Friday, January 31, 2014

Before and after

Before and after by PhylB
Before and after, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
After three years and four months Marcel is finally free of his braces. He had many issues to correct - a bad underbite and four teeth too many to fit in his mouth (that had grown in on the inside of his other teeth) but thanks to George the wonder-orthodontist we got there in the end. I've lost count of the number of hours I've spent in the orthodontist's waiting room over the years but when he had then taken off today, it was lovely to see him skip and dance the full length of the hall on his way out!

One child down, who knows how many still to go (one and counting, for now...)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cinema trip - a wonderful gift



We got a wonderful Xmas gift this year from Thomas's parents: a family visit to the cinema. As I have moaned before, when there are seven of you in a family a trip to the cinema is beyond your budget. Of course we can nip out to the odd Saturday morning budget rerun of an old film to get the cinema experience if we need to, but seeing something that is current, and that all the kids' classmates are still talking about, at the same time as everyone else has long been beyond our reach. And of course, when something finally does come out on DVD and our kids finally start talking about it, their friends can barely remember the film ours are enthralled by. It happened with Monsters Uni and with Despicable Me 2 this year, and countless others before them.

So this Xmas, we got tickets to see Frozen in the the cinema! All seven of us went, though I am sure Marcel isn't owning up to it too loudly! It was lovely to see Amaia's face. She'd never been in a cinema before and Anna, who had been once before had no recollection either. The four younger ones have been dancing about singing the soundtrack ever since and because it is something they rarely get to do, it will be remembered fondly, long after all the toys have been lost or broken. It was definitely a hit way to make a memorable impression.

To a family who spend a lot of time on a shoestring making their own entertainment, maybe gifting them an outing or an experience is a positive way forward. Maybe I should start asking for such gifts for Thomas and I too on birthdays as we never get out!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why I love being a mum

Amaia is 4 by PhylB
Amaia is 4, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
So I'd dropped three and four at school this morning and was quietly proceeding to nursery with five as usual. (One and two get a bus). I was listening to Chris Evans on radio 2 as I usually do on the school run. Suddenly Amaia, who was sitting in the front beside me put on her puzzled face and asked:
'Where is he?'
'Who?' I asked, wondering if she meant Léon or someone else.
'That man,' she said gesturing towards the dashboard. 'The man who's in there every morning talking away. Is he actually in there somewhere?'
So there you have it - Chris Evans is a tiny little man who broadcasts every morning from inside the dashboard of my Peugeot 308!
So sweet!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Being four

Amaia is 4 by PhylB
Amaia is 4, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
It's funny what you remember. One of my first memories is also of being four.

Around my fourth birthday we went to visit my great granny. I remember her as a bothersome old biddy who smelled bad and intimidated everyone. An unwritten family rule was that no matter what she gave you for a birthday or Xmas had to be praised as your favourite gift and shown off proudly to all around. On my fourth birthday she handed me a card. I can still see it today - average in size with two cute pandas on the front and at the top a large purple '3'! I was insulted as only a four year old can be when handed a three-card. I refused to thank the old bat and I made a secret vow to myself to hate her till her dying day! She lived another ten years and I never felt any fondness for the woman again!

Never cross a four year old!

Another of those memorable conversations of childhood

Starting Sunbeams by PhylB
Starting Sunbeams, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Anna started back at Sunbeams last night. Girls from four to six gathered round and the adult leader, Amy, came in and asked about their Xmas break.
Anna skipped out: Amy asked if we got something nice from Santa so I just said yes. With a wink she carried on: You said I had to play along with people who believe in Santa so it doesn't spoil their Xmas and I could see Amy didn't realize there was no Santa so I didn't disappoint her mum!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

So sweet...

So sweet... by PhylB
So sweet..., a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

Amaia told me today she loves her badge because it says 'Amaia 4'! She's getting good at recognizing the letters, she's just not quite pinned down the number of each to expect!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Anna's shopping list


Awwwh - isn't it awfully cute when wee kids notice you've run out of something and take the initiative to put it on the shopping list themselves!? These little gems become fewer and fewer as children grow so I'm trying to save them for posterity. Sweet Anna.

