I couldn't sleep either. After she appeared bleary-eyed at midnight and chatted til after 1am, we eventually fell asleep, in her single bed, with me wedged against the wall. So multi-yawning fest today...

Next, be irritating. Unintentionally of course, the 'not my fault type', the type that makes you pussy-foot everywhere for fear of irritation escalation. If you succeed, then later in the day, you will be drawn by self-preservation, to the far end of the garden. For as long as possible. Doing something important. Something that has been a source of irritation itself, because weeks have gone by, you've been reminded, many times, and still you haven't got round to doing it, until today. Exemplary timing.

Lastly, in consideration of neighbours and in interests of preventing hedgerow blaze, start fire small, let it get very hot and keep it small. This ensures not too much smoke, lots of flame and an activity that can be prolonged just as long as it takes you and Four-legged-friend to dissect the 'rabbit house'; slowly and responsibly looking for hedgehogs and any other residents of the bonfire heap. (For 'rabbit house' explanation you will have to search previous blogs looking for one where Four-legged-friend is puzzled by human gardening activities with wheel barrow, loppers and the building of piles of garden rubbish - bonfire heap or rabbit house?).

Keep it going - on, and on, and on. Bad for the climate, probably, but good for clearing the head. 

Never too dark for a bone

Stop when you can no longer see what you are doing, when you feel overly smoked, and when a cup of tea beckons ... and if you find that you are still irritating, have a hot bath and something stronger.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Wondrous imaginings of Littlest

Question to Littlest: How does the tooth fairy know that your tooth has fallen out?

"Well ... if you take an x-ray then you'll see right deep inside the tooth there's a tiny message. When the tooth falls out the message is released and flies off to the tooth fairy. She receives it on her phone - hundreds and hundreds of messages every day, round about three thousand - and she scrolls down them to see where she has to go. Then she comes."

Quite simple really.

"Oh, and she makes a special wish, like a spell,  for the child when she collects the tooth - like: I hope your teeth will grow big and strong and that you'll look after them for ever. And depending on how good you have been since you were born that decides how much money you get - if you have been an extremely brilliant girl and made no mistakes in your life then you probably deserve about two pounds!"

I wonder how much the tooth fairy will leave ...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The almost pansy thief; urgent notification to tooth fairy

Littlest has decided she wants to be a "gardenist" when she grows up, especially if that means she can be an artist, too.

So here is her recipe for a trough of winter-flowering pansies:

First, put on mum's fleece - it's warm; keeps your own clothes clean; and has sleeves long enough to pinch up and use as gardening gloves

Next, place crocks in base of pot. Make face and jump backwards, startling Four-legged-friend, every time a beetle, fly or spider has the impudence to trespass into the pot.

Use elbows, bottom and mum's sleeves to push, shove and slap Four-legged-friend out of the way.

Ask for help when Four-legged-friend decides that compost is second breakfast and eats it as fast as little handfuls can transfer it to the pot.

Then relax into routine of compost filling; hot chocolate; colour based placing of pansies in pot (stripey pattern); scooping out hollows for each plant; hot chocolate; and bedding in with more compost - calm gardenist activity (Four-legged-friend locked inside, after showing too much interest in pansy as salad garnish to have with with compost).

Finally, subject pot to a monsoon. Note fleece changed - "This one matches the plants better."

P.S. Urgent notification to tooth fairy!

Hanging by a thread.

Have hidden recent article in papers about the discrepancies in tooth fairy payments for teeth in the UK. But perhaps she would like to explain herself; after all, Littlest is absolutely convinced she exists. Why are teeth worth an average of £5 per tooth not that far from here and only 5p per tooth in Hull? Littlest's tooth fairy is either very generous, if you are from Hull, or exceedingly mean if compared with more local children.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Things we talk about in the car

As I have mentioned before, we have a very long journey home at the end of the school day and plenty of time, therefore, to talk (which is precisely why I don't mind the length of the journey!)

"There are three words, Mummy, aren't there?" announced Littlest, shortly after I had strapped her into her car seat.

"Well, yes, probably," say I, starting the engine, "but that depends on what three words you are talking about."

"Two of them begin with an 'a'. They're for what you believe in. You know?"

"Eh, Christian, agnostic and atheist?" I hesitate, and correct myself, "It could be any religion, it doesn't have to be Christian."

"Yes! That's right! Do I have to be one of them?"

