Builders Mate

I’ve built so much Lego and Playmobil these last two weeks I’m thinking of applying for membership of the Association of the Chartered Institute of Building. My odds for entry are good. Don’t get me wrong, diagnosis in the main it’s been fun. Much more so when accompanied by a festive glass of red and a platter of cheese and biscuits.

As expected, it’s been hazardous at times, paper cuts from the instruction booklets, near cracked tooth from trying to separate two incorrectly joined pieces and the par for the course full flat heavy pressured step on that tiniest Lego block which menacingly managed to find its way from the ‘safe zone’ on the table into the middle of the floor ready to trap it’s unsuspecting victim.

Thankfully the building efforts have been varied or it all could have gotten a little tiresome. Between the four of us we’ve managed vast quantities of construction, ranging from the rather amazing but complicated Lego dolphin cruiser to small and easy if you know how Iron Man vs The Mandarin – The Ultimate Showdown (even if I’d no idea what the end result was supposed to be, the little monster was happy with it). The Playmobil zoo took over two hours to build and there was much wailing and crying (mine) when I realised I’d built a whole section upside down and back to front, and again when it became clear the meerkat enclosure would take a further half hour to build and I’d no wine left (yep, still mine), and even more when I wasn’t even allowed the first play with the finished article.

Throw in Heartlake High School, Horse trailer, some Ninja Turtles kit and caboodle which even had pizza made from Lego and we had a pretty impressive display on our dining table for a while. Then came New Years Day and we had eleven to seat for a steak pie lunch so it was all promptly dispensed into the storage boxes hurriedly bought on Christmas Eve when we questioned where on earth we were going to put it all. Good job we got that garage conversion last year. If only I’d realised my building talents back then during those works. I could have given those tradesmen a run for their money. I wonder if they need any apprentices? I’m their woman!

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Thorntons Christmas Hero

At last! We’ve opened the first doors on advent calendars, there neighbours windows are twinkling with the first hint of colourful Christmas tree lights (ours yet to be extracted from the attic despite much pleading) and we’ve adorned our family Christmas jumpers for the first time at our inaugural trip to Winter Wonderland in our beautiful capital city – I can finally talk Christmas without fearing I’ll peak too early.

And this Christmas I’m taking part in the Thorntons Christmas Hero competition. I know how blessed I am to be surrounded by such a wonderful family and amazing friends, and in my view, everyone I know is a Christmas Hero in their own way. Those who tirelessly devote their own time to helping out at local charities ensuring those children less fortunate than their own receive the same Christmas magic from Santa that every child should. Those who put their families ahead of themselves, working hard at two or more jobs to give those much coveted gifts that will make their children beam on Christmas morning. Those who despite illness, despite personal struggles give themselves to embracing all that Christmas is about and share love, peace and goodwill to all.

Like many families this Christmas family super and all in our extended family will be missing someone special. My husbands Gran, or Old Nana as the little princess and little monster called her, passed away this year after a short illness. Her quick witted charm, her overwhelming love for all of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, her focus on family, her love of a cheeky tipple and a strawberry tart, and her favourite chocolate at Christmas (and all year round!) leaves a space in our hearts this Christmas that no one can fill. And for one other special person, this Christmas won’t be the same without Gran, our Aunt T. Aunt T and Gran were pretty inseparable, knowing one another better than anybody else. In the same way as mothers care unconditionally for their children, so too did Aunt T care for her mum without question. The details are irrelevant and actually difficult to write, and there are no words that can sum up how different Christmas will be this year for Aunt T, but there’s no doubt it will be one where old traditions are replaced by reflections, musings and memories of Christmases gone by where Gran brought sparkle just by her mere presence (never mind her incredibly rude and wicked humor!)

So, Aunt T, this year has been incredibly difficult, and your our Christmas Hero…even if you did blub like a big softie when we shared that news with you! Enjoy your Thorntons Chocolates, and have one for Gran, with a cheeky vodka and irn bru just as she would have of course!

A Christmas Cow-rl.

I’m going to whisper this as it’s not yet December, sick but- sssh – Christmas is fast approaching!

Never was a clearer sign that the season of goodwill was on its way than the Little Monster sharing with us his (alternative rock) version of Little Donkey whilst sporting his big sisters red furry ear muffs.

For all the joviality with the fetching head gear and the Christmas songs, practised religiously on a daily basis in nursery, there have been a few sombre moments in our household this week.

You see, the parts have been allocated for this years’ Nativity.

