Saturday, January 31, 2015

Exciting life!

Two and half hours sorting hama beads on a Saturday afternoon. It's amazing what forms of entertainment you can come up with to occupy the little people when you can't all get out together!  I need to get a life one of these days.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Beautiful Amaia

Sometimes in photos Amaia looks like a beautiful porcelain doll. The light in the igloo yesterday was just perfect!

Thanks for reminding me!

You can always rely on little kids for a dose of reality...

Overnight it hadn't snowed but it did feel cold and Léon was dressed first and ready to shoot out the door by 8-20am (he has a school trip to Bannockburn today, hence the enthusiasm so late in the week).

Me: Can you nip out quickly Léon, while I'm doing Amaia's hair and see if my car needs scraped?
Léon (enthusiastically): Sure, mum!
Anna (ever so helpfully): No, mum, remember, you don't actually have a car any more. Daddy's just letting you borrow his to take us to school!

Well, thanks for that Anna. I had, of course, completely forgotten that my car had dropped dead on the M77 three weeks ago losing me the thousands of pounds I had been offered for it a couple of weeks earlier and that I no longer own one.

Maybe I'll rename Léon Mr Sweet and Anna Miss Pedantic. Or maybe I'll just google where I can sign Anna up for a course of kiddie tact lessons. Grrrr!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Still learning

It has been nearly five years since Léon was first diagnosed as long-sighted and I am surprised to find I am actually still learning how to be the parent of a child who needs glasses. I didn't get reading glasses myself till after 40 and I only wear them for reading so there are aspects of glasses that still surprise me. I have learned that small children need their glasses cleaned much more often than adults, that goes without saying. They are more than happy to walk about with lenses smeared in yogurt, grease and beans without a thought of wiping anything off. I often wonder at what point it would occur to them to clean them themselves. On a more positive note, I have learned that, unlike me, my kids never misplace their glasses because they never take them off. That is a relief! 

Yesterday I took the two of them for their annual eyesight test. Their prescriptions haven't really changed and their glasses look ok to me, if a little scratched, so I feared we wouldn't be given another NHS-funded pair, as this scenario has not happened before. The optician looked appalled when I asked if that was the case and explained that although my child did have a working pair of glasses that are the correct prescription, his face had grown so much over the last 12 months that his pupils were now in completely the wrong place for the frames he was wearing and she was surprised he hadn't started complaining of headaches, or pressure on his temples. How could I have overlooked the fact that as he shoots up in height, his face and head are also growing? It seems a complete no-brainer now that I think about it, but as I haven't grown since I got my glasses five years ago, it just completely escaped my radar. I feel like a rather useless parent now! At least I'll know to look out for that issue in the future, especially as they shoot up around puberty.

Anyway, both got to choose brand new specs, one or two sizes bigger, so they are more than thrilled! And they will no doubt want a photo session next Monday when they go to pick them up.

"I was just..."

I know it's just a stage because I remember it well from when Marcel was this age, but it still drives me quite mad. It is when your child is doing something annoying, say humming at the table when you are trying to eat, tapping their fork on their plate incessantly or dancing backwards and forwards across the living room between you and the person you are trying to have a conversation with. You turn to him and gently say 'Léon, gonna not do that' and he replies instantly in a very sweet voice 'I was just humming/tapping/dancing' etc. Arg! 'I know what you were doing! That's why I asked you to stop doing it! I don't need you to explain what you are doing to me because I can see/hear what you are doing! That is why it is driving me mad!' And when you explain this, he looks at you wide-eyed, with a confused expression and launches once again into a more intricate version of 'I was just...'  

Maybe I could have an 'I was just...' box, the way some people have swear boxes. Every time he says 'I was just...', he could put in 50p and by Saturday night every week, we could all go out for a meal in a restaurant!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Whitelee Wind Farm

We decided to resume our windmill walking yesterday. We try to do that every week for an hour but things had slipped over Christmas with all the flu going round. The snow is still deep up there on the moor and the early morning sun was just stunning. Even the wee loch was frozen. I was absolutely thrilled I took my camera with me.

After such a beautiful hour up there, we decided to bring the kids back up after school so they could get an experience of real snow, in case we don't get a significant amount down here in civilization.

The first photos were taken around 11:30am and the second set at 3:30pm on the same day. The crisp, beautiful morning had turned into the beginning of an afternoon snow storm, but the kids still had a whale of a time, even if the views were less spectacular four hours on.




Friday, January 23, 2015

Farewell big blue bus

And off it has gone. For the first time in 25 years I am no longer a car owner. And to rub salt in the wound, I was even charged £50 to cancel my insurance, as I'd paid for an annual policy! I now have a limited window to hold on to my 25 years of no claims bonus too - stress!

It seems a bit odd that it can't be fixed at a reasonable price, given how good it looks externally. Maybe I should have studied to be a mechanic instead of a translator/lexicographer. I could have fixed my own cars and even done homers! No one ever wants a lexicography homer, for some reason!

