M’Want

A new word has reached the diction of Thor, ‘M’Want’, it seems to be an amalgamation of ‘me and want’. And doesn’t he just. ‘M’Want’ this, ‘M’Want’ that, that’s all I am hearing this week. Caleb makes a sound similar, his talking is still playing catchup. Maybe that’s where Thor picked it up from! On another matter, we finally buckled and allowed Caleb to see a doctor for his hearing a few months ago. I was reticent as he has achieved all that he has needed to thus far, just slightly later than the others. Well, he was seen by a specialist doctor at the local hospital and as I thought, no problem with his hearing. But it seems that the ear doctor was the avenue within the NHS to see a speech therapist. The follow up was three meetings with a lady who talked with him one on one and now she has vaporised as he can finally put three words together unaided. So yes, it is still difficult to understand half of what he is saying, but he is now a lot more legible. So with Thor today, it was ‘M’Want’ to sleep now! Thor, Caleb and Aaliyah did not have their nap this afternoon and buckled down to an hour of CBeebies whilst Sindy took an hour away for lunch. She usually has a two hour break, but today she has very kindly said that she will drop me to the train station as I am going to Bristol tonight for a friends birthday celebration. Thor spent the whole hour running me ragged with ‘M’Want’ this and ‘M’Want’ that, but mostly ‘M’Want’ to go to sleep. He always moans about the afternoon nap, but he insisted on needing it today. Mi Mi was up in the bedroom and he wanted to be reunited with his favourite bear. Aaliyah was very kind and went all the way up the stairs and brought Mi Mi down for Thor. I commented on how kind she had been and that Thor should say thank you. But Thor looked at her and screamed ‘where is Mi Mi’s bed’ (a tissue box brought home from preschool). ‘Get back up there’ he shouted. Naughty Thor, with no appreciation. I had to intervene. He finally calmed down and thanked Aaliyah, but not before the shouting of ‘M’Want Mi Mi’s bed’ many times. We finally got all three in the car after Sindy returned and I arrived at the station on time. I said my goodbyes to all, even a very wide awake Mi Mi in his rather loose fitting Spider Man suit. I am sat on the train and my thoughts are finally my own. ‘Happy Birthday Vicky’! See you tonight…

Sweets for my Sweets

All ‘Confectioned’ out now, so I’ll be glad once the home made sweets have been consumed on Saturday. I will update you on the day. The children had a cold ‘Pasta Salad’ tonight with ham, tomato and cucumber, as I always make too much pasta and keep it in the fridge for a few days. Marinated in the sauce that went with it, it’s always a tasty salad in its own right a couple of days after the hot pasta meal was served. The supermarkets try to sell us pasta salads on their shelves in the lunch section. Much easier to just make it for yourself if using penne, spirali, or dishi volante. We don’t do the twists of butterflies, but they would do just as well. Spaghetti is not really recommended. And the sauce, if it’s mixed into the pasta, it absorbs most of the liquid. Any sauce, it’s your choice, but if the pasta tastes a little bland, a few spoons of red pesto or sun dried tomato paste will pick it up. So back to this glut of confectionery, two sweets were promised if I saw clean plates. Unfortunate for Thor, who was too busy shouting and being ‘dramatic’ throughout his meal to actually finish it. Everyone else enjoyed a piece of candied melon with vanilla icing sugar and a chocolate truffle, spooned from the mass at the table and lovingly blushed with dark cocoa from a dish in front of four drooling mouths. Tara said that I am a magician with sweets, I smiled to myself. Amritsar shouted out ”best sweets ever’ and Caleb’s eyes just rolled back! Although it’s been a labour, to come up with ten various pastilles, candied fruits and chocolates, I’ve enjoyed spending my time on the project. All of the girls classmates are looking forward to the homemade sweets at ‘Dadda’s Jams’ on Saturday. Bring it on I’m thinking and maybe a few Jam sales there too. It’s quite upstairs now and the hounds are finally settled. Nikki the babysitter is coming in an hour, so better get ready as we’re off out for dinner tonight. Nite nite.

