Thank you

I didn’t expect to spend my Friday afternoon sitting on the floor of a hospital toilet, pleading with my 3-year old daughter to pee into a sterile pie tin while she vigorously shook her head at me and and firmly told me ‘NO’ many, many times.
On the day the chronically overstretched NHS fell victim to a cyber attack (in addition to the ongoing onslaught by our government and hoards of irresponsible people calling for an ambulance to respond to their paper cuts) my daughter needed their help…and they were outstanding.
Bethan was sent home from nursery on Friday morning. She was fine when I dropped her off but, within 2 hours had gone from re-enacting the battle of Bannockburn using All Of The Plastic Dinosaurs to suddenly having a temperature of 39.7 degrees…for the second time this week. I called our GP in the hope that she might be able to be squeezed in at some point this year (knowing how busy they must be). Only one hour later (and with a very hot and floppy child) I sat in front of a very lovely doctor and blurted out her symptoms in typical panicky mum fashion.
The lovely GP listened carefully, examined Bethan and the worrying rash on her back (which didn’t disappear when pressed) and tried to wake her, unsuccessfully. 
Half an hour later and I press the buzzer on the door of the children’s ward at Forth Valley Royal…”um, hello…my GP sent me to bring my daughter to be seen by a paediatric doctor, please” (I could still hear the thinly veiled panic in my voice).
Bed 11 in a ward all to herself. I stared at the immaculately made beds, the ‘call for assistance’ buttons, the medical equipment. I wondered about the children who had occupied this room.
Bethan woke as I spoke to the Junior doctor. I was just explaining my concerns to him my about her unresponsiveness when Bethan spotted a Peppa Pig toy on a table in the corner of the ward and shrieked “PEPPA!!! I WANT PEPPA PIG!!!!!!” 
Many questions, poking, prodding, Peppa Pig, pie tin pee sample failure, numerous successful escape missions from the bed mid-examination and a potential diagnosis later and Bethan finally had the chance to make full usage of the toy corner while the very patient Junior Doctor consulted the registrar…concern about the unexplained temperature spikes and the non-disappearing rash still present. 
Registrar came. By now I was starting to feel a bit foolish as Bethan was running riot with the play dough and didn’t seem ill at all. However, the registrar (another very caring and patient chap) examined her while she waved her purple dough creation in his face (a mermaid, apparently).
It turned out that she has a nasty viral infection in her throat…and the scary rash was not as scary as first thought.
We remained in Bethan’s ward of her own for a further hour under observation, during which time she was presented with fish and chips and ice-cream and a jug full of her favourite ‘purple juice’. We read all of the story books and the tyrannosaurus rex played with Peppa Pig and Suzy Sheep (and then ate them with appropriate ‘roar roar yum yum’ noises).
An apology from the ward sister (because the registrar’s return was delayed because he had been called to resuscitate someone in A&E…like anyone would need to apologise for that!) and we were on our way home with the ward’s direct phone number in my pocket, should she need further medical attention this weekend.
So thank you, NHS. 

Thank you to the GP’s receptionist for your calm voice.

Thank you Dr Peterson for seeing my daughter so quickly and for taking instant action with the paeds referral.

Thank you to the lovely Junior Doctor (so sorry I didn’t catch your name through my worry) for making Bethan smile at your wobbly arm dance and for making her examination fun for her.

Thank you to the Registrar who was so gentle with my daughter and got to the bottom of her illness (I hope your resuscitation attempt was successful).

Thanks to the ward sister who checked on us (sorry about the pie tin failure) and thanks to the lovely lady who brought dinner for Bethan – she loved the ice cream.

All of you cared and did your best, despite everything you deal with on a daily basis…thank you.