Anyway, it does make me a bit sad. Even if I do manage to save up enough to buy a new car some time, I will never have a big, powerful seven seater again. That would only make sense for the next couple of years, and it would take me longer than that to get one of those so I'm saying goodbye to the most expensive, biggest and most powerful car I'll ever own. Mind you, I never could scrape the ice off the front windscreen. At 161cm, it was always a bit big compared to me! So maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tact - kiddie-style

My little niece, Catriona (left) has a dimple on one of her cheeks. Anna is quite fascinated by it, given none of my kids have dimples. So up she comes the other night and sits on my knee, looking soulfully into my eyes. She takes her right hand and puts it on my face. And then she comes out with it... 'Mum, you know how Catriona has that little hole on her cheek?'
Me: 'Yes Anna'
Anna: 'It's very pretty', then stroking my cheek, she muses 'Your face is quite like that too, only it isn't a little hole on yours, it's more like stripes. You have all these little stripes at the edges of your eyes and more stripes running down your cheek. They are kind of beautiful on you!'

I suspect that last sentence may just have saved her skin, well almost, at least!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nonsense bag!

Why didn't I see it in her eyes?! (Camera survived - phew!)

Coping with the death of the blue car

It's funny. It looks ok, doesn't it? But it's dead and it's home while I find an undertaker willing to take it.

The kids' reactions have been varied though.

Marcel has many fond memories of me driving him and a combination of any five of Matt, Duckett, Andy, Scott, Ewan, Deeno, & Truesy places all their youth. He can't believe the beer bus has died for good and had admitted all his mates' great love of me and my car (the only seven seater amongst all the parents.) They had even been hoping to insure themselves for it and take it on trips now they are all starting to turn 17 and getting driving licenses. Sadly, that is not to be.

Charlotte is a real family girl so is probably most affected, on paper. Marcel works so rarely comes on outings to town, the beach or relatives' houses, so he will see little change. Charlotte and one of Thomas or I are the only ones other than Marcel who can legally be left behind. So, for example, this Sunday, given Marcel is working in the shop, one of Charlotte, Thomas or I is going to have to stay home and miss an invite for my nephew's birthday.

Léon has taken a while to catch up. Despite us talking about nothing else all week, other than the shock of the car being irreparable, he asked just last night when it was coming back! Pay attention, Léon!

Anna's reaction has been the strangest. She is very tearful about the whole thing, as if a pet has died, rather than a car. It took Thomas to point out to me that this has been Anna's car all her life, so she isn't really aware, like the others, that cars come and go. She thinks of it more like a family member so keeps bursting into tears and now it has been returned to us, she wants to go out and look at it, with big sad eyes. To cheer her up I have had to promise to start saving up for a Fiat 500 (I just omitted to point out that it may be five years before we reach the target figure!) Mind you, she has expressed a desire for it to be 'Buchanan tartan' in colour, so I can just stall her by saying I have not managed to source that model yet!

Amaia seems neither up nor down, but it'll hit her the first time she wants us all to go to the park or the windmills as a family, I guess. She won't want to go anywhere if Charlotte can't come.

As for me... It feels strange not to own a car for the first time since I was 22, or it will next week when they take it away, making me officially carless. It's altogether a bit too stressful trying to work out the logistics of moving us all about and sad to give up on the little social life we had. I suppose there'll be no more summer trips to Stirling or Culzean castle etc. But a new car is out of the question and public transport too expensive. We can't pick up visiting relatives at airports any more, nor can we get ourselves to the airport to visit them. But so far the most stressful thing is that turn of the key in the other car every morning as I know it won't always start, it is seven years old already, so wondering how I'm going get everywhere on time, the morning it lets me down is keeping me awake at night. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reginald Perrin?

I love it when little kids use a slightly wrong word or turn of phrase when recounting a tale...

Tonight Amaia came out with the very sweet: I think Charlotte must love me quite a lot.
Me: Why's that?
Amaia: Well, sometimes I fake my own death to see her reaction and it always makes her cry!

I suspect she simply plays dead, but the idea of her going to the trouble of actually faking her own death is certainly quite dramatic!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Officially dead

Well I said it had to go and it appears it is going, sadly.

The camshaft belt has snapped, whatever that is and has sent debris through the engine destroying all the valves. My mechanic can take the engine out for me (if I authorize a day's labour) to confirm his figure of £1500 to £2000 to fix, but given I had it valued six weeks ago at £1500 to £2000, I guess that's a pointless exercise as it'd cost more to fix than I could sell it for. So off the the scrapyard it will have to go. It's funny - I loved it for the first six or seven years but the last eighteen months, it's been more trouble than it is worth.

But hey - according to the garage I might be able to get £80 for it... anyone selling a reliable seven seater car for £80 please feel free to contact me asap. In the meantime, we'll need to draw straws this Sunday to see which members of the family are getting to go to my nephew's birthday party. Wowser.

