Thank You for Being There

Dear Diary… Haha, I have not started a single diary entry within the last Eighteen Months so informally formal! But rather than talk about my family life today, I thought that I would thank all of the people that I often speak to through my blog.

People, that I would regard as friends at this point. You possibly can guess who you are, but I hope that you don’t mind me mentioning you by name as I really want to send out my sincerest thanks for bringing my diary to life through your interactions.

So, today I thank Margie, JJ, Anna and Ingrid. Tre, Paul and Greg too! I thank Macey and Jaya, all of you people of words. I really dig that! And thank you to Ab, Josef, Grace and Grace, I say that with Grace, also Nadia, John and Nadia, thank you so much. I appreciate your comments and often advice. Thank you to Kristie and Sindy too, always words well appreciated!

I thank you all so much for both your support and you candour. To all others I talk to, I again, thank you as much. Every like on my blog really does mean a lot to me. Friendships through Worldpress were an unexpected surprise and with that, I thank you all for being you. The amazing people that you are…

Daddy And The Tooth Fairy

Sussed Out! Oh dear. Okay, daddy is the one that usually heads upstairs to leave the golden coin! And a few minutes ago his 9pm alarm went off and up he crept… you see, Tara has just lost another tooth!

A minute or two later he runs through the living room hissing, ‘I’ve been sussed, I’ve been sussed’! He then exited for the terrace and there he remains.

Moments later Amritsar strolls in ‘where is daddy’ she asked me, ‘he came up asking ‘are you all asleep’? ‘He was just checking in on you all’ I replied, ‘go back to sleep’. She returned upstairs. Mind you it’s still light outside and going to sleep early in the summer months is always a problem.

Daddy had indeed been sussed out! He is planning on trying again later when the sun has gone down and hopefully the not so famous five are all asleep! I had to smile!

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Dadda Gets Jammin’

What couldn’t be more seasonal at the moment than apricots? As golden as those sunny days that we had throughout April and May, with the reddish hue of sundown. The weather, a little greyer now that meteorological summer has arrived, so today I thought that we needed something to brighten us all up!

Golden Apricot Jam

Ingredients:

1.5kg Apricots

100ml Lemon Juice

1.5kg Sugar

Method:

Halve and de-seed your apricots, then quarter and place in a large saucepan.

Add your lemon juice and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Your pulp is now ready for you to get Jammin’!

Add your sugar and stir in. Bring back to the boil. This may take several minutes.

You may have noted that I do not use apple pulp in this recipe! The truth is that apricots contain tons of pectin, the stuff that makes jam gel. You simply don’t need any booster.

Boil for 10 minutes. Once again, stirring occasionally. The stirring motion will help dissipate some of the bubbles. You could add a little butter also to help, but I don’t think it is necessary. If you keep the froth at bay, I just do the skimming at the end of the cooking. You do not want micro bubbles in your jam jars, do you? If you want a smoother jam, use a potato masher (very carefully) at this point to break up those larger pieces.

This jam does not need a lot of cooking. All that pectin makes this jam gel quickly. You will notice the drips from your spoon look thick and gelatinous. Perfect!

Sterilise your jars, ladle and jam funnel in your dishwasher. And carefully fill to the obligatory 8mm below the lid. Seal tightly and return jars to a large saucepan or steamer. Cover completely with hot water (if boiling) and boil for 20 minutes. Cool and dry off. I noted that 3kg (ish) of ingredients yielded 2.3kg of jam.

As a child and into my adulthood I did not like apricot jam at all. But then again, that was the shop brought stuff, so I’m not so surprised! However, these jars of homemade amber sunshine really could turn the humble apricots harshest critic into a lover. It certainly did with me! Amazing on heavily buttered, freshly baked bread.

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.