After the Night Shift

My husband often works night shifts and on the days after those night shifts I always find myself desperately trying to keep one or both kids quiet to let him sleep. I’m not talking about making them whisper or sit in complete silence, I would just like it if they would desist from screeching like demented banshees for a few hours to let their Daddy get some much-needed kip.
This week was one of those crappy night shift-riddled weeks so on Tuesday and today (Thursday) I had to concede defeat after about half an hour of constant screeching, door slamming and shouted demands for drinks, cakes and princess costumes whilst I repeatedly hissed “Be quiet! Daddy is sleeping!!! FFS!” and take Bethan out for the day while her sister was at school to allow my husband to sleep before the final shreds of my patience self combusted.
On Tuesday I drove all the way to Anstruther on the East Nuek of Fife (a 3 hour round trip), thinking that a hearty stroll on the beach followed by the best fish and chips in Scotland for lunch would go down quite well with Bethan. It turns out I was wrong…the second she saw the beach she screamed “NOOOOO!!!” and promptly staged one of her lie-on-the-floor-screaming-as-if-being-murdered tantrums on the pavement whilst passers-by looked on in horror. I did my best to persuade her that it would be fun to see what colours of sea glass and shells we could find (and did find a nice swirly pink bit of sea glass which she seemed totally unimpressed with) but was defeated, once again, within 10 minutes and drove home lamenting the lack of fish and chip lunch while the little sod managed to reach the window handle and wind it down when we were on the motorway in torrential rain with nowhere to pull over.
Today I stupidly thought I would be able to grab a quick cup of tea at home after dropping Catrin off at school before the screeching set in for the day… if I could just keep Bethan quiet for a few minutes with the help of a DVD and/or iPad (yes I know that is bad parenting to allow your child within 50 miles of an electronic device with a screen on it, but I really wanted that cup of tea!). Predictably I didn’t even finish my single cup of tea before she lost interest in the stupid you tube ‘surprise egg’ videos and she had a massive screechy tantrum on the floor and woke up her dad. So I bundled her into the car (in the bloody Merida costume she insisted on wearing, complete with wig which is almost bigger than she is) and I drove…with no idea where I was going to take her as was rubbish weather and I hadn’t researched any elaborate plans for any fun and educational outings. 
We ended up heading towards Callander and the Trossachs and I parked up by Loch Lubnaig in a lovely empty car park. The lake looked very serene and I finally felt calm even though the mini harpy in the back seat would still not grace me with a tiny scrap of quiet for even a fleeting moment. Seconds later 3 tourist buses arrived and offloaded a hoard of eager-looking people with backpacks, raincoats and a forest of selfie sticks onto the lake shore in front of us.
Meanwhile, in the back seat, Bethan had made her trousers (and the sodding Merida dress) very soggy. So we set off in search of toilet facilities while I muttered ‘FML’ under my breath for the eleventy millionth time that morning.

Loch Lubnaig

7am on a Sunday

7am on a Sunday and I had been unceremoniously torn asunder from my bed and dragged downstairs in the dark by the Small One once again. I sat on the sofa grumpily watching snowflakes drift silently past the lamppost outside while she shoved an empty Lego box into my retina repeatedly.
In a way I am glad that her world revolves around Lego, Paw Patrol and her desire to eat all the chocolate buns in existence because the world is a scary place and becoming scarier with each day and with each fear-inducing headline. I sometimes wonder what sort of world we have brought our children into but then remember that these children may, one day, be the ones to finally use some common sense and reverse some of the world’s crappiness – perhaps by normalising compassion and respect in place of exocentric twatwaffles preaching hate and intolerance to herds of unquestioning sheep. We can only hope and we can only keep teaching them to be kind to others at home, at nursery and at school before they are unleashed upon the big (yet small) world as adults with responsibilities.
Catrin took it upon herself to consider a world without international trade in foodstuffs over dinner last night.

“If we only ate food from this country and didn’t get food from other countries we would eat fish and chips and peas every day and it would be great! Wait…where do the bananas in my smoothie come from?”
The protests around the globe were heartening yesterday (and some of the placards were frankly genius). A couple of days ago I was concerned that Bethan had staged her own ‘dirty protest’ when she disappeared into the toy aisle of Debenhams and started yelling “Poo! POO!” It turned out, however, that she was just expressing her excitement at finding tellytubby Po in the sale section. The real protest came when she attempted to claim squatter’s rights in the vicinity of the half price Disney princesses and had to be forcibly removed. She was eventually pacified by a My Little Pony t-shirt (or ‘poneeee tee-shit’ as she calls it).
7.01am on a Sunday and the tiny snowflakes in the garden fell onto the first shoots of spring flowers while I browsed today’s foreboding news stories and wondered what 2017 will bring. Next to me the Small One proudly paraded her poneee tee-shit with a giant, carefree, snotty grin.

