27 Feb 2013


Me and Eldest are having argument animated discussion about the baked potatoes that he made in school 2 days ago.

The recipe sounded really good but far too fiddly for me to ever consider. It involved scooping out the innards halfway through cooking and mixing them with cheese, nutmeg, double cream and 2 others I can't remember (I am especially excited about the double cream part) then re-inserting into the skins for further baking. 

Seriously- what a faff! Stab them, oil them, then shove them in the oven and WALK AWAY for 30 minutes I say.

However, I was reaalllyy looking forward to us all eating them. I pictured us all fighting over the last potato as the other kids would be so enthusiastic about this new labour-intensive baked potato, the head chef would feel all quietly smug and happy about the positive yummy noises everyone was making and (most importantly) the whole scenario would serve to further advance my redundancy by stealth programme, as outlined here. 

But then he forgot to bring them home. 

The following day he discovered his potatoes safe and well inside their tupperware... on top of a radiator. And he left them there. All day. Then he forgot about them again and arrived home potatoless for a second time. The cheesy creamy labour-intensive baked potatoes spent a further night slowly incubating invisible yet powerfully emetic microlife on top of their radiator, little colonies of life in the deserted school. Tonight after a third day of sitting on top of the radiator he brought the tupperware home- and helpfully put it straight in the fridge.

Me: Mate- these can't stay in here. They need to be chucked.

E: You're chucking out my potatoes?

Me: Yeah cause they've not been in the fridge. They're no good anymore. 

E: It wasn't my fault- someone put them on the radiator.

Me: Yes, because you left them in school.

E: But I didn't leave them on the radiator- someone else stupidly put them there!

(Is he buying his own argument or winding me up? I really can't tell. I'm losing my edge)

Me: Which they were only able to do because you left them. Twice.

E: Yes, but I didn't leave them on the radiator and make them inedible!

Me: They are your potatoes mate. You should have brought them home.

E: I left them on a desk though- not a radiator. 

Me: Hey! YOU are responsible for your OWN potatoes- no one else! You get me?

E: But it wasn't my fault!

(Do I laugh, cry, change the subject or hit him? I go for 3)

Me: Do you have a debating club at school?

E: Uh no. Don't think so.

Me: You should start one. You'd be really good at it.

E: No I wouldn't!

(Should have gone for MORE of 3. Or just 4. I give THE LOOK instead. He holds my gaze for 10 whole seconds then looks at the floor. THE LOOK doesn't need continuous eye contact to be effective. It bores through to the very soul. He's breaking... It's like the final flailing attempts when I beat him at arm wrestling... Just a few seconds more...)

E: (Getting up to leave) I'm going now. You're looking at me in that freaky way. I don't like it.

And it's all over for the potatoes and the head chef! Do not mess with THE LOOK! I allow myself a brief moment of satisfaction, then realise I've still got to cook tea.

20 Feb 2013


I don't like cooking. I could blame this on my child's preference for his own snot rather than my culinary efforts, but this aversion is a long standing thing that began years before any of the kids got here, so that would be unfair. 

Cooking has always been a necessity rather than an enjoyable activity. As a student I survived 3 years in halls of residence on pasta, beans on toast and Farleys rusks.

When we got engaged, my mother pulled my future mother-in-law aside and whispered confidentially 'You know she can't cook, don't you?' (She did know as it happened and didn't care).

When I was pregnant with our eldest my mother-in-law broached the issue herself with, 'Well you'll have to start cooking now my love, won't you?' But I had already thought this through and outlined my cunning plan to her: Breastfeed until it's old enough to work the microwave. Sorted.

This more or less happened and Ethan learned to make porridge in the microwave before the age of 2. I also taught him how to scramble eggs, heat up beans and make packet noodles. We spent many happy minutes counting down the seconds together then shouting BEEP really loudly when the timer was up. The whole thing was FUN and enhanced his numeracy skills enormously- although it did result in him counting backwards rather than forwards for a while.

At the age of 8 he had a best friend next door to us who was 3 years older. This little boy was taught to make cups of tea by his mum and when Ethan found out, he wanted to learn too. I though Why not? and taught him. Not because I enjoy parental competition, but because I enjoy drinking tea. Lots of it. And by that time there were 2 younger kids in the house and less time to make tea. As long as he took his roller blades off first I was happy to share the load.

Nowadays I have a reasonable repertoire of meals but cooking remains a chore. It should take as little time as possible so I can get on with other stuff and (rather crucially) I prefer the kitchen to be tidy, and making food for lots of people generates mess. 

It's also tedious thinking up what to make then deciding the thing I really want can't be done as the central vital ingredient is missing. Of course I could PLAN our meals properly, for every night, but that would involve being organised which I do for a living, and in non-work time I'd rather wing it. Occasionally I'll attempt a tried and tested recipe by a proper actual TV chef but I usually loose concentration halfway down the first page, get annoyed that the contents of the pan look nothing like the nice picture in the book, then improvise and start adding things of my own.

Luckily Keith enjoys cooking (you know, actually enjoys it) so we mostly share it when he's around. Ethan's early interest in cooking has increased as he's grown and fuelled by food technology classes at school, his input into family meals stands at around a meal a week.