My mind is blank

Thinking of what to write today is worrying. Yes, there is a plethora of spontaneous possibilities, I’m not spoilt for choices, but I’m looking for something that really matters! There’s so much going on in the world today. From global warming, crime, poverty, even Brexit, there is such a lot to comprehend out there and here sits lil ole me… I’ve previously stated that I will keep this diary non political, though politics plays such a role in life and the choices we make, or rather are allowed to make, brought on via the political process. From having an online presence of zip, nil, nada, I am now loudly professing that I am a ‘Gay Dad to five young children, living in The Shires of England’! What does it all mean? We are family (Thank you Sister Sledge). Okay, there are lots of families out there, getting by, moving on and to be honest, there’s absolutely nothing that separates my family from any other! There’s no shame in affirming an identity using the word ‘Gay’ nowadays. Thankfully there’s more live and let live going on out there, but there’s still some level of hatred of the unknown by some people, even state sponsored hatred. I won’t point any fingers, remember I’m being non political (lol). There’s also a lot to be said of identifying myself as a ‘Dad’ also. That’s a big responsibility isn’t it? But time in memoriam, there have been exactly the same amount of dads as there have been mums, throughout the vastness of time (okay, that’s very debatable). These times are different though, in the fact than my mere existence is allowed, through law to be a ‘Gay Dad’ who is writing a diary, quite openly. Of course there have always been ‘Gay Dads’, those who stayed in the closet and did the done thing and married a woman, had children etc. But many of those people could never and did never profess to being gay, within the family context, that is. Talking of marriage, we are not married, John and I. When we ‘Did the right thing’ and tied the knot, after knowing each other some fifteen years, there was no such thing as Gay marriage, that came later. So we went into a ‘Civil Partnership’. It pretty much meant the same as marriage, except religion did not play a role in the matter. Okay, don’t worry, I’m not bringing religion into my diary either. The good thing (for us) about changes in law, allowing John and I to be recognised as a couple, was that it did not stop there! If you can be a couple in the eyes of the law – you can start a family and that’s exactly what we set about doing. I would like to say that it was easily achieved, but it was not and nor was the legal process we went through, here in the U.K. to obtain ‘Parental Orders’ for all five of our children, making us both equally, the legal parents to our children. We are both named parents on their U.K. birth certificates, as it should be. Remember that it was just the two of us that ‘conceived’ (the idea of) our children. Our egg donor wasn’t looking for rights of parenthood and in law, like a sperm donor, has none. As for our three surrogates however, women with no biological connection to our children, both here and in India, Thailand and Nepal, the law does give them rights of claiming motherhood, even though we had chosen the route of ‘Compensated Surrogacy’ not legal here in the U.K. so the British Courts had the final say in our families existence. A lengthy and expensive undertaking, but the correct course of action, that had to be taken. And there was I, thinking that my mind was blank today… and did I say that I am very proud as a parent, a partner and as a family.

Ritzy and T just Home from School

The girls are just through the door after doing their extra curricular ‘Life Skills’ class after normal school ends. They are learning archery, hockey, relay races, netball and curling. The little ones and I have been hanging out and Caleb loves me today as I have been moulding chocolates and dipping crystallised honeydew melon and my orangettes in thick, runny, liquid dark chocolate. It will be a chore to get them to eat anything else but chocolate tonight, so I had to promise a moulded chocolate for dessert (they look so professional once removed from the mould). Well, it’s one of our favourite veg curries tonight, Channa with mutter (chickpea and green pea), served up with perfect basmati rice. One of their favourite dinners and no meat in sight. A great source of protein and fibre. Remus has been following my every move whilst playing chocolatier in the kitchen. Gracie on the other hand, has spent the afternoon playing with Aaliyah. Did I say how close they are? You have to keep an eye on things as you know, dogs like to lick and though Aaliyah is good with the hugs and holding Gracie by the scruff on both sides, holding her back to stop the licks, there are still quite a few that get through. I was going to talk about Thor’s obsession with hammers today! But I will leave that for another time. You have to smile really. Okay, writing this has been on and off as they are all just up to bed. Doesn’t time fly? Lots of ‘lappies’ and ‘downies’ though this afternoon, as they each in turn want to sit on my lap and hold both of my thumbs whilst falling backwards, so they are upside down. Tara was really most insistent on doing it once we had finished dinner and then everyone wanted a go! But the room has now fallen silent and Sindy our nanny is doing shower time before bed. The dogs are curled up, relaxed and silent. For such hyperactive dogs, I really appreciate it when there’s a little down time. Just me here tonight as John has a ‘Black Tie Dinner’ in London tonight. So I guess I’ll be eating the leftovers from the children’s meal. But I’m certainly not complaining. Yum yum.