Now, the Little Princess has always had her sights set on stardom. Her ‘acting career’ began aged four on the stage at the local school just along the road from nursery, where she featured as an Angel, complete with tinsel halo and tin foil covered wings. The following year – gasp – MARY! She exaggerated her part somewhat with some very enthusiastic dancing along to the ‘donkey plodding’ song that generated the requisite sniggering from some parents, but boy was she cute.

Her brother however, doesn’t have the same designs on being the centre of attention.  I knew it was unlikely that the part of Joseph would be coming his way, but imagine my surprise when it was announced that the Little Monster was allocated the part of a King!

Not a bad part at all. As the Princess reminded him you get to give gifts to the baby Jesus.

“Don’t wanna give gifts” he grumbled.

Asda has a cool purple King costume in their Christmas dress up aisle……

“Don’t like purple. Don’t wanna be a king” he sniffed.

“I wanna be a donkey. Or a cow.”

“I. WANT. TO. BE. A. COW!”

There was no talking him round.  No cajoling him into changing his mind “Go on, sing us the King song.”

It’s a cow or nothing.

The nursery team were ever so understanding.

Happy to support the character changes.

A donkey got promoted too.

And us? We’ll be front row, tissues at the ready just like every other year, waiting for our little star to make his big appearance.

Can’t wait.

Mumsy? Moi?!

You reach a certain age, viagra buy or maybe it’s a parenting stage, buy where the joy you get from seeing your children’s reactions when opening their Christmas gifts far outweighs that which you get from opening your own gifts. Yes, I’ve received some questionable gifts over the years (Khaki Tie-Dye T-shirt emblazoned with three cats dressed in clothes anyone?) but no matter how good the gift, I can honestly say seeing Little Princess Pink physically shaking with excitement when she unwrapped talking Elmo two years ago and Little Monster Blue jumping up and down on the spot when he saw his Car Race (scaletrix) this year, are two mummy moments I won’t forget in a hurry.

But then, I got an AMAZING present from my own parents and an EQUALLY AMAZING present from the outlaws and I might have just had similar reactions to those of the nippers.

The gifts? Mugs. And an Apron.

And I’m being truly serious, no sarcasm, tongue in cheek humour or backhanded criticism here at all.  I actually rate these very highly in the gift stakes. There are a number of reasons for the singing of praises on these gifts.

Firstly, they are exactly what I asked for.

Being an avid tea drinker, mugs are well used in our house. Coupled with the ferociousness with which I throw too many dishes into the dishwasher, our once loved pastel coloured polka dot mugs had seen better days. Cue perfect present buying from Mum and we now have gorgeous chunky, cream and red mugs decorated beautifully with hearts and snowflakes and in keeping with our kitchen colour scheme just perfectly! Okay, I get that it’s a bit sad to love mugs quite so much, but they did also come with a matching biscuit barrel…

Then came the apron.  Too often I start cooking dinner after a mad dash from the office, to school, then nursery and home and don’t actually change from my work clothes before hand, thus resulting in curry stained shirts and greasy fish finger printed skirts, hence my request for an apron. I think I actually shrieked louder than Little Princess Pink did when she saw her much coveted Hello Kitty Bike this Christmas morning. To be clear, this is no ordinary apron. This is a handmade, Ulster Weavers (suppliers of kitchen textiles to the Queen no less!) prettily printed with teapots and other kitchen accoutrements apron, finished with bows and scalloped edging in coral pink. Very ‘Stepford Wives’. I LOVE it.

Upon opening it, it just had to be tried on for size. Drawing oohs and aahs from the ladies in the room, as I tied the apron strings around my waist, I knew it looked fabulous.  Super Daddy was very bemused by the over excitable squawking, not fully understanding just how gorgeously kitsch this apron was. Then I added the final touch to the look. Kicking off my comfy leopard print slippers, I stepped gracefully into my towering shiny heels and gave a little wiggle ala Stepford Wife extraordinaire, ta da!

He was sold.

Now before this suggests I’m becoming too mumsy and domesticated in my old age, I must note that I’m also suitably taken with all my other gorgeous (age appropriate) gifts. I’m also very much looking forward to bagging a bargain in the sales too, I’ve got my eyes on a gorgeous plum handbag, some slinky undies and I also believe Argos have £110 off their range of Dysons.

Happy days.

It’s a tradition!

Christmas traditions.

