Tuesday, February 28, 2012
By the time we finally married, we had already bought a house together and had our first child together. Nothing changed per se after that day. We didn't even get a honeymoon (still saving!) And we had Thomas's sister and parents staying with us so we didn't get a wedding night either! Life went back to normal a few hours after the wedding!
I think maybe celebrating the day we moved in together (26-9-06) would feel more like a wedding anniversary but of course we couldn't get married back then - someone held up my divorce to the bitter end forcing it only to go through on 7-1-09. No names mentioned!
One thing is sure though - whether either of these dates, (or indeed the date we first went out), is our real anniversary, I definitely struck gold this time round. Every minute is a joy and the calm he generates around me despite the adversities life is currently throwing at our family give me an inner strength daily. A lifetime together will be too short by half.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Well, for starters she's worked out how to dismantle every remote we have in the TV room, and take out the batteries. Only the actual TV remote has suffered irreversible damage (when she unscrewed and lost the little light at the front of it). I need a very high-up shelf.
I was also rather concerned when I found her standing in front of the TV room bookshelf, her foot on the bottom shelf proclaiming to my father 'this is a ladder' - oh no it bloody isn't!
And today she worked out that despite there being a good 30m (and a double-glazed patio door) between the living room and the place where I park the people carrier, if you steal the car keys from my jacket pocket and press the button that makes the back doors slide open, you can leave the car wide open in the pouring rain to the point where the seat behind the driver is unusable... (it takes about three hours, seemingly)
I guess I have to thank my lucky stars my parents dropped by for a visit and I walked them to their car or I'd never have found out! Otherwise I'd either have got up to a swimming pool on wheels tomorrow, or maybe just a stolen car!
OMG, she just walked by naked, carrying a screw driver! Give me strength (and a play pen with a lid!)
Friday, February 24, 2012
I taught English in two high schools in France (in 1987 and 1988). For the first month after my arrival, the kids often looked utterly baffled when I spoke, particularly by my vowels. The teachers often asked me to tape things like the weather forecast or news off the Scottish radio to play to the kids so they would be exposed to accents they were unused to. (Obviously it was pre-Internet - yes I am that old!)
I was watching cbeebies with the kids the other day and it got me to thinking about what I'd show the French kids today on the Internet if I was to go back and teach them again. I think I'd show them Octonauts first because of the large variety of accents you come across in each episode. And for the older kids, approaching their bac, I might even sneak in the odd episode of Rastamouse - just to see the look on their faces! :-)
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I just couldn't stand another day of bread at lunch time or toast so I decided to make some home-made leek and potato soup. I'd fried the onion and leeks, simmered in the leeks and potatoes and the lovely vegetable stock and then just remembered I had some delicious fresh, flat-leaf parsley needing used up in my fridge.
Amaia was helping me stir the soup but it was safe enough, on the back burner with the handle out of reach, so I took the two steps towards the fridge. It was then I saw her in slow motion out of the corner of my eye. She reached out for the half-full Schwartz-type jar of chili flakes and quick as a flash emptied it in its entirety into my soup! I darted back and scooped out at least two full teaspoons but the rest had sunk.
Thomas and I did manage to eat it, just, with a lot of cream and a hanky to catch the drips from our noses but I swear it was borderline... almost like she'd grated two scotch bonnets into it!
Anyway here's how it works.. (why it takes so long and how it costs so much!) We're insured with a company called Paymentshield (for now). They came with the mortgage and we didn't bother looking further afield, or rather we did but they all cost the same so couldn't be bothered. So when you make a claim with Paymentshield (somewhere down south), they subcontract your claim to another company called Repairnet, who judging by accents are somewhere in the north of England, so they subcontract the roofing and internal repairs to a Central belt company called Donaldsons, and the glazing to a Scottish locksmith called Evander Glazing and Locks. Donaldsons, when you ring them, only deal with subcontracting insurance work to smaller local comapnies so they send out Evana roofers to fix your roof but if you also want them to look at a wall when they are out anyway they stand scratching their heads saying they don't know anyone who deals with walls! Give me strength! Talk about layers! I think I am paying for a middle man too many in this equation!
