Tuesday, December 30, 2014

VW egg and toast

Since I bought Marcel a toast rack and egg cups for Xmas, people have been popping up asking me where I got them so I thought I'd stick a wee link on here.

They have a variety of VW novelty stuff and ship very quickly despite being in Thailand.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Daffodils in December

They are called Easter lilies in Danish... which makes it all the weirder to find them growing and already in bloom on Christmas Eve in Scotland. Something is seriously wrong with the climate this year.

(Today it is a tad colder... It'll be interesting to see if this little thing survives)

Anna is enjoying her birthday more than Marcel ;-)

We all do silly things when we are young... such as thinking we can go out clubbing in town because it is the second last day of the school term, coming home at 6am and forgetting that we may be dragged out of bed at 7-30am to celebrate a younger sibling's birthday, before being shipped out to school.

I consider it my duty as a mother to digitally capture these stupidities for posterity and file them away to show my grandchildren at an appropriate moment in the future.

Tee, hee - loving the digital age!

Friday, December 26, 2014


Me: What shall we make with the leftover turkey?
Amaia: Fish and chips? 
Gotta love her!

(We got her to settle for curry eventually - her arm can usually be twisted by a scotch bonnet or two!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Exhausted - that was the month, that was.

I need a holiday. I don't mean two weeks on the beach in Barbados - well I do actually, but I just mean a holiday from my life! It's been another tough few weeks...

Stressed out of my mind already having been made to wait a month for a phone appointment with my bank to renew a mortgage that has been running seven years because some new legislation came in last April meaning everyone needs to re-apply like a new applicant every time their fixed rate deal comes to an end (well you have to do that or you have to go onto the mercy of the standard variable rate, which doesn't appeal this close to a general election or with the Tories dancing to UKIP's pull-us-out-of-Europe tune.) A month is a very long time to play over every circumstance in your status having changed since the bank agreed your last mortgage - more kids - tick, changed jobs - 2 ticks, self-employed - tick, changed income - tick, useless ex legs it altogether and doesn't up his share of the maintenance by a single penny - tick... you name it. So 28 sleepless nights fearing imminent house repossession (despite never having missed a mortgage payment in 21 years) is a good starter. 

Then we have all our work drop off a cliff six weeks before Xmas. Where have all our suppliers gone? Lapland to visit Santa, I suspect. Who needs an income anyway with five kids and a mortgage interview coming up? I hate my job instability - wah!

Of course HMRC is on our back for tax returns so we have to squeeze in a year's accounts. That's never the least stressful month of the year. But we make that with a week to spare and even get a nice wee outing to the accountant's office - it's as close as we've come to a business trip in months!

In the midst of all this Rosie the hamster dies and the kids all lose the plot.

Then seven-seater car dies altogether and the garage assures us after a week that they may have found the fault and fixed it for just £300 but if it turns out to be an intermittent fault as you get with cars of that age, they can do me a full repair for just £1500 next time. Of course am I aware the car is only worth £2000 in the first place?! Stress - do I buy a new one, because of course I need a car? But, then again, according to my bank balance I can't afford one, so that's that sorted. I'm stuck with the blue one and my crossed fingers. Sigh! Stress (I think I said that already...)

Then, for some reason, we all start dropping like flies? The weather? The climate? Could it be stress? First Lots gets sent home from school on the 15th. She's so ill by the 16th I have her at the doc who concludes she has flu... that's real flu, not flu as in 'a bad cold'. Next Léon succumbs so he's off 16th and 17th but that's more a gastric thing. By the eve of Anna's birthday I have the cough from the toe  till I pass out but no cold. Thomas is in bed for two days wheezing with asthma and sneezing like there's no tomorrow. Lots is still sitting with her face in a bowl of steaming water with olbas oil in it. But Marcel and Anna are ok! Anna's birthday sees me exhausted, I figure from running about like a headless chicken but some time around 7pm I collapse a snottering heap and end up in bed for two days with the worst head cold I've had in my life. I don't do 'bed' when I'm ill, so I must really be ill!

I'm back on my feet by yesterday, I have to be, but Marcel has succumbed and Thomas is wheezing so bad with his asthma that he's asked me to run him to hospital if he stops breathing! Stressed? Me, never! In the nine years we've lived together I have never seen his asthma this bad and it is starting to freak me out. When you are ill but the least ill in a family of seven, you run the family, ill or not. 

So this morning I get up and book Thomas in at the doc. I then do the final Xmas shopping at Waitrose, Home Bargains, back to Waitrose for the things I'd forgotten in my zombie stupor, up to ASDA, then back home in time to run Mr Wheezy to the doc in case he has a coughing fit at the wheel, then back to ASDA for a prescription of steroids for Thomas and finally home by 7. Where did my day go? I think to myself that a wee relaxing bath would be the ticket. I get in with my book, and a good book it is too. It's a James Robertson all about an atheist son of the manse who decides to be a minister when he grows up (I wonder what made me choose that!) but Anna had other ideas. Somehow she manages to slip and split her chin open on the TV room floor while I am in the bath so I have to hop back out, newly clean, get drenched in blood, drive to Minor Injuries at the Vicky at 8:59pm only to see it closes at 9pm. I then walk to casualty and sit there for an hour before she finally gets her face glued and stitched back together. Back home and ready to get re-washed by 10pm. I find out when I get home that good old Léon has read a Danish book to Amaia and sung her some Danish songs so her routine isn't broken - what a wee star. He's trying to run the family too, wee man.

Now I need to sit down but it's time Santa wrapped her presents - sigh! (thankfully Lots has come on board for that task). And I can hear Mr Wheezy starting up again so I'll be sleeping with one eye open tonight again.

