Saturday, 30 March 2013

Forty Miles for Lent

I've never been any good at the whole 'giving something up for Lent' thing but my decision to do something positive - to add something significant for the duration of time between Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday - has been really successful.

I resolved to run Forty miles for Lent. Every time I didn't feel like going out training or making the effort to get off the sofa, I thought about my Lent tally and renewed motivation had me reaching for my running shoes. Once I got back into the habit of running again it became very self supporting - the more I ran, the more I wanted to run.

Then came the snow.

I know that many runners go out in all weather conditions but the idea of contending with freezing temperatures, bitter winds and icy roads was just not that appealing. However, as soon as I could, I was back out and feel a great sense of achievement that I managed to total over 45 miles - never very fast, never very athletically, but job done.

I am loving how the calorie total for my Lent mileage is looking. Although 5,679 calories doesn't quite cover the energy value listed for the chocolate Egg that my husband surprised me with, it does feel like a relatively guilt free Easter.

These 45 miles are just the begining. I have a lot more training to put in before I feel confident about taking part in the Market Drayton 10K race this May...  but I am on my way.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Glitter glue and googly eyes

Although it has only been a short term,  I am definitely more than ready for this Easter holiday and to celebrate the start of it, I had a craft session with the kids decorating easter eggs.

Whilst I was having a lovely relaxing, post run (just under three slightly painful miles), hot bath, my husband got busy blowing eggs. He expertly blew six but by the time I was out of my bath and dressed, little Dylan had already 'hatched' a couple of them!

With the remainder, I tried to lead by example and show two under fives how easy it was to transform a plain egg into Buzzbee the bee with just a little paint, some cling film for the wings and a cocktail stick for a deadly looking stinger. They were far more interested in simply squeezing copious amounts of glitter glue everywhere.

Dylan's googly eyed creation

Addy does love glitter glue

The results weren't exactly stunning (although Dylan's actually turned out much better than his big sister's) but they did have fun.

By the end of it, I could have done with another bath.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

More Testing Times..

My little girl, Addy, was not very impressed with the Audiologist. It turns out, she is not too enamoured with opticians either.

Another routine school screening picked up on a problem with Addy's eyes and recommended that we make an appointment with the optician. Dad and three out of four of her sisters wear glasses so the idea of having a cute little pair herself was not a problem for her. She was a little nervous of the darkened room where the eye test was to be carried out but her natural curiosity and love of new games meant that she actually quite enjoyed the majority of the test.

I had no clue that there was a problem with her eyesight. It was a little bit heart breaking for me to see her struggling to identify a picture of a car - it's a sweetie, it's a tube.

The problem only began when the optician needed to accurately measure the anomaly for the sake of the corrective lens prescription. In order to get the necessary measurements, Addy's pupils needed to be dilated with eye drops.

The co-operative, happy little girl transformed instantly into a screaming monster. She was clearly terrified by the concept of having anything put anywhere near her eyes and no amount of reassurance from me or the optician was going to persuade her otherwise. We abandoned the test and made a new appointment.

Yesterday was the day of the new appointment.

We had talked about the need for the eye drops, the procedure for administering them and the likelihood that it might sting a little - like getting splashed in a swimming pool or when shampoo gets in your eyes at bathtime. We performed the procedure on Cookie dog and gave him glasses. Cookie dog was very brave!

She had had a lovely day at school. It was a non uniform day and there had been an easter bonnet competition. Addy was very proud of her (hurriedly constructed!) bonnet decorated with egg box daffodils. She also had an  easter themed picture to take to the optician for a colouring competition they were running. I did not expect any trouble from her.

Addy happily handed in her picture at the desk but her mood changed dramatically and suddenly when we tried to usher her into the scene of the previous crime against her - the darkened examination room.

She held onto the door frame and put all her effort into not crossing the threshold of the dreaded room. We did manage to get her in and close the door but I fear it was already too late to turn the situation around. The optician looked defeated before he had even begun. Addy sat on my lap with her head buried firmly into my body repeating over and over - NEVER - whenever I tried to persuade her to co-operate.