A Robins Return

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The Robin. A bird who somehow found its way into our social consciousness as one of nature’s most prolific representations of Christmas. Yes, he or she is a bird that sticks around throughout the colder seasons. I guess the Victorians, with their reinvention of Christmas during, what were the ending years of the ‘little Ice Age’ saw the robin, bobbing around in the snow during most chilling, December holidays and just decided to stick it on the front of the new and trendy Christmas Card concept. And there it was born as a mascot of Yuletide proportions. Well if you have a garden at home, you might just be lucky enough to have a little, winter resident, who braves it out in all weathers. Very unlike those ‘other’ birds who just up wings and bugger off for the warmer climates in the south, for the winter. I did actually notice the largest flock of swifts flying above me last week when we had the easterly winds. For some reason or another, the whole lot of them were firmly flying east into the chilling wind. Odd I thought at the time ‘Don’t they always fly south’, but I guess there was some reason or another for it meteorologically speaking. The flock was huge, consisting of thousands upon thousands of individual birds. They took forever to fly over. It made me reminisce back to the Ravens of Kathmandu and their nightly amassing of the skies, darkening them with black wing and shrill cry. Now back on track to our local, little winter resident. Today I saw his (or her) return to our terrace. It happens each year at about this time, they just reappear, as if from nowhere. I’m not actually talking about a singleton, but a mated pair of love birds. Both with plump red blooms with the sweetest little chirps, when they can be bothered. They are not the noisiest of bird, unlike our local ravens and the thrushes we entertain in the warmer months. Well they’re back now until the spring time when, if we’re lucky enough, they might nest and have chicks, like in previous years. Then they just disappear for the summer, vanishing as instantly as they had appeared. Talking of little chicks, Aaliyah came home from preschool early today as she was feeling out of sorts. We received a call and Sindy drove down early to pick her up. She sat down beside the television and was unconscious within minutes. No temperature, but she’s now up in her bed sleeping soundly along with her brothers.

Did I say that I am making home made sweets this week (just fruit and sugar) to give freely to the children at the girls school Christmas Fayre. Candied fruit done, pastille done, just chocolate truffles to make after dipping the orangettes in dark chocolate. All done with the hope of selling a jar or two of Dadda’s Jams on Saturday afternoon. I imagine all the thought and preparation won’t be worth it, financially, but I don’t really care as I’m feeling that Christmas vibe at this point and giving without expecting recompense, is just making me feel like I’m part of humanity and that life is not only about the take.

The House is Quiet

Tara has been whining for the last few hours about going to see some puppies! No, god no, we’re not considering another dog. Am I mad or something. It’s just a neighbour that were friendly with, their Jack Russel has had a litter and they are just out of puppy quarantine and can be picked up by little hands. John has gone with them, leaving me to throw together sausage, mash and peas for their return. Today has been non eventful really, just a resemblance of yesterday and the good behaviour was bountiful. This won’t last, but I am appreciating it whilst living it. The dogs are chilled on the sofas and the night is rolling in. Tonight’s fire is prepared in the hearth and the central heating has just kicked in, so off with the hoody and out to the kitchen to sort out the children’s menu. Last nights Lobster Thermidor was amazing and tonight’s slow roast shoulder of lamb is wafting throughout the house. Thinking like the rest of you about doing some Xmas shopping next week. I completely ignored that ‘Black Friday’ scam last week. It’s all a bit of a con. Anyhow, I hope your Sunday nights are enjoyable whether with family or friends. Signing off… Goodnight!

So what’s happening today

Okay, we just had lunch. Fresh baguette, thickly plied with real butter, toast and home made asparagus soup. Very nice indeed it was, but what was nicer is the fact that we all eat together as a family at the weekends. Always that is, at lunchtimes and occasional Sunday roast dinners. We started the family roast meal about eighteen months ago. The little ones always played up and wouldn’t eat the meat, even roast chicken was a problem! After every occasion, I would scorn ‘That is the last one’ as I was always stressed by the end of it. Tara and Amritsar were always well behaved and ate lots. On the other hand, the three little ones would always… (I’m trying to find the right words), well simply they behaved like animals. So I would always say that I was not going to all that trouble again. A couple of weeks would pass and of course, I would go to the trouble and quelle surprise, another nightmare. But ya gotta persevere. And now, with Thor almost four years old and Aaliyah and Caleb six months his junior, we are almost at a place where a Sunday roast meal is enjoyable. Back to today and we started it with another bed invasion, so up we got and went downstairs. Toasted bagels and kiwi and lime jam. Home made of course and one of this years jammy combos. I’ll list them at another point. You remember I make jam don’t you? Well the stuff is as pure as sunlight. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but I confess, real Jam is COOL. Only pure fruit and sugar. If you brought some from the shops (Naughty You), Check the label for ingredients and if there is anything other than fruit, sugar and citric acid in there, I would bin it. Harsh this might sound, but here’s a thought, you might just want to make your own and I’ve got some pretty easy recipes if you’re interested! Start saving your jars and in a couple of weeks I will get you Jammin’ and you’ll love it! Okay today everyone was told at breakfast that they all had to be well behaved all day (No Thinking Chair today, just up to bed if naughty). And so far we are only half way through the day and guess what? We’ve had one of the best behaved weekend days ever! Today we also allowed Caleb to attempt another potty day. As you know Thor and Aaliyah have been successfully potty trained now for months. Caleb on the other hand, picks things up a little slower than his twin Aaliyah. She is easily plus six months her age and Caleb is maybe six months behind, so they seem a year apart. It does look as if she is Thor’s twin! Okay back to Caleb, his potty day ended earlier as he pee’d himself whilst sat on daddy. Oh dear – I did warn John when he suggested it, that Caleb s not there quite yet… well with all this calm in the house, I’m quite looking forward to the rest of the day. Especially as I’m cooking lobster Thermidor for John and I tonight. Served with home made thin French fries using out new deep fat fryer and lashings of garlic mayonnaise. The musical soundtrack of today seems to be ‘500 (shake baby shake) by Lush’ (again) as just requested by Caleb. Now they’re all dancing like ‘crazies’… Thor has just put on daddy’s green gardening wellies, gardening gloves and brimmed hat and is shouting ‘I’m Mr Mc Gregor’ (Peter Rabbit). Hmmmmh…

