"In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony."

Monday, 31 January 2011

The place nobody goes...

Do you have a place in the house where you put boxes and bags of stuff until it is overflowing?  Well, ours used to be the loft but in our current house, the loft is pretty non-existent so we have a huge area under the floors.  Unfortunately, despite being a large space, we still managed to fill it to the point of not being able to climb more than foot inside.

It seems that whenever anyone asks, “Where should I put …?” we have fallen into the trap of replying with, “Um, under the kitchen.”  Thus, it is pretty full and we had no idea what lurks in there.  Nothing worthy of a trip to Antiques Roadshow though.  Unfortunately.

So, this weekend, I decided enough was enough and a sort out was needed.  The house has never looked so much like a jumble sale.  Hannah loved it though – all this new and exciting stuff to play with.  Just a shame that her excitement didn’t rub off.  Hard work, chaos and tiring – yes. 

Still, we have filled our two black bins, given four bin bags to charity, another two bin bags of children’s clothes to family, and have 29 items on ebay – which doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that eight items are bundles of clothes of up to 35 pieces each and I have ironed, photographed and described each for uploading on the internet.

And for our weekend of work, we now have a tidy (although sadly not empty) space under our kitchen that nobody ever sees.  Was it worth it?  Yes!  Especially if it makes us a few pennies.

So by 6pm on Sunday night, it was all done and the house had some resemblance of order again.  So what did we decide to do with the rest of the evening?  Relax?  Um, no.  Because Michael reminded me that there was not a lot of things for lunchboxes for the week.  So out came the cookery books and ingredients and more mess ensued.

But, the result of this task was some lovely muffins that are not only quick and easy to make but taste fantastic.  So, if you fancy a go, here is the recipe for choc chips (will do more as the week goes on):

Choc Chip Muffins:
375g self-raising flour
90g butter
220g caster sugar
140g choc chips
310ml whole milk
1 egg lightly beaten

1.  Sift flour into a bowl and rub in butter.
2.  Stir in sugar, choc chips, milk and egg -  do not over-mix
3.  Spoon mixture into muffin cases (placed in a muffin tin) and bake at 200 Fahrenheit for approx 20 minutes.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


None of us like getting sick but when you have a larger than average family, it is a nightmare.

And we have a wide selection of places that the bugs could come from:

  • my work (as I work in a school and see on average 630 children a day there is a lot of potential there)
  • Laurie's work
  • Michael and Natasha's school
  • Kaiya's school
  • Hannah's nursery
So the chances of us being ill are probably higher than average.  But then if one of us catches anything, we are all doomed.

I dread anyone in our house telling me, "I feel sick" or even worse, "I've just been sick" because then I start the countdown.  48 hours until the next one and like Russian roulette, there is no guessing who it might be.  I look around and wonder which one of looks slightly off colour, which one has been off their food or a bit sleepy.

So 48 hours later, and there is another one being sick.  48 hours later, yet another.  And so it continues until we have all suffered.  A constant stream of running to the toilet, sick bowls and washing loads.  What great fun!

So, on Tuesday, I got the dreaded text.  'I've been sick :('  It was from my husband.  It is now 48 hours later and I have a 15 year old in bed with stomach pains and feeling sick.  I have cleaned up Hannah's milk that she vomited on the kitchen floor - well done Hannah, for doing it on the easy-to-clean laminate and not the lounge carpet or rugs.  And I have a washing-machine- feeling in my stomach.  

I can not be ill.  I am too busy at the moment to fit it in.  I am pregnant and really can't face being sick with a wriggly baby inside.  I am going out tomorrow night to meet friends.  So I am keeping everything crossed and eating little to try and avoid the inevitable.  

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Dishwasher sagas

A very strange update regarding the dishwasher fire...

Well, we put the dishwasher out the front on the night it caught fire as it was smelling and still smouldering - really didn't want it bursting into flames again as we had no fire extinguishers left.  Laurie rang the insurance company the following day who said we were covered and they would get an assessor to contact us at 4pm on Wednesday.

That was today.  Laurie was on nights and so asleep.  I arrived home at 4.20pm to find the dishwasher gone.  Thank goodness, I thought, the assessors have taken it away with them.  It was making our house look very unsightly!  But getting in the house I realised that all may not be as it seemed.

