Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dandelions for mummy

Dandelions for mummy by PhylB
Dandelions for mummy, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

It's the thought that counts, I guess!
I spend every spring, summer and autumn on my knees pulling dandelions out of my lawn. I hate them with a passion. Turn your back for ten seconds and they multiply like rabbits. And they always come in twos. This year we have more dandelions than lawn.
Given the beautiful weather this week, I have spent more time on my knees than usual! I am totally scunnered with dandelions.
Today I had to work so Thomas took the kids out for a walk. Amaia came bouncing in afterwards with a bouquet for me! Dandelions - thanks Bops, that's lovely. Followed closely by Anna who had not only picked me twice as many and even stuck them in a vase!
My kitchen is now overflowing with dandelions! Thanks kids!



Friday, March 30, 2012

Beaver boy

Beaver boy by PhylB
Beaver boy, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I happened upon this today and given my recent rant on such matters, it interested me a great deal.

My favourite quotes from the article are:

  • "Scouting has something to offer everyone, no matter your religion, ethnicity or belief"
  • "It's essential to continue to make scouting accessible to all."
  • "We welcome all communities and this initiative helps to ensure that no one misses out on the numerous benefits and adventure of scouting, because they feel it is 'not for them'."
  • "It doesn't matter who you are, what you are or what colour your skin is or what faith you are."

As usual I find it interesting that religious faiths fall into two categories. More and more is being done to be inclusive of all religions in our diverse multi-cultural society, but as usual not having a faith is somehow seen as a second-class option that does not need to be catered for or included. Who decided that atheists and their children are a 'faith-group' that need not be included? Two months on, and I am still asked on an almost weekly basis by my son why he had to pledge his love to a God he does not believe in in order to be allowed to take part in archery, baking and ball games with his friends. Why are children of atheists forced to hide their beliefs in order not to 'miss out on the numerous benefits' on offer, while all other faith-groups are catered for?

I often find it interesting to observe how religious believers treat those who believe in atheism. I don't think for one moment, if I was to tell people I was bringing my children up as strict Muslims, Jews or Catholics, that people would preach their religion openly to them with complete disregard for the upbringing they are receiving, but because I believe in nothing, and I believe it as whole-heartedly as my religious friends believe what they do, they feel it wholly acceptable to try to educate my children in a manner I disagree with. 

It is not that I am angry. I have faith enough in my parenting ability and the open-mindedness I am instilling in my children, but I wonder why we have been elected to be lesser beings than those with completely unsubstantiated faith?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brilliant photos

One of my flickr friends decided to do a photoshoot of his parents. His mum got a fit of the giggles in the middle of the shoot. I think the results are just adorable. I particularly like the second one as you scroll down. These really made me smile - I feel I can almost hear her laugh all the way over here even though she lives on the other side of the Atlantic! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ready for summer (in Scotland)

She may only just have turned two, but Amaia already has the measure of the Scottish climate, I think. Despite basking around 20°C since Saturday, she has been sitting at the garden table for lunch in her t-shirt and summer dress, even venturing at times into the unheated paddling pool, but she is still insisting on wearing her woolly winter hat and snow boots just in case the weather turns on us, as it has a want to in Scotland!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top-heavy

Top-heavy by PhylB
Top-heavy, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Is it just me or are hyacinths a bit of a stupid design? Half of those in my garden have hit the deck under the weight of their heads! Are you meant to stake them or something?!

Skye - well Skyeish...

Léon's homework for tonight was geography. He was meant to fill things in on a blank map of Skye. (The school is divided into a house system and Léon's house is named after Skye). He was to mark up towns, seas, castles, rivers, hills, mountains, harbours and other places of interest. He was to use the internet or an atlas. It didn't seem in any way beyond him so we were surprised when he started rolling about the floor whining and complaining. We came over for a look. The teacher had provided him with a blank map to fill in... Unfortunately the teacher seems to be somewhat geographically-impaired to say the least! She'd accidentally given him a blank map of Mull! He's done his best to fill things but it's been quite a challenge!



View Larger Map

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sorry, when did I move to America?