Dad had accompanied us to the appointment for moral support so I left Addy with him to see if she might respond to a change of approach.

She didn't.

At least she did not resort to shouting at the optician that he smelled of Poo and Socks like she did with the audiologist (I think I succeeded in making her understand that that was rude and unacceptable behaviour - one small victory I suppose) but there was no way she was going to let him carry out the test.

We did the only thing we could do - reschedule the appointment... again.

The new appointment is a morning slot next week. It is the easter holidays so no school to worry about. Having an early appointment will hopefully mean we can attack it while we are all still fresh and energised. I was utterly exhausted after the appointment yesterday but I have to try and remain positive and do whatever I can to prepare my child without turning it into a ordeal bigger than it actually is.

We had a good chat about trust and being brave and doing things that you don't necessarily want to do because they are ultimately for your own good. This morning, without prompting, she announced that she was going to be brave and have eye drops. My fingers are well and truly crossed!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A Purple Post

The snow is retreating...

...which hopefully means that these little buds will burst open to welcome spring in all their purple glory.

Today is Purple Day - Global Day of Epilepsy Awareness.

I do not own any purple clothes to show my support (unless you count my purple bra that  I am wearing today with pride). Instead, I write my purple post and I do this for my nephew, Luke.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Malory Towers Adventure

Some time ago, my ex-husband bought the set of Malory Towers books by Enid Blyton for our daughter Charis' birthday.

With the wealth of wonderful Young Adult fiction available these days, it seemed an odd choice. What possible relevance could such old fashioned books published in the forties have for children today?    The one dimensional characters enjoying midnight feasts and lacrosse games whilst at boarding school  did not seem easy to relate to. The books ended up being donated to a charity shop - but not before we all had a good giggle at the rather stilted dialogue and narration. Spiffing!

Little did we know, the journey Charis was on with her life (and in particular with her education) was about to lead her to a destination not too dissimilar to the world portrayed within the pages of those books.

When Charis announced that she wanted to be a doctor, it made perfect sense. I had never even thought about possible careers for her but as soon as she mentioned it, it seemed so obvious. She is very academic and hard working and has an unusually logical, matter of fact approach to life and problems. She also has a caring and empathic side to her that revealed itself when she did work experience in an old folks home. She respects people. She is fascinated by the workings of the human body. She is incredibly capable. If I were to go into hospital. I would want someone just like her to be responsible for any life and death decisions pertaining to me.

I always try to support and encourage all of my children in whatever ways I can. Sometimes it can backfire and certainly my relationship with one of my daughters was tested to the limit when my attempts to help her move her life forward in a positive way was perceived as unreasonable pressure. Parenting can mean walking the fine line between doing the right thing and getting it totally wrong.

I am as close to 100% certain as it is possible to be that what we are doing for  Charis, is the right thing. 

The school Charis currently attends is the local comprehensive. It is very convenient for us but I am under no illusions about the quality of the education the establishment has to offer. It has served her well enough thus far. She is predicted As and A*s in her GCSEs and she has a strong friendship group. I believe that she has learned many life lessons that have contributed to the roundness of her character and her resilience as an individual. However, in order to succeed in her ambition to be a doctor, we felt that the sixth form college that forms part of the campus would not necessarily be geared to meet her needs.

We started to look at the alternatives.

My husband has worked in private education for many years and he recognised in Charis the qualities  that would enable her to thrive in that environment. He suggested that she attend some open days.

The school that caught her imagination - the school that she could see herself a member of - was one that my husband had worked for previously. His familiarity with the entrance procedure and knowledge of members of staff meant that the process Charis was about to go through was not too daunting. She spent a weekend at the school taking entrance exams, being interviewed and doing auditions for the music department. She took the whole thing in her stride and impressed the people that mattered. She was offered a scholarship for a place with boarding.

Can Charis make the transition to lacrosse from baseball with a brussel sprout stalk?

I was unbelievably proud of her and could see that she had grown as a person simply from taking part in the admissions process. 

