Just Mulling It Over

The weekend over in a flash and another day has passed us by. Children now upstairs with daddy, getting ready for bed and here I sit thinking of what I should be writing about!

Gloomy weather has curtailed any crazy shenanigans in the garden of late. Thor and Aaliyah are of course back at school, so their presence was absent today. Amritsar and Tara are really very well behaved girls mostly, so nothing to comment on there today. Caleb has been by and large very good in both his homeschooling and playtime today, always a little more sedate without Thor and Aaliyah in his company. Just one more week and his plaster cast should be off! We will have our little guy back to normal. Looking forward to that – Hooray!

I’m a little apprehensive about this show we’re going to be on, airing this week on Thursday at 8pm on Channel 4. John and I are talking to the show’s psychologist tonight on the telephone. Should I be worried, what should I be thinking? I certainly hope there is not any negativity thrown our way after people watch it, just a small glance into ‘my big crazy family life’! But then again, I give that almost daily within the pages of my diary, don’t I. But one can’t help but mull things over!

I’m sure to mention the ‘Show’ again in the next couple of days. There’s no turning back, there’s no escaping the inevitability, is there?

Sorry, better cut this short as there is shouting drifting down from the top floor. Our phone call is about to happen and the children were asked expressly to keep a lid on it tonight given our phone call! Okay, up to get them settled.

A very good evening, night, morning and afternoon to you all.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

I haven’t done one of these in a short while, so here is a selection of some of our evening meals from this last week. Sunday tonight, so a family roast chicken meal with the children. Roast meals used to be so trying. Every week I would tell myself that this meal would be the last one! All that work repaid with screams, ‘I’m not eating that’ and peas being tossed around! But perseverance paid off. The children voted a roast dinner their favourite family meal ever yesterday, replacing last years favourite of broccoli (red) pesto pasta!

Filet of Lamb Steak, mashed potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms.

Chicken (thigh) curry with basmati rice.

Easy Mock Roasty. Roast pork leg, deep fried potatoes, peas and cracklings.

Boiled gammon joint, mash and broccoli.

Filet steak, dauphinois potatoes and mangtout

Lobster bisque, peppered trout filet and prawns with mashed potato and samfire.

A tasty menu this week and enjoyed very much! Bon appetite everyone!

10 of the Children’s Besties

About a year ago, the children and I compiled a ‘Top 10 Besties’ list and tonight, again at dinnertime we did it once again!

All of our Crew were asked to do some agreeing for once – they had to compromise and agree on the results. Job well done guys…

Best TV show:

P J Masks

Best Movie:

Frozen

Best Meal:

Roast Dinner

Best Confectionary:

Lollipops (Though Thor insisted (again) on candy canes)

Best Vegetable:

Tomato

Best thing on Toast:

Dadda’s Jam (of course) once again!

Best subject at School:

P.E. (Physical Education) once again!

Best Song:

Paperback Writer – The Beatbugs

Best Game:

Big Bad Bear

Best Thing Ever:

A ‘No Brainer’ Really, Kit Koala and Kangy, MiMi, Chicky and Foxy and Doggy (The Children’s beloved soft toys) once again!

And not a single Unicorn or the colour pink was mentioned! Well, that’s the 10 Children’s Besties for our Crew at least! It certainly made a riot of dinnertime!

As you can see, a few things remained the same. But it is good to see that some things have also changed, as they all have developed and indeed changed a little over this last year.

As always, thank you for reading.

Chips’n’Choices

Every now and then the children enjoy Chips’n’Choices in our house. Really, it is the best way to empty your fridge of all of the weeks leftovers. There’s usually 4, maybe 5 different choices for the children to choose from.

Anyhow, tonight’s choices were pasty, penne bolognese, fish pie and vegetable stir fry. Thor of course went for pasty, his favourite meal ever!

While munching through his dinner, he suddenly started screaming, having mistook one of his fingers for a chip!

My, we did all laugh.

Tonight’s Partial Lunar Eclipse

Well, I have not commented on the last couple of full moons, so today I thought that I should put that right and mention my book ‘Eighteen Moons’. Rather than post a chapter, I have decided to give you a full synopsis. I hope you enjoy the read.

Eighteen Moons is the extraordinary and moving story of Andi and John and how they brought together, against huge odds, the family they had longed for.

Today they are loving fathers to five beautiful children including two sets of twins, all of them under the age of six. But the story of how this very special family came together is a tale filled with heartache and frustration, determination and courage. It’s also a story full of humour, human frailty and, above all, love.

Their quest for children took them across the world and brought them up against seemingly impossible challenges. But as the whims of officials and government directives thwarted their every move and sent them on a wild adventure which took them from India to Thailand and on to Nepal, Andi and John refused to give up. 

Extraordinarily, Andi and John’s first twins were the last British surrogate babies to leave India, their son was the last to leave Thailand and their second twins were the first British children to be born through surrogacy in Nepal.

Happily together for twenty years and the besotted owners of two daft but loveable Dalmatians, Andi and John longed for children to complete their family. Two, they thought, would be perfect, ideally one fathered by each of them.

