Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hullo I must be going...

I can't stop long as I'm off to Shropshire to visit my mother, the children are unclad, unwashed and unfed, and the house looks like a bomb's hit it. Spouse is at work pulling the teeth out of all the people who got a sixpence stuck in their mouths courtesy of a Christmas pudding and I have just run down the road in my dressing gown to put the wheelie bin out in case the bin men miraculously do come today. If, as I suspect they don't, I shall be dashing over to the tip before Spouse is back... hence my lack of time.

The Christmas festivities passed in a pleasantly bucolic haze. Christmas starts for us with the children's nativity service at 5pm. (That makes five I've attended - count them, five - but it was charming and I do like the carols). Then it was home to rush round doing last minute tidying before toddling over to the neighbours who every year bravely hold a drinks party on Christmas Eve. There was some talk of cancellation this year as the host was in India up until recently, but their children all decided that everyone would still come anyway...

We staggered back from there at 11.30pm, and for once could sit down as we had wrapped all the presents. Actually not all. One of Santa's gifts was two dalek battle packs which I had forgotten about. Santa also had to write a note to the children (with his left hand so no 1 couldn't tell me it looked like my writing) and then of course I spilt red wine over all the presents. So I didn't get to bed till 3.30 and the kids woke up at ... 4am!

Luckily, they know better now then to wake us too, but I did stagger out of bed at 7.30 to put the turkey on. And we all went to see what Santa had left by the chimney. After weeks of angsting from Spouse and I and many trips to Argos (Nos 2&3 had requested the entire catalogue, and half the things they were after ended up being out of stock), No 1 seemed delighted with skates, no 2 was over the moon about her doll's house, no 3 was thrilled to bits with Polly Pocket, though it wasn't the right one, and bizarrely, no 4 was ecstatic about getting Scooby Doo, which seemed a bit of a crap present to me. But he does talk, so I suppose that makes up for it.

They all loved their daleks sets, but of course though we had wisely bought lots of batteries, they were the WRONG sort... So Spouse had to dash out and get some more.

Meanwhile I went back to bed (hurrah, my children are now old enough that I can), leaving the turkey to sizzle at the bottom of the oven.

However, when I got up I realised that it was cooking too slowly, but as it was on a trivet, it was too high to put anywhere else in the oven. With the help of my sil and watched by bil, mil and Spouse (who I ended up banishing from the kitchen because of the stress of it all), we removed turkey from trivet and put it on a plate. Stupidly, I then forgot to put something to catch the fat, so when we did get the bloody thing out finally gallons of the stuff poured onto the floor. Mind you, it did shine the floor up nicely...

In the meantime my Christmas pud which I had made the day before (great recipe for lazy mums...) was a disaster as I forgot to put the suet in, so it had no fat to bind it. It ended up a glutinous mess, in a vaguely puddingy shape, but it did burn nicely and it tasted edible. Luckily sil had provided another pudding.

Bil meanwhile had chopped enough vegetables to feed the whole of England. So yesterday I decided to make soup from the leftovers. I was halfway through blending the remains, when my blender literally caught fire (it was a wedding present seventeen years ago, so I suppose it's done pretty well really). I then got out my smoothie maker to finish off what was left, and managed to chop the end off the plastic thingie which I was using to push the vegetables down. So that lot got thrown away. I think someone is trying to tell me something...

Still, we had a lovely day, which ended with us watching Dr Who en famille. An hour of David Tennant is enough to make this particular mum's Christmas absolutely perfect....

Ahh, bliss!

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Happy Christmas One and All

I know I've been a bad tempered old bat about the festive season, while the offspring were doing their many and varied nativity things. But now it's upon us, I do find it hard to be bah, humbuggy, much as I would like to. I took the kids to the nativity service at our local church this evening, and it was really lovely. So I'm not the Scrooge I like to pretend to be.

So to all the readers of maniac mum, I extend my grateful thanks that you've bothered to read my blog this year, and my merry felicitations for the festive season.