There were two reasons for not wanting Charis to take the place offered:

1) I would miss her terribly - especially all the help she gives so freely and willingly.
2) Even with the scholarship, there would be a considerable financial commitment.

There were countless reasons to ignore 1 and 2 above.

So come September, Charis will be packing her suitcase with posh new uniform and heading off for a Malory Towers style adventure at boarding school. 

In the meantime, I am tightening my purse strings and trying to find ways of economising that do not compromise our lifestyle. I am on a mission to live better for less - to fund the Malory Towers adventure without feeling like the token poor person in a more affluent world. I am actually really enjoying myself with it. You could even say I'm having a spiffing time - marvellously spiffing!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Spring Cleaning

It may feel more like the middle of winter with snow on the ground and school closures (and more snow forecast) but it doesn't stop me from getting excited about spring cleaning.

At the beginning of last year, my eldest daughter had just bought a house with her boyfriend and I put in a lot of time and energy helping with the decorating and cleaning. Of course we're not talking a quick wipe with a cloth sort of cleaning. We're talking scrubbing with an old toothbrush into every nook and cranny sort of cleaning. Blast it with every chemical cleaner known to man sort of cleaning. The sort of cleaning that leaves you exhausted, aching and with painfully tortured skin on your once soft, smooth hands.

My own home was sadly neglected as a consequence.

Not so this year. 

This year, armed with my weapons of choice - a micro-fibre cloth, Parazone spray bleach and the trusted old toothbrush - I am attacking the dirty corners of my home with great enthusiasm.

I have already used two whole bottles of bleach cleaner on window frames and skirting boards and two old toothbrushes have been rendered almost bristle-less. And I am loving it.

I love rinsing out my cloth and watching the filthy water swirl away down the sink. I love the smell of clean. I love taking control and creating order from chaos.

I am finding all sorts of minor (and major) repairs that will need to be attended to over the coming months and there are plenty of places that would benefit from a lick of paint. Rather than being daunted by the mammoth task ahead, I feel inspired and ready to tackle anything. It really is like seeing things with the fresh eyes of someone moving into a new home.

I would love to think that my rooms would stand up to inspection by the Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners of the Channel 4 series - that I could be worthy of joining their bucket wielding army, making Britain a cleaner place one house at a time. Any illusions I may have had about that were shattered when my eldest daughter run a finger over a forgotten shelf in my kitchen to reveal more than a little dust! 

My battle against the dirt and disorder continues. Every shiny surface a triumph for me. Whether I will ever make enough headway to compensate for the tireless mess makers that are my children (and husband), I don't know... but I will persevere. And love every minute of it.

My top tips for Spring Cleaning:

1) Invest in good rubber gloves to protect your hands. I use bizzybee multipurpose gloves. They are comfortable, easy to get on and off and are still going strong after a serious amount of scrubbing!

2) Keep your cleaning equipment clean and well organised. When you are trying to create order from chaos in your home it helps to start with order in your brushes, sprays and cloths.

3) Never underestimate the power of elbow grease. No matter what claims the cleaning products make about 'simply wipe clean' or 'rinse away for a sparkling finish', a bit of elbow grease invariably gives a better result. 

4) Don't be afraid of the dirt. Dive in and deal with it.

5) Vacuum walls and ceilings as well as floors. It might look a bit crazy but it is amazing how much dust can accumulate on those surfaces.

6) Remember that the more effort you put into your cleaning, the more calories you are burning. A good work out with the bonus of a clean home - perfect.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Testing Times with my little Terror

My little Addy has always been a feisty one. I actually love that about her. So full of life. But when she unleashes the 'fiesty' into a full blown tantrum - it isn't pretty.

A few days ago, we had an audiology appointment. This was not because I have noticed any troubling indicators that there might be a problem with her hearing. It was simply that a routine test carried out at school was 'inconclusive' and a follow up examination was recommended. At the time I wondered if the 'inconclusiveness' of the test was because she had dug her stubborn little heels in and refused to co-operate. She is not very comfortable with anything even vaguely medical. But as dad has suffered with single sided hearing loss since childhood, we had to take it seriously. I did then start to think that maybe those times when I accused her of ignoring me (the 'up to bed now, Addy' times and the 'tidy up your mess please Addy' times), perhaps there really was a problem.