Monday, February 20, 2012
Part of our flat porch roof felt blew off in the storm. The porch roof started to leak. The porch ceiling and porch wall have been destroyed. The insurance company has been out at least three times to look at it, never telling us what they were covering and what they weren't. Finally we got a schedule of repairs stating that the felt would be replaced, the ceiling and wall replaced and redecorated. That seemed to work for us - though we were a bit annoyed at running about with buckets of water for nearly three months.
On Wednesday last week our porch roof was replaced. The internal works have not yet commenced... just as well. This morning we wake up to torrential rain. Of course I have removed the buckets and replaced our coat stand because the external roof has been replaced. I come home from the school run to our new ornamental hall waterfall. I ring the company our repair had been subcontracted to and tell them that I have an in-porch swimming pool and they call up my records. Oh yes madam, we have a note here that there are three issues with your porch roof - the felt, which is covered as storm damage, the pointing and the loose rough cast above the porch. Neither of these are covered so the new roof won't stop the rain coming in, to stop that you need the other two problems fixed. I point out to them that no one either at their office or my insurance company has ever mentioned the two other issues and given I am not a builder it is fairly logical for me to assume that having a new roof installed is likely to stop my leak. I point out that they could have told me this three months ago so I could have had it fixed then. I even point out they could have given me a quote for it last week when they were sitting on my roof, but nope - they were carrying out to the letter what they'd been told to do. I ask tentatively what the plans are for my internal insurance repairs and they actually, without embarrassment, claim they intend to come and carry those out as soon as possible, without informing me that my roof is not watertight and that the damage would simply recur instantly. That is not of their concern, they say! I am truly gobsmacked at the madness. When did pragmatism and sense exit the country?
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Our dining room window has been letting in bucket loads of rain since Bawbag. I assumed given it was hit with the full force, something had been loosened. The insurance company doesn't seem to care that it went from watertight to leaky overnight - if Bawbag didn't shatter it, it doesn't count... grrr.
I had a look round it and decided that perhaps renewing the sealant round it might help. This morning's perfect sun gave me the chance to get out there and pull off the old sealant. And when I did, what do you think was holding my dining room window in place for the last 5(+) years against the elements? Yes, you guessed it of course - three rolled-up newspapers, an extra large Primark man's T-shirt and an out-sized pair of Y-fronts. I don't know about you, but I am so glad we forked out £400 for the full survey when we were moving in so nothing bad could creep in under the radar!
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Thomas brought us back loads of French culinary goodies from his business trip yesterday. It was just like Xmas. We had confit de canard, confiture de coings, confiture de châtaignes, fois gras, tartelettes au chocolat, cassoulet and choucroute garnie in tins, loads of different saucissons secs and lots more. We're currently munching our way through a big bag of Violettes de Toulouse.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
This week she has added a new word - a hut, as in Mummy I love you, gimme a big hut, or I've fallen over, can I have a hut?
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Obsessed with unscrewing lids and bottle tops, I am finally understanding after five kids why the kiddie-proof tops were invented for medicine and bleach - I don't know, maybe the rest of my kids just aren't very curious...
But last week took the biscuit - it started with the dissection of a ball point pen, followed by the dismantling of a pocket torch. I was proudly presented with two batteries, a lightbulb, a spring and three sections of the torch. But a few hours later, we had a real emergency. We had a guest sleeping in our living room who suffers from sleep apnoea and has a rather sophisticated machine to help him breathe at night... or rather he did till Amaia spent an hour alone in his bedroom taking it apart and then presenting us with its every constituent part! Arrrrgh! A good hour was spent by several panicking adults reassembling it without a manual before anyone could go to bed that night!