To end on a frivolous note. It's past 3am, and I have just spilt wine over a load of christmas pressies. One of them was to my mil from her eighteen year old great nephew. The package was so wet, I stupidly ripped open the paper so I could repackage the present. To discover that he had given her a bra. My mil is 83. He is 18. Minds and boggling don't come into it. Needless to say I've rewrapped it and forged his signature. I just hope she doesn't notice a thing....

A very merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Maniac Mum might be a bit quiet over the next few days, but hopes to resume normal service in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So little time, so much to do...

If anyone is still out there, you may have noticed I've been rather quiet. (oh good I hear you say).

The main reason was I was up to my eyes in my pesky deadlines.

I can now reveal that one of them is for my first novel - the allotment book is going to make into print next autumn, published by Harper Collins, it's going to be called Pastures New. Which is all very exciting. But having spent eight years writing pretty much for myself it's a wee bit scary suddenly having to live up to people's expectations. Every line I wrote now seems crass beyond belief, and in the end I just had to send it off otherwise I thought I'd be tinkering forever.

My other deadline is for a children's story called Awkward Annie, which will be published by Evans, although I'm not quite sure when. I'm really pleased about this as the character is based on no 2, so not unnaturally, I'm rather fond of her...

In between all of this of course, I have been attending all the various Christmas events for the children.

So far we've had:

No 2 as a cool wise man wearing shades. I know I'm biased, but she and her confederates stole the show. Sadly I don't have a picture as years of returning from these things with crappy pictures of my offspring means I tend not to bring a camera these days.

While we were doing this Spouse went with nos1 & 3 to be ecowarriors and cut down our Christmas tree (along with about twenty others - the deal is you help clear the heathland and then take a free tree home. Or four in our case. Spouse got one for mil and the kids decided they needed one each in their bedrooms. Right....)

Last Tuesday saw nos 1&2 at their carol concert. The church where this is held has very little vision so I was lucky to spot no 2 at all. No 1 surprised me by leaping up halfway through the service, to do something, I knew not wot. It turned out she'd lit a candle.

They do a repeat in the evening to which I normally don't go, but as the littlies are a bit bigger now, we all went on a moonlit walk through the allotments, which was actually rather nice. I felt a momentary pang when I realised this is no 1's last Christmas effort at her current school, till I realised I still have six more performances to go. Poor no 4, I'll be cheering when it gets to her last show...

No 4 put in an appearance as a villager last Wednesday. She had to say WE WANT PEACE AND QUIET, which she did very loudly. She then complained that she only had one line...

Last up is no 3 who is narrating in a Christingle service tonight.

Then that's us done and dusted till Christmas Eve when we go to the family service at 5pm.

So I am thoroughly Christmassed out, but in quite a nice way.

At the weekend Spouse and I did some last minute panic shopping as we were all out of ideas for everyone. Nos 2&3 have copied out the entire contents of the Argos catalogue for their Santa lists. I told no 2 she wasn't getting the Bratz house, because a) it's too expensive and b) as Spouse rightly points out, it looks like a bordello. However, her cool response was well, Santa doesn't pay for presents does he? Oh damn...

We also had the surreal experience of singing carols at high speed in our local pub on Sunday night. It's great fun, but not such a good idea on a Sunday, as neither of us felt very clever yesterday....

And we still have a week's heavy drinking to go...

Thanks to a heavy cold I can't even be virtuous and say I'm exercising.

But I have done this...

Never one to miss a trick me. I've just posted this on You Tube. The soundtrack should of course be Running on Empty, but Vivaldi can't sue!

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What's a girl got to do to get out of the house?

After weeks of having a fairly lazy time my life has suddenly gone MAD....
I have three looming deadlines. One for the end of the week. One for the end of next. And one (the most important one) for 21 December. I feel like I am chucking three balls in the air and just watching them drop... The trouble is a 9-3 working day just isn't long enough.