After looking at surrogacy options worldwide, India seemed to offer everything they hoped for and in 2012 they went to India to begin the surrogacy process. A few months later, they heard that their surrogate was expecting twins. 

Andi went to India for the birth; the plan was that John would join them and together they would bring the babies home. When two gorgeous daughters were born they couldn’t have been happier. But what followed was a nightmare of bureaucracy and obfuscation, as John, the twins natural father, was refused a visa and the Indian Government refused to let Andi leave with the babies. For month after month Andi lived in India, caring for the girls, while he and John struggled to find a way to bring them home. At every turn they were thwarted until they became so desperate they considered smuggling the girls out of the country by boat. Their daughters were eight months old when, finally, John was ableto go and bring them home.

Same-sex surrogacy had been banned in India, so Andi, still longing to father a child, turned next to Thailand. With the news of a successful pregnancy everything looked rosy – until the Thai government also clamped down on surrogacy, the clinic was closed. For several heartstopping days they didn’t know what had happened to their surrogate, or their baby. Finally they heard that all was well and Andi said goodbye to John and the girls and went to Thailand to be with his child. A son was born and a delighted Andi hoped to take him home within weeks. But what followed was an extraordinary saga of delays, denials and, eventually, Andi’s arrest on trumped up drug charges. Given the option by the arresting officers of waiting three months for a court date and a guaranteed three, month sentence, a second option was put on the table. No criminal record and the chance to be the first westerner to serve in the Royal Thai Army. This would take him to an army barrack’s deep in the Thai jungle, he had just one phone call, to tell John what had happened.

On the day he was freed Andi found John, and their son, waiting for him. Days later, after five long months of waiting,they flew home, to introduce the girls to their new baby brother.

When the surrogacy clinic in Thailand had closed Andi and John’s remaining embryos had been transferred, with the help of an Israeli agency, to Nepal, where surrogacy was still possible. At that stage, unsure of the outcome in Thailand, they had given the go-ahead for a surrogacy attempt. Now they heard that once again twins were expected, this time on the roof of the world. The massive 2015 earthquake in Nepal devastated much of the surrounding area of Kathmandu, plus many ancient temples and monuments in the city itself and for some time Andi and John didn’t know whether their surrogate or their babies had survived.

With the happy  news that all was well, once more Andi kissed his family goodbye and set off, hoping that this time all would be well and he’d be home again soon with a new brother and sister for the children. But once again his attempt to bring the children home was thwarted by delays and difficulties and it was five months before he was able to bring the babies home. The babies passports were only issued after locals organised a ‘Witch Hunt’, his own visa had expired and the death of his mother.

It took Andi and John three and a half years to fulfil their dream of a family and during that time eighteen full moons passed while Andi remained stranded in India, Thailand and Nepal, waiting to bring their children home. As he waited the moon was so often his comfort and companion. He would sit and look at it, thinking of home and trusting that all would be well and that, no matter what it took, the children were coming home. 

For John, holding the fort at home, it was a long, painful wait, whilst on the other side of the world, Andi went through hell – frightened, alone and facing hostility, prejudice and obfuscation. But he also found friendship, kindness and support and it was these things that he would ultimately remember. And when he finally arrived back with the twins in December 2015, the journey over and the family together, it brought with it a wonderful sense of completion. All five children became British citizens and at last Andi and John could look to the future.

 

Work In Progress (#WIP)

I’m not sure why today’s entry came to mind! I expect because many writers regard their unfinished work on Twitter as a #WIP. Now, as a diarist, I don’t completely regard myself as a writer! Though I have published two books through amazon.co.uk

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eighteen-Moons-Before-Diary-Gay/dp/1794528334/ref=nodl_

The story of how my family came to be!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1699614288/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

The story of who my family is today!

I once tweeted ‘Tweets don’t write books, but blogs do’! And it’s true. My blog, this diary, this account of a pretty regular ‘family life’ is a glimpse into my big crazy family life!

https://www.instagram.com/mybigcrazyfamilylife/

This diary is a #WIP so maybe I should feel a little more like a writer. There always seems to be something going on, something to write about.

I guess the chaos of having 5 children so young and with so little between their ages, only two years. we as a family are a work in progress. Something we share with every other family out there no doubt.

Tonight at 8pm is episode 2 of Britain’s Best Parent on Channel 4 here in the UK. I am sure the debate in parenting styles will continue. There is sure to be negativity thrown into the mix. But I hope enough positivity as to continue to fuel the debate!

At this point I am feeling a little apprehensive. Only a week to go for us! I only hope that the nation looks at itself and realises that we are all indeed a #WIP (Work In Progress). I cant possibly comment on what is to come on the show, but I will say that it was a fun experience to be part of. And like my diary blog:

https://andiwebb.net

Our small part in the show is just a moment in time, just like each and every diary entry that I make. Indeed, any family in the UK could have been on the show to represent us, the modern British family. And we were lucky enough to have been chosen and we really appreciate that. My family, just like your family is very much a ‘Work In Progress’ (#WIP). Please be kind!

Dishcloths or Kitchen Roll

Monday saw the return of our nanny Sindy and two of our not so famous five’s return to school. Daddy remains steadfast at the living room table, buried under his relentless pile of work from the office. My few days off from blogging have been relaxing enough, but onwards and upwards as they say. We seem to be finding a new routine. One that has a little more general focus. Lockdown is certainly, slowly lifting!