Laurie was still asleep and there was a message on the answering machine asking us to ring with a suitable time for the assessors to visit on Monday.

Thinking that maybe the assessor hadn't told the office that he had collected the machine, we rang them up.  Roll on numerous phone calls to several different places, asking if they had taken away our dishwasher.  Sounded so silly' "Um, excuse me, we are wondering if you have collected our burnt out dishwasher to be assessed today."

All the answers came back as 'No'.  Nobody was claiming it.  In the meantime, we didn't have the dishwasher for the assessor to assess to get a replacement.  And we don't have the cash and my hands don't need to do any more washing up.

So we rang the insurance company back and have cancelled our claim for damage and started a claim for theft.

Fortunately we are covered even though it was outside the house.

Just can't stop laughing about it.  Who on earth would steal a burnt out dishwasher?  Not exactly the type of item that you could just pinch on the spur of the moment.  No, it would have needed two strong men and a van.

Still, saves us disposing of it.  Plus there is no excess if it is theft compared to the £50 excess for the damage. So we win!  But what a thing to steal.

Life is never boring.  And never fails to surprise and amaze me.

Monday, 24 January 2011


Two questions:
Why are us women so obsessed with weight?
Why does everyone feel they can comment on your physique if you are pregnant?

I honestly don't know the full answer to either of these so maybe someone out there would like to enlighten me.  All I know is that I am fed up with both of the questions and really wish that I didn't have to ask them but as it is becoming an every day issue for me, then I do need to.

So I am a 5 foot 1.5 inch woman.  The half an inch is vitally important!  I don't want to lose it as I don't have many to lose.  Before falling pregnant I was 7 stone with a bmi of around 18.5.  I was happy with my weight.  I don't diet - sorry girls! - as I burn it off easily.  Have four children and work and you will know what I mean.  But while I was happy, the midwife said that it was on the low side and I need to be careful.

By 15 weeks, I had gained 4 pounds but had no bump to speak of and was managing to just look a little before-period-type-bloated.  But then I was ill and lost 2 pounds.

So I spent Christmas with my feet up - well, not going out much - due to the snow and eating lots of Christmas foods.  Chocolate, cakes, cream, mince pies etc etc.  By the end of the two week break I had increased by weight to 7 stone 6 pounds but also had a massive bump to show for it.

Going back to work is when the comments started.
"You are only 20 weeks.  Wow, you are huge."
"Where did that come from?"
"How much did you eat over Christmas?"

I am now 23 weeks pregnant and 7 stone 8 pounds - a bmi of less than 20 - yet I get comments everywhere I  go about my size.

Here I am at 23 weeks:

What right does anyone have to comment?  I bet I have a lower bmi than most people, I am fit and healthy, yet 90% of people can only comment negatively. And they wonder why women have issues.

I know that I have to eat healthily for the sake of my baby but the emotional pressure that society puts on pregnant women doesn't encourage this.

So for all of those people who feel it is their right to comment on any pregnant woman's size, remember that they are not eating for greed but to grow a human being to it's full potential.  They have enough emotional pressures and worries over the nine months without you needing to add to them.  A pregnant woman's body is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fires and stress

Well, that was one eventful day and certainly not a good one for a pregnant woman's stress levels.

It didn't get off to a good start when Hannah woke in a grumpy mood with bright red cheeks and screamed when I tried to separate her from her dummy.  While I would normally tolerate the screams and stand my ground, I didn't for two good reasons.  Firstly, it was clear that she was teething and in pain.  Having cut my wisdom teeth a few years ago, I can empathise.  And secondly, I had an extra two eleven year old girls asleep upstairs and the thought of the three of them bouncing around hyper at 6.30am on a Saturday with a grisly toddler, was not something that I wanted.  So the dummy stayed and relative peace continued until 7.30am when the chaos began.

Natasha decided to have some toast - not an unusual desire for breakfast - so she put the bread in the toaster and came back into the lounge.  A minute or so later, I went to make a much need cup of tea and noticed flames coming from the toaster.  Shouting "fire" in as calm a manner as I could, I got the toast out, turned off the electrics and blew out the flames.  We were safe.  My heart was going slightly faster and all the kids had run into the kitchen to see the drama, but a disaster (the whole kitchen catching fire) was avoided.