I need a play pen.
All of my kids were trained around their 2nd birthday. It never took more than two or three days and subsequent accidents could be counted on one hand.
With Marcel and Charlotte, I had no experience so trained them on their 2nd birthdays then kept them in night nappies perhaps another 2-3 months so they were completely dry by the third month after they turned two. By Léon, we tried taking the nappy off at night time within a week of day time and surprisingly that worked fine. With Anna and Amaia, night nappies were used for two nights after potty-training and again, all went smoothly.
When I have mentioned this people are in general surprised. Here in Scotland no one is ever surprised they are dry during the day at two, though it is around the earliest people attempt it here, however reactions in Denmark are always of great surprise. I don't know if their later school start perhaps makes them see their children as younger than we do but I have never met a Dane who thinks two is normal... Two years ago for instance, when we attended Peter's 70th in Copenhagen, Anna had just turned two and was the youngest of all the grandchildren (they ranged to 13 months older than Anna) and the only one who was potty-trained.
Anyway, this is turning into a cultural comment, when I was simply wanting to make an observation about human nature... On surfing through Mumsnet and the likes last night to confirm my gut feeling, I found out that although almost all Brits potty-train before three, many kids are still in night nappies till four or even five. Whole forums are dedicated into how to finally get them out of night nappies, advocating you can't take them off until they are dry through the night for a week and the likes. I wonder, given my own experience, if people are creating their own problems? If you reach quite late into childhood still wetting your nappy, it is your norm, if you have been taken out of night nappies at the end of babyhood, your norm will be staying dry at night. It has worked for me, five times over...
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
She spent the afternoon with Olivia and Sara from school. I asked what she had been up to and she moaned she'd watched a film that had frightened her half to death... I asked if it was a horror movie and she spontaneously came out with 'No it was about clowns - I'm terrified of clowns!'
How odd is that? Given I've never mentioned anything to do with clowns, how could Lots have inherited that trait?
I thought I'd google it. Bingo!
I am going to be a major hero tomorrow (if I manage to switch it off, that is).
Thomas had some brewing equipment delivered in a large box on Thursday and the three little ones have since abandoned every toy they own to sit in the big box for hours on end.
It has been a space rocket, a pirate ship and the train to Hogwarts! They have installed seating now and decorated it and earlier today I even found Charlotte (12) fighting the little ones off for her place in the driving seat of the train!
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Thomas shares a birthday with the teacher in charge of Anna's nursery class. On arrival on Wednesday, she announced it was her daddy's birthday. Mrs Richardson asked what age he was turning. Anna looked blank and then replied 'I'm not sure but he had a four and a zero on his train! I'm sure the teacher quite understood what his train was!
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Sunday, February 05, 2012
It seems odd to think Amaia is big enough for 'big girl pants' already. And yet Anna was exactly the same age when she was potty-trained (2 years and 3 weeks). Because Amaia had been born that week, Anna seemed huge and capable, but Amaia just seems like a tiny baby compared to all the other family members who are so much bigger. I guess that's what happens when you are dealing with the baby of the family.
But she is ready all the same. We started last Monday, and went through eight pairs of pants while she looked at us in surprise. On Tuesday she had one accident, by Wednesday she was going through the night without a nappy too. The only other accident we've had all week was when she climbed into the spare high chair (that she refuses to use because she uses an adult seat at the table, but condescends to use when mum and dad visit because we only have eight dining room chairs), strapped herself in and then couldn't work out how to undo the seatbelt when she needed to! This morning she even had a lie in so managed a whole 14 hours between last night's last pee and this morning's first.
Interestingly, like Anna she has dropped the idea of the potty almost immediately and gone for the toilet instead. I think when you live with so many children who use a real toilet, the potty seems somehow babyish to you, in a way that particularly Marcel and Charlotte wouldn't have found back in their day.