I have been quietly fuming now for nine days. I feel I have started avoiding media stories about the Bolton footballer, Muamba, whose fate was in everyone's heart from the minute he went down. Who wouldn't wish a young, fit father all the best in the circumstances? What I was beginning to find stomach-churning, however, were the screeds of newspaper articles dedicated to telling everyone to pray for him, thanking those who were praying for the obvious good they were doing and constant reiteration that everything was in God's hands. I couldn't believe how little was being written about the amazing work done by the paramedics and cardiologists - the real heroes of the day. I tend to try to live and let live - if people want to believe there's some superhuman being sitting up there capriciously deciding who should live and who should die depending on how many fans he happens to have of the correct religious persuasion mentioning him at bedtime - so be it. If they think this God is so absent-minded that he hasn't noticed someone is needing to be saved - they have my blessing to spend all night pointing it out to him, should they so desire but when is someone actually going to give credit to those who actually reanimated the man!?

Anyway, I had decided to let sleeping dogs lie until Tim Farron and co broke the camel's back! What planet is that man on? A sick man gets better therefore prayer works from a scientific perspective? Deep breaths, count to ten... I'm sorry, but this is the sort of nonsense I expect from the other side of the pond. If UK politics has started down the God path, it's time Scotland gained independence, or I moved somewhere more secular... or both!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bread

Lotsie likes to bake by PhylB
Lotsie likes to bake, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.


I was reading an article about bread the other day. Apparently bread is the most-thrown-away product in UK bins. Ever since we started making our own bread (this is the royal 'we' of course - ie Thomas!) I have always left any leftover chunks to dry out on the work surface for a couple of days and them put the pieces in the blender to make my own bread crumbs, which I store for months. Throwing out dried bread when ASDA charges a quid for a small jar of bread crumbs that doesn't even stretch to two chicken breasts is madness!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Marcel and Anna

Marcel and Anna by PhylB
Marcel and Anna, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Positively one of the best things about having such an age-spread across your kids is the reaction you get, say from a teenager, when a four-year-old comes out with what we parents know to be a completely normal, random four-year-old curiosity question just when your fourteen-year-old is least expecting something they consider to be so highly inappropriate!

Wednesday, high school gets out early so Mr Lazy texts me for a lift while I am out at primary and nursery anyway. I get him first. Outside nursery (the last pick-up), it is a sunny, pleasant day so a large crowd of parents is waiting at the foot of the hill while the kids run about having fun. I am standing with Marcel, Charlotte and Léon. Anna comes bouncing out wearing her favourite summer butterfly shorts. She takes Marcel's hand. She loves her big brother. She thinks he's knowledgeable. She says quite absent-mindedly, as if the thought has just flitted into her head as she looks down at her shorts, 'Marcel, I've been wondering...?' Marcel is nurturing towards the wee ones, he bends down lovingly and asks 'What?' Anna replies 'I've been wondering if butterflies have vaginas, and if they do, what they might look like!?' Marcel looks like he's going to pass out from embarrassment, quickly looking from side to side to see if anyone has heard. Of course, given he doesn't reply instantly, I can hear her repeating her question over and over at an increasing volume quite unawares as he drags her quickly to the car with a look that says almost pleadingly - Mum don't you have a large sack we can stick her in (preferably head-first) till we get to the car!?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

100 year old colour photos

If you haven't seen this on today's BBC, I must recommend it. I was amazed by the vivid colours used in the clothing more than anything else. I think we all have a tendency to imagine life that far back to be quite a monochrome affair!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ebay

Anna by PhylB
Anna, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Why do people pay more on ebay for used items than they would to buy something new? I understand if it is a collector's item but for something you can currently buy in a shop I just never cease to be amazed at how crazy people are.
Take today. I saw a pair of normal M&S leggings (Amaia-sized). They were 99p with P&P set at £1.50. I know I can buy a new pair in Asda at £3.50 so I added it to my watched-items out of curiosity. It finally went for £4 + the P&P.
I have noticed the same with electronics. People happily bid over the new price for a once-used electronic item. I think people get carried away with the low starting prices and they forget the P&P too. Madness!