“Poo! POO!”

Going for a walk

I am in the Lake District this weekend visiting my in-laws and, as it wasn’t raining for once, we decided to go out for a healthy walk in the country like an outdoorsy family of smug gits from a North Face catalogue.

It took over 2 hours from the time we made the spontaneous decision to go out to the moment we actually left the house. This was actually quite quick by our standards as it seems to be a well-established convention to suddenly require a poo/ a pineapple/ time to build a replica of the Taj Mahal in Lego, etc. whenever someone says “come and put your shoes on”.

The moaning began even before I started the car and continued all the way to our chosen walking spot (Buttermere), all the way down the hill from the parking spot and intensified further when the realisation that the ice cream farm was shut. After approximately 5 minutes of walking we ended up bribing the kids with ice cream from a different cafe on the condition that the winging would stop.

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Lovely, lovely cream tea!

Whilst the kids smeared the ice cream on themselves, the table, Olaf and Poppy the troll, my mother-in-law and I tucked into cream teas in a failed attempt to appear vaguely civilised. Lots of sticky ice cream mess, trips to the loo and spilled orange juice later, we finally began our walk (it took a mere 23 minutes to get the kids ready leave the cafe…which could even have been faster if Catrin hadn’t insisted on wearing her buff as some sort of high-fashion balaclava which required a very specific arrangement of her hair underneath it and if Bethan hadn’t thrown Poppy the troll across the room).

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Buff

We finally started out wholesome family walk along the path down to the lake…predictably, within 30 seconds, Bethan had found the deepest, muddiest puddle to jump into and just stood in it watching the mud ooze up towards the top of her boots as she sank into the mire. The lake was beautiful and peaceful as ever, with birds circling above the calm waters. The peace was promptly shattered by the girls having a ‘who can make the biggest splash competition’ as they hurled hugs rocks into the water, giggling and shrieking. Bethan won with a rock the size of Wales.

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Peaceful moment

Further up the path, Bethan had a one-way conversation with a sheep for a considerable length of time, which prompted some deep reflection and questioning from Catrin on the way back to the car:

“It must be so boring to just eat grass all day…why don’t sheep eat cupcakes instead? Or fish and chips and peas? Look at that sheep all by itself…maybe the other sheep are bullying him! That’s not nice!”

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“Hello sheep”

Green Ham and Bread

Bethan’s manual of guidance for dining out in polite company.

1. Whilst awaiting the meal it is considered good practise to use the crayons provided as lip balm and/or fetching nasal ornaments.

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2. When food arrives (in this case a ham and cheese sandwich), begin by eating the bread with a fork. Then spit out the bread in a liberal distribution pattern due to the offensive presence of a minuscule trace of butter.

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3. Next select a brightly coloured crayon from your selection of nasal ornaments and dress it in an evening gown fashioned from your sandwich ham. Be sure to accessorise the crayon with a ham crown while shouting “Elsa! Elsa!”

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4. Feed chips to hammy Elsa crayon.

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5. Eat ketchup. With a fork.

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6. Through a complex and expressive series of violent movements, akin to a frantic interpretive dance performance, create innovative new hipster favourite: pulled ham.

7. Finally, devour the tasty morsel of hipster ham with a drizzle of green crayon and snot jus and express your approval to impress all diners present by declaring “IT HAM!”.

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They Sense Weakness

Looking after small, ridiculously energetic children who are still on a post-festive season sugar high when you are poorly is a special kind of torture.

I had so many good intentions of utilising productive ways to spend the first few days of the shiny new (and hopefully slightly less crap) year, but all were thwarted when I became a shivering, phlegm-ridden mess shortly before the new year started and l have subsequently spent every day of 2017 so far battling a nasty chest infection whilst being treated as a handy, portable trampoline by two small ninjas who can sense weakness and exploit it at 100 paces.