I can hardly wait to see what the last seven days of this year hold for us at this rate.

Glasgow - my first Xmas

Someone linked to this the other day. I remember the Sauchiehall Street lights always being a real treat when I was a tiny child so it was nice to see my very first ever Xmas - even if it is in black and white!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hmmm, good try

Quote of the day from Amaia (4): But muuuum, it wasn't me who was arguing with my sister... it was my mouth!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Love my kids' outlook on life

So Léon comes up to me and comes out with:

Léon: X (I'll anonymize to protect the spoilt wean! ;-) ) in my class comes up to me the other day and says: You must have a really hard life Léon.
Léon: How do you mean?
X: Well, you haven't got a DS, no ipad, no phone and your family only has one TV. What do you even do in your room if you don't have your own TV?
Léon: Well, I don't have a room, so I play with my sisters in our room.
X: (rolls eyeballs) And your sister only got 50p off the toothfairy last week - we always get at least £5.
Me: So what did you say, Léon?
Léon: I just tutted, rolled my eyes and muttered 'East Renfrewshire' as I wandered happily off! You don't need things to be happy, you need family.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Not a very monarchist family

Conversation overheard this evening between Anna (6) and Amaia (4):

Putting on dressing-up clothes...

Anna: I'm going to be a princess. No, I might be a queen. I'll be Queen Elizabeth.
Amaia: I'll be Queen Ursula then.
(Their Danish cousins are called Elisabeth and Ursula).
Anna: No, Elizabeth is a real queen.
Amaia: Is she?
Anna: Yes she's real and she's still alive. She's the one who lives in London.
Amaia: Oh! I thought she was just a made-up queen they drew on the back of coins.

This made me cry

Friday, November 28, 2014

Baby Lily Mildred Buchanan-Widmann!

After last week's upset, we sneaked out on Tuesday morning to acquire a new family member. We got to see two boy hamsters and four girls. One of the girls, an all-over brown one, had already been reserved. That left this one, one who was almost identical to Rosie, right down to the triangle, but with red eyes (so we ruled her out as being too much of a reminder) and finally a really pretty fluffier creamy striped one. Of the boys, one was also really fluffy and coloured like a ginger cat. Almost immediately I started to toss up between the cream girl and the ginger boy. The owner said this grey one was friendlier so we played with all three for ten minutes before ruling her in and the creamy one out. She was a bit too chewy to live with young children unfortunately as she was stunning. This grey one was a tiny bit more curious, The ginger boy was so laid-back we weren't sure we'd ever see him again once he discovered our deep sawdust compartment, so she was chosen.

Once we picked the kids up from school and brought them home to their surprise, we had a conference on what to call her. Everyone, excluding Marcel who was at work but including granny, who'd dropped in for coffee, had opted for Lily but Anna was on a bit of an over-tired, post-school power trip so dug in her heels. Eventually she gave in with pouted lip and folded arms. The following morning, well-slept, she decided she needed to climb down though. Firstly, she tried to claim she had misheard us and thought we were trying to name a girl hamster 'Louis' and claimed that had been the reason for her strop. But later in the day she decided once again she needed somehow to have one up on her siblings so told me quietly 'Since the others got to choose her name, I think I should be allowed to choose her middle name'. Not realizing such a small animal needed one, I saw no harm in agreeing. Then she announced this tiny ball of fluff would be known forthwith as 'Lily Mildred Buchanan-Widmann'. Apart for making me laugh, I do wonder how she's even heard the name Mildred. I thought they all died out when Phyllises were still in nappies, and that was nearly 100 years ago!

The child of a campaigner?

The local primary must have been doing some slightly premature St Andrew's day celebrations today. Amaia and I were sitting in the living room when we heard lots of children's voices. This isn't unusual as we are equidistant between two primary schools, but this time they were accompanied by a piper, no less. As he made his way past our house we heard the bagpipes being played very well for a good five minutes without a break. Amaia sat quietly, listening and when silence finally reigned, she turned to me, smiled knowingly and announced 'Mummy, I think there is a Yes outside!' 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rosie Hamster 12-4-13 -> 21-11-14

You can't spend 18 months living with someone without getting attached... On Friday our little Rose Hamster fell in her cage - she was always a climber. She broke her leg too badly to be treated.

At 5pm I was happily making dinner and sharing a slice of the butternut squash with our much-loved hamster and by 7pm I was listening to three hysterical kids as we buried her in the garden. This is the last photo I took of her a couple of weeks ago.

We were already having a shit enough day without that (a combination of watching another UKIP win down south - this time by a man who just last week stated he wanted EU citizens repatriated as soon as 2017 - goodbye husband?) That, and a wonderful new piece of legislation from our favourite ever Tory government stating that people whose circumstances change between taking out a mortgage and it coming to its end 25 years later (excuse me for being naive, but isn't that eventually likely to be almost everyone?) will no longer be eligible for new deals on fixed rates, trackers etc even from their current lender, but will be forced onto the standard variable rate. I don't really understand the logic of forcing people onto a variable rate when they most need stability and visibility, unless it is a way of increasing the government housing stock by repossessing everyone's house. But there you have it, and ours runs out next week! Wowser.

Anyway back to the main topic.

We originally chose a hamster, to be honest, because we couldn't really be bothered with a pet, or rather we wanted one and felt the kids would benefit from one but had so much on our plates that we couldn't commit to dog walking and knew a cat would end up under the number 4 bus that passes our house every 15 minutes all day long. We figured a hamster would serve the purpose of teaching them about care and companionship without us having to get overly involved. I did worry a hamster wouldn't have much personality to be honest. I now ask myself how wrong I could have been?!