Lent lilies?

Spring is here by PhylB
Spring is here, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
When you speak various languages, you become aware of different cultures and climates. Take daffodils - they are called Easter lilies in Danish. That says a lot about climate. In Scotland in good year they pop out in February, March is a worst-case scenario so they'd have needed to be called Lent lilies or last-week-of February lilies in Scotland if we used similar terminology. I guess those are the kinds of names you can use in small languages, that don't work in world languages - when you speak English in places as different as New Zealand, California and Scotland, you aren't going to get names like 'Easter lilies'.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Too weird for the UK market?

Two things I used to buy in France a lot for my breakfast baguettes were Bonne Maman Confiture de lait, and Confiture de châtaignes (à la vanille). I know Tesco has been selling the basic Bonne Maman jams - blueberry, strawberry, apricot for years but these two never seem to have made it over here. Do the importers just think they are too weird to inflict on the UK market? It is a shame.

Given Thomas has a bit of work on in France at the moment, I'll definitely be requesting the odd jar of 'Vanilla chestnut jam' and 'Milk jam' every time he's over!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Micro-USBs

Micro-USBs are starting to annoy me. Both my camera (a Sony Alpha DSLR) and my phone (an HTC Smart phone) use micro-USBs for charging/data downloads. After a year the tiny end on the camera one became so loose in the camera, it no longer registered and I had to order a replacement. Imagine my annoyance yesterday when I woke up to a dead phone after putting it on to charge at bed time. You guessed it - nine months old and loose. I know the standard USBs are much chunkier but they seem to last for years without needing replacing.

What is it about pears?


I've lived with him nearly six years now but I don't get the pear fetish.

Thomas is obsessed with pears... It isn't that he eats pears. I'm not actually sure I have ever seen him eat a pear but he has planted two pear trees in the garden and he loves to buy pears. When they are on special, or there's a new variety in Waitrose, or when they have been reduced as they are nearing their sell-by date, he just can't help himself. Almost every time he goes to the supermarket alone, he sheepishly unpacks in front of me and I can tell the shifty look is working up to him admitting he's bought more pears. They then lie on the work surface or in the fruit bowl till they start to go off, sometimes until the grow their own fruit fly colony and then get binned because no one in the family is a real pear fan, but still I know it is only a matter of days till the next pear consignment turns up. I really don't get it. I guess on the scale of things, there are much more expensive follies that could tempt him (I remember my ex and his TV fetish!) but psychologically it is truly fascinating!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ten years to change a life

Shared office 2004 by PhylB
                                                                Shared office 2004, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Thomas has told me this is a very important anniversary. To be honest I couldn't have pinpointed it to the day, though I did know it was early March 2002. I had been with Collins exactly eleven years and a week, when someone brought round the new guy. I had been through the small talk with the new guy so often over eleven years, I probably didn't even look up. I ascertained he was a single, 30 year old Danish linguist who spoke twenty odd languages and who did computing too. I mentally categorized him as an Übernerd with whom I'd have little in common. I heard he'd be sitting at the opposite side of the office in a booth of his own, so figured I wouldn't see much of him. 


A few weeks later I came in to my office mate of two years, Sabine, packing up. She was being moved and I was being given a new office mate. Tentatively, I asked who... Sabine replied that she thought it was the big Danish bloke. My heart sank! How could I bore a single bloke with all my kiddie stories about Marcel (who was four and Lots who'd just turned two) and all my girlie stuff? I imagined years stretching ahead without so much as a coffee break. I distinctly remember turning to my computer and emailing my good friend and colleague Carol 'OMG they're making me share with the great Dane!'


The weeks passed and we started to talk and we haven't stopped since! I found out to my surprise that we had more in common than I had expected. By a year later I found my Übernerd had become my best friend! When it became clear my marriage was on the rocks, my best friend became my partner and I haven't looked back since. I wake up every morning thanking my lucky stars that my feelings towards him were reciprocated.