A friend in India, Mona tells me that lockdown there has been completely lifted, although the daily death count has not as yet reduced. I think that she plans on being extremely cautious for the time to come!

This week is flying by for sure. On an unrelated matter, 54 mega rolls of kitchen paper arrived yesterday, now stacked neatly in the corner of our kitchen. Do not worry, we are not stockpiling. This reality is that this is the usual amount that we order. I never use dishcloths. Who knows what germs could be lurking upon them. That, and what with me washing my hands 50 times a day. I don’t really trust tea towels also after a few hours. Oh dear, I’m sounding a little like ‘Howard Hughes’, aren’t I?

Thor and Aaliyah have adjusted well to their return to school. I know that many parents are not sending their children back and I do not blame them at all. I know that our children’s and indeed all schools here in the UK have put a lot into working out a regime that works with the lesser numbers of children returning. I take my hat off to the children’s head teacher and all of the teachers. It can’t have been easy for them.

As ever, thank you for reading.

Biting My Lip

Is giving up a good idea? I have really had to mull over this one! It concerns Aaliyah, a 4 (almost 5) year old who likes to suck her fingers. Looking back at old photos, she is always doing it! Sucking her fingers that is. We didn’t use a dummy or pacifier on her as a baby or indeed her twin Caleb.

She is sat on the sofa opposite me at present, sucking away merrily. as happy as Larry, whoever he is! Since lockdown began for us personally, twelve weeks ago today, I have asked her to wear a woollen glove on her right hand. She doesn’t like to suck her left one! This must insinuate that she no longer shows signs of being ambidextrous. Oh well.

So, day in, day out, throughout these long lockdown weeks, she has been asked to wear the glove daily. And by in large, it has worked, but I do have to prompt her several times each and every day to put the glove back on! She keeps taking it off for a sly suck, thinking that I am not watching. It has become a tedious chore monitoring this. And yes, always me that has to play the ‘bad cop’ whilst John gets to only do the fun things!

Well, after 3 months today, I just said! I give up! The reality is that she still sucks her fingers in bed anyway.

Our nanny Sindy is returning on Monday so I have decided that this impossible ask (her stopping sucking her fingers) will now have to fall on her (sorry Sindy). I really have had enough! ‘Go on Aaliyah’ I said ‘go ahead and suck them, I’ve had enough of trying to help you’! So, until Monday, I will say nothing, just try to ignore it. Just bite my lip. So my question to you today is, is giving up a good idea?

I have just asked her to start washing her hands at least 10 times a day. ‘Why’ she replied! ‘Because of the spit on your fingers’ I said. She has promised to wash her hands more often. Well it’s a start I guess.

Flo The Tooth Fairy

And guess what befell us tonight? Another real and tangible visit from the tooth fairy! Now, on this occasion Tara had some questions for her (or indeed for him).

Who is my tooth fairy Daddy and Dadda’ she asked?

You might remember that Amritsar’s tooth fairy went by the name of Genie!

After running downstairs with the very greatest of news, they all finally went back upstairs ever so excited, Tara now in wait for the ultimate bounty of one shiny pound coin in exchange for her left small incisor.

All quiet now and daddy has just returned from his ‘fairy flight’, having answered Tara’s list of questions, once again, set out for the tooth fairy!

To be honest, I don’t think that Tara wanted Amritsar’s tooth fairy ‘Genie’, (sibling rivalry) so daddy had to come up with Tara’s new tooth fairy name! Caught quite on the spot he called her ‘Flo’. And she did indeed leave a very shiny one pound coin.

On unrelated news, the show on channel 4 (Britain’s Best Parent) started tonight on the television. John and I watched with gritted teeth!

There are many ways to Parent your children nowadays. It is a really great debate. But let’s smile more than we frown please?

Washing Day

A bit of an anti-climax given that yesterday’s post was heralding our being chosen to appear in a new Channel 4 series looking into ‘Parenting Styles’. The first episode goes out tonight at 8pm. You will have to wait for the 11th June to see our ‘Parenting Style’ sadly. And please, do not judge us too harshly!

Right, so today had Dadda doing the vast amount of laundry that has amassed over this last week. I held back from photographing the before picture, it wasn’t pleasant! I’m thinking of the movie ‘Hairspray’ and Divine’s legendary quote ‘What! More soiled laundry for Mommy’!

Again, another day enjoyed with the children in the garden. Daddy tapping away on his laptop, me a little sunbathing, some cooking.

You know, it’s funny, the children are growing up so fast. All of their clothes are so much bigger now. Sorry, have to go, Aaliyah is screaming very loudly, all I can hear is ‘iPad, my iPad – no Tara NO’!

An Impromptu Visitor

With lockdown here in ‘The Shires’ being slightly lifted on Monday of next week, as with the rest of England, our three little ones will be returning to school. Just reception year is going back, along with years one and six. Tara and Amritsar’s year two will be waiting for September to go back and their start into year three.