She was most reluctant to go to the appointment (lending weight to my suspicion that not co-operating was the leading factor in the need for further examination). I CAN HEAR!! she insisted. With persuasion and persistence, I got her into the Medical Centre.

She was fine up until the point when we were sitting in the waiting area... up until the point when the audiologist called her name.  She called her Adrian. The stroppiness commenced. I don't like Adrian - I'm ADDY!!!

She refused to sit in the chair offered to her.

She would only sit in the chair already occupied by her little brother, Dylan (cue frenzied battling between siblings).

I was trying to break up the fight, restore calm and answer questions about Addy's general health and any concerns I might have. (No concerns about hearing - PLENTY OF CONCERNS ABOUT BEHAVIOUR!)

By now, I was understandably a little stressed. The audiologist stepped in, offering a toy to Dylan so he was happy. That left me free to concentrate on Addy. I calmed her. I sat her on my lap.

The audiologist took out her Otoscope.

The device didn't really get anywhere near Addy's ear. She saw the bright light shining on the end of it and screamed - THAT BURNS ME. YOU ARE BURNING ME!!

I felt my energy and resolve to be a good parent draining away. I literally slumped in the chair as she broke free of my hold, stood very upright in the corner of the room, arms folded across her chest, chin tilted upwards, eyes closed. She took a moment to look over her shoulder at the audiologist with a hateful glint in her lovely blue eyes and spit YOU SMELL OF POO AND SOCKS! before resuming her posture of defiance.

Thankfully, the audiologist was very understanding and very patient. I thanked her for it about a million times in between apologising for my child's unacceptable behaviour.

Poor Dylan didn't quite know what to make of his sister's aggressive outburst but he was easily distracted by the book of pictures that the audiologist was now holding. He was more than co-operative. He pointed to pictures, naming the things he knew and asking 'what's that one called' for the ones he didn't know. Addy was lured over - curiosity and not wanting to miss out on something her brother had overcoming her suspicion of the audiologist with the burn-y thing. She was very happy to show off how clever she was, pointing to the items whispered to her. Given the level of background noise provided by Dylan who couldn't quite understand why it wasn't his turn any more, she performed superbly. No indication whatsoever of any hearing defect. Unfortunately, it was still necessary to look in the ear with the Otoscope and take a picture with another device.

The audiologist tried to show Addy the Otoscope so she could see there was nothing to be afraid of and the light would not burn. Addy grabbed it off her and would, had I not intervened, have thrown it across the room. She then refused to let go of it, gripping onto it with a strength that no nearly five year old should possess. After much prising, the instrument was finally returned but we were no closer to a successful examination.

The suggestion that a picture should be taken of inside her ear sent her running to the corner again, where she turned all the lights off and plunged us into darkness!

It was obvious that we were not going to achieve anything without a general anaesthetic so the appointment had to be rescheduled.

I try my best to practise positive parenting. I explained the importance of the examination and between now and the next appointment, the plastic otoscope from the doctor's kit she had for Xmas will be gently probing toy's ears at every opportunity. I hope that will be enough to avoid a repeat performance.

I love my little girl with all my heart but she does push me to the limit sometimes. She plays on my insecurity about being an older mum by saying things like "I love you mummy but I don't love your wrinkles" and then there's "I love you mummy but I love daddy more"

Yesterday when I picked her up from school, she had a picture that she was bringing home. I made the mistake of putting the picture inside her book bag for ease of carrying. If the audiologist could have seen her, she would have realise that she got off relatively lightly during the aborted hearing test. Eardrum shattering screaming. Vitriolic accusations that I needed a checkup because I couldn't hear what she was saying. The picture needed to be carried a certain way and I wasn't doing it right.

You feel the eyes of other parents - some sympathetic, some surely thinking what a terrible mother I must be to have raised such a vile child. The tantrum lasted the whole laboured walk back to the car. I made her carry the picture herself which certainly was not following the path of least resistance.