Occasionally, I try to imagine how my life would have turned out if Collins had left Thomas at the other side of the office. Obviously there would be no Anna or Amaia for starters. Given the strained relationship I had with my ex, which had worsened dramatically after Charlotte's birth and after he took on a high-powered job for a big US company just before the 911 stock crash, I know for sure I would be a single mum now, probably not very well off. I'd never have had the time or babysitters to chat up anyone new, so would have been leading a fairly lonely life with only my kids for company. 


Ten years ago, some unknown member of Collins management decided to stick us two in an office together. I'm not a believer in fate, but if I ever find out who made that decision, I owe them my life, my love, my happiness and my kids! It's incredible how something seemingly insignificant can change your life forever!

Newborns

05-09-30 by PhylB
Léon 05-09-30, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
One thing I love about newborn babies is the way they sleep with their arms in the air when they are at their most relaxed. You see it most over the first few days of life, then slowly the pattern fades. When the arms go under the duvet for the first time, you suddenly realize they've left the womb behind and joined this world.

Last week Léon was quite under the weather but there was no convincing him to miss Beavers. He got dressed for his session and then I left him alone while I got my shoes on. When I returned, he'd fallen asleep on the couch like a baby. It must have been the first time in six years I've seen him in that position. Suddenly he looked so sweet, vulnerable and tiny to me.



Thomas's car

Thomas's new car by PhylB
Thomas's new car, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

Thomas's little Nissan has been annoying me today. I'd forgotten but it did the same last winter too.

At least once every winter we have a day that is so cold that the back windscreen wiper freezes onto the window. Of course, you aren't aware it is frozen on when you reverse out to do the school run and turning it on to move the dusting of snow blows the fuse.

This is particularly annoying because when you open the fuse compartment, you are confronted by approximately 12-15 fuses. They are in an incredibly awkward and tight space under the steering wheel. So I wedge myself in and read the function of each fuse with the help of a torch and my glasses. We have light, radio, washers, electrics - you name it but the fuse box claims none of the fuses relates to the wipers... grrr. So I pull each one out and look at it to see which one is burnt out. They all look intact. I then sit scratching my head as to what to do next when I notice the back wiper has miraculously started working again after three months of acting dead as a dodo. It is as if pulling out all the fuses resets something. So once again, I am none the wiser as to which of the annoying fuses I need to pull every year.

If it does it again next year I'm trading it in!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dutch or Kashmiri crispbreads?

I often stayed at my granny's house on a Friday night as a child. She used to give us Dutch crispbread as a suppertime snack. We ate them with butter. I really loved them. In Sainsburys last week we saw this Kasmiri version and assumed they'd be the same. We bought them for breakfast. Imagine our surprise when it turned out they tasted even better... like the ones from my childhood only sweeter. Yum!

Friday, March 09, 2012

How mature is a 12 year old?

We were given a form (presumably by the council) to allow Anna to attend a concert in town with her nursery last week. I find it quite interesting that they have decided that twelve year olds are mature enough to decide whether or not they can accept medical treatment and allow anaesthetics to be performed on them. I was vaguely aware of it already as Marcel (14) had recently been sent home from high school with a consent form for some booster vaccinations that it turned out he, not I had to sign.

What I find interesting about it is not the empowerment per se of the child, but the contradiction in other parts of their system. For instance, last week Charlotte went to Castle Toward residential school for a week's stay with the rest of the p7s at her school. She is 12. But as they gathered to leave the teachers in charge asked every child in the room (approx 100 kids) to hand in all medication they might want to take with them (down to and including paracetamol for a headache or sudocrem for a rash!) complete with a consent form from their guardian to say they could have it given to them. They would then look after all hundred bottles of the same medication (mad or what?!) And if your child happened to forget to hand one in and turned up in tears with a raging headache during the week, would not be given paracetamol as they hadn't been authorised by their parent to take it!

Why is it the council seems to be indicating on the one hand that kids are mature enough to take life or death decisions, while at the same time saying they are not old enough to have a tube of cream and two paracetamol in their backpack for emergencies? This is just nonsensical!