Proud to be Scottish!

This collection of photos made me smile today!

A change of perspective

At the Science Centre by viralbus
At the Science Centre, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.

It is strange how perspective can change things. Thomas said something to me around new year that blew me away. He mentioned that Léon and Anna were now the age Marcel and Charlotte had been when we got together. When Thomas and I became a couple I would have described my family as comprising of two fairly big, mature and quite independent kids and a baby. Now I have a son who'll be 17 on his birthday, and a daughter who is 14, if you asked me to describe Léon and Anna I'd probably say they were still very small children, very much in need of my care and guidance in all things. It is very difficult to see each of your children in isolation and to remember what they were like at specific points in their past. The trick is to analyse the stage they are at without placing too much emphasis on their position relative to other family members and that is not simple. I hope I won't turn into one of these parents who keeps the youngest home even at 15 'because she is the baby'!

Dieting aid

Anyone who grew up in the 70s will probably be able to relate to this type of food. I've definitely seen its likes on buffet tables at dos back then - along with the little cocktail sticks with a lump of cheese and a piece of pineapple, if my memory serves me correctly! I think it'll come in helpful to anyone contemplating a post-xmas diet. One look at these and suddenly ryvita seems unimaginably appetizing. What was it with aspic? Yeuch.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Chili sauce


I don't think of myself as overly wussy on the chili front. I happily use a good number of them in a meal and have even been known to eat the odd Scotch bonnet raw, so a couple of months ago when we saw this little jar in See Woo, it was an obvious choice. The first time we tried it we added a teaspoonful to our meals. They were bin cases. So we tried less and less. Firstly, the actual pieces of chili and seeds are way beyond edible. So I decided to test the oil it is sitting in. Three drips on my plate of chili con carne this evening was pleasant, five was borderline and by six I had to dilute the whole thing with another spoonful of rice. I am slowly beginning to conclude that this small jar of chili sauce that cost less than £2 might actually be enough to last the rest of my life. Truly fascinating.

Frozen

I have to say: these photos  (and these and these) are just incredible.

Here's a further batch.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Rain

Paris by PhylB
Paris, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
Can you insure your kids against rain?

This bloody climate is starting to get costly. Despite putting her calculator inside its plastic case, inside her Maths folder, inside her 'water-resistant' school bag, it got so wet yesterday that it's a bin case. This wouldn't offend me terribly if it was a one-off but it's the second time in a month. I'm thinking of buying my kids one of those water-tight barrels you can hire for your camera when canoeing - just so they can get to and from the bus in the morning. If I get one as big as the one in this old photo, they can put their school bags in it and roll it to the bus stop in the morning!

Have I mentioned I hate this climate?

Monday, January 06, 2014

Back to being drones

Xmas Eve 2013 by PhylB
Xmas Eve 2013, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
I know it isn't a very British attitude but one of the things that makes me sad at the end of the Xmas school holiday is that first morning when I see them all in their uniforms ready for school. We live in a dark and dismal grey country with constant rain. It is mid-winter and yet we insist on dressing little kids in dull blacks, whites and greys. It seems so perverse. When left to their own devices Charlotte usually wears tight jeans (often in  neon colours) and a baggy but bright jumper, Marcel prefers his polo shirt and jeans, Anna wants anything sparkly, Léon is going through his snowman jumper phase and Amaia is coming up with quirky combos such as jumpers with bright summer dresses on top. Over and above that they all have nice jackets - Léon's is a bright rust colour, Anna's stripy neon colours, Charlotte's is red and furry, Amaia's purple, only Marcel's is navy but instead all these cheery things have to be closeted away in favour of two navy school jackets and two black blazers that are not fit for the climate so are invariably worn with a hoody underneath and a cagoule on top. And don't even get me started on ties... no one in industry wears a tie any more so why are six year old girls forced into them? I want my kids to express their personality through their clothes - not lose their personality conforming to a dreary, meaningless dress code that belongs more in 1914. I know they supposedly look smarter, but kids aren't meant to be smart, they are meant to be comfortable, or wacky or messy or whatever suits them. Basically they are individuals and I hate the way the uniform robs them of their individuality. Guessing my pupils'personalities from their clothing was one of the things I loved most about teaching in France.