Within days of getting Rosie, however, I was surprised to find I really liked her. I guess she entered our family at the point I usually have another baby, so she became that! And once she was installed in our internal hall, the one leading to all the downstairs rooms in our house (except our bedroom), I found myself talking to her every time I passed through. Hamsters are good listeners, especially when life throws shit your way. They look both interested and understanding. They nod a lot when you talk to them. She got to know the family routines and got up every morning at 8 to wave the kids off to school before retiring until about 5pm when dinner smells would again have her up for a chat. She knew us each by smell and was always happy to chat to us as any nosy and outgoing creature would. I'm the family salad maker so whatever I was making, she got a slice. She loved everything in a salad, except tomatoes. Tomatoes were a definite no-no. Thomas and Rosie had a chat at bed time every night - in Danish, of course. Like our kids, Rosie was a bilingual hamster.

Now maybe I'm just a soppy old git but if you'd asked me last week what I was most dreading when she eventually died, which I thought wouldn't be for about a year, so I hadn't even started psyching myself up for it, I'd have said the kids' reaction but today, two days on and having only caught about four hours sleep since Friday, I feel utterly lost without her. I miss sharing my salads, I miss our chats, and the house feels too quiet by half. Unlike the stereotypical mum showing relief at no longer having the hassle of cleaning her and feeding her and the likes, I find myself missing her dreadfully. She had her own wee character, so in a way is irreplaceable but I already find myself googling where I can adopt another little hamster I can chat to about its big sister, who died in such a silly way at just 19 months old. I find myself going through my flickr pictures sobbing, like a daft cow... She was such a sweet baby when we got her, so tiny.

I think one of the things that surprised me most, never having had a hamster, was the fact that she was very like a human, in many ways: curious about the same things and similar in her reactions to situations. Her little hands looked just like mine.

Every two or three months we'd get up and she would have rearranged her furniture - she had a three room cage and we'd suddenly find she'd moved all the bedding from one room to another overnight. She'd suddenly decide to move from living in her cosy glass jar to making a bed under her sawdust with a long tunnel leading up to it and then just as soon as she'd moved her stuff in, she'd change her mind again. I'm a bit like that myself. I like to move furniture, redecorate and move house so I could really relate to that. I like to imagine what must have gone through her mind because her moves always took quite a lot of planning and to-ing and fro-ing. It takes a little hamster a long time to move 2kg of sawdust using only her pouches!

Finally, we were of course very proud when she became the face of Scottish Hamsters for Indy ;-)

But she had a good life for a hamster. She was adored by us all. She had a huge cage thanks to our hamster expert friend who advised us early on that the cages sold in pet shops really aren't suitable for grown hamsters. We changed her toys often so she had a bit of variety and took her out to play with her in the bath (empty of course!) And she had rather a posh diet for a hamster too. Banana was her favourite.

Léon drew this for her which set me off again:

And little Amaia did her own wee drawing of Rosie in a tiara which is too sweet:

Monday, November 17, 2014

The saga continues

This wee it is springs instead of gadgets...

First casualty was the mattress on our bed - a spring has popped through along either side - not in the middle where we actually sleep at least so we don't roll on it while we are asleep, but right on the edge so it nips my bum every morning on my way out. Mum very helpfully asked if our bed had perhaps seen too much action?! You've got to laugh!

Next, the couch in the TV room followed suit. I sat down last night and found another one up my backside. At this rate we'll need to buy each other bean bags and airbeds for Xmas. Oh to win the lotto!

I wonder what will die on us next week...

(I suppose after nearly six years of replacing nothing and trying to live freelance, things have decided to self-destruct en masse!) Joy...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

First tooth out at last

Anna has been desperate to lose a tooth (any tooth) since p1 when most of her friends starting losing theirs. Now, half way through p3 (with two of her adult teeth fully through behind the baby ones) one has finally given up! She is so pleased.

We've never really done Santa or tooth fairies in this house - it's a bit too confusing multi-culturally, given different countries have different norms. Going to bed on Thursday evening she said quite matter of fact 'I'm putting this tooth under my pillow because although I know there's no tooth fairy, I don't know for sure that money won't appear here in the morning if I do!' Good, strong logic there!

Well, that was my week...

It didn't get off to the best of starts: Marcel offered to make us cappuccinos. He pressed the espresso button - this is usually followed by a grinding of beans, followed by the sound of the grinds moving through the machine to the water outlet and dripping down into the espresso cup while the milk steamer heats up. Silence and a flashing warning light were not a good substitute. A quick check showed there were beans and water, it just seemed to have no engine. We turned it off and on. A second attempt resulted in the beans starting to spin, followed by a hiccough, a whine, and a splutter and the light started flashing again. A third attempt resulted in nothing whatsoever other than a flashing light. Mr Gaggia was pronounced dead at the scene. How the hell are we going to get through a Scottish winter without the coffee machine?

Not sensing he was on to a loser, Marcel's next offering was toasted cheese. I don't mind if I do...

Unfortunately the Mr Rangemaster seems to be in cahoots with Mr Gaggia and decided there was no real need for the grill (top left) to continue functioning. So as of Tuesday this is a coffee-free, toasted-cheese-free, in fact toasted-anything-free household. (Bottom lip quivers.)