The rest of the main day was not what I would call my favourite way to spend a Saturday.  What with a miserable toddler, a cold trip out to take hyper eleven year olds swimming, a moody teenager who couldn't find the exact top she had set her heart on in the shops, arguing siblings, and a dinner that was thrown over my freshly cleaned kitchen, I have to say, that I was feeling not my usual happy self.  All I was wanting was a quiet evening with maybe even the treat of a chocolate bar (or two!).

But then more dramas...

As I was relaxing while Hannah had her bedtime milk, Natasha said she could smell fireworks from the dishwasher.  I think I may have commented something along the lines of "Don't be silly" but then she said smoke was coming out of the dishwasher and I thought I had better investigate.

Definitely smoke and burning smell.  And smoke was getting worse.  And I didn't know where the plug was to turn off the electrics.  And husband was out in car.  Cue frantic phone call - "The dishwasher is on fire!  Come home now!"

I didn't realise my husband could travel so quickly as when I saw him sprinting into the kitchen, giving the Olympic runners some competition.  Pulling out the plug, we all sighed and thought it was sorted.  So moaning about the day's disasters and potential blow to the bank account, while opening all of the windows to get rid of the smell, we didn't notice that smoke was still coming out.

We dashed back to the dishwasher as soon as we did spot the smoke wasn't dissipating and Laurie opened the door, to comment, "There's an orange flashing light at the bottom of the dishwasher."  Peering in, I realised that no it wasn't a bomb (as Kaiya was thinking) but flames!  It was well alight but at the bottom of the machine which was only accessible through a small hole in the bottom of the machine.

"Go and get the fire extinguisher out of my car!"  I screamed.  And off Laurie sprinted for the second time that evening.

"Where the hell is he?"  and "How long does it take to get a fire extinguisher?" where my exclamations while staring at the increasing orange glow.

He couldn't find it.  It has only been living in my glovebox for the last five years.

Anyway, he finally had it, pulled the yellow tag and pressed the button.  White powder and smoke filled the kitchen.

"Is it out?"

"I don't know, I can't see a thing yet"

When the smoke cleared, it looked like we were safe and would not need to disturb the fire brigade on a Saturday night.  But a few moments later, "No, it is still alight.  Use the extinguisher again."

This is when we learnt that you can't use a fire extinguisher again, even if there is still over half left, once you have released the button.  I think my comment about men and not ever reading instructions until it goes wrong, did not go down too well!

Deciding the only option was to move the dishwasher out to try and access the fire from the back, we begun to drag it out.  Only to remember that the water pipe was still attached and not very long. We would have to turn off the water too.  Cue the search for the spanner and my remarks about putting things back in the same place means you can find them when you need them.

Finally, the water was off, the water pipe in my hands and the dishwasher in the middle of the kitchen.  But we still couldn't get to the flames.  We would need a screwdriver.  So off Laurie went once more in the search for another tool, while I thought I would turn the dishwasher around to get better access to the back.  In doing so, though, I accidently let go off the water pipe and now there was both a fire and flood in the middle of the kitchen.

"Towels.  I need towels!"  I shouted to any of my children that may be listening, thinking that I sounded like a midwife in the 1900s.

With the mop up in full action, to try and save the floor, I realised that my inadvertent act had put out the fire.  We were finally safe.

Once the dishwasher was safely outside - we didn't want to risk anything smouldering overnight - I realised that Hannah was still up and popped her to bed, before starting the huge pile of washing up that now greeted me.

I miss you already dear dishwasher.  But thank God that we were in the house when it started or we may have come home to find the fire brigade and no house left.

So my life isn't always stressfree.  In fact, far from it.  But at least I can look back and laugh about the comedy that took place and smile with the knowledge that we are all safe.  Now all I have to do is find the money to replace it.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


So why am I blogging at all?  Isn't my life full to the last second?