The Value of photographs

I’m sat on the bus, on my journey home from London. John is expecting me for two thirty as he has the girls school pickup at three. Sindy has today off and John is at home doing today’s school runs. I just passed the pharmacy that I remember from almost six years ago, getting my photo taken for my Indian tourist visa, to allow me to travel to India for the girls births. I have been in the pharmacy since, for my own passport photos. As this was such a momentous occasion, the visa should be done by a professional I thought. Not that I haven’t taken a passport photo myself for five small babies, in foreign lands for our children’s passports. I remember that the Indian gentleman who runs the pharmacy is very friendly and always remembers me if I call in for some reason or another. Anyhow, my photo for the Indian visa, I remember was square. And the visa application took several days to process and there I was, back in March of 2013, my passport arrived back with my ‘Indian Visa’. Johns process for his visa was somewhat different from mine. I will leave that story for now and move on to a month or two after that event! I was settled in Powai, a suburb in the exotic city of Bombay. In the centre of the town there was a shopping centre with all necessary shops for getting by. A supermarket, mother and baby shop, mobile phone centre, you’ve got it, everything a local might need without having to travel further for the necessities in life. I was a dab hand at photoshop back then. The twins, Amritsar and Tara were only small babies. I got the dimensions for their photos from the UK home office website. It was a very hot day and the shop was small and very packed. The owner and his co-workers were apparent amongst the throng of things. The older gentleman saw that I was waiting and immediately came over to engage. The photography shop was near the hospital where the girls had been born, Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, Mumbai. We talked and he rejoiced that I was there with surrogate twins who were looking for their passport photos. Being the only photography shop in Powai, I guess he was used to the volume of business, brought to him from the surrogacy industry with births from the local hospital. He moved a young lad away from the screen of a rather antiquated computer and beckoned me over, hand outstretched for my memory stick. We sat down in front of the computer on miniature stools. We talked and he then uploaded the two best pictures and asked me how many copies I would like. I asked for six a piece. Now printing the pictures took no time at all, though getting the pictures to begin with was a whole different ball game! My attempts to get the girls to open their eyes at such an early stage proved impossible. The U.K. authorities had stated on the website that it was okay with closed eyes for baby passports, but I wanted to do it right. I didn’t want any thing with the applications to be incorrect, something that might slow down the application process. Bharti, our Indian nanny was with me at the time. We nudged the girls, in turn and spoke loudly, we even clapped noisily, perhaps too close to their faces, nothing worked. But perseverance has its rewards. I ended up with forty or so pictures of each, maybe two or three with an eye or two open partially with a baby squint. It would have to do. As long as my photo trim got their faces with the correct dimensions and I downed the brightness and upped the contrast to bleach out the rear white bed sheet, so it looked flat like a white background. We had lift off.

That’s today’s thoughts folks, maybe I’ll get to the other children’s passports stories another time. But as for the girls passports! We did finally receive them, some five long months after the joyous day of their births.

Stencilling and body paint

Here’s today’s story, partly brought on by last nights ‘Lord of the Flies’ event. All ended well upstairs. I went up and although they were behaving like a chapter in the book ‘Lord of the Flies’, it wasn’t to do with flies, in fact all of the commotion was brought on by a big black spider. It seems that when the not so famous five are in their rooms, if there is a moth, spider, fly etcetera, Thor is the man to deal with it! Before I actually got to the top floor, I clearly heard Tara shouting ‘Thor will squish it, let Thor, let Thor’. I arrived and Thor was in the motions of squishing the said spider. I told them it was nicer to put insects outside if they were in the room and that spiders are nice, but anyhow, the tribe settled down and they all went to bed.