They will both continue with homeschooling until the end of the term. Now, to be honest, the girls have embraced schoolwork from home, albeit at various levels of engagement! The three little ones however, oh dear, they have resisted! My oh my, how they have resisted. Thor has been the main disturbance at 9am, each and every Monday to Friday!

I was so gratified when I realised that this week was actually half term, so no school work. And they are back to school proper on Monday.

Today’s visitor was Sindy, our nanny. We had spoken earlier about the purchase of new art stuff, hand sanitisers, cagoule, various stuff for the children to bring with them to school. Well, Sindy has gone to the shop and purchased most of what was needed and dropped it over today, just after lunch.

The children all rushed over and gave her a big hug! She is coming back to work from Monday, so socially distancing from the children seemed pointless at this juncture. It looks like some things will look rather normal as from Monday. I believe that two more weeks down the line and non essential shops will also be open and people allowed to try and get on with life, though still having to socially distance as much as possible!

I cannot really fully comprehend, things will start to return to normal! Though still with many restrictions of course.

I last returned home from the outside world on the 6th March. This was 11 days before the school sent the children home with snotty noses and asked us to self isolate. That was 6 days before lockdown was implemented on Monday 23rd March. On Friday 21st May, in 3 days time, I will have been at home, not going out for 12 weeks. Just one 30 minute trip out of the garden to run in the woods that lie beside house around 3 weeks ago!

With Sindy’s return on Monday morning, I am going out! Wow, I can’t wait. I’m truly excited.

Thank you for reading. And good luck with your own tentative steps out into this strange new world.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Tonight sees another instalment of Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner! Bon Appetite.

Sea Bass with brown shrimp, sugar snap peas and a wine and cream sauce,

Roast Lamb, potatoes, green beans and cauliflower.

Lobster Bisque, Red Shrimp, boiled potatoes and fine green beans.

A Salmon Curry with rice.

Nut loaf, bubble and squeak, with tomato sauce.

Prawn Tom Yum with fine Noodles.

Early Summer, Wisteria Seed

These last weeks of lockdown have seen very fine weather here in ‘The Shires’. The birdsong at times seems almost deafening. Cloudless skies have shimmered above and the blossoming, the flowering of a myriad of plants have enchanted us. Summer has really come around early. Beneath my feet lies amass of wisteria confetti. I sit underneath the parasol on our terrace, at midday, the sun too hot for even this seasoned sun worshipper and I smile.

Two of the girls, Tara and Aaliyah play on the swing beneath the shade of our large Canadian Oak, spinning away like crazed harpies. The merest of zephyrs brush lightly my face and my arms.

These are the Summers I remember from childhood. A village called Banwell in the shire of Somerset. Back then, as a child, not a care in the world. Lazy summers and the happiest of families. I think back and I smile.

We are the sum of our memories aren’t we? For our children, before life makes its mark, daddy and dadda bequest this basis of happy, summertime memories, for them all to forever behold.

I miss those wisteria blossoms, now underfoot. But I look at these seeds of tomorrow’s endeavours. And I smile.

The Hokey Cokey

Aaliyah is panting loudly, just like a dog in fact, misting up the glass door to the garden. Tara is hiding beneath the large red acer on the terrace. Amritsar is moaning about something Aaliyah said over 10 minutes ago. Thor is hanging around, close to the trampoline. Caleb, bless him has just finished counting to 20. Already he’s saying ‘I can see you Tara, I can see you’. Caleb’s counting is really coming along. He actually counted to 30 earlier on today. ‘I’m not playing’, pipes up Thor. Moving on, now Aaliyah has just popped her head out from the large, flowering rhododendron bush at the bottom of the garden. Amritsar is shouting at everyone!

Yes, this is their post dinner attempt at ‘hide and seek’ in the garden. Not their best attempt at this game I have to add. So, Daddy has just decided to say ‘let’s play big bad bear then’?

Oops, Caleb has just stepped in dog poo. There’s always gonna be one that was missed on the daily doggies poop scoop in the garden.

Now a few baby wipes later, we’re back in action. So, what’s happening now?

Amritsar has just said ‘Daddy, I did a handstand’! Tara and Caleb are loitering under a tree. Daddy has just stopped proceedings to do another sweep of the garden for dog poo. I guess ‘big bad bear’ is off for now. Aaliyah is shouting ‘I don’t want to play any more’ and has just stormed inside to snuggle up with Gracie on the sofa.

Do you remember the movie ‘The Omen’? Thor is now riding around the terrace in circles on the small bicycle with stabilisers grinning to himself! Thankfully we are not indoors on the top landing, me fiddling with a light fitting!

I look up and see that the rest of them are all playing what seems to be the ‘Hokey Cokey’ now. At least Amritsar had stopped screaming at everyone!

I think it’s time for bed.

Dadda Get’s Jammin’ Summer Berry Daiquiri Jelly

Dadda’s Jam. Well, what can I say! Did you know that I was secretly writing a book? Maybe you read that diary entry when I explained that, or maybe you did not! It all started last autumn when I completed my second book, ‘Thirteen Moons More’. I thought to myself, well what next? Oh, I had better just explain that ‘Thirteen Moons More’ is a follow on from my original book called ‘Eighteen Moons’, the story of how my amazing family came to be. It is the non fiction account (timeline) of our struggles to become a family, fighting both bureaucracy and prejudice in both Britain and India, then onto Thailand and Nepal.