Later, I asked myself why I didn't just carry the picture in the way she wanted me to. Anything for a peaceful life. There was a practical consideration - one hand was holding Dylan's and the other was holding her lunchbox and book bag - but there is more to it than that. She is wilful and stubborn. I never want to quash her spirit but I do want her to learn to temper her wilfulness and stubborn streak and use them in the pursuit of the positive - NOT for getting her own way at any cost, for controlling people around her or in the avoidance of medical examinations.

She is challenging. She is difficult. But she is amazing and wonderful and glorious... and honestly, I wouldn't change a thing about her... (modify slightly...  maybe!!)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Despite having lived in our current house for eight years and having done a huge amount of work to it, it has been sadly lacking in some of the finishing touches that would make it feel really like home. We took another small step towards rectifying this last month.

February gives us Valentines Day and for my husband and I, a wedding anniversary to celebrate.

We decided to commemorate these romantic occasions by purchasing a new mirror to hang over the fireplace in our front room.

Just before Christmas I bought a mirror for our living room. I always imagined buying something oak framed to match the fireplace but when I saw a spangly mosaic framed mirror in a local warehouse, I had to have it. I had no idea if it would work in the room or if my husband would take one look at it and refuse to hang it but I took the risk. My worries were unfounded. My husband loved it and I think it looks gorgeous.

Buying a second mirror to live up to this one was a big task. I wanted something grand and ostentatious.  The sort of mirror that you could imagine finding dusty and forgotten in a dark and unwelcoming antique shop with a creepy owner. The sort of mirror that may hold dark mysteries.

Unbelievably, I found it.

We went to the same warehouse (which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places for a browse). It wasn't instant love. I had reservations that the finish of the frame would not complement the colour of the chimney breast. There was an easy solution. I re-painted the chimney breast.

I  absolutely love my new mirror, pictured here while the paint was drying and then in pride of place.

I do feel that I have taken another small step towards the home I want.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

My D*ckhead Husband

It may be first thing on a Sunday morning, it may be snowing, but that doesn't stop my Darling Intrepid Cycling Keen Husband, Eager And Determined (or DICKHEAD for short) from setting off with the local Cycling Club on the second of his Reliability Races in as many weeks.

The racers met at the car park at the back of my house but to avoid the struggle to get the little ones properly dressed and ready on what was supposed to be my relaxing Mothers Day morning, I waited outside my house (camera at the ready) for him to speed past in the opening moments of the endeavour instead of seeing him off at the start. Minimum disruption to my pampering at the hands of my children.

Contrary to what my husband had informed me was the route, the pack of pedallers did not pass by my house. I just happened to turn around from my viewing spot to see the flashes of high vis lycra whizzing past the T-junction at the end of my road. Photo opportunity missed - snow settling in my hair - Oh well! - GO HUBBY, GO!!!

I do tease him for how he looks in his lycra and how geeky he can get about equipment or training or technique but I am very proud of him for pursuing his passion and for being in the best shape since I've known him.

Friday, 8 March 2013

A Taste of Childhood

For Christmas, my mum bought me The Great British Book of Baking. It is the official book that  accompanied the BBC series The Great British Bake Off which she and I both enjoyed.

Mum bought me the book after I admired the copy she had purchased for herself - one of many recipe books that she treated herself to last year. The funny thing is that despite having an enviable collection of recipe books, she hardly ever cooks anything from them. She has her tried and tested recipes that she knows by heart and rarely deviates from them. More often these days, she lets my dad loose in the kitchen while she gets on with her latest knitting project or goes on her computer. Dad and recipes really don't mix.

So despite a wealth of ideas and inspiration at her fingertips, my mum's cooking repertoire remains small. She is very competent with what she does but feels no desire to get experimental.

The other odd thing about my mum's cooking, is her obssessive compulsion to have everything perfect. Biscuits must be regularly sized and shaped. Any that fail to meet her rigorous standards will be thrown in the bin (or given to dad to eat!). Choc chip cookies must each contain the same number and distribution of choc chips (she places them meticulously by hand to achieve this). I laugh about it with her but it really is very alien to me.