Wednesday was parents' night at the primary school. We had gone for 3-20pm onwards appointments so we could just pick all the kids up while we were in to see the teachers. We texted Charlotte to walk to the primary so she could sit outside the classrooms with three, four and five while we had our meetings. A cunning plan, or it would have been had Mr Citroën not obviously joined the same protest as the other two. We went out at ten to three and the engine was sounding vaguely like it had run out of fuel, except I could see it contained 20 litres. Then the immobilizer fault light came on, then the ABS fault light, then 2 other fault lights containing three-letter acronyms I didn't even know my car had. If it was a competition between the three Big Mr C was definitely trying his hardest to gain the gold medal. I abandoned it and took the five-seater knowing that after our meetings there would be six of us to transport home... somehow - sigh.

On our return I phoned the RAC. They always get things going so I wasn't worried. I stood outside in the freezing cold, deafened by fireworks for an hour while he got me to turn it off and on to no avail. He plugged in his diagnostics compter. Mr C refused to acknowledge its presence. So Mr C now needs towed to a Citroën (ouch that sounds expensive when it is already nine years old and showing signs of needing new wheels, tyres and an exhaust) dealer to be diagnosed with something vaguely terminal, but probably not before I've coughed up a wad of cash I don't have to fix it enough for it to limp home, no doubt. Come on, it's less than a month since I had your Turbo fixed, you're not playing fair! Sigh, sniff, sob.

Unperturbed, Thursday was our monthly trip to Makro day. We needed one of their 180 wash washing powders, we needed 96 toilet rolls and similar items you need when you live in a family of seven. By moving our trip to during nursery hours we figured we might manage to fit everything into Thomas's car - just about, anyway. While there we noticed they had rice cookers on special, which was great because another thing that is on its deathbed is our family rice cooker and when you are making a kilo of rice at a time, it is so much easier to do in a rice cooker. We bought one and brought it home. Thomas rustled up some lovely curries then threw the rice in a flicked the switch. The 'red light that indicates your rice is cooking' indicated our rice was not cooking, or rather indicated nothing at all because there was no effing red light! The rice cooker has died before it was even unpacked. Just great... I really feel like trying to visit Makro again, this time with the kids, or rather with the ones that fit in the car... Maybe we should have left buying gadgets to another week...

But my man always says I should look on the bright side of life... So I should try to dwell firstly on Wednesday's meetings: 

Léon was described as delightful, bright, focused, (well, focused when he's not in a chatty mood!), motivated, polite, caring, popular, and having actually got to grips with all the numeracy and literacy concepts that are being thrown at him. His teacher was more than impressed by his bilingualism and even had him teach the class a song in Danish, line by line to the great enjoyment of both Léon and his teacher. She says he's a 'lovely, gentle wee boy' - how can you feel anything but happy, when the woman who spends 6 hours a day with your child, thinks he's a lovely and gentle wee boy?

We then saw Anna's teacher, who gushed with enthusiasm for a bright and positive little girl who is clever beyond her years and motivated and focused all day long. She loves nothing better than to show the teacher how well she has understood everything and make her happy. The teacher seemed almost teary-eyed with enthusiasm when talking about her and she too was thrilled to have a Danish-speaker who could teach the other kids a bit about how life is in a bilingual household. She had taught both Léon and Charlotte in the past too and remarked that 'it must be easy growing up in a family with so many exceptionally clever kids'. That's a nice thing to hear as a parent! She genuinely remembered each of them and came out to talk to Lots too.

On Thursday I also got to meet one of Marcel's teachers - for an update on his crash drama course. Of course, given he's sitting on seven Highers and one advanced Higher after fifth year, I didn't need her to tell me he's clever, but it was nice to hear again what a lovely young man he is considered to be at school. She suggested he could 'charm the birds out of the trees' but I've always known he's a schmoozer, so all I could do was laugh! He's my boy and I'm proud of him. As for Charlotte, her parents' meetings aren't till March so I didn't get to speak to her teachers this week, but she, like every week, helped me look after the little ones, she made me laugh and she even made us impromptu Brownies so I know she is a lovely girl too!

Then on Friday morning Marcel astounded me once again by showing me his schoolwork. I know he's growing up, but I remember giving birth to him so recently (on my timeline at least) that it seems barely possible to me that he can have reached the depth of thoughts he has. It started last week when he was exploring Villanelle in Advanced Higher English. He explored that concept by writing a very strong poem about his father. I will republish it here once his folio has been marked by the SQA in spring, but for now I need to keep it under wraps.

This week in his spare time he moved on to playing with sonnets and decided to see if he could write a few - one of which he composed to a 'female friend' during a 20 minute trip on the number 4 bus. I was blown away. How can you go from baby to writing deep and meaningful poems in just 17 years? Again, I will re-insert it here once it  has been marked.

And there's Amaia - my beautiful baby who came home with a nursery photo this week that surprised me. To suddenly see her through another's eyes, or another's lens, I was moved to realize she isn't a baby or even a toddler any more but a beautiful young lady, already. A bright and gentle soul. A gift to us, that at the time may not have made much financial sense, but who needs money when your life is as full as mine?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Nursery rhymes with a 21st Century slant

I was on bedtime duty tonight. I read Anna and Amaia the book of Toy Story 3 and tucked them into bed. A bit hoarse after all my reading, I asked if they maybe wanted to sing me/each other a wee song instead of me doing all the singing. Amaia jumped in straight away with '3 little speckled frogs'. It came to Anna's turn and she opted for Sing a Song of Sixpence.

The lyrics she sang however (filtered through her 21st century ears) were as follows:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of fries.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

McDonald's anyone? :-)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Spot the 'English' textbook!