Back to today’s story. Please, please preschool, more stencilling please. Children can’t really go wrong with a plate of paint and a piece of cut potato or sponge (not the cake variety). I was most impressed with the poppy stencilling brought home last week before Remembrance Sunday. It still sits on top of the provisions cupboard in the kitchen. Sindy, the nanny did a culling of all of the latest sheets of scribbles and toilet roll mutations. In fairness, she goes by me first, before plunging the paper and cardboard into the recycle bin. We both took a moment to consider the poppy pictures and jointly agreed that they were keepers. I thought back to doing the same when the girls were at preschool. It all ended up with recycling, all except the stencilling.

The other half of this story refers to paint. We no longer have any paint (for children) in the house. It was banned just over a year ago after another ‘Lord of the Flies’ incident. It was summertime. A warm day and the back door was open. John was relaxing on one of the patio sofas on the terrace and I was in the kitchen with all five children, supervising a painting session. All was fine, creative hands were all at work. In walks John and I say can you look over them for a moment! He agrees and I head off outside for some reason or other. I am gone around fifteen minutes. I return to the terrace to see John relaxed, feet up on the garden sofa and my gaze is drawn to the back door. Out runs Tara, completely naked, covered in blue, red and green paint! She is closely followed by Thor, also naked, with his back and bottom also smeared in paint. They are both shouting and laughing and screaming like ‘Crazies’. They are followed by the other three, still clothed but faces painted, smeared and splashed like a Jackson Pollock canvas. ‘Weren’t you looking over them’ I ask John. His reply was ‘I did for five minutes, then came out here to relax’. So they were unsupervised for a little under ten minutes and all hell broke loose. They were all still running amuck screaming out loudly. They will remember the day as a lot of fun, I will remember it however as the last day that paint was allowed in the house.

Three little flies

There was a fly in Thor’s cereal bowl this morning. He was distressed, but once removed with a teaspoon, he happily finished his Cheerios. Fly two however was the memory of Barney, a fully grown up fly who somehow hatched or rather pupated in the middle of last winter. He was rather sluggish and used to come into the kitchen from somewhere upstairs (where he was clearly living), pretty much every time we had a meal. He would fly down and sit beside me, watching what I did, or indeed in front of one of the children. Occasionally he would sit on my arm and continue to look on, observing what was going on. We got so used to him, we gave him the name ‘Barney’. He was with us for several weeks in all. He was fairly sedate and never once landed on our food. He did not seem at all pesky like the general flies we see in the garden every summer. The third fly story is happening as I write this on the top floor ‘The Lord of the Flies’ (remember the book) seems to be in enactment as I speak, so I had better dash and quell the rebellious five and spare our neighbours Tara’s shrieks, clearly trying to ignite fires and damnation from above.

First born

It’s late and I’m about to go to bed. Though I am lying on the dogs bed in front of the television with Remus, our first born. He’s ten years old now and did I say earlier, that I love him very much. He’s never really found on ‘The Dogs Bed’ as he and Gracie ditched it a number of years ago as they much preferred to snuggle up on the sofas. It’s really a very large cushion. A bit tattered now as Gracie as an infant chewed it in a couple of places, to reveal the hollow fibre stuffing (it’s been patched up by myself a number of times), basically not unlike our not so famous five and their plight to break anything and everything they can. Both Gracie and Remus gnawed their way through a multitude of household items as puppies, including phones and oak flooring. So here I am on the dogs bed besides the TV. Remus is snuggling in tightly. You see he has such an acute personality, he feels emotions just like us humans and purveys heightened responses to scenarios, not unlike ourselves. He was told off by John tonight for his obsessional begging when it comes to food. Our dinnertimes are a misery of him and Gracie lying mainly at my feet whining for scraps. It’s role reversal really with ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ that we enact with the children. The dogs see me as the nice guy they spend the guts of their lives with. With John at work Monday to Friday, I’m their constant companion at home. John got a bit angry last night with our roast pork, Sunday dinner and raised his voice shouting that they should settle and go to their bed. Their ears kind of drooped and pointed backwards. They went and both sat on the cushion besides the TV. I should say that the cushion nowadays, usually accommodates four little bottoms, occasionally five. The same situation happened tonight. As there was gravy and pork left in the fridge from last night we repeated last nights menu of a full roast meal, only substituting roast potatoes with the meat juices and pork fat with deep fried torn potatoes (I’ve mentioned them before, the best potatoes you are ever likely to encounter). Well anyhow the dogs were told to settle and ‘On your bed’ was asserted yet again. Remus and Gracie took heed and there they lay, longingly eyeing up my plate for the twenty minutes the meal took to finish. The meal was served with the remains of the home made apple sauce and the crackling was deep fried. That’s the secret, if you want the best pork crackling ever – you must take the calorie plunge and deep fry it (unless you want a huge dental bill). Since i’ve only had a deep fat fryer for a number of weeks, I can at this point verify that it’s only been used once a week. Okay back to Remus. He has spent the entire evening on the dog bed, not opting for the sofa. I’m lying on the dog bed also and he has been snuggling all evening, at least three hours and you know that thing when a dog moves it’s nose up and down repeatedly to snuggle in… he has been doing that constantly. He is a bit upset with John being annoyed at him and his antics. He’s barely looked at John tonight. You do have to own a dog to understand just how their emotions are akin to us humans. Both Remus and Gracie are devoted dogs, but Remus especially acts in such a manner that is so alike that of an unhappy child or indeed on the other hand, one who has just been given a candy bar. As our ‘First Born’ he certainly acts up the most, but gives back love and affection in droves and occasionally drool. There is nothing wrong with being sensitive is there! Dogs and humans alike.