I want bobbles too

I want bobbles too by PhylB
I want bobbles too, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
My poor baby is desperate for hair. Every day she brings me little bobbles and hairbands and begs me to put them in her hair. I am really struggling but when she looks at me with those big olive eyes and says 'me too bobbles', what am I supposed to do? The result this week was her wandering around all Wednesday looking like an insect with two very sweet antennae.

We love grammar

We love grammar by PhylB
We love grammar, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I'm sure this looks like a posed photo. Maybe I thought it was cute to give each pre-schooler a grammar book and make it look like they were revising on my bed, but the truth is I actually walked into my bedroom yesterday morning (having been working on the revision of these and the German and Spanish equivalents in bed the night before) to find that they had spontaneously picked one up each and were giggling away showing each other pages. I had to laugh given Thomas's and my linguistic and language backgrounds. I must remember to warn them that it isn't the highest paid profession out there, before they really get to love it!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The bat cave

The bat cave by PhylB
The bat cave, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
We needed to get our outside wall fixed last week - there was a hole in the roughcast letting in water under Marcel's bedroom window. Given the shape of the repair, Léon is now convinced Marcel is actually batman and his bedroom is the bat cave!

National and International chain stores

Barbamamas by PhylB
Barbamamas, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I've long had an issue with UK-wide stores. I often look in despair through TESCO for a long-sleeved t-shirt for my child only to find they are already onto sleeveless summer dresses because somewhere very far away from Glasgow, it is already summer. I am also more than amused each World Cup when the local TESCO or ASDA is surprisingly left with an entire shelf of unsold Come on England mugs and t-shirts. Last year's Royal wedding memorabilia didn't seem to fly off the shelves in the expected quantities either for some reason. None of the bunting for street parties sold out! I came across another climate issue last weekend. The local B&Q was trying to flog rhubarb that had obviously been pre-grown further south. I'm not sure B&Q's happy rhubarb would have enjoyed being planted out in my garden where the rhubarb is only just 
beginning to bud at surface level. It'd probably have died of shock in our colder climate.


Things aren't always disadvantageous though as I found out in H&M ten days ago. As Europeans, my kids are crazy about Barbapapa. It was popular here when I was a kid in the 70s but didn't make a comeback this century as it has done everywhere else in Europe. H&M is a Europe-based store so didn't bother researching that and is currently trying to sell everything branded with Barbapapa, but because the kids don't know it, no one wants it! The result is that they are now having to discount it heavily. Imagine my girls' delight when we realized the Barbamama dresses had been reduced from £9 to £2.99! From an international selling perspective, it's crazy that market research is no longer done, but from a personal perspective, we were definitely winners this time round!



Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Contact

Charlotte is 12 by PhylB
It's a bit odd in this day and age to have no idea what your twelve year old is up to. We're so used to either having them at home or being able to text them even if they are only at the local shop or their granny's house round the corner just to ask how how they are doing.

This week Charlotte is away on a residential course with her school where they have been instructed not to bring mobiles. The kids, who at 12 are already used to phones, were all in a grump and a panic at the thought of not being able to listen to their favourite music for a week or text their friends (this is amusing given they are all there with them anyway!) But I have to say I liked the idea of their being weaned off them for a bit. What I hadn't expected was the benefit to myself too. I am far from a helicopter parent but I am so used to being able to check she's ok and to ask what she's doing, I'm sure it is good for me to have no idea who she's sharing a dorm with, what she's eating, what activities she's participating in.

I guess it also gives me a minimal glimpse of how life was for my own parents. I travelled across Europe alone on a train at 18. I was away most of the summer. I moved to France for a year at 19. And both times I probably phoned home once a week for less than five minutes at most! I'm not sure many parents could imagine that these days.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Moulin Rouge



Moulin Rouge is definitely one of those movies people either love or hate. When it came out - given its name, and my love of France, I suggested to my ex-husband that we should go and see it. He read the synopsis and refused! If it didn't have Arnie or Bruce, it wasn't going to be one of his movies!