Isn’t that cool? Eventually I plan to be redundant. I want all 3 of them to be doing my job by the time youngest is 12 so I can lie in bed while they get ready for school, emerge from under my duvet to kiss them good bye and if I haven't heard anyone moving around by 8.30am maternal instinct will kick in and compel me to text them.

I think we’re on track for this already. Due to a combination of a reward chart scheme and primal survival instinct at 6, 9 and 12 years old the kids:

• Make their own beds
• Make their own breakfast and clear up afterwards
• Sort out their own laundry: dirty stuff in basket, clean stuff (which I've folded or maybe ironed) back in drawers
• Make their own lunch boxes
• Wipe out their own lunch boxes and take care of any leftover bits
• Set table (Whoever wanders into kitchen complaining of hunger)

• Help cook (Eldest- as above)
• Clear table (Whoever finishes eating first)
• Wash/dry up (All- a dish for every year of their lives, cutlery counts as a quarter, tupperware as half)
• Bath/shower themselves then clear up afterwards
• Feed the cat

Of course when I say 'Make their own beds', there's a certain standard which I would prefer and then there's the standard that I get as it's the one they are capable of. But that's FINE because they’re doing it independently and future daughters and sons-in-law will love me for it.

Throughout the Bible God's relationship with his people is described as a parent/child one too. Isn't it weird how our ultimate parenting goal diverges from the perfect divine one?
Our relationship with God flourishes best when we press into him more and more, depend on him more and more and acknowledge our utter reliance on him for each and every breath we take. In a paradoxical way we grow as children of God by embracing our helplessness. 

But our goal as earthly parents is completely the opposite- we expect our children to gradually need us less and less, we encourage them to make their own decisions about bigger and weightier things (as their experience and age increase) and eventually we celebrate that they become autonomous people capable of functioning and contributing to society without parental involvement. 

So what happens to the dysfunctional among us? 

In the extreme, a christian who is prideful, self reliant and individualistic to the point of not really needing God at all probably isn't one.

And in the extreme a child who is overtly dependent on parental approval and assistance may be requesting Harvey-wants-Bitty.

(NOT normal)

11 Feb 2013

Raising food critics

It is bedtime. I'm reading 'My Friend Fred' to J & M when out the corner of my eye I see J insert his index finger up a nostril, dig around for a bit, then eat whatever it is he found there.

Me: Mate- do you mind? You can do that as much as you like when no one is watching, but not when other people are here, OK?
Keith: Yeah, cause mum will want some if she sees you doing that.
Me: No- other people's bogies never taste as good, do they?
J: You're right there mum, they don't.
(Me & Keith exchange worried glances)
Me: So... Have you tried someone else's then?
J: Yeah, Kobe's. They were horrible.

This from the fussiest child ever who refuses to eat most green things, anything remotely crispy (aside from crisps) and who is deeply suspicious of strips of pasta as he usually has penne. I don't get it. 

• Cheese on toast with Hellman's, done under the grill so that the cheese sizzles and goes all crunchy at the edges:
Eww- no thank you.

• Self produced nasal mucus:
Oh yes, dee-licious.

• Mushroon and Leek pasta strips with peppers and parmesan:
I'm not even attempting to eat that. I will say I'm still full up (lunch was 5 hours ago) then yawn repeatedly in an attempt to be asked to go to bed rather than put ONE forkful of that near my mouth.

• Someone else's nasal mucus: 
OK then, I'll try it just this once- since you're offering.

I have no way of rationalising this habit except that if he was a cat he wouldn't suffer from fur balls.

3 Feb 2013

Me: Oh dear Madi- WHAT happened here?

Madi: Well I had a bit too much fun.

1 Feb 2013


Trees have rings, rocks have carbon dating and lobsters have growth bands in their gastric mills. People can also be grouped according to age by this very simple test. 

What is your immediate reaction to this?

a) Hurray! School will be shut- get the sledge!
b) Arghh! I've got to drive in that later. I hope the main roads are clear...
c) Oh no! Will I break a hip if I attempt to go to the Spar?

Granted it's not as accurate as the tree method and my theory would need adjusting for the residents of Canada where they have real snow, (see below) but I think you know what I mean.

I love wakening up to a blanket of whiteness, especially if it's on Christmas morning- which in my living memory has happened only twice ever. 

I love making crunchy footprints on a big swathe of nothingness, being the FIRST one to leave evidence of my being there. It's like being the first knife in a new butter.

My backside is still small enough to fit on the kids' sledge so that's fun for an hour or so. But then I get cold and start to mentally calculate how much radiator space we'll need for all our hats, scarves, gloves, coats and other assorted outdoor wear which has become sopping wet, so just want to go home for hot chocolate and embark on the drying out process (whether the children are ready to or not).

By day 2 of snow I have defaulted overnight to category b). I have a tick list of things in my head but am wetting myself at the prospect of driving anywhere and I just want to get the grit out.

How did this happen? I used to HATE grit. The snow killer. 

At this rate I have approximately 30 years before progressing to category c). 

Will it be a slow steady decline or an Aaaaaarrrghhhhhhh-thump-crack into decrepitude?