The Last Harvest

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Harvest festival is long past now. We donated some tins and provisions to both churches where the girls and the little ones schools each celebrated. I’ve told you of our bumper grape harvest and the dismal one from the orchard. All due to the very hot summer we enjoyed. Maintinance on our terrace now complete with the sculpture of the free standing wisteria, I noticed one last harvest to be had. I promised more pictures, so here we go.

Onwards and upwards

So what’s been going on? I love all my children equally. I love my life partner John and I love the dogs, Remus and Gracie. There are ups and downs with them all, but we move forward and progress a little more each and every day. I didn’t blog yesterday as I was a bit unhappy with Caleb. Out of all of the children, I find him the most challenging. Mind you, a few years ago, the same could have been said about Thor. And today Thor and I are the best of friends. Though Mi Mi is his bestest. Caleb on the other hand is a little less ‘out there’. He’s been playing catch-up at most levels, so far. He said that ‘I don’t want to see you’ yesterday, quite out of the blue. It upset me, and I responded tit for tat. I do take things very to heart. Maybe he does too. We’ve been getting on just fine of recent, so it blew me back when he said what he did. I don’t want to ‘sugar coat’ my life and my diary, so yesterday I just decided that no news was good news. This cloud did have a silver lining however, as he ascended the stairs to go to bed at the end of a line of five, he held up his arms and said ‘up and kiss’. So it was a slightly happier end to the day.

Dead Head

The Hydrangea on the terrace got the ‘Dead Heading’ of a lifetime today. No I’m not a gardener, but as John mows the lawn, the trade off is that ‘I maintain the terrace’. It’s quite a big lawn to mow and as John has found, a final end of year mow, once all of the leaves have fallen, is the seasonal roundup and the garden then goes to sleep. No raking up of the multitude of leaves – a definite winner. So yes, I maintained the terrace today, ‘Dead Heading’ the hydrangea and de leaving and pruning into shape, one of the two remaining wisterias.

‘Dead Head’… makes you think doesn’t it! Forgetting the garden now, we all go through the ups and downs in life don’t we? But what about when the downs remain, when they don’t bounce back! Month after month of sadness, festering into blind despair. Definition of sad reads what exactly. I just googled it and dictionary. Com read some thirty six definitions. I won’t list them, but a couple that I personally felt a few years ago are – sorrowful, downcast, downhearted and despondent. And all of that after such a feeling of glory and adulation after the birth of the girls in the spring of twenty thirteen. You see it was a very long eight months I spent in Mumbai. Some of you may remember, some of it, perhaps. I would go as far as to say that coming home with the girls was the end of a very long journey for me. But we did get home, didn’t we? At that time, it was difficult as I was slightly morose, maybe not comparable to shell shock, but I felt like a person who was devoid of themselves. Of course with two young babies, you just have to cope. We were still living in London at that point. We had a nanny lined up to help out, but she was not the person we had hoped for and within four weeks of our return, we asked her to leave. At that point, the wounds I still felt from my extended time in India were still there, but babies and nappies and feeding and winding just filled in my time twenty four seven. There wasn’t any time to reflect on what had happened. I considered counselling, but would that of helped and there really wasn’t the time in the day to just ‘take off’ and sit on someone’s sofa for an hour. This is quite an admission to myself, but I felt completely ‘Dead Headed’ with all that had happened, the bureaucratic nonsense from both the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, this and the corruption that I experienced, that is sadly part of Indian culture. Yes I returned a different man due to my experiences, feeling completely ‘Dead Headed’ at that time, but the love of our new family was binding, I got through the void that was there and replaced it with hope, yes hope of tomorrow and all that tomorrow will bring…