"No ... do you know what they mean?" She does. And the conversation leaps onto how can you believe in something you can't see, how no-one has ever proved that God actually does exist and, in her own words - what worries her having decided that she is "half way between Christian and agnostic, but a bit nearer to agnostic" - "If I don't believe in God, will he still love me?"

Having spent almost the entire journey veering to and fro along the christian/agnostic gradient, we suddenly found ourselves on a subject where Littlest is most definitely in the camp of believers: the tooth fairy and the urgent notification that wobbliness of the toothy kind is increasing and a visit will soon be required.

What about believing in something you can't see?

"Don't be silly, Mummy! She couldn't leave money under my pillow if she didn't exist, could she?"

Friday, 11 November 2011

Best gift in the world?

Just spent the day trawling through the Christmas catalogues. And binning most of them. What we want and what we need are such different things! Take Four-legged-friend, for example - what he wants is to eat every hour of the day; what he needs is a nutritious meal twice a day. What Littlest wants - really wants - is a pink plastic gizmo that will keep her entertained for just as long as it takes her to realise there are several computers and laptops in the house far more sophisticated  and clever than pink gizmo. What she needs is longer-term and more fulfilling, but I plan to give it to her slowly - metaphorically - and let her unwrap it as she grows.

"When you wish upon a star" ... lovely song (particularly the current rendition by male British artist - you'll have to look it up) and equally lovely sentiment, because what follows is ... "your dreams come true." Wishes and dreams - children make wishes blowing the candles out on a cake, blowing an eyelash off a finger, when they stir the Christmas pudding mix, and they dream about being princesses, or astronauts, or magicians. So my present is tied up with a ribbon of wishes and dreams.

As Littlest gets older, wishes and dreams will (hopefully) become focussed and more realistic and change into ambitions and it will be up to us and her teachers to help her achieve these. So the wrapping paper - coloured with all the riches of a good education and sparkling with the glitter of hope - is ambition.

And inside, is the best gift that a child can ever be given: to believe in themselves.

So to Littlest and my older children, I will endeavour to give a gift of self-belief, wrapped up with all the wishes, dreams, hope, ambition, integrity and love of their childhood.

But metaphorical presents cannot be unwrapped too quickly, and for Littlest, this year, the pink gizmo is not ruled out. Yet!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sore feet

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of sore feet is a very unfortunate person indeed.

My feet are only comfortable when cocooned within memory-foam (bliss!) soled wellies, or cushioned by fitflops (which are somewhat impractical in cold, damp weather). This makes Four-legged-friend happy, because my welly-wearing-going-for-a-walk self is happy. Middle daughter is also happy, because the heels are migrating to her wardrobe. I however remain unhappy and have a dilemma - wellies to a black tie event next week???

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Autumn ramblings

Thought it was about time that Walking the Dog actually lists a blog about walking the dog: so took Four-legged-friend for an autumn ramble this morning.

I love this time of year - the colours, the misty skies, the excuse to wrap up warm, the smell of distant bonfires, the feeling that you can pull up the drawbridge and retreat into the warmth and comfort of your home, the promise of Christmas and the sparkle it puts in a child's eyes, and the hearty, healthy foods of a winter kitchen.

Four-legged-friend seemed to be quite appreciative of it too -

water in the stream again;

scent of hare (the one that raced past us like a fleeting wood sprite, briefly glanced just long enough to tell it was hare not rabbit);

and his personal favourite - harvest spilt all over the ground.

And of course, given that it was at least an hour since he had been fed and he was obviously completely starving, much of the harvest was harvested!


Curmudgeonly - another brilliant word. And one that the Blogger dictionary appears to recognise!

Try rolling your lips round this one - currr-mudge-onleee - and you'll find it quite Edmund Blackadderish. Like discom-bob-ulate, yesterday.

I use curmudgeon, or curmudgeonly, a lot. Secretly; inside my head. It's so much better than annoying, irritating, sarcastic, illogical, contrary ... or male!

Monday, 7 November 2011


Littlest is planning to try this out on her teacher tomorrow - "Miss -----, I'm feeling a bit discombobulated!" She loves funny sounding words and is blessed with a brain like a sponge that allows her to remember and manipulate her lips round them. And she finds it funny, which stops it being too precocious. Hopefully her teacher will have better luck with the word than the Blogger dictionary, which failed to recognise it. It also doesn't recognise itself!!!!! - "Blogger" gets a wobbly red line too!!

You could say that the Blogger dictionary finds itself somewhat discombobulating.