2015 sucks so far...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Birthday obsessive

Is five the first birthday you really remember or are really aware of? Or is there some other reason Amaia has become a full-on birthday obsessive in the short week between Charlotte's birthday and hers? She started off slowly enough, reminding us of little things she likes by writing a wish list and expressing her desire for a card with a badge so she could wear it to nursery on Monday. That was nothing out of the ordinary but by Friday she was skipping in from nursery checking the kitchen from top to bottom to see if anyone was 'baking any cakes'. This morning she practically pushed us out the door, saying 'should you lot not be out shopping - you might need to get a present or two' (wink, wink, nudge, nudge!) She's filled the trolley with decorations for the dining table, ordered croissants for breakfast and left recipe books all round the house open at the chocolate cake page! She's checked the fridge twice for mince as told Lots she wants 'mince curry with beans' (aka chili con carne!) for dinner and asked if we're sure we've remembered to invite her cousins and granny round. She's being very sweet about it all but I am beginning to wonder if a birthday that is as well planned in her head as this can ever live up to expectation! Gulp!

Have I mentioned how much I hate my car?

My car is beginning to stress me out. And given I am already stressed enough, the last thing I need is my car stressing me out. Every garage tells me it's fixed, safe and reliable, every time but they are eventually all proved wrong...

For over a year it's been acting up in small ways. It currently needs new wheels, new tyres, its exhaust has been on its last legs for ages and for over a year the turbo was faulty so it kept worryingly losing power. For no reason when driving down the motorway at max speed, it'd suddenly drop to half speed and cars would come up my backside so quickly it would frighten me half to death. I thought it had been fixed two months ago when a garage finally managed to silence the turbo light by fixing some pipe going into the turbo unit, only to find a fortnight later on our way to a meeting with the kids' teacher that the electronics went completely. Then instead of it having a top speed of about 40mph (70kmph), it was completely dead. It spent a week with an expensive real Citroën dealer being re-fixed.

So it behaved from mid-November till now - a whole seven weeks this time. I was almost starting to relax and feel I could go further than Asda. So we went to Silverburn which is fully five minutes on the motorway. On our way home I was driving it at just above 60mph (approx 100kmph) when it died completely with less than 10 seconds warning. It felt as if something popped under the car, there was a whoosh of air and it lost all power on a steep hill. Fortunately, I was not in the outside lane where the fast traffic would have run into me before I could get over to the side. Fortunately, the traffic was light so no one ran straight into the back of me where Amaia and Charlotte were sitting - that would not have made for the best birthday eve for little Amaia. Fortunately, for the 20 minutes all six of us had to stand on the grass verge at the side of the motorway the snow stopped, the gale-force wind abated and the rain wasn't torrential. Unfortunately, given we'd been at Silverburn (which is always way too hot) none of us had on warm enough clothes (though lucky Charlotte had bought a jacket in the sales today, so could take it out!) And fortunately there are still some decent people in the world. A man alone in a car stopped and offered to drive four of us home (he only had a five seater car), so only Charlotte and I remained the whole hour by the side of the cold, dark motorway in the cold and wet.

It has become clear that even though we can't replace the blue car, it has to go. I'm not 100% sure how a family of seven is going to get around in one five seater car but enough is enough. It has to go.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The beginning of the end of childhood

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm French at heart. Some make the mistake of thinking I fell out of love with France, when I fell out of love with the Frenchman, but I will always feel French... and Scottish and European, and now maybe a bit Danish too, even if I sadly never really get the chance to go there... I've lived a multi-cultural life, all my adult life and you don't just switch that off because of one person...

So yesterday, of course, I was glued to TF1 on my computer, le Monde and many other French language news sites. Although Thomas reads French, they speak too fast for him to completely follow the details, so while I watched on my laptop, he watched France 24 (an English-language French news channel) in the TV room. Come 3pm, he stepped in to do my schoolrun. He could see I was too upset to move. Once the kids came in I went through to the TV room where live footage was on screen with a running update along the bottom of the picture. Amaia walked in clasping a PS3 game in her hand. 'Can I play this, mummy?' she asked. Before I could reply, Anna, who has just turned seven, replied for me. 'No Amaia, I'm watching the news. Some bad things have happened in Paris and we need to know about it.' She then proceeded to sit reading the running footer aloud to Amaia, so she could try to follow too, all the while taking in the reports and asking very pertinent questions. I don't know if I'm proud that she is so mature, or sad to see the beginning of the end of childhood so soon.

In any case I'm too upset to analyse it still. I just wish I could go home to France for a few days now.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Gotta laugh

Lots asks me if I'll buy her this text book because her "art teacher really isn't all that good at explaining the new exam to them" and it is recommended by the SQA and gets good reviews. I go on to order it and as I hit buy, I just happen to notice the author is none other than Lots's teacher! Ha ha!

The difference a week makes

I knew it would inevitably happen one year. The problem is Charlotte was born on January 4th and Amaia, exactly a week later on January 11th. So today I asked for help to take the baubles off the Christmas tree and was met by horror, followed by folded arms and the announcement:

It's not fair if Lots gets a Christmas tree for her birthday, and I don't!


Saturday, January 03, 2015

Amaia's concern

Thomas decided to take a bath when he got up this morning. His getting in the water coincided with Amaia turning up in my bedroom asking for breakfast. She looked somewhat concerned. The following conversation ensued!

Amaia: Is daddy in the bathroom because he's sick?
Me: No, he's having a bath, why?
Amaia: 'Cause I've seen how many sweeties he's eated from the big blue box in the TV room!