Léon's to do some spelling revision for a test this week. His list of words (that apparently he might confuse!) is as follows:

        • sore
        • saw
        • floor
        • flaw
        • shore
        • sure
        • poor
        • pour
        • paw
He read them out once in his accent, looking puzzled. Let's face it, with a Scottish accent you are no more likely to confuse 'poor' and 'paw', than say 'rhinoceros' and 'zebra'! Then he read them in an English accent and fell about laughing! It reminds me of this ridiculous piece of homework Marcel got years ago!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Future Maths teacher?

Anna was sorting through her primary one papers the other day when she came across this, written when she had been at school for about nine months. I thought I'd blog it here for posterity, in case it gets lost over the years.

Firstly, I had to laugh at the way she presented me with it exclaiming how 'sweet and cute' she had been when she was 'young'! She wrote this when she was five and she's now nearly a month off seven! I am particularly amused that she is going to teach 'cids' to 'writ' and 'spel'! Hee hee - maybe she should start by teaching herself! I like the way she constantly refers to them as 'little peple' too, as if she had been 'big' when she wrote it! But my absolute favourite line has to be her explanation of what she's planning to teach all these little people: given 'Maths' or even 'sums' would have been easy to spell, you have to give her credit for her attempt at 'adding and take-away' or as it will be known forthwith in this house 'adng taicawy'. Love it!


She came down to breakfast with this overlength ribbon hanging from the left hand side of her head...

Me: Shall I tie your bow for you?
Amaia (in a condescending tone): This is not a ribbon! I've had hair extensions!

Who even knows about hair extensions at four? I don't think she's even been to a hairdresser yet! The youth of today!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

What's the point of a pumpkin?

I'm slowly concluding that pumpkins are pointless entities...

Every year I forget, and I'm fooled into buying one because they are so much easier to carve than a neep.

This year, worse than ever, the October climate has been way too mild and despite leaving buying and carving it till just four days before Halloween, it had collapsed into a useless pile of fustiness a full twenty-four hours before Halloween and been evicted into the garden. (And had to be scraped off the garden table this morning as it could no longer be picked up without disintegrating!)

This year, inspired by my bedroom wall calendar, we even decided to buy a second culinary pumpkin on top of the carving one and make every American's dream dish - the pumpkin pie. Lots and Marcel managed one spoonful each before declaring it 'just wrong', Léon did better and had a whole slice, but to be honest, it didn't do much for me. I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't special enough to bother increasing my body weight by however many calories it contained.

So next year I will buy a neep for my lantern and skip the pudding.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Conversation with a six year old

(I'll keep it anonymous so I don't get the other mums irate!)

Anna: Our teacher moved our seats today.
Me: Oh. Who is at your table now?
Anna: Well two of my best friends: Alice and Akshara, so I'm really happy about that, and two boys (let's call them X & Y). She's decided to make us sit boy, girl, boy, girl so I am between X & Y.
Me: And how do you feel about that?
(Hands on hips, sighing heavily) Anna: I suspect she's put me there to try and bring them under control! They are a right pair of nonsense bags! X was cheeky to the teacher and got on an amber light. Can you believe that? And as for Y - (long sigh) - I was asked to work with him as a partner today to write up some facts and while I was busy writing everything down neatly, do you know what he wrote? Do you know, mum? He wrote 'Poo pants!' How is anyone supposed to work with that? I am really going to have to give him a talking to... But I can definitely see why the teacher has put me in charge of the two of them... they need sorting out!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Owl facts

We took the kids to the Scottish Owl Centre for Léon's birthday last month. At the flying display, the owl handler explained that owls with black eyes tend to be nocturnal, whereas those with yellow or orange eyes tend to be crepuscular. He explained that meant they were active at dawn and dusk and to make sure Amaia had fully understood, I whispered that was what hamsters were like too.

A month on and Amaia was playing with Anna and Ursula at owls. She suddenly announced her baby owl didn't hunt at night because it had orange eyes. 'When does yours hunt?' I asked, to see how much she remembered from last month's lecture. She thought carefully for a minute and then replied 'Mine hunts at Rosie O'clock!' On the ball, and cute with it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turmeric teeth

Charlotte had the bottom bands on her braces changed ten days ago. Then the top ones snapped so she had them replaced yesterday with the same colour as the original. I am beginning to suspect there is too much turmeric in our family diet! (The dental assistant didn't even believe the bottom started out sky blue - I wonder why!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Glow - I hate you!

If you have a child at school in Scotland, the word 'glow' probably no longer leaves you with the warm and cosy feeling it is meant to evoke... (or is my family its only victim?)

They've been trying to roll it out across East Ren at least since Lots was still in primary, if not longer. How difficult can it be to write an online system that kids can use to access their school and school work? Countless times we've been asked to access it, usually with minimal, if any, instructions on where to find the page pertaining to a specific project, homework, class or whatever. I'm not particularly computer-illiterate - I have worked on one daily since 1991 and can cope with writing small Unix scripts and similar but 'glow' fills me with fear and loathing and leaves me frustrated to the point of wanting to go back to papyrus scrolls.

The first issue is that every time we attempt to log on the child's password has been changed. Yes, they may have been given something simple to remember but they are using it at 5 or 6 years old so when you ask their password, you get told last week's or last month's or their username, or the password they thought about using but didn't, or the password the kid sitting next to them used. So problem number one is invariably trying for a whole evening to log on, unsuccessfully trying different combinations of surnames, pet's names, minecraft handles and similar, and believe me, when you have four school-age kids, you don't have time to devote a whole evening to hacking into the system for just one of them. Around midnight you write your first letter of the week to the teacher (knowing that by Friday, you'll be back on first name terms).