The whole festive season is characterised by these little things that often we can’t quite remember the meaning behind, help nor remember when they started, purchase but without them, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas. Some traditions are known and practised worldwide, the obvious ones – leaving milk (beer / whiskey / Malibu and coke) and cookies for Santa, hanging up stockings, putting up and decorating a Christmas tree. Others are particular to specific families, or perhaps even communities. Some have passed from generation to generation, again always just being that way with no real memory of why or when that particular tradition started.

What I love about Christmas in our house is that special blend of the traditions rooted in Super Daddy’s history, those that come from my side of the family, and best of all, those new traditions that we’ve started on our own, that are special to us and our little gang. Already,  we have many. Some we’re not quite sure why they’ve become tradition, but they’ve stuck and we like it. From the lovely (and replicated in many a family) new Christmas pyjamas for the kids to wear on Christmas Eve (for us, randomly they’ve got to be from Gap and got to be skinny legged and be adorned with snowmen / penguins / polar bears / angels / Eskimos and the like) to the sprinkling of reindeer magic dust across the front doorstep so they know where to land as they make their way from house to house; to the covering of Super Daddy’s Rockport boots with icing sugar and the stomping all the way from the front door to the plate of milk and cookies in the kitchen then back through to the living room beside all the gifts, thus showing that Santa with his non-melting North Pole Snow covered boots has indeed made his way through our home while we slept and deposited all our gifts.

There’s the opening of stockings (containing the traditional satsuma and £1 coin) only allowed on our bed, and the eating of one chocolate coin before we’ve even rubbed the sleep from our bleary eyes. Then there’s ‘Daddy has to go downstairs and check Santa’s been’ before the rest of us troop down excitedly behind him. Since the receiving of a coffee machine four Christmases ago, this practice has evolved to include the switching on of said machine and the quick making of two coffees to add that caffeine kick to the adrenaline rush us parents already have at the thought of the joy the unwrapping of Santa gifts holds.

Then there’s the Christmas Eve tradition of a Smoked Salmon starter, Beef Wellington, Red Cabbage and dauphinose potato dinner for Super Daddy and I, washed down with a millionaire shortbread desert and followed swiftly by the opening of the gifts we’ve bought for one another (one of which for Super Daddy will always be a box of red Lindt chocolates, nothing else will do.) There was a mild panic this year on Super Daddy’s part when I told him I hadn’t been able to pick up a Wellington, similar to that of the year I’d bought the Gold variety of Lindt Chocolates to mix things up a little. Note to self, tradition all the way.

There’s the Christmas Day Sausages for breakfast with my parents and sister, then the Christmas Day dinner with the outlaws. Not to mention the obligatory cheese and oatcakes once the winks are safely tucked up in bed after a day of festivities – whether we need them or not (always not). Not all traditions centre around food I must add, there’s the traditional ‘won’t-be-a-late-one-nipping-out-for-a-few-festive-beers-with-the-lads’ that must feature in Super Daddy’s Christmas break, which of course, traditionally ends up being ‘never-want-to-have-a-drink-again-as-being-sick-whilst-sitting-on-the-loo-and-not-knowing-how-I-got-that-muddy-mark-on-my-new-Christmas-shirt-is-so-last-year’

This year we decided to add staying in our PJ’s on Boxing Day to the list of traditions, one which was a huge hit with the kids as I expect will be the case for a number of years such was the novelty. I’m also adding having a bath in the middle of the day to the new traditions I’ll partake in during the festivities, though next year I’ll lock the door to save being joined by every other member of the household who clearly found my trying to relax in peace behaviour quite uncharacteristic!

One final addition this year, and it’s only now I’m a little wiser and a little more tuned into what really matters at Christmas time, is taking time to be thankful, and grateful for all that we have;  to acknowledge that none of it is taken for granted, and everything is appreciated, and to count every single one of my blessings. I hope this is one tradition I can fulfil each and every year and hope it’s included in the special blends we share with all our family and friends.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Santa Baby!

I’m struggling to know what the party line is to take with a 5 year old and a 2 year old when it comes to all things Christmas.  Take the weekend for example, viagra canada nursery Christmas Fayre and a visit to their fantastically homemade Santas’ Grotto. Little Monster Blue was incredibly brave and stood a whole three feet away from Santa and with his back to him muttered that he’d like a ‘car race’ for Christmas. Then he was out of there like a shot leaving his gifted Reindeer puzzle book and Haribo behind him such was his haste. When asked later if he’d liked meeting Santa, Little Princess Pink piped up loud and clear and confirmed as only a know-it-all five year old can, for the avoidance of any doubt, “THAT WASN’T THE REAL SANTA!”