I love to cook. I especially love to try new things or tweak old recipes to give them a new twist. I do take a pride in the presentation but if it all goes wrong and looks like roadkill (which it often does), I am fine with it as long as everything is vaguely edible.

Recently I was reminded of a couple of old favourites of my mum when I came across a two hand written recipes. I remember her cooking these particular family favourites in the  kitchen of the house I grew up in. I had a go at making them myself.

Although the recipes couldn't possibly have belonged to my mum as they were metric - grams is a swear word to my strictly pounds and ounces mother - the taste and cooking smells were very nostalgic.

Of course, if my mum had made them, the jam wouldn't have been so blobby and uneven and the sultanas may just have been a little more evenly distributed!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

fantastic publish, very informative - Anonymous

As a blogger, I love when a reader leaves a comment. It gives you a feeling of connectedness and it is great to know that your words or pictures have touched another person causing them to smile or empathise or best of all, be inspired.

However, I am not enjoying the massive influx of spam comments that have been appearing on posts old and new in their hundreds, each anonymous and each with a link to a slightly dubious looking website.

I have been doing my best to clear up the spam manually as the filters on Blogger that I have relied on in the past seem to be obvious only by their absence.

I do not know enough about the virtual world to understand just who gains by the spam comments. Clearly, someone is profiting enough to make it a worthwhile pursuit.

At first, I was amused by the comments. Usually written in slightly clumsy English, they flatter the blogger with phrases like fantastic publish, very informative - and my personal favourite What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of  valuable experience on the topic of unpredicted emotions. 

Now, it is starting to feel like a violation.

My blog is my personal space. The content is my own and I certainly do not want to endorse links to gambling websites or cures for genital warts!

The internet is a vast and unknowable place with huge potential for good but as with all things, there is a dark side and the potential for misuse and abuse.

I will continue to blog with enthusiasm and feel delight when a genuine comment is posted. I doubt I have seen the last of 'Anonymous' but it is reassuring to know that with one click of the delete button, he is gone.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes for Ivy

It was my Ivy's 22nd birthday yesterday. Her boyfriend was working an evening shift so she came home for a birthday dinner with the family. Monday is one of my running nights so while I was kept busy with a 4 mile route around town, dad cooked up one of her favourite dinners - Mexican Enchiladas.

Earlier in the day, I had prepared a birthday treat of a cakey nature.

Ever since I had first heard of the idea of cooking sponge cake inside ice-cream cones and piping buttercream to give the appearance of a cornet, I have been dying to give it a go. This was my perfect opportunity. The cake mix did bubble up and over the cone which meant a lot of trimming and tidying up was necessary before the piping could begin. The plate of trimmings did not last long once a hungry Charis came home from school.

As often happens with me, time was running out when it came to the decorating. It all had to be done fairly quickly. Although I know I could have achieved a more professional finish and been more creative with toppings if time had allowed, I was quite pleased with the overall effect.

Ivy seemed happy enough with her plate of birthday cakes.

On the down side, they were very unstable being particularly top heavy. There were several toppling incidents and a couple of close misses which caused amusement rather than catastrophe.

Charis loves cake but hates wafer. We all watched with interest as she carefully peeled her dessert before eating. Perhaps I will stick to paper cases in the future!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Bad Magician

Saturday morning belonged to me with an early start and a Parkrun. Sunday belonged to my husband with an even earlier start and a cycle challenge that involved a deliberately vague map route, some 50km and optional cafe stops. He completed it in about three hours without injury and only getting lost once. My involvement was to give him a lift to the starting point. I was slightly confused because he had told me it was in Kidderminster. The sat nav directed me in completely the opposite direction because it was in fact in Kidsgrove. Close enough!!

Charis, my ever helpful daughter, was not available to look after the little ones as she was occupied with her regular Sunday morning piano playing for the local church. Normally, taking Addy and Dylan  on a little adventure, especially with a dad and a bicycle, poses no problem. This time it was a bit different because it was a special day. Addy had been invited to a friend from school's birthday party.