Go on - say it out loud - dis-com-bob-u-lating - if you emphasize the bob and exaggerate the articulation, you'll look and feel just like Edmund Blackadder!

Difficult for dogs: part 3

Eating sushi slowly

Difficult for dogs: part 2

Understanding the human/cat relationship

Difficult for dogs: decisions, empty bowls and decorating

Many things are difficult for dogs, but some are more difficult than others:


Which one first? The white fluffiest one would be the easiest to mess up a bit, but, on second thoughts the blue alien (Snitch? Glitch? Or perhaps, Stitch?) looks a tougher challenge - better stuffed, therefore more to get my teeth into. Or maybe, I could toy with the wee Scottish sheep first; as an aperitif? The grey dog looks a bit too sad, so I'd probably leave him alone. Too much choice: where decisions don't involve (proper) food, they are really difficult for a dog ...

And after a spot of soft toy tossing, the last thing a dog wants to find is this -

Soft toys give a dog a terrible thirst - all the dust and fluff and clumps of spongy stuffing. And the sink taps are much too difficult for a dog.

But in my opinion, far worse than difficult choices and empty bowls, is the disruption in my sleeping, warming, treat stealing, floor-crumb-scavenging, foot nibbling, body leaning room.

The room where I do all of those easy things smells funny and is covered in sheets that slip around on the floor and dangle down from the table and chairs. So all the easy things that I normally do every day are now really difficult - I can't sleep, because whenever I try I get nudged, then shoved, then shouted at; I can't warm myself by the Aga, because it's disappeared under another sheet; I can't steal any treats, because there aren't any on offer and no-one has eaten in here today, so there aren't any crumbs; there aren't any people, with feet for nibbling either, because if they come in, they get nudged, then shoved and then shouted at, too - something about paint that mustn't be spilt. 

Except it has been spilt - all over the walls!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A day of CPD, meatballs and homecomings

Warning received at work, yesterday, that I was due to see, today, and have to deal with a problem that I have less than limited experience of managing. While being extremely grateful to colleague who alerted me to this, I am embarrassed to admit that it threw me into a single-minded panic: single-minded, in that I thought about little else until I had found the references I needed, sat down and restored my lost knowledge. Do others get thrown into similar fugs of despair, plummeting confidence and I've-got-to-find-something-else-to-do panics? I hope they do, because if it's just me, then ... well, that is rather depressing. And distressing. CPD (as in the title of the blog) refers to Continuous Professional Development, something I have to do rather a lot of and prove that I have done, in order to fulfil the constraints governing the continuity of my professional role. Me, who would far rather be outside walking the dog, or gardening, or doing something with my kids, or writing, or blogging for that matter, or doing anything that doesn't involve work. Me, who at this time of year when date for proof of CPD looms bright on the horizon,  is forced to become fastidious and swot and make notes about my swotting. Who reluctantly acknowledges that in cases such as today's, it makes the difference between incompetence and doing my job, if not well, then at least safely. Satisfaction!!! Never!! But maybe, if sometimes I slightly enjoy my job, there is perhaps a chance that I can continue to do it for the next dozen or so years (at least until the children have stopped being quite so expensive). Please tell me I am not the only person to feel like this ...

Meatballs - simple supper after work: oven proof dish, drizzled with olive oil. Toss in meatballs and sliced red onion and diced red pepper. Add tin of chopped tomatoes, a good spoonful of mixed Italian herbs and a glass of red wine (rioja tonight, but any red would probably do - keep the rest to drink later). Cover with foil and bake in oven at 180deg for about 30 to 40 mins, or until meatballs cooked. Good with pasta and shavings of parmesan. And remaining red wine!

Homecomings? Long-legged-boy flew back, with his bags, but fewer clothes, from Mumbai. Four-legged-friend and sisters displayed much wagging of tails, bouncing and whoops of joy to see him; tales of the sights and smells of poverty humbling, but we all grow through the experiences of others, and my white, British , middle-class lad has witnessed things he will never forget.

Sleep now needed, but first Littlest wanted me to notify the Tooth Fairy that Lady Penelope's car should have it's engine warmed, as she has a tooth in imminent danger of falling out ...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Littlest's creations

These are "farm fairies"

They have an elephant, a caterpillar and two cats on their farm.

Their names are Zara and Issy.

Tomorrow, Littlest plans to make them a house.

Shadow picture - Four-legged-friend

Helping in the garden

King for a week definitely over and back to the usual bottom of the heap in the family pecking order. Note fed-up expression ...