By day 2 you are one day behind on the homework (that you only had four days to do in the first place) so are already stressed. You finally get in, invariably using one of the combinations of username and password that didn't work the previous evening but now mysteriously does, but you have no idea where to go... (and the interface has always changed since your previous successful break-in). The kid takes the mouse and manoeuvres you through three screens till you finally see, not without some relief, the class teacher's name. You click on it, knowing you are finally just one screen away from finally discovering what this week's homework assignment is and as you click it laughs in your face and flashes the message 'You do not have the permissions to view this page!' You find yourself shouting 'Fuck off glow!!!' and shaking your fist at the laptop much to the surprise of junior, who wonders why 'glow' always provokes such anger in his parents.You reach for the pen to write the teacher your second penpal letter of the week, because you really have nothing better to do with your evenings with a job and five kids than play hide and seek with 'glow' every evening.

This week Léon announced his teacher has decided to save paper (or was it the planet?) by putting all homework from now on on 'glow'. FFS, just pass me a gun now...

At high school (after the initial period of three months having them reset Charlotte's password on a daily basis) 'glow' does work, though still takes longer than just opening a text book and actually doing an exercise, but at primary, many of the children just aren't clued up enough to use such a buggy system. I really don't see how they can consider using it as a default system if children cannot get it to work without hours of parental intervention. I'm so fed up with it that I am losing the will to live. Tonight we 'do not have permissions'. I am not writing another letter. I have told Léon to tell them he can't see his homework and I refuse to devote any more time to it. If we don't get in by Thursday I will write a single letter saying ' Léon cannot access his homework so we did not do it'. That will be a first as none of my kids has missed a homework assignment in the 12 years they have all been at school. Enough is enough!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Big family?

The last time I remember getting that look - the one of mixed pity and admiration - was back in 2010 in London. I got on the tube with all five of my kids (then aged 6 months, 2, 4, 10 and 13) and I actually noticed some people counting us on and off again!

Today I was alone in Silverburn with four of my kids and my two Danish nieces Ursula and Elisabeth - so I had a 14, 9, 7, 6, 4 and a one year old in a buggy. A number of people looked at me as if I was barking mad and of course given five of the six children were girls, I think Léon got even more looks of pity than I did! :-)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Through a child's eyes

We had one of those conversations this morning...

Anna: Do French people celebrate Xmas on the 24th of December like Danes?
Me: Yes, Anna.
Anna: Papa was French, wasn't he?
Me Yes, Anna.
Anna: So do you always marry foreign men so you get your presents a day earlier than if you'd married a Scottish one?

The things you prioritize in life aren't quite the same at six...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

You can always rely on the kids

School does it at least once a year. Sometimes I think they are just being a bit nosy and condescending but it's always dressed-up as an 'educational exercise', and I'm generally too busy with real life to argue. 

It started last week. Léon was tasked with writing down everything he ate on a day of his choice that week. I suggested Thursday as I knew I had a load of vegetables I needed to use up and had time to cook something nice that day. He agreed, because he enjoys his food, and because he's a sweet (and easily-led child ;-) ). So we had a fairly bland cereal for breakfast, a few pieces of fruit mid-morning, some nice wholemeal bread and cheese with more fruit for lunch, building up to a dinner to be proud of: I made some boiled basmati, I made spicy potatoes in cumin seeds, ground coriander and garam masala, we had cucumber raita, I fried a tiny bit of chicken in onion, cumin, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet chilis, slicing in mushrooms, patty pan squash, aubergine and tomatoes. I added in some baby potatoes. I felt well-smug. We often eat that kind of dinner but we also occasionally have burgers and chips or similar so it was definitely what I considered acceptable for class discussion... I left it at that.

Yesterday was open day for this term. I went in and the kids were making their meals out of felt and wool and gluing them onto plates they had designed themselves. Léon was carefully cutting out patty pan slices while the three other kids at his table cut out pizzas. Léon whispered to me that he'd even received a 'personal point' for having eaten the most unusual vegetable of everyone in the class! Tee hee. I seem to have retained my 'weirdo' status once again...

So I thought I had got away with it.

Presumably, though, they decided that since the exercise was such a hit in the upper school, the little ones would get to do it too. Anna chose today. Anna chose today because she was on the plan to cook today and wanted to be fully in control. It hadn't been the best start as she'd had coco pops and dunkers this morning, followed by a chorizo sandwich and crisps, albeit with a few grapes at  lunch time. She came in and worsened things with powdered chicken noodle soup - sigh! (At least today wasn't the day we let her take back the lemonade bottle to the corner shop and splash out the 30p on gummi sugar-snakes.) So, around 5, I turned to her and asked the fateful question: 'So, what do you fancy cooking tonight? Remember you have to write it up on your form, then talk about it in class?' Anna doesn't have a huge repertoire. She can do fish, some salads, pastas and pie with broccoli, but I was sure it'd be fine, she is only six after all... 'I think I'll make fried eggs and chips!' she replied, very pleased with herself! Stunned silence, while I thought to myself: Seriously? We have only had that about four times in your entire life! Why, tonight, you wee besom, why?

But, you know Anna: firstly, there would be no budging from that momentous decision, and secondly there would be no lying about it on the form either, because if I'd put down vegetable soup, little Miss Teacher's Pet would simply have announced 'We had egg and chips but mummy said to write down soup'.

So from tomorrow not only will I be waiting on the call from social services asking if I've never heard of the five-a-day policy, I'll also be skulking around for fear of Anna's teacher bumping into Léon's in the staffroom, comparing notes and concluding our family, which already doesn't quite fit in the boring East Renfrewshire bog-standard 2 kids and designer dog mould, is even odder than previously assumed!