The birthday party was not until 2pm but as soon as Addy woke up she was fussing about what to wear and what to take and whether there would be a bouncy castle or dancing..... Driving back in the car after dropping lycra clad dad off, she convinced herself we were lost and would never get home in time for the party. This level of anxiety never really subsided.

Eventually, the hour rolled close enough to 2pm to consider leaving. The present was wrapped, the card was written and Addy looked fabulous in a little blue party dress and her long blonde hair loose and slightly crimped from her ever present plait. We arrived at the party venue which happened to be at the same pub where big sister Ivy works. The combination of seeing her big sister AND going to a party proved too much.

My plan had been to drop her off at the party, which was in a separate little room away from the main bar, go and say hello to my barmaid daughter and have a coffee. Charis had accepted my invitation to come along, have a lemonade and then possibly take Dylan along to the park for a runaround whilst Addy enjoyed the company of her friends. Enjoying the company of her friends was maybe the last thing on Addy's mind.

I felt Addy's little body tense as we entered the party room. I was grateful that Charis was there to look after Dylan whilst I tried my best to settle Addy down and point out the fun she could be having. She was not easily convinced but I did eventually manage to edge my way out of the room and into the main bar. Coffee and lemonade were ordered, seats were occupied, Dylan was happily occupied with an electronic game and I started to relax.

Then the party entertainer arrived.

I have to admit that as a little girl I was deeply suspicious of adults dressed in strange clothing. I always hated the Santas that made appearances at the family Christmas parties held by the company my dad worked for. I can imagine now how mortified my parents must have been when I refused to play nice because that is exactly how I felt when Addy ran screaming from the man in loud floral suit and spotty hat.

I tired to calm her down (again!) and explain that he was a magician and was there to show some magic tricks to all the children. She screamed surprisingly eloquent but horribly rude reaons why he was a rubbish magician and she hated magicians. Her face was getting redder and redder with anger, as was mine with embarrassment.

Calm and reassuring assistance came in the shape of my wonderful daughter Charis. She totally earned her lemonade when she gently cajoled Addy back into the room, tiny step by tiny step, until Addy was joining in and shouting Abracadabra at the appropriate moment.

Why, oh why did the entertainer have to pick Charis to be his assistant for a trick.

I think Charis asked herself the same question as she was fitted with a strange rubber tubing device that enabled the flower suit man to create the illusion of water passing straight through her middle. As he poured the water into a large funnel attached to the tubing, it looked like some sort of strange home colonic irrigation ritual. The only question Addy was asking herself - and everyone in the pub and possibly neighbouring houses such was the volume and urgency of her voice - was WHY IS THAT MAN TRYING TO KILL MY SISTER!!!

By this time the birthday girl's mum had asked me to come back into the room to sort a hysterical Addy out so I was there to witness (and photograph!) Charis' humiliation.

Addy never really integrated properly back with the party. She sat with me to eat her plate of party food.

I was so disappointed that she had not allowed herself to join in, especially given how much she had been looking forward to it. However, as she left with her party bag, she was as happy as can be. Back home, she shared the treats inside the bag with her brother and talked excitedly about parties. Just don't mention the entertainer - it provokes an instant tirade about a bad magician that tried to kill my lovely big sister...

Saturday, 2 March 2013

More ParkRunning

This morning I completed my second Parkrun.

It was one of those mornings when both little ones were still fast asleep so there was the promise of a luxurious (and rare) lie in. I cannot believe that the idea of getting up and running 5K was an alluring enough prospect for me to forgo said lie in - but such is the grip that the running bug has on me, it was.

The weather was a beautiful. The sort of weather that completely restores your faith in the possibility of spring. It was a bit fraught getting the little ones ready and out of the door but they had the promise of playing in one of the well equipped playgrounds that form part of Telford Town Park where we were headed.

My husband has an injury from falling off his bike (an absolutely stupid accident that would have been comedic had it not hurt him) so he was opting out of the run. My daughter's boyfriend was busy piling tons of rubble from a demolished wall into a skip. That left just me and my daughter to join the other participants - each driven to run for their own personal reasons and coming together to take part in this wonderfully friendly and relaxed event.