‘Thirteen Moons More’ is an edit from my first 11 months of keeping my diary. Essentially a time leading up to our youngest three fledging the nest and starting school. Within that time 13 moons passed. This is the story of just who we are today! ‘My Big Crazy Family Life’ in a nutshell… Oh! That also happens to be our Instagram name!

www.instagram.com/mybigcrazyfamilylife

So, what was Dadda going to do next! Of course I continued my blog, but within its posts I began to get Jammin’ on a regular basis. So to all intents and purposes, Dadda Get’s Jammin’ was born. A recipe book on jam making and preserves unlike any other! When is a recipe book not quite a recipe book? You will find out a little later on.

Not only are my recipes on thoroughly modern jam making going to be present, but also my thoughts, a little wit and a good slice of my family’s day to day, crazy goings on.

Last October saw my first official jam recipe appear on my blog, ‘Ginger and Spiced Pumpkin’. And since then, every now and then, I have sneaked in the occasional Dadda Get’s Jammin’ slot. So, hopefully before the next ‘Spiced Pumpkin’ season is upon us, I will have enough material to edit and sculpt into my third publication! And you don’t have to think too hard regards the name.

Dadda Get’s Jammin’ of course.

Today’s mouthwatering treat is inspired by a recent post, Summer Berry Daiquiri. But this time rather than add the well set summer Berry jelly to the daiquiri, I’m making the jelly into the daiquiri. Another inspired combo is born.

Ingredients:

1Kg Summer Berries

200g Apple Pulp

1Kg Sugar

150ml lime Juice

2 large shots of dark rum

Method:

Sterilise your jam jars, ladle and jam funnel in your dishwasher.

Amass you’re summer berries or, as I did, open my 1Kg bag of frozen mixed berries. The bag contained raspberries, blackberries, black currants, red currents and blueberries.

In a large saucepan add your lime juice, apple pulp and your berries. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes.

As this is a jelly, you will need to pass the fruit through a sieve at this point. Discard the pith and add the juice/pulp back to your pan. Add your sugar and boil for a further 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t leave the room! Stir occasionally. Your jelly will start to show signs of a set when the liquid starts to fall in clumps, not drips. The mixture will become more velvet like in its appearance. I think that I have told you this before!

Not too much apple pulp in this recipe as black currents and red currents have tons of naturally occurring pectin. You may remember that I do not use shop purchased pectin in any of ‘Dadda’s Jam’.

Splash or splosh in the booze and stir.

Carefully ladle your jam into your jars and close the lids tightly. Re-sterilise in a large saucepan, covering the lids with boiling water or place in a steamer for around 20 minutes. Then leave to cool.

When jam tastes this good, enjoy it on warm, buttered baguette as soon as humanly possible!

Playing in the Garden

A late update today! What a wonderful day was had here in ‘the Shires’. The sun has beamed down upon on us all day long. At present our not so famous five are playing chase in the garden with daddy, who is presently counting to 10! I guess he’s on it then! Lol

Nothing has really happened, just a really lazy day.

A barbecue was enjoyed earlier, consisting of burgers, sausages, corn, fries and coleslaw. And bedtime awaits once ‘big bad bear’ completely tires them out.

Thank you for stopping by.

Naughty School with Mrs Snodgrass

This morning at breakfast Aaliyah was playing up and Mrs Snodgrass was mentioned! I have not spoken of her for some time now. Mrs Snodgrass is a fiction. Or is she? We don’t threaten the children with the ‘thinking chair’ any more, but the occasional muttering of the legendary Mrs Snodgrass generally has the desired effect. Be good or you might just end up at ‘Naughty School’! There is one other character that has appeared within our family history and that is Mr Strickland. He runs a summer camp for naughty children who act like babies! Again, he has not been mentioned in quite a while.

Thor got quite screamy at dinnertime tonight and threw his dinner on the floor. Tara and Amritsar piped up ‘Call Mrs Snodgrass Dadda, call Mrs Snodgrass’. I pretended to dial a number on my phone ‘Mrs Snodgrass’ I said.

We smiled. Remember that Mrs Snodgrass is a fiction. Or is she…

Morning sunshine spilled through a window as Aaliyah rolled over, too tired to open her eyes. She and her brothers, Thor and Caleb, had been up all night. Again. Dadda had told them over and over to be quiet and go to bed, but, as usual, Aaliyah snuck out of her bed, knocked on her brothers’ bedroom door, and they began to play.

This lasted until after Dadda fell asleep. This continued until long after the moon rose, and only when the birds started to cheep, cheep outside did Aliyah and her brothers run back to their beds and try to fall asleep. But an hour isn’t enough sleep, even for a young child.

And so, Aaliyah moaned and groaned as Dadda knocked on her door. ‘Rise and shine, Aaliyah’, said Dadda. ‘It’s time to get ready for school. I’m waking up your brothers too, and we’re going to eat breakfast in ten minutes. Get ready!’ Aaliyah said, ‘Yes, Dadda’, but she sniffed, snorted, and snored. Aaliyah wasn’t getting up anytime soon. Or so she thought.