Ok, first (but not last) rant of 2014 over...

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Amaia's hamster coat

Amaia in her hamster coat by PhylB
Amaia in her hamster coat, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

There I was in Asda yesterday, not really looking at the sales, more looking for Charlotte's birthday dinner when I spied a pink fake fur coat reduced to a fiver from £16 or £18. I thought it would be nice for Amaia in the spring or autumn so took one.
I hadn't actually noticed it had ears. Given it feels like Rosie and has ears Amaia is now convinced she is a hamster.
Anyway it's definitely gone down well. I found her wearing it cooking, with an apron on on top. And everyone who's dropped by has been given a fashion show immediately on arrival.
I think if they had had it in a bigger size, I know two other girls who'd have bagged one too.

Charlotte



In ten minutes my first baby girl turns 14. And the strangest thing is that she feels younger in some ways now, than she did two birthdays ago... or maybe just lighter, breezier, more confident in herself. She doesn't need to hide behind the pretence she did then...

When she turned 12 she still had a relationship with her father. Or more strictly, he still had partial custody of her, despite their not actually having a relationship... At the time, unknown to me, her twice monthly weekends with him were a constant battle ground.

He was always the type of person who expected to be pacified by all those around him. Anyone who has lived with him knows that tiptoeing around him is the only way to have any semblance of peace. His mother knows it, I know it, Marcel knows it. The problem was that from the outset Charlotte was never a tiptoer. When she thought he was treating her unjustly, she took him on by telling him so, and the net result was many a weekend spent crying in her room after being screamed at. Worse still for her, she was denied access to her precious little sisters, who have taught her to be a happy child again.

The Charlotte who turned 12 two years ago was withdrawn and quiet and would never have been caught singing along to the soundtrack of Frozen, in a carefree manner, as I have found her doing almost every day since we took her to see it last week. Princess musicalswere not her thing back then. Of course, she's 'only singing it, and watching clips to make Amaia happy' -- (so I'm told!)

She is an absolute delight. She's patient and funny, nurturing and loving. I think, perhaps unlike someone whose life has always been easy and happy, she appreciates everything about her new life. She's such a family person, constantly baking with her babies, Amaia in particular. She's spent the holidays teaching Léon to play Minecraft, watching movies with Anna and disappearing for hours with Amaia just for some sister time. Even with Marcel, she doesn't have the normal grumpy teenage sibling relationship. I occasionally catch them deep in conversation, much like two much older friends. I am so proud of what my little girl had the courage to do in 2012 and how she alone created this family by standing up to the bullying and no longer allowing it to control her life or the life of her two siblings. My only regret is that none of this came out until after she had taken on the task of fixing it herself.

I now have a daughter called Buchanan whose Pumpa would have been so proud of her.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Ne'erday hamster

Ne'erday hamster by PhylB
Ne'erday hamster, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

I know dogs are often distressed by fireworks but does anyone have any experience of hamsters being freaked out by them?

I've checked with the only other hamster owner I know and she doesn't seem to believe me! Both on November 5th and yesterday at the bells Rosie started running up and down her cage like a mad thing. She doesn't seem upset, more excited like a five year old at her first firework display. She doesn't bite either which suggests she's not scared. The only time she usually bites is when she's harassed.

So I can only conclude my hamster is actually a firework fan!

Alcoholic custard

Alcoholic custard - colorized by PhylB
Alcoholic custard - colorized, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.

So I went ahead with my plan to bring in the new year with Advocaat snowballs. Thomas, too, had grandmotherly memories of Advoccat. Like me he thought of it as a somewhat unpleasant, old-lady drink but when I opened it, he decided to try a sip straight. I expected him to find it repulsive but was more than surprised when he started skipping round the living room hooting 'It's just alcoholic custard!' Twenty-five hours later we're half a bottle down and I've only had two glasses! 

I'm sure it's just a phase! If not I'm sending Siobhan a bill.