Well, it is full, that's true.  Full of working, driving, cooking, cleaning etc.  But every once in a while I want ten minutes to do something creative.  And, unfortunately, I am not a creative person.  Old school friends still laugh at my attempts to use a sewing machine in textiles class 22 years ago.  I was the only student that the teacher gave up with and was made to sit on a separate table to hand sew (badly) a simple patchwork design.  The steam of frustration visibly seen from Mrs Boston's ears, are still as clear to me today as it was then.

So no sewing machines.  Which is a shame as I would love to.  But maybe not the best option for everyone's sanity in our house.

I have always loved writing.  Poems as a teenager and then a 50,000 word novella 8 years ago.  Mind you, there is a huge difference between loving something and being good at it. As I found out when I started writing classes last year.  Reading back those attempts were cringeworthy but I did learn a lot about how to improve and have vowed that one day, I will complete a novel.  With maternity leave only four months away, I am hoping that day may be sooner rather than later.  As long as I can juggle a newborn, toddler, house, older children and writing.  Yes - no problem!

So why else am I writing this, apart from to be creative?

Well, two other reasons.   The first one is that I would love a record of this pregnancy, as it is my last, and I am not very good at writing a diary by hand every night.  I sort of collapse in bed with a good book at the end of the day and am asleep in minutes.  Sorry if you are an insomniac but I don't suffer that way.  My tip - live my life for a week and you will sleep without a problem.  On the other hand, there may be a problem waking up!

So a record of my fifth pregnancy and a creative outpouring.  But the other reason is that I do get a lot of people - mostly women, it has to be said - that say "I don't know how you do it and stay sane". So for all of those women out there, I am hoping that this will provide an insight into how to juggle several balls at once and yet keep smiling.  I am far from perfect and don't know all of the answers but I do manage.  In fact, I don't manage life, I enjoy it.  You only get one so there is no point stressing and worrying. Better to get up and do.

Maybe more tomorrow or later....

My life

Well, it is my day off and Hannah has gone down for a sleep so I thought I would try to get my thoughts down before my baby brain turns totally to mush.

So where do I begin?  Sat at a blank computer screen isn't very inspiring.  Looking at a photo next to me of three of my children is much better.  It is a photograph from February 2007 - was it really nearly four years ago - when we were in Rainforest Cafe in Disneyland Paris.  It was such a fantastic holiday that we promised we would take the children again in 2009.

But that never happened.  Because in March 2009, we had our fourth child.

We had thought we were happy with the three but then they started getting more independent, my friends were starting out on their first babies and I guess I felt like something was missing.  I must say that it didn't take my husband, Laurie, a lot of persuading.  One evening, one discussion and we decided to go for it with a nine year gap between the two youngest.  We decided that we would give it three months, and if it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be.

On that third month, we struck lucky and now have a 22 month old girl as well as a 15 year old boy, 13 year old girl and 11 year old girl.

I have not called my blog 'mad mum of four' though because in four months time, we are expecting number five.  This will have to be our last baby due to space, money and time, but it makes me feel quite sad to think that.  The last time I will feel the excitement at getting a positive test result; the last time of having the wonder of seeing a baby moving on a scan; the last time that I will feel the amazement of a baby moving inside me; the last time that I can look forward with anticipation to a birth.

But this is it now.  Our last one.  And a little boy!  Great excuse to go shopping for baby clothes as there is no way he is wearing any of Hannah's old clothes.

So that's my family - my husband, four children and another on the way.  So what else do I do?  Well, I teach English at a local secondary school four days a week.

Apart from my family and job, I guess I am a lady of leisure.  Or so I wish sometimes.  It is pretty never-ending but usually in a good way.  I certainly get no time to be bored.

Take today for example.  It is my day off in the week so I spent time playing with Hannah, started organising her wardrobe and drawers by taking out the old clothes etc, done some lunch and washing, been out to do the weekly shopping and am now back to do the weekly housework. When Hannah is in bed, I will do some lesson planning, get the bags ready for nursery, school and work and sort out the spare room for the 11 year old's sleepover tomorrow night.  Just two friends but that does increase our numbers by a fair bit.

Someone at work said I must be tired the other day.  Ha ha.  There is no time to be tired.  Although I admit that I am so look forward to my days off and can't wait for maternity leave to start.  17 weeks to go!  Right, well better get the dinner sorted - chilli tonight - and clear up before they get back from school.