Children: a part of yourself, you have very little control over!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

More badness

I went outside yesterday morning and rubbish was strewn everywhere. It was bin day. Sitting amongst it were several crows picking at pieces of food, plastic containers and pieces of paper. Shaking her head Amaia exclaimed in a righteous manner - 'No wonder they call them 'badness of birds'! Léon, completely confused, started to explain they were actually 'crows' but unperturbed Amaia just waved him away in that slightly superior manner you do, when you know much more about a subject than the other party!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Un-thought-through specials

I was reading the newspaper at the weekend when  I came across a rather odd ad. I wish I had cut it out, but I can't track it down in the recycling for now. It was for an undertakers and read 'Unlimited words on your gravestone on all orders received before October 1st'. That seems fine until you think it through... what are you meant to do? Bump off Granda if he looks like he might croak it around October 4th, so you can have both birth and death date engraved on it? Thomas did consider pre-ordering his own and asking for his blog to be transcribed on it in its entirety, but it looks like he's now missed that boat!

It reminded me of my student days working in H Samuel Jewellers. In the run up to Xmas sales weren't as good as the big boss wanted so we held a brainstorming session to come up with new ideas to get the punters through the door. It was going fine until the assistant manager suggested 'Buy one, get a second one half price' on engagement rings! Quick as a flash all the wittier members of staff drew up mock ads that had us all in stitches, and the idea was instantly dropped!

Imperial arse

I'm supposed to be working, and you, Mr Cameron, are forcing me to take time out. That is because you, Mr Cameron, are one prize, antiquated arse who came out the ark.

Last time I looked, you were (approximately) the same age as me. I started school in 1972 and I have never been taught imperial measurements. By the time I had had my kids I had just about sussed that it was some sort of mental system where you had 16 ounces in a pound, but only 14 pounds in a stone, so theoretically you can weigh something like 9st10lb15oz - FFS! As for inches and feet - there seems to be 12 of those in the other. What is wrong with a sensible system that simply counts to ten and one hundred? He cites the issue that kids have to calculate between the two systems... No, they don't, no one under 47 has learnt the old system so you know what - if on say medical forms you simply put a wee box saying Height: ---cm or Weight --kg, then no one would ever need to use a pound or foot again. It has not disappeared because you and your likes do everything you can to keep it in use. Scales actually all have a kg setting underneath, I set mine to it when I bought it in 1993 and haven't swapped it back since - simples! I refuse to calculate between the two. I know my kids' heights in centimetres and their weights in kilos but I haven't the slightest inkling what their imperial measurements are and no one else would either if scales no longer had a stones setting. It is time the old imperial system went the same way as the Empire itself. (It's dead, have you not noticed? Even half of Scotland wants out - that's the half that got beyond the BBC and the tabloids!)

Or better still, maybe when we finally get our independence, we can keep the pound and England could re-introduce the old, non-decimal money we used when I was a small child. Then, everyone would be happy.

The Scottish Owl Centre

Yesterday was Léon's birthday. It was also a bank holiday so we decided to break our self-imposed no-spending rule and have a day out. Poor Marcel was working in the shop all afternoon so that freed up a space in the car for mum and we all set out for the Scottish Owl Centre. Léon has been owl-daft since Harry Potter first came out and Linda had recommended it to us a year ago.

We arrived and took in the 80 or 90 owls in aviaries before taking in two flying displays complete with owl facts. One owl in particular took a fancy to mum and tried a full-blown conversation with her every time she passed and I certainly came away surprised at how full-of-personality the little creatures seem to be.

We got to see big and small owls and we even got to meet the nearly-famous sister of Errol from the HP movies.

A baby owl (who was less than 6 months old) was also being taken around by the owl handler to get it used to people. It was a baby of the world's largest owl species and had the most beautiful eyes:

At the end of the day we came out and enjoyed the lovely play park in the owl centre's grounds. It was so good we might even stop off there again even if we aren't going owl-watching. 

This morning Amaia woke me up telling me which toy owl she intended to buy 'when we were next at the owl centre for her birthday' so I guess that means it was a great hit! She had even taken in the fact that one of the owls ate hedgehogs in the wild so drew this lovely picture of two eggs, two baby owls and a large hedgehog, or rather hebgehog, at nursery this morning!

It's a shame we can't drop by more often, but as with all things when you have such a big family, day trips unfortunately cost way too much. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A strange perspective

I was looking through some old photos of Amaia today for a photo of a coat she had as a baby. We happened upon this one of her with dad. She looked at it sadly and said 'My Pumpa must miss cuddling me'.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Targeted ads

Targeted ads piss me off! You know that way you look at something on the Internet and I from that moment, every time you are on the Internet they are all over the page, down the side bar etc Take this for example:

Léon asked for a Pikachu 'dressing-up'costume for his birthday because he wants to go out as Pikachu for Halloween four weeks later. So now I am trying to hide from him constantly as this is dancing all over my bloody screen! 

Last Xmas I bought Thomas an engraved beer glass and it did the same, which isn't ideal when we're sitting side by side in bed in the run-up to Xmas.

But worse still, I was sitting in bed recently without my computer when I asked Thomas to check if anywhere cheaper than M&S sold teenage bras - I wanted something suitable for a child but Charlotte, despite being very narrow, takes a D in a bra, so now poor Thomas is subjected to constant streams of scantily-clad 14 year olds with push-up bras parading down his sidebar... It doesn't look good in a business meeting, I can tell you!

Don't they realize people don't necessarily want others to see what they've been looking to buy, even for the most innocent of reasons. Older people even often share accounts, which is worse.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Time for a couple of days off?