Last night was another mum's night out. This time it was no 4's, and a) given that I had run out of excuses for not attending and b) by the time no 4 is left at school on her own all my other mummy friends will be long gone so I facultatively reckoned I should start cultivating some more, if I am not to be left mournfully standing alone in the playground contemplating the glory days when I knew everyone in it
As well as the mum's night out, it was also no 2's first brownie carol singing adventure. This takes place annually at our local train station, and is followed by a Christmas party. Now me, I think this a tad ambitious myself. And having one year had the dubious pleasure of walking twenty over excited little girls back to brownies, trying to prevent them from death by walking under a car, I also think it is plain bonkers. This year my friend kindly did the brownies bit, while I looked after her other little girl.
First off, I get to school with no 2's brownie uniform and discover that she could actually wear her own clothes, so she is in a strop as she doesn't want to borrow friend's clothes. So friend's mum kindly pops by our house to pick up the clothes. No 2 also informed me at 8pm the previous night that she has to write a three minute talk for today. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute... So, she agrees she will write it at her friend's house. Flatteringly, the subject of her talk is My Favourite Book, and she has chosen my marathon book. I suspect because it mentions her... I am still not sure I should have let the children read it, but they all seemed keen, so I'm hoping any rude bits will have gone over their heads.
When friend had departed, I decided to sweep leaves in the front (as you do) as we now have a new brown recycling wheelie bin for garden waste. Which is great, as rather then digging stuff up and dumping it down the garden, I can dump it in the bin instead. Meanwhile no 4 and her friend had fallen out, so I had to leave the leaves half done and sort that dispute out. Then I grabbed a quick hour on the computer for my serious deadline (of which more in another blog), and then handed over the computer to no 1 (who is rapidly becoming more computer literate then me) and went to make tea.
Being a girl with a lot of foresight, and not fancying tuna pasta, I cooked Spouse and I salmon instead. My aim was to eat it at 7.30 after the littlies were in bed, before I collected no 2 from her party. Oh, the best laid plans....
At 6.15 the doorbell rang - it was no 4's friend's dad who was collecting her. This prompted huge wails all round and no 4 didn't let up for nearly half an hour, which was trying to say the least.
No 3 then decided she HAD to go on the computer too. So I let her play on our old knackered computer while no 1 looked up information about the Amazon for her geography homework.
Then I put the bath on and spent a fruitless ten minutes trying to persuade 3 &4 that they really did need to get in. By this time it was 7.20, I still hadn't eaten and the phone rang. I handed it over to Spouse and tried to extricate the littlies from the bath. After much bad tempered splashing, I got them out and in their pyjamas. No 4 was demanding a story, but I had no time, so I left no 3 on storytelling duties as Spouse was still on the phone, and I really, really had to go.
I got to brownies at 7.5o, and went to the party room to discover nary a brownie in sight. They were all downstairs rehearsing for the nativity on Sunday. Oh bugger. It's not as though they'd been doing anything else that evening. Who in their right minds would organise a programme of carolsinging/party/rehearsals for a bunch of eight year olds? And the old dear in charge looked like she was going to keep them till kingdom come, till I intervened and said I really really had to take them home now, as it was a school day today.
Then it was back to drop friend off, and pick her mum up as she was coming to mums night out too. We got back, I ran upstairs and got changed, and then we hoofed it straight out again...
And no, I didn't get to eat.
This morning no 2 presented me with a crumpled scrap of paper. Can you type that up mum, she asked. What in between making lunches/breakfasts/chasing children to brush their teeth?
Luckily she is a child who goes for the quickest option, so she hadn't actually written very much. It was full of spelling mistakes, but very funny.

So here for your delectation and delight is no 2's three minute talk.
Ah, praise from an eight year old, is praise indeed....
(incidentally, she can spell, so she tells me, but she was in a hurry...)

My Three Minute Talk

My three minute talk is about Running on Empty: Diary of a Marothon Mum, by Julia Williams, otherwise known as My Mum.

This book is about how my mum fought to run the marothon.

It all started with a seriol non-runner (my mum) who wants to lose weight but doesn’t know how, when suddenly she gets a call from her twin sister Ginia who asks if she would like to do the marothon with her. Julia wants to say no, it’s her disire to scream noooo, wich is wy of course she says …. Yes.

This book is special to me because it was written by mum & it explains how hard it was running the marothon.

My fave part is when she says she couldn’t have done it without five special people( I wonder why, Mum)
I’d recommend this book to anyone.