Really. Already?!

Tentatively asking her what made her say that, my mind was frantically whizzing through potential plausible explanations as to why some man in a dress up costume was inviting little children to tell him all their Christmas present wishes when he was about as likely as Postman Pat with four flat tyres to deliver what they were looking for.

“Weelll,” she began in her ‘I can’t believe you don’t know this, isn’t it obvious’ voice,’  “There are no reindeers here. How did he get here? I don’t see Rudolph.” And she was right. So, did I make up some excuse that the reindeers were in training / resting up before the main event / getting sloshed on their Christmas day out?  I couldn’t exactly say Santa had gotten on the 11.35 from Edinburgh Waverley and walked the short distance round the corner from the station. I’m not sure Mrs Claus drives and could have given him a lift, and anyway it would be a fair trek from Lapland, North Pole.

With four beady eyes on me, I was under pressure to give an answer one way or the other, so I confidently confirmed that the reindeer must have dropped him off and would be back to collect him later. “Where did they land?” she asks. I deployed a different tactic this time by answering a question with a question:

” Where do you think they might have parked? ”  I put back to her.

“On the roof, she exclaimed, they flew in Santa jumped out, and off they went again.”

Great. I’ll buy that .

Then next she confidently advises anyone within earshot … “It’s not the real Santa, Santa has lots of helpers and sometimes he asks them to go to all the different grotters (I regularly remind her its grotto but unfortunately ‘grotter’ has stuck!) so all the boys and girls can tell them what they’d like for Christmas and they report back to the proper Santa.”

Happy with her explanation, and I later found out that she’d been fed this line previously by Super Daddy, this was also perfectly satisfactory for Little Monster Blue who by now had retrieved the nearly lost Haribo and was stuffing foam fried eggs in his chops like they were going out of fashion.

“How do the reindeer fly then?” comes the next challenge. I reply that Santa sprinkles them with magic flying dust and gives them only commands that reindeer understand.  I stole the magic flying dust from Arthur Christmas, and embellished the rest myself. I quite like that.

We then moved on to the small matter of how he gets into our house on Christmas Eve when we don’t have a chimney.  I explain knowingly (as my mother and father told me, so that makes its true) that Santa has a magic key which fits each and every door. Once again, this satisfied the question and I was beginning to think I had it covered.

Then pipes up Little Monster Blue.

“And Santa’s got a big tummy ’cause hims got a baby in it. How did it get there?”

Really. Already?!

What? No chocolate?!

Last advent LPP and LMB had Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh themed advent calendars respectively. Neither calendar had any real leaning towards being Christmassy in design or sentiment other than a sparse sprinkling of holly on Hello Kitty’s bow and a snowy covering on the hundred acre wood. They clearly did all they had to from a child’s perspective, pharmacy that is provide chocolate before PJs were off and faces were washed and, gasp, breakfast was had. Last year, LPP had completely understood the concept of opening one door per day, counting all the way down to Christmas day, and being the keen bean that she is, it was also a welcome number practising and counting exercise for her too. Little Monster Blue on the other hand was arguably still a little bit too young to grasp the concept of opening a particular window each day, and only one at a time. He very much subscribed to the view, if there is chocolate in one, there’s chocolate in them all, why wait til tomorrow for you can have today? We had many a morning meltdown over opening only one window, and you can imagine the morning (Day 14 as I recall) when it was a fridge magnet instead of chocolate behind the window.

So this year, I decided a return to tradition was in order. No character themed advent calendars, but good old traditional ones, with proper Christmas scenes and nothing more than a Christmas themed picture behind the daily windows. The same kind as my sister and I had growing up. Off we trotted a few weekends ago with the specific task of buying advent calendars in mind. LPP selected a beautifully depicted nativity scene, commercially sparkling with glitter nonetheless, but containing all the requisite parts of a true Christmas scene. LMB opted for a traditional Santa scene, a proper drawing, less cartoony than the heavily characterised ones with and more artistic sketching, surrounded by traditional toys and festive offerings.