We ran.

I'm not going to say it was easy - it never is - but it was less of a struggle than the previous time when I was still recovering from a nasty cough and finding breathing a lot more difficult that it should have been. I was much more aware of the surroundings this time now that all my attention wasn't focused on gasping at  much needed oxygen. It really is a lovely place to run, especially in the sunshine. I enjoyed the moment so much more. A quick glance at my watch showed me that we were making good time (for us!) which was very motivating. A final push at the end gave me a finish I was proud of in contrast to staggering over the line last time.

As you cross the line, you are handed a token which you have scanned with your own personal barcode a little further on. By some magic, this enables the Parkrun people to put your results up on the website. I was absolutely delighted to have knocked a whole 2 minutes off my time.

To put our achievement into perspective, I should probably share a slightly embarrassing story. My daughter and I were intrigued by a Walker who had joined the Parkrun. I'm not talking about a casual stroller, this was a man in sporty shorts with the strange hip rolling action of speed walkers. He was ahead of us at the start but  it didn't seem too onerous a task to catch up and overtake him - after all, he was walking and we were running. This did not happen. For a while he was a steady distance ahead, tantalisingly close, but the distance started to open up. We were giving it all we had and he was charging away from us. Eventually, he disappeared from view. I'd like to think that this could be attributed to his athletic prowess and fantastic technique but I have to hold our plodding pace at least partly responsible!

My husband and two rosy cheeked children were there to greet and congratulate us at the finish. I loved that my little ones had got to play in the fresh air while we were running. There were no complaints from them when they were offered some additional playtime while my daughter and I went off to do a bit of shopping (seems a shame to be so close to a shopping centre and not take advantage!)

We bought ourselves a pair of running trousers each - slinky tight fitting ones instead of our tired old joggers. We are hoping that by dressing the part, we'll knock even more minutes off our Personal Bests!

Friday, 1 March 2013

St David's Day

I was a bit slow to realise that today was St David's Day. Living as I do close to the Welsh border, I did not want the day to pass without being commemorated in some small way. I had visions of doing arts and crafts with my little ones - painting egg boxes yellow to make daffodils - but I hadn't factored in how tired (and grumpy) Addy would be at the end of her first week back at school after half term.

I decided to abandon the daffodil project and concentrate instead on a welsh themed dinner. I found some good ideas on the BBC Good Food website but was somewhat limited by the ingredients I had available. I was unwilling to blow my weekly food budget by going out to buy extra groceries so I decided to make do with what I had.

My original meal plan for this evening was a lentil curry. I went ahead with that and also made a side dish of Welsh Onion Cake to create a Welsh/Indian fusion dining experience.

Welsh Onion Cake comprised of onions softened in butter sandwiched between layers of thinly sliced potato in a frying pan and baked in an oven. I'd never put my frying pan in the oven before but it was an all metal one and worked fine. The dish was supposed to be turned out onto a plate. Despite using a lining of greaseproof paper, a whole layer of potato (and the lining) stuck to the bottom of the pan. It all looked a bit of a sorry mess but it tasted great and went surprisingly well with the spicy lentils and rice.

The presentation of my Welsh Onion Cake was actually the least of my worries. I sliced the potatoes using a food processor and as I was removing the slicing attachment to wash up, I caught my thumb on the sharp blade. I didn't even realise I'd cut it at first, but the blood dripping from the end of my digit was difficult to ignore. My 16 year old daughter did her best to cover the wound with a combination of waterproof plaster oddments she found in the medicine cabinet but the blood just kept seeping out. My solution was to wear a latex glove to stop my bodily fluids from dripping in the dinner. It worked but it wasn't pretty.

Once the cooking was all done, I could have my cut dressed with a non-waterproof but much more effective covering

Even with the sore thumb, I really enjoyed my Welsh/Indian fusion experiment - and a bonus of my injury and non-waterproof dressing is that I can't possibly do the washing up!

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