Finally, when it came out on DVD, I hired it and sat down one Saturday night to watch it. He looked ill at ease at first, shifting in his seat, arms folded, lips drawn. By the time the third or fourth song came on, he simply turned it off and told me to watch it next time he was out! He was such a give and take kind of guy! ;-)

I watched it alone and enjoyed it. I thought nothing more about it. Many years later I was divorced and living with my new man. One evening he remarked how surprised he was, given my constant playing of music, that I had never suggested watching Moulin Rouge as it was one of his favourite films! It was a seriously heart-warming revelation! We bought ourselves it on Blu Ray as a wedding anniversary present once we married!

Last weekend, Marcel had been to visit his father (the ex) for the first time in a couple of months. He has Sky and Moulin Rouge was playing! He told me he'd put it on to see what it was. It was the moment of truth. What type of man is my son? So I asked if he'd loved or hated it (without giving him the background to the question). He tentatively started by saying that it was a bit odd and eccentric... I smiled and he admitted he'd absolutely loved it and was upset I didn't have Sky too because he'd happily have watched it again! I revealed we had it on the shelf in the TV room... he went through to watch it, muttering that he could not understand why his father had seemed so hostile to it when he'd chosen to watch it up there! I had to smile again!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Amaia's banana

Amaia's banana by PhylB
Amaia's banana, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

Amaia helped herself to a banana last night but she was too stubborn to ask for help opening it. I had to laugh when I saw her way of eating it! So cute, but it worked!

Palindrome fun


I have to share this - the man is a genius! An absolute classic from Weird Al.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How much did I miss you?

Imagine the scene... (I won't upload a photo for once - I don't have one, you'll be relieved to hear!)

Last Saturday, the three biggies had been away visiting my ex for two nights for the first time since Xmas. This meant enough time has passed that Amaia could no longer remember them ever being away from her. So she'd been moping all day.

At last, around dinner time Sunday the three burst in through the kitchen door. Amaia runs and hugs Léon, holding him tightly saying Putch, Putch, Putch. For some reason she calls him that. She then walks up to Lots who asks her for a hug. Amaia wants to show her she's angry at being abandoned so sticks her nose in the air but again after less than a minute is in her arms, hugging her and stroking her hair. Finally, Amaia looks for Marcel. But where has Marcel gone? She looks around and on passing the downstairs bathroom hears a noise. Silently she pushes the slightly open door and enters to find Marcel standing having a pee. He doesn't notice the intruder. She sneaks up behind him and throws her arms round his legs to hug him (while he's still peeing). She only comes up to his thighs. She exclaims ahhh, deeply happy to have her biggest brother back, but then instantly starts shaking her hands shouting yeuch as she's managed to soak them both in his stream of pee during her embrace! Poor Marcel has to stop peeing and deal with cleaning up his little sister before he's even got his jacket off!

Just to make my life a little harder!

As if there wasn't enough on my plate...

With seven people in the household including a two-year old who thinks she's too old for bibs and two little ones who like mud quite a lot, I have a fair amount of washing to do in a week. I reckon I probably do about eight washing machine loads a week. Things do seem to have been getting worse recently. Then I got to the bottom of it.

Yesterday morning I washed all Amaia's things, tumbled them and put them away. I then sat down in the dining room for a coffee instead of at the back of the house as usual. You need to go through the dining room if you are trying to come from the upstairs in the house to the downstairs bathroom, living room or TV room. Amaia came in carrying two t-shirts I knew I'd put away in her drawer ten minutes earlier. They were still warm from being folded away. I observed her silently to see what she was up to...

The wee besom only went straight into the downstairs bathroom and put them into her laundry basket along with all her dirty clothes from bath time. I wonder how often she's done that?!

Léon's spring flowers

Léon's spring flowers by PhylB
Léon's spring flowers, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Léon has been drawing spring flowers tonight for the local horticultural society. Aren't they sweet? The daffodils look like something out of a sci-fi movie in places! I'm imagining one threatening to exterminate me!

Stop press! Léon won 2nd prize in the horticultural society art competition with this entry. I'm a very proud mummy!