Whispers on the stairs

With age comes the growth in confidence, that we, as adults enjoy, when it comes to our place in the world. The same can be said of children in their own little microcosms. Well in our house, our little star Tara likes to think that she is the leader, this no doubt down to her sheer volume of confidence. And it is she that usually dictates how late they stay up after being put to bed and indeed how early they rise. This morning there were whispers on the stairs at 6.30am. And I can say that Tara also has the loudest whisper! After listening to them for a while, lying in bed feeling groggy with this cold that won’t go away, I spoke out saying that it was still the middle of the night and they should go back upstairs for a while. Of course, it was still dark as it is this time of year. They complied, at least for a while. But down again they all crept, some half an hour later. Then the inevitable bed invasion. It was clearly time to get up – we did and downstairs we all came. Some shouts from Aaliyah and a constant ‘Turtle, turtle, turtle’ from Amritsar, who had found her Hawaiian Turtle tee shirt stashed in one of Aaliyah’s draws. Maybe there as Sindy might think it is too small for ‘Ritzy Bits’ now, but Amritsar likes it still, as we brought it as a gift for her (two years ago) after John and I had holidayed in Maui.

Breakfast of Dadda’s Jam (last years home picked blackberry) on toasted, buttered, English muffins. Yummy for all and surprisingly easily cleaned up afterwards, unlike in the the past when Dadda’s Jams were usually a very sticky event! So much has already happened, yet so little to report on. Thor now sat alone watching Mr Tumble on the TV and the rest have gone up to their rooms to play. He is now stood besides me resembling a wartime evacuee in his new sleeveless ‘V’ neck sweater, snot oozing from his nose. Now all cleaned up, he heads back to the living room with Mi Mi being dragged alongside him. They are always together, the very best of friends. Everybody here has this really bad cold. John is the latest and final one to start to show symptoms. I have been rasping and coughing severely for at least a week now and all of the children have been a constant stream of snot and coughs. I’ve lost count of the amount of tissue we have gone through. Gracie is trying to open a door to the entrance hall in order to attack a bin liner that is sat alongside the recycle bag. She is very naughty like that. Occasionally if unnoticed, she can reap such devastation on the rubbish bag. John is now going to run it up to the outside bin area. Coughing away as he departs. This is gonna be a case of ‘Man Flu’ before the day is through…

Being Prepared

Being prepared… that pretty much relates to every single thing we do in life, doesn’t it? Even writing the previous sentence, I did not know when I started to write it, that it would end as a question, but with every word I wrote, the sentence was preparing itself, within my words, to become a question! That’s just how the sheer minutia of preparation, precedes itself. We are just built to self organise I guess. Some better at it than others I think, especially with The bigger things, but where on the scale am I? I am thoughtful, I’m sure that counts a lot, but sometimes we all just ‘throw it to the wind’, or do we. A debate could be had now, but I will move on to where all this babble was heading.

Candied melon or pastille? This is one preparation, I believe has just been ‘thrown to the wind’ as I am unsure of what will be the outcome, much like my previous sentence. As I am all jammed out and have run out of ‘Orcio jars’ for bottling, I’m taking some time out and have decided to make some sweet candies to give away for free at the girls school Christmas Fayre. Yes, I could have just purchased a ton of ‘funsize’ delicacies, but I opted to make my own sweets, starting two days ago with orangettes made with candied clementines, dipped in chocolate. My very favourite sweet in the world, ever. I think they will go down better with the parents, so I am making home made pastilles for the little ones. It is in fact the parents that I want to impress as I have taken this year off from Elfing, yes I said Elfing and I am taking a stall for the occasion and selling gift boxes of ‘Dadda’s Jam’. We’ll see how that goes and I’ll keep you informed on the day. But back to being prepared, candied melon or pastille?

P.S. I will give you the Elf story at a later time.

‘He, it’s just a pronoun’

Oh bugger! I today, have the worry, in the back of my mind, that I am not and never will be a competent writer! A blog is only just a blog. It’s a voice into the ether isn’t it? One has to question if it’s worth it’s salt. Just a handful of my Facebook friends are following me. So I have to question, is it worth it. My education in English language that was taught back in ‘the day’ was completely incompetent. It left me with such misunderstanding! So, what is a noun, a verb, let alone a pronoun! The educational system I received, was somehow at fault. I went to a grammar school, in fact the final year of state sponsored Grammar Schools. But the idiots in Westminster at that time completely took out the indoctrination of the English language and the essential grammar attached by their inarticulate and inconceivable curriculum.? I was left feeling as good as illiterate. And they think state schooling is so buggered nowadays! I can only continue this with hope. Hope that our tomorrow is an improvement on our yesterday’s.