A favoured item in their arsenal of terrifying tools of torture is Monopoly Junior.

At first Monopoly Junior seemed like a nice, wholesome family game to enjoy together as you try to make each other thoroughly destitute and depressed at the thought of landing on bloody Mayfair again when my oldest daughter owns the sodding Park Lane-Mayfair-double-that’s-another-10-you-owe-me-Mummy-combo, but after approximately 7,485,402 games (since Christmas Day) it has descended into my eldest daughter becoming a full-on evilly cackling capitalist and my youngest daughter wanting to join in with the game (by which I mean she runs away with the dice, throws all the money in the air then dances on the crumpled remains and hides the playing ‘characters’ in random hidey-holes around the house while the game is still being played).

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Plotting maximum destruction.

I clutch the 2 Monopoly pounds I have remaining and cough out my lungs while chaos erupts around me and calculate how many minutes are left until bedtime.

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Trampling on the concept of capitalism.

By bath time I had lost all energy and will to deny any more daft requests from them and, when faced with the usual unusual bathwater-enhancement demands (tonight it was “Make the water yellow, Mummy!”), I just sighed a resigned sigh and dropped a Disney branded fizzy bath colouring tablet into the water (probably a Christmas stocking gift from last year which has languished in the bathroom cupboard since 2015) and watched them frolic in what closely resembled urine (well one or possibly both of them had probably peed in there anyway).

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Frolicking in their Disney-branded urine bath

A trip to A&E

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Washing off the chocolate mousse

The day was quite ordinary…Catrin had “helped Bethan to eat some chocolate mousse” and I had just finished cleaning both chocolate-smeared girls in the bath and had put lunch in front of them on the table…when I sat down in the living room for a moment and heard a horrible thud, then a scream.

I ran to the kitchen and found Bethan lying on her back on the hard, tiled floor with her head on the step to the patio door…she looked (and sounded) very distressed so I sat her up to give her a cuddle and then realised that the back of her head was all wet and sticky and red. My heart pounded as I hunted for something to apply pressure to stop the bleeding…I grabbed baby wipes and tried to hold her still while I attended to her head. She didn’t like that very much and did her best to escape while I did my best to assess the damage. I needed to clean up her hair a bit to see her scalp properly, so I took her to the bathroom. Bethan calmed down and actually found it quite funny when I dipped her hair into a bowl of warm water…I found it considerably less funny as I could see how red the water was.

I checked her head again…the bleeding had stopped and there was a large lump under her soggy hair. I held her close and took her back downstairs. A quick discussion with my husband over the phone, a quick request for help from a friend and Catrin was happily dropped at her mate’s house while Bethan and I headed for A&E.image

As I pulled into the car park, checking in the mirror every few seconds to see if she was still awake, I looked up at the windows of the maternity ward and had flashbacks from the moments after Catrin and Bethan were born there…and (daftly) wondered what the midwives would think about me bringing one of them back like someone returning damaged goods to a shop for repair. A silly thought, I know, but I was worried and logical thought didn’t feature much in my mind at that point.

Bethan spent the next hour or so sitting on the floor in the childrens’ waiting room, playing games and drawing pictures on the iPad…interspersed with a couple of trips to a cubicle to be assessed by a triage nurse and then a doctor…during which time she refused to sit anywhere other than the floor and would not sit still unless she was in full control of said iPad. This resulted in medical staff joining Bethan and I on the floor in order to take observations and prod her head.

She was deemed to be ok and treated with Calpol and a head injury leaflet (which she tried to eat). We drove back through stormy weather to our friend’s house to collect Catrin, but Bethan was snoozing when we got there, so I lay her on the sofa for a bit and downed a much-needed cup of tea. Catrin and her friends decorated Bethan with an array of soft toys (they were being kind and thought she might like them), then they decorated the Christmas tree with so many baubles that the actual tree was almost entirely obscured by the time they had finished.

We headed home and Bethan woke up for dinner, scoffed a very large bowl of quorn bolognese and then raided the fridge. She was absolutely fine.