Suddenly, she opened her eyes, and Dadda was looking down at her. ‘Wait a minute’! he said. ‘You have dark bags under your eyes. And look, your slippers are by the door and not your bed. And what’s this? A toy in the hallway. I think someone was playing with her brothers last night and is too tired to go to school today’.

Aaliyah moaned and groaned. ‘But, Dadda, we had to! We couldn’t fall asleep, and so we had to play for a while’. ‘All night’? said Dadda shaking his head. ‘Boys’! Now Thor and Caleb came stumbling into the room half-asleep. Both boys’ pajamas were wrinkled, their hair stuck up, and their tongues hung out like little puppies.

‘These boys didn’t get hardly a wink of sleep’! Dadda said. ‘All right enough is enough. I’m calling Mrs Snodgrass’. Aaliyah shook her head. ‘No, Dadda, you can’t’! ‘Oh yes’, said Dadda. ‘I can. And I will. I have no choice! Dadda marched out of the room, determined to fix the problem. ‘Mrs Snodgrass’? said Caleb. ‘Who is that’?

Aaliyah and Thor turned to him, both looking pale and wide-eyed. ‘Haven’t you heard of Naughty School, Caleb’? said Aaliyah. ‘Mrs Snodgrass runs it with an iron fist. She whips children, puts them in dungeons, and makes sure they’re never heard from again’. Caleb laughed. ‘That’s silly’.

Thor grabbed his brother’s arm and pulled him close. ‘Haven’t you heard of Mrs Snodgrass’s Thinking Chair’? Caleb shook his head. ‘Is it like Dadda’s thinking chair’? Thor sighed. ‘Oh no! It’s the worst thing you can imagine, that’s what! Once you’re in Mrs Snodgrass’s Thinking Chair, you’re done for’! Caleb swallowed hard.

‘And that’s not all’, said Aaliyah, ‘they’ll make us eat porridge at every meal’. Each of the siblings stuck out their tongues and held their tummies. ‘What a disgusting thought’! said Caleb.

‘Wait’! said Aaliyah. ‘Do you hear that? Dadda is on the phone. Hurry let’s listen’. Each of the children pushed their way forward, jostling to get close to the partly open door. ‘Can’t hear’, said Caleb, and he inched his way out into the hallway. ‘That’s better’. Aaliyah and Thor followed him.

‘That’s right’, said Dadda, speaking into his phone, ‘Mrs Snodgrass. I’ll hold. Yes, Mrs. Snodgrass? We met some time ago. That’s right. I think my children need to visit Naughty School. Oh, enroll? Well, maybe just… oh… yes, of course, I understand. Well, yes, you’re right, maybe it’s time I decide for their betterment. Of course, so true. I’ll enroll them in Naughty School today. Yes. Three children, their names are Aaliyah, Caleb, and Thor’.

And with that, he hung up the phone and sighed. Aaliyah frowned. ‘He did it! He actually did it’. Thor shook his head. ‘We’re done for now’. Caleb got on his knees and clasped his hands together. ‘No, Dadda, not Naughty School’!

And then Dadda stepped in front of them. He crossed his arms and said, ‘I’m sorry, children, but you’ve left me no choice. When you stay up all night, don’t listen, don’t do your homework, well, then there’s only one alternative’.

Caleb sniffled. ‘Mrs Snodgrass’? Dadda nodded. ‘Yes, Mrs Snodgrass… and her Naughty School. So, pack your bags, we leave right away’! Suddenly Aaliyah, Caleb, and Thor dropped to their knees and shook their heads. They held out their hands like they were praying. ‘Please, Dadda, not Naughty School’! they pleaded. ‘Not Mrs Snodgrass! And not the Thinking Chair’!

Dadda sighed. He put his hands on his hips and scratched his chin. ‘Enrollment is today, but you don’t start until Monday. So, I suppose we’ll see how your behavior changes from now until then’. ‘We’ll be better’! said Aaliyah. Caleb nodded. ‘Oh, we definitely will’! ‘Yes, Dadda, no naughty school for us’! said Thor brightly.

And so, the siblings tried their best to be good little children, just like their two bigger sisters Amritsar and Tara. Though, they needed a nap after such a long night. But, come the next day, there was a shout from downstairs. Dadda dropped what he was doing and darted down the stairs, nearly tripping and flying through the air. And there, Daddy was standing, speechless and pointing.

‘What is it’? asked Dadda, looking around for a lion or bear. ‘What’s wrong’? But there was no lion. No bear. Not even a small dragon with smoking nostrils.

But there was Caleb, holding a tub of sudocrem. ‘Caleb’! said Dadda. ‘What have you done’? Caleb had somehow smeared his bottom and back with sudocrem. He looked positively a mess! As if someone had dipped him in a vat of cream from the dairy, pulling him out and letting him drip all over.