Chips’n’Choices

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Once again, not a card game, rather dinnertime with my ‘not so famous five’. Another model day, no big dramas and Sindy took all five to the park after they picked up the girls from school. In they all barged asking what was for dinner and I replied, Chips’n’Choices. I’ve told you about this one before haven’t I? Everyone gets chips and a choice of the leftovers in the fridge. We had ratatouille, cooked chicken breast and green beans or spaghetti bolognese. And of course they all opted for the pasta option. So okay, I decided to make real chips using the deep fat fryer. Their first time for real chips made at home (and with a sprinkling of salt). It’s always oven chips or home made wedges. They all had the same, equating to a bit of everything. Funny to watch them really as they all ate a different thing first. Tara went for the chips, asking if we could have them every night. Just the chips she asked, with lots of salt. I flatly replied no! Thor unusually went for the courgette in the ratatouille. He used to moan and groan all the time about not liking courgette. Funny boy. And Caleb devoured all of his pasta first. Anyhow, the chit chat at the table was about their school day, then it progressed on to Caleb wearing a dress. And how he liked to be like Tara. What then transpired, was news to me and that was that on occasion, he slips off his nappy and puts on one of Tara’s pairs of nickers! He likes to parade around the room, it would seem. They all laughed, especially Caleb. Hopefully just a phase, like any other. I think the thing is to not make such a big deal about it. But again, I do worry. Lots of kiss and hugs and they have just headed upstairs for their shower and a bedtime story. I’ve been quite productive today and produced a large quantity of clementine ‘Orangettes’ for dipping in chocolate. They’re still drying out on greaseproof paper, sat on the chest freezer. Once fully dry, a dusting of castor sugar and an airtight tin, waiting to be chocolate coated for the Xmas season that is rapidly approaching. I also managed to make some apple and orange pastil. To be chopped up also and chocolate coated when the time is right. Enough of thoughts on Christmas. But it is creeping up slowly…

Special Fried Rice

Yes the title of this chapter would indicate the children’s dinner tonight. A dish they have always enjoyed since babyhood. Though in the early days with the little ones, there was always an element of ‘pebble dashing’… Can I also give some advise to parents with under fives in tow? Do not be drawn in by the commercials selling you aqua beads, kinetic sand and magic mosaics. If you have small children, (you know where I’m going with this), they have the rare ability to scatter the smallest projectiles to the winds. I will leave the bit about glitter and stickers to another time. But back to today’s dinner of special fried rice, just like you might order from the local Chinese takeaway, thankfully it all remained 100% on their plates. And I must add that they all finished and a dessert of chocolate chip cake bars was the reward for such good behaviour and increasingly improved table manners. The three hour cleanup after the kinetic sand incident (all five were guilty) was remembered in situ with an earlier moment when the smaller twins used to try to articulate their spoons filled with rice and the attempts to raise their said spoons to their mouths. We ended up with a dust pan and brush on more than one occasion on evenings where rice dishes were involved. But the children still love Dadda’s special fried rice. And we still enjoy a variety of international cuisine accompanied by rice. The method for perfect rice will follow. Everyone should have the competence to cook such a basic food like rice. My method will guarantee a perfect result! So please heed the very basic steps that follow.

Don’t use the hob – that is your memory of the last overcooked rice dish you want to avoid! Use your microwave please. It’s good for a couple of things and rice is one of them. Don’t use the usual big brands of long grain – easy cook blah de blah. Just buy regular basmati rice. Use a ceramic or Pyrex dish with a lid. I always Place two sheets of kitchen towel on the revolving plate within the microwave in case of some spillage. Fill your dish with a little under 40% of dry rice. Over 50% will be a big problem. Fill the rice filled dish with water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Swish with your fingers and empty, then cover again with cold water. Swish, empty and fill again with hot water. Don’t weigh it, just fill with water that looks about twice the height of the pre soaked rice and add a good amount of salt. Cover with a lid, or a plate to seal and microwave the hell out of it for fourteen, maybe seventeen minutes, depending on being 750 or 850 wattage. After said time, remove with oven gloves and turn out onto a roasting tray or large dish. It will look like a block of solid rice. Don’t be fooled… use a fork and gently break apart and move the clumps away from the central mass and kind of break up into smaller grains with the fork. Perfect cooked rice, never over cooked or under cooked, always flakey grains of perfectly cooked, quality rice. Cook as much as your dish will allow. Use maybe half for your meal and spoon the remaining half into a freezer bag. Seal and once cold, use your fingers to break up any remaining clumps of rice and freeze. Your next rice meal will be as simple as a defrost and a three minute microwave and it will produce a second, even simpler dish of perfect, flaky rice that is cooked to perfection. Tonights special fried rice was indeed a case of defrosting a per frozen bag of pre cooked basmati rice. Too easily achieved and such an astounding result. Good appetite and good nite nite.