This morning there was much excitement as the official opening of day one on the advent calendars commenced. LPP explained the inner workings to her little brother, “you open 1 today, there’ll be a picture, 2 tomorrow, there’ll be a picture, 3 the next day, there’ll be a picture, 4 the next day, there’ll be a picture”….and so forth through to 24.  Really.  By this time LMB had tuned out as despite being so ickle something in his memory reserves was clearly taking him back to similar activities of the year previous where the chocolate had been an integral part of this process. He was itching to pop open window number 1 and uncover its contents. With a little bit of help, and a lot of patience, we prised open the well hidden number 1 window to reveal an advent wreath topped with candles. ‘Yay, a birthday cake!’ he exclaimed. Hhmm.

LPP went next, and revealed beneath window number 1, a trumpet. A Christmas trumpet she tells me. But a trumpet all the same.

It was over in seconds and didn’t quite have the excitement I recall when at that same age my sister and I would wonder for hours what might be behind the next window. The calendars were propped back up on the table and breakfast was had, only for LPP to holler through a short while later when the pair of them had been tasked with getting shoes and jackets on….” Mummmmmy, he’s opened 18, 23 and 21.”

Thanks goodness for that Peppa Pig caramel centred chocolate filled calendar with the faux Christmas scene I’ve got hidden in the cupboard.  I think I’ll scoff the lot tonight!

Blub.Sniff. Blub. It’s Christmas.

Usually the top two things that would invoke uncontrollable watering of the eyes in this household would be the chopping of onions or the stubbing of a toe, try but last night, cialis sale taking me (and Super Daddy) completely by surprise was a new and unwitting force that had me sniffling into a tissue and bubbling like a buffoon.

The John Lewis Christmas advert.

Now, I’d seen some twit-twooing and tweeting about it the day previous but hadn’t paid particularly much attention trying as I was not to unlock the lid on the Christmas excitement too early for fear of peaking before the middle of December and being in Christmas meltdown by the 24th. But the posting of the ad on another fabulous mummy’s great Facebook site for her unusual and bespoke tree plaques had me curious.  There I was sat on one end of the sofa, legs and feet mingling with those of Super Daddy, precariously balancing my nearly overfilled wine glass in one hand, and my iPhone in the other, when I pressed play.  One minute and 13 seconds in, I was a wreck.  So much so my reaction prompted much concern and worry in Super Daddy – after all, he thought I was just faffing about on Facebook between the X Factor ad breaks – what on earth had provoked such a reaction?

With black mascara streaming down my cheeks and a voice that wouldn’t quite let me form words properly came a “ohthatissolovelyIneversawthatcominghowsweetjustwhatchristmasshouldbeallabout.”

Removing said iPhone gently from my hands for fear of water damage, Super Daddy had a look himself.  “Will this do the same to me?” He asked. I watched his face closely, especially his eyes. Super Daddy doesn’t do tears.

I knew when he’d hit that 1 minute 13 second point, I’m sure I saw some misting…..

In an attempt to detract from any possible outward showing of emotion, Super Daddy promptly passed the phone back to me for a second viewing.  Despite knowing what was coming, my reaction was the same, in fact it was amplified because I knew what was coming. Super Daddy always find my emotional reactions to things like adverts, songs, even smells, a little bit confusing. Particularly when I was pregnant and had hormone induced bouts of crying over someone being tackled in a Manchester United game and when being unable to decide whether I wanted Spicy Chicken pizza or Chicken and Mushroom pizza for tea one night. To add to the emotion of my second viewing, Super Daddy thought it was humorous to throw in quips like ‘Don’t you just wish our own kids had that outlook?’ and ‘Aw, bless, he probably made the gift himself.’ Of course he didn’t, you wally, he bought it from John Lewis. Duh.

He hit the nail on the head though with the posing of the ‘Don’t you wish our own kids had that outlook?’ because that’s the sentiment of the advert surely, it’s not about giving, its about finding that perfect gift for that perfect someone and putting that before your own wishes.  Yes, yes, of course John Lewis suggest you’ll find the perfect gift in their lovely glossy shiny department stores twinkling with sparkle and luring you in with warmth and promise of leaving their store happy and content and laden with every item on your extensive present shopping list, but I think back to the gifts we’ve been given by the kids over the years, and nothing from any department store would come close.  Ceramic hand-painted hearts, glitter-drenched stars, drawings of our family standing under a rainbow, I needn’t go on….

But well done, John Lewis, its fair to say this offering is certainly the work of some very wise men or women.  So the lid is off on the Christmas excitement reservoir, and it’s starting to gain momentum 2011….wonder what they’ll come up with for 2012… ?

Crikey, I’m in Christmas Meltdown 2012 already!

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