Thank you for listening to my three minute talk.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Little Donkey, Little Donkey...

The levels of pre-Christmas insanity has gone up a notch in our house as the offspring are beginning to start practising for their Christmas services.

At last count I have to attend the following:

Wednesday evening no 2 is carol singing with the Brownies at the local railway station.

Saturday afternoon she's singing in the local shopping centre from 4-5. No 4 has a party from 3-5 and no 1 a party from 5-7. Something's got to give...

Sunday morning no 2 is a wise man at the United Reformed Church courtesy of Brownies. We aren't actually members of the URC but what the hell. I'm all for ecumenism.

Sunday afternoon is the Christingle service at the CofE church attached to their school. None of them are performing but they'll all want to go, because mercenary little buggers that they are, they want their orange and sweets.

Sunday morning is also the time allotted for us to become eco warriors and go and dig up a Christmas tree. We did this last year and it was great fun. Basically you drive to a clearing in the middle of nowhere and are led onto the heathland by someone who's a cross between David Bellamy and Ray Mears, and then have to dig up as many Scotch pines as you can. They are not native to the heathland and are destroying it. The charity that runs it gets some free help, we get to take home a free tree, along with a halo for having done something good for the environment. Exchange is no robbery and all that... As no 2 complained last year of cold feet so won't be disappointed about missing out. Instead Spouse is going with a variety of children, his brother and sil, while I do the nativity with mil. As usual, I get the short straw...

Tuesday afternoon is the Junior school carol service - two for the price of one, as nos 1&2 are both singing. I do quite like this one, but the only trouble is it's held in the church which has awkward pillars so you spend most of the service craning your neck to find your own child.

Wednesday afternoon it's no 4's turn. I think they're doing the nativity, but it is a bit difficult to tell, as her part is that of a villager who has to say WE WANT PEACE AND QUIET (ironic since she is so noisy), and apparently has to wear pyjamas.

No 3's event takes place the following Tuesday, in the evening. It's another Christingle service, held at school and we can't bring siblings. Great... She miraculously is reading - none of mine have been so blessed before. Her teacher is notorious for having favourites and usually the same kids get picked again and again.

So I have two lots of carol singing, two nativities, one carol service and two christingle ceremonies to attend.

I clearly have too many children....

PS I will NEVER EVER mention cricket here again. How could it have gone so tits up. You have to hand it to the Ozzies though, they played brilliantly. And to dear old Freddie Flintoff, who is a prince among men and still gamely saying the series can be won. Freddie me darling, pigs and flying spring to mind, but hey, we applaud your fighting spirit...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Going, Going, Gone...

This being the start of the festive season, Spouse and I have suddenly found ourselves in an unusual whirl of social activity.

Last Wednesday I had to forswear the pleasure of a night out with mums (no 2's lot) for a birthday dinner with my bil, and on Friday I had to pass up on a night out with mums (no 4's lot) for Spouse's work Christmas do.

And because it is the first time in MONTHS that we've managed to go out anywhere together, I came down with the mother of all colds. No, anyone of the male persuasion reading this, I didn't have flu, I had a very very bad cold.

It started last Monday night. I had been for an epic swimming session at my triathlon club (for news on how the training's going, or not... hop over to - after many months I have finally got to grips with swimming crawl (well ish) and can manage about 500m continuously now. Believe me this is good for someone who used to die halfway down the second length. Normally in our sessions our trainer makes us gumbies in the beginners lane do a variety of drills, so we don't get much swimming in. He was away last week, so while the cat was away, the mice decided to play and follow the routine laid down for the slow people of the next lane. We as it turns out are even slower, as we barely got beyond their warm up. But we did manage fifty lengths, of which I was inordinately proud.

I should have known, however, that I was heading for trouble when I started to struggle more then I have done of late, and found myself rather out of breath at points. I got home, feeling fine, but woke at 2am with a sore throat. Which not only stayed, but made sure I didn't sleep till about 6am.