You know it is probably time you took a few days off campaigning when your four year old spontaneously bursts into 'BBC, walk the plank!' while you're wandering round Primark looking for a new cardie!

The first week

I've had good days and bad days over the last week. Well, that's not entirely true. It's been more like good and bad hours, to be honest. But mainly good, I have to say... For the  most part the positivity of my post written last Saturday has remained, but I have had moments of despair, as I look at the size of the mountain I need to climb and the obstacles that are being erected upon it, and I've had moments of frustration and anger.

On Saturday afternoon we took ourselves off to the coast to try to let the sea air blow away the cobwebs. It worked well.

At least it worked better than staying home moping...

It was clear from all social media that the Yes movement had had its one day of mourning on the 19th but that we had all woken up on the 20th with the sudden and joint realization that we may not have been on the winning side, but we were on the right side so we had no choice but to roll up our sleeves and carry on. Maybe we're just a little ahead of the curve... After all the SNP was never meant to get that majority that forced the Indyref this soon in the first place. After a few more years of cuts and austerity, a few more illegal wars, a few more years of rule by an elite group of millionaires who can't even begin to understand our day to day lives, it might have been easier.

Of course Day 1 had seen the 3 stoogies break their first promise but there was no surprise there.

By five days in the ever-so-efficient journalists at the BBC had finally managed to lay their hands on the positive report I tweeted and facebooked on August 22nd about the Clair oilfield.

Interestingly the BBC reported this negative story on the left hand side, on the very day I found the positive one. But how could BBC journalists be expected to find something like that on a big, complicated Internet when it takes a busy mum of five a few hours to track it down?!

Since this revelation we've had parliament recalled to voted on bombing Iraq. Of course last week there was no intention of starting any more illegal wars but today, all that seems to have changed. Last week we were too skint to pay for weapons, but now we, the people are getting to pay for the foodbanks, because they the politicians are busy spending our new oil money on our very own UK WMDs. We didn't see that coming, did we?

And good old fracking across the central belt has been rubber-stamped this week too. We did jump up and down for two years pointing out to people that if we took control over our own affairs, we would have the power to allow or outlaw fracking as we saw fit but hey, wasn't it all simply about Eck being a fat w@nk?! Today I had to bite my tongue long and hard when I saw several BT and no-leaning acquaintances on facebook and twitter sharing the 'Sign the petition to ban fracking in Scotland' URL. Give me strength! You voted for it a week ago and now you want me to sign a petition against it? I already signed against it with a wee cross in the YES BOX on the 18th!!!!!!

Oh and I hear we're rumoured to be upping the retirement age to 70 as well. That's a hoot in a city where some parts have a life expectancy of 59. And Labour are trying to get people to join up the their party by telling people it'll save the NHS... would that be the same NHS that was safe with a No this time last week?

We've had Scottish budget cuts, we've had let's get rid of the Barnett altogether, we've had right-wing nutters burning Saltires in George square. Need I go on?

Angry and facetious, me? Never!

But (as you can see this is one of my more cynical hours of despair at the moment...) taking several deep breaths and counting slowly to ten, I remind myself that in just a week all the pro-Indy parties have doubled or tripled in membership. Marcel and I both joined up this week too, without mentioning to each other! And I have never been a member of a political party in my life! People who have simply voted up to now have suddenly decided to become activists in their own right and the tidal wave is hard to stop. Marcel has also notice a distinct unease amongst his no-voting friends as each and every one of his predictions has come true, not over the year he had estimated but arrogantly within less than a week, accompanied by the monarch's happy purring. Sigh! He said by Wednesday they were looking decidedly sheepish and they were hurriedly trying to change the focus of any conversation he seemed to be steering in that direction.

Thomas has been to two Yes meetings already and there is some very positive stuff appearing around the idea of finally infiltrating the Scottish media so we don't need to put up with the BBC bias any more. Ordinary people have picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and decided this is worth fighting for. No one is for taking off the car stickers and when the Yes bar in Glasgow suggested reverting to its old names thousands had tweeted to disagree within hours. I think they are slowly realizing that they are the Yes bar and will be till Independence day. There are marches and meetings springing up all over facebook too and my kids are already asking when we can go on a nice flag-waving, face-painting day out in Edinburgh, so all-in-all it feels good. My main issue is that I am suffering from a lack of patience. I am already at the place another 5% of us need to get to and waiting for them to catch up is frustrating.

I've also seen a great number of different sources starting to question what will happen in 2017 if Scotland and England vote differently in the EU in/out referendum. Scotland needs its EU subsidies and knows it, England, for the most part, needs them too but given London doesn't, it and the tabloids together could force them out. I don't see us simply sitting back and watching England drag us out... but I'll be watching carefully how that develops.

Of course some things never change. The BBC is still trying to pretend we don't exist:

Notice how the news reader suddenly moves to her left during tonight's report when someone holds up a 45+ sign in blue behind her on live TV! But we are working on that, and we are stubbornly attached to our goal of a fairer, more equal Scotland, so long-term, I don't rate their chances. We're watching you BBC! (Well, not literally, I am deliberately no longer watching them at all, but we're watching what they're up to!)

The most amusing thing this week is the gutter press down south stirring up such a frenzy against us 'subsidy junkies' up here that the English are now starting to demand their own indyref! Hahaha, bring it on! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Great view today

I was over at Whitelee again this morning taking a walk when I noticed it was much clearer than usual. It was so clear, in fact, that I could see not only the Ailsa Craig but also Arran and

Ben Lomond. . It's a shame I only had my phone with me and not my proper camera.