Oh, but there was more. Dadda turned to see a long trail of sudocrem on the hardwood floor. Splotches here and there, running back as if a house painter had drunkenly stumbled into the house. White marks were on the sofa, on Caleb’s brother, Thor’s, face and arms, and even on the television! There were marks on the chairs and the dining room table. There were marks on framed photos of Granny Hazel and Grandma Jean, and also on the painting Dadda made for Daddy’s birthday two years ago. ‘Oh my’, said Dadda. ‘Caleb’!

‘It’s time we have a sit on the thinking chair, don’t you agree, Daddy’? Daddy nodded. Caleb said, ‘No, not the thinking chair! Mrs Snodgrass has one, and they say it eats children! Dadda shook his head. ‘Oh no, it doesn’t, but you’ll be thinking about things for a very long time, Caleb’!

Dadda lifted Caleb high into the air, carried him across the room, into the hall and placed him on an antique chair. ‘Now, think about what you’ve done and… oh my, think about Naughty School too would you’? Caleb swallowed hard. ‘And you, mister’, pointing at Thor, added Daddy, ‘You’re the one who gave the sudocrem to Caleb’! ‘Well, I, uh…’ Thor mumbled. Big sisters Amritsar and Tara were sniggering at this point. They realised that this was a serious situation so both headed for the living room for some screentime.

‘Off to the thinking chair as well’! said Dadda. And Thor marched off, sitting in another chair, on the opposite side of the sideboard, slightly out of view from his brother Caleb.

Dadda turned back to Daddy, who said, ‘And who do you think got the sudocrem down to begin with? Who is the tallest’? Now Dadda turned to Aaliyah, whose face was burning brightly. Whose eyes were cast down on the floor. ‘Go on’! said Dadda. ‘Off to bed’! Aaliyah ran up the stairs screaming, off to her bedroom.

‘I don’t want to say it’, said Daddy, ‘but I don’t think we have a choice’. ‘Well, I already made the call, but I was giving them a chance’ replied Dadda. ‘I think they’ve all had their chance. We have no choice. When little boys and girls are this naughty, when they stay awake all night, when they smear sudocrem all over the house and giggle…’ Dadda nodded. ‘Oh, yes, you don’t have to say it. It’s time for Naughty School, Daddy because we quite simply, have no other choice’. Tara and Amritsar looked a little sad ‘But we will be able to go and visit them – wont we Dadda’? ‘Of course’ replied Dadda, adding ‘And of course, they will be home for holidays’.

And so, it began. Aaliyah and her brothers would soon be off to Mrs Snodgrass’ Naughty School for Children.

Not too far away, on a hill overlooking the city, a dark, gloomy, prison-like fortress stood under dark clouds. Even on this, the sunny day our story begins, it looked as if it were an overcast day at Naughty School.

The Naughty School had been built, well, nobody remembered when it had been made. It seemed as if it had always been there. Overlooking the city with its dreary gray bricks, its tall fence that looked like a prison with barbed-wire and guards at the gate. The gate itself was wrought iron and several feet tall. It had the letters ‘N’ and ‘S’ emblazoned on it in a bold typeface.

At the front gate, there came marching down a thin, pale woman wearing a tight black dress. Her long dark hair was tied up in a bun. On her sharp nose were glasses that were far too big for her with lenses that made her eyes look wide like a fish’s.

This was Ms Bettina, who was Mrs Snodgrass’s loyal assistant. She carried a small leather satchel with her from which she withdrew a red book. It looked like a datebook, and when she arrived at the gate, in front of the uniformed officers in black shirts, pants, and boots, she opened the red book. ‘Aaliyah, Caleb, and… let’s see, yes, Thor’. The guards nodded. ‘They should be arriving any moment now. Look sharp, men’. The guards snapped to attention and saluted.

Another man came marching down the driveway to the gate. He was tall, skinny, and broad-shouldered. He had a long face with a square jaw. He was balding and he, too, wore glasses, but these were small, round, and wire framed. He wore a tweed jacket with patches on the shoulders and elbows and his pants were a few inches too short, revealing black socks with little red polka dots on them.

‘Ah, Mr Strickland’, said Ms Bettina. ‘I’m glad you made it. How was Baby Camp over the Summer’? Mr Strickland frowned at her. ‘Too many babies,’ he said flatly. The guards swallowed hard. Even they, along with the other teachers at Naughty School, were afraid of Mr Strickland, who also ran the Summer Baby Camp, quite, well, strictly.

‘As alwas, Ms Bettina, I am here to inform you that if you have any children acting like babies in this new school term, you are ordered to send them my way. This, of course, is a direct order from Mrs Snodgrass herself’. Ms Bettina scowled. She didn’t like Mr Strickland very much, but she knew she had to tolerate him. ‘Of course, Mr Strickland’, she bemoaned. ‘I’ll make sure to do that’.

Now she turned to the guards. ‘Remember, send them straight to my office for intake’. The guards nodded, and with that, Ms Bettina and Mr Strickland left the front gate, going in different directions.

After a few minutes, a silver Mitsubishi Shogun 4 x 4 arrived and stopped at the gate. Inside was Daddy, Aaliyah, Thor, and Caleb. ‘I’m here for…’ said Daddy, but he couldn’t get out the rest of his words. One of the guards held his hand up and said, ‘Enough! Aaliyah? Thor? Caleb?’ Daddy nodded. ‘That’s right’. ‘Drop them off here. We’ll send them to Ms Bettina’. ‘Oh, well, I… yes, okay’. Daddy opened the door and got out. He then opened the door for his children, and all three slowly, cautiously, ever-so-carefully crept out.