By Tuesday night I was feeling like death warmed up so I went for an early night to no avail, as I woke at 3am completely bunged up. In the morning no 1 was similarly afflicted,so I took everyone to school and then we BOTH went back to bed. Cripes. I can't remember when I last did that. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've done that since the kids arrived. What a relief they are all in school and finally I can collapse if I feel like it...

So I staggered out on Wednesday evening, convincing myself that I felt better, and after a few glasses of red, I didn't feel worse. However, Wednesday night followed the same relentlessly tedious pattern and again I was up half the night.

On Thursday I had to catch up with everything I'd missed on Wednesday so no more lie ins for me... And I ended up getting to bed latish because I was keeping an eye on my neighbours' teenage kids while she was out.

By Friday I was feeling absolutely dreadful and got through the day in a haze of lemsip and hankies. I really wanted to cry off the work do, but I knew Spouse wanted me to come and thought maybe I could find a second wind halfway through the evening.

Second wind, my aunt.

What happened instead, dear reader, was that I lost my voice. It disappeared about halfway through the evening. So I spent a very (un)merry night gesticulating wildly at people I barely know and just thinking I want to go home....

Around midnight after imbibing a rather large brandy it miraculously returned enough for me to at least talk at a low pitch for the rest of the night.

Thankfully, our Saturday morning routine has now changed since no1's exam so we don't actually have to get up that early anymore (huzzah), though I did have to go and watch no 3's modern dance lesson, during which I felt I might just keel over. By the time we got back my voice had gone again. Where's it gone? enquired no 4 in an interested manner - good question. The rest of them were just rubbing their hands with glee when they realised that whatever mayhem they committed Mummy couldn't shout at them for once.

When I woke up my voice came back temporarily, so the next time it disappeared they were all helpfully suggesting I just go back to sleep and it would come back again.

We ended the day with my huddled under a blanket sipping hot milk laced with brandy and honey and watching Robin Hood. Which I have to say was somewhat better this week. The Sheriff of Nottingham had captured someone who apparently had the secret of black fire, which looked suspiciously like gunpowder to me. I know nothing of these things but Spouse reckons black fire was something completely different and gunpowder probably hadn't been invented then. But hey, this version of Robin Hood hasn't so far bothered to stick with the facts, so plus ca change. I do like Keith Allen's Sheriff, but Guy of Gisborne is way too sexy. Robin looks like a puling schoolboy by comparison. If I were Marion I'd give Robin the heaveho and go off with Guy. He's a much better bet...Anyway, I digress as ever. There was good fun to be had this week in terms of Much being made (in a highly unlikely manner) into a lord and a nice good old fashioned explosion to end it all. But it's still not a patch on Dr Who...

Sunday was spent having lunch with friends and luckily my voice returned for the duration of the day.

I still didn't feel one hundred per cent, but at least I could speak. And I managed to stay up to watch Torchwood instead of hiving off to bed as I'd planned.

That too was better this week.

Having had the unlikely pairing of Gwen and Owen to contend with a couple of weeks ago, and the even more unlikely pairing of the girl with the unpronounceable name and the alien last week, it was nice to have NO SEX this week. Someone should tell the makers of Torchwood that adding gratuitous sex scenes does not an adult programme make... Although I didn't quite get what was going on with Jack and Ianto at the end when they were talking about stop watches (unless it's some kind of gay thing that I don't get) - and they still seem to be sending each other significant glances, so no doubt we'll see them in bed before too long.

However, that aside, this was a cracking episode, in which Susie who was killed in the first episode got brought back to life and then proceeded to drain the lifeblood from Gwen, before Jack eventually killed her again - though not without her telling him there was something in the dark coming to get him. Great stuff, and just what I hoped Torchwood was going to be like.

So it was well worth staying up for last night ... even if I can't speak today....

PS And my cup of happiness is complete to discover this morning that Matthew Hoggard took seven wickets overnight. Yay! (Sorry Bec) After the first test debacle it's nice to know our boys aren't going to go without a fight. And if (unlikely though it is - I think we're heading for a draw meself) they manage to pull it off it looks as though we've got a fight on our hands. The only thing is, after the last Ashes series I'm not sure my nerves can stand it...