So I really am going to have to accept my baby is starting to grow up.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
When she was little, she'd empty a packet of wipes, or unravel a toilet roll to see how it worked. She graduated onto removing DVDs from their boxes and taking ballpoint pens to pieces. She unscrews lightbulbs when she can reach them (bedside lamps, and the likes). She likes to cook, so tries to push chairs against the cooker to stir things and has worked out how to set the timer on the cooker. Leaving the room while you are cooking is now impossible.
Of course, she can spend hours with age 3+ lego, building things, which is harmless. But today she moved up to a new level...
I was tidying the dining room table after breakfast when I heard the microwave beep. The microwave is on a high shelf out of her reach. I have been working a lot this last week and am a bit tired so I questioned whether I had actually stuck something in it to defrost. I came through and found no one. I opened it and it was empty. It must have been my imagination. I was alone, so it couldn't have been Thomas. I went to the loo. I heard it beep again. I returned to find Amaia had moved a dining room chair to in front of it and was playing with the 'quick start' button. I shouted at her, explaining that the microwave wasn't a toy and she would break it if she turned it on empty. I forgot this was my takes-everything-literally child. Half an hour later, despite my having moved the chair away and shut the kitchen door, it beeped a third time. I stormed through. The chair was back, the Bopster was standing proudly on it and looking pleased. To stop it beeping, you need to pull the door open. I pulled it open to reveal two pots of petit filou, both open, each containing a plastic (phew!) spoon, steaming happily on the inside. She'd manoeuvred the chair to the fridge for the yogurts, then over to the microwave, having opened them herself! She really was quite put out when she was told off for a second time, but so far she hasn't dared try again.
(I'm glad we don't own a cat!)
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
When Jung Chang is talking about her grandmother, in the early chapters of the book, she goes into some detail about Chinese foot binding. Of course, I was well aware of the practice but I hadn't read about it in the depth she goes into before. I found the psychology of it fascinating. Women were made to believe they had to be forcibly disabled to attract men of the right social background, men forced into believing women who had not been mutilated were somehow less desirable. Over time, poorer and poorer families subscribed to the idea as a way to social mobility until a point where more than half the female population had been disabled by their own parents from early infancy.I somewhat condescendingly looked at the whole idea as something that could never have happened here, until...
Last week Lots was watching Big Brother, as I mentioned. Two (almost) children - I believe they were around 20 or 21 were discussing how breast augmentation was becoming the norm in the US. They believed men just wouldn't be attracted to a twenty-something without synthetic, potentially leaky, possibly carcinogenic, silicon implants. They were expected to return time and time again, to go through unnecessary cosmetic surgery to satisfy a fad of society.
I'm 43. I've never had an operation in my life. I've never had an anaesthetic. Why are we letting society go towards making cosmetic surgery an expected norm? It isn't disabling women en masse - yet - but it is sheer madness. The parallel isn't so far fetched that I can be made to feel in any way comfortable about it. It's time normality reclaimed the world, before my little girls grow up and become adults.
Published by HarperCollins in the early nineties, all employees had been given a copy at the time, and I had somehow got it into my head - perhaps the thickness or the pastel green cover, that it was an ephemeral work of romantic fiction. Working for Collins for nearly two decades (and still freelancing for them today) means I have so many books that the odd one can escape my radar, hidden in a pile from time to time.
Thomas recommended it to me as a fascinating take on almost a century of political history in China, but I found it absolutely mind-blowing from a psychological point of view. The society it described to me, and the way of thinking for the whole of the last century was so alien to me, it might as well have been an episode of Star Trek. I couldn't put it down, though poor Thomas had to put up with gasps, expletives and a lot of head-shaking in bed every night as I trudged through. I'm sure it shows how any human can react under the thumb of an authoritarian regime but as a free human being, I spent a lot of time shouting at the book in frustration!
I suppose, given the children of Jung Chang's generation are running the planet currently, it would be useful for us all to gain some insight into China, through this insider's account.