Aaliyah and the boys looked up at Daddy and said, ‘One more chance’? Daddy shook his head slowly. ‘Sorry, children, I love you and I am going to miss you, but off to Naughty School. Go on now’. Daddy said goodbye, gave them all hugs and said that he would see them in a couple of weeks.

They shuffled along slowly, and the wrought iron gates slowly creaked open. The guards looked down at the children. One of them said, ‘Go on now, that way. March! We’re off to see Ms Bettina’. Thor turned to wave at Daddy, but the car had gone. Thor looked up at the guard who said, ‘No more of that. March! Go on!’ And so, they did, all three, Aaliyah, Thor, and Caleb, too, hurried up the twisting driveway.

Ahead, they saw the prison, sorry, the school, that is. Naughty School. Its gray bricks were covered with moss. A mass of ivy clung to its walls. Stone gargoyles looked down with beady eyes and sharp horns. There were tall windows that were cloudy and caked with what could only be smoke stains, though one guard mentioned that it was ‘fog from the children’s breath as they complained from sitting in the Naughty Chairs too long’.

And in one window, high above, Aaliyah spotted two bright eyes watching. They almost looked like red eyes. ‘Mrs Snodgrass’! she muttered. ‘Hey now, none of that’! said the guard. ‘No talking! Off to Ms Bettina, you go’.

The front door of Naughty School was embossed with brass and was covered with etchings of what can only be described as monsters chasing little children. And, once more, there were the letters ‘N’ and ‘S’ in a bold typeface.

Inside, the hallways were long and empty. Aaliyah saw a little boy, dressed in a black uniform, peek out from a classroom. But just as quickly, someone yanked him back inside with a little ‘yelp’ and the door slammed shut, nearly breaking the glass window. A blind was drawn rapidly, blocking Aaliyah’s view of what was happening inside the room. ‘We’re doomed’! she said. ‘Quiet’! said the guard.

And soon, they climbed a high set of stairs. Onto a landing, and then up to another landing, and finally to the third floor and an office that had big blocky black letters declaring that it belonged to MS BETTINA, assistant to MRS SNODGRASS. The guard snapped to attention and knocked gently on the door. The children gasped and gulped as they heard the click-clack of Ms Bettina’s high heels.

And the door opened. There she stood, the dark-haired administrator with her overly large glasses. Her large, fisheyes stared down at the children, and her thin lips were snarling. ‘In here NOW’! she commanded. And to the guard: ‘Leave us’! The guard turned around and left, leaving Aaliyah and her brothers standing awkwardly outside of Ms Bettina’s doorway. ‘RIGHT’! Ms Bettina shouted.

The children hurried in and piled onto three small metal chairs in front of an unusually high oak desk. Ms Bettina crossed the room, her footfalls sounding like CLICK, CLACK, CLICK. She climbed a small footstool to get onto a high-backed chair, and from there, she looked down over her large glasses at the children.

‘Biters, pinchers, hair pullers, screamers, shouters, naughty, naughty children’, she murmured. ‘Mrs Snodgrass will not be happy at all. Oh no, she won’t. Do we have enough Thinking Chairs for the three of you’? Aaliyah raised her hand timidly as Caleb and Thor rattled their teeth and sat on their hands. ‘What is it’? snapped Ms Bettina. ‘Wha… what… what are you going to do’? replied Thor. ‘Oh, it’s not what I’m going to do, little boy’, said Ms Bettina.

Someone’s throat cleared, and Aaliyah and her brothers whipped around to see…

A woman in her late fifties, dressed in a green tweed two-piece suit. Perched on her nose were a pair of brown horn-rimmed glasses. She looked quite like a School Head Mistress from 1954 come to life in front of them. ‘I’ll be dealing with you three personally’! said the woman with a shrill voice. ‘Meet Mrs Snodgrass, children’, said Ms Bettina. ‘The Head Mistress who will do everything in her power to get every last ounce of naughtyness out of you’!

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Is it that time? Has a week flown by already. Not that this is s Tuesday thing! So, how was daddy and dadda’s dinner(s) over this past week? Sadly no Indian cuisine, so that’s definitely gonna have to change over the next few days!

Now, John is your classic Irishman. He loves his meat and two veg. And looking through this weeks images. He’s clearly getting what he wants. Even the Thai Massaman curry is laden with spuds. Lol

Lamb Shanks, boiled potatoes, mangetout and a red wine jus.

Beef Massaman with basmati rice.

Rack of Lamb with garlic green beans, creamy mashed potato and a red current gravy.

Lightly smoked Salmon with potatoes and sugarsnap peas.

Gammon Steak potatoes and stringless beans.

Filet Steak, garlic beans, mushrooms and triple cooked chips.

Irish Sausage, mash and peas. Lucky John! But I have to add, I enjoyed this weeks menu also. And what’s on the menu tonight? Roast leg of pork! More meat and two veg (maybe three). Hahahahaha…