Monday, 30 December 2013

Christmas Unwrapped

This Christmas was special; full of excitement, magic and smiling happy faces. I was as drunk with anticipation as Pip by bedtime on Christmas Eve.  I’d found myself unable to sing the carols at the crib service with a dry eye, a lump in my throat as Pip, dressed as a shepherd, stood next to his best friend at the front of the church and sang Away in a Manger. Despite my corrections, the art of lip synching proved he was still singing it with his own particular wording; "No crim for a bed" and "The little lord Jesus asleep on his head".  If the vicar noticed, he let it pass.

Pre-bedtime was so much fun. We prepared some food for Rudolph; oats with glitter sprinkled inside and a couple of rubbery old carrots (no point giving him the good ones). A mince pie and some red wine for Father Christmas, (and at Pip’s insistence, a chocolate too. ) Finally, we hung the stockings by the fire and sprinkled red glitter up the garden path, to make sure that Rudolph could see us from the sky.  Amazingly Pip went to bed without too much fuss; he bought into the fact that Santa couldn’t set off to visit us until all the children in the world were asleep.  With two boys sleeping peacefully, all we had to do was wait.

Ridiculously, I found I was the one who couldn’t sleep. It was almost a relief when EB awoke at 6am.  Husband and I smuggled him downstairs and gave him some milk to quiet him, hoping Pip would stay asleep a little longer. EB was poorly, full of snot and barking like a proverbial dog .  At 6.30am after a coughing fit, he projectile vomited his milk all over Husband and the kitchen floor.  The mop bucket and a bottle of Dettol were not part of my Xmas morning plan.  At 6.45am cleaned up and with a considerably more chirpy EB, we enjoyed a cup of tea.  At 7am we sat twiddling our thumbs, wanting to get the party started. Should we wake Pip up?  At 7.15 we could wait no more, I retrieved a bell stick from EB’s stocking and conjured up some sleigh bell noises. Pip shot down the stairs like a Christmas rocket.

In those next few hours, I saw wonder, awe and amazement in Pip’s little face. The light bulb in the lounge went, we could’t find another, so we opened our presents just by the twinkling light of the Christmas tree. It didn’t do much for the quality of my photos, but then, these things are sometimes best remembered in one’s head.  Pip surprised me with his self control. We managed to stop for a breakfast of pancakes whilst parcels still lay unopened under the tree.  Pancakes with fresh fruit, golden syrup and creme fraiche made a delicious start to Christmas morning.

Later, I noticed how neatly Pip had put all his presents in a pile. How he stood back looking at the collective swag, taking it all in, and I was reminded of how I used to do exactly the same thing as a girl.

Mid morning we departed to my Mum’s for her traditional turkey and all the trimmings. The rest of the day was spent assembling pretty much each and every gift Pip received. Lego, Playmobil, more Lego, more Lego and even more Lego.  Whilst I’d ensured I’d purchased every battery type possible prior to Christmas, what I hadn’t legislated for was the time it was going to take to actually make some of Pip’s gifts.  Lego Cargo Train...2 hours to make the engine.  Thank goodness for my Dad. Although frankly, I think assembling a Lego City train and track was the highlight of his December.

In the meantime, we busied ourselves with Beetle Drive and Guess Who, and the surprise hit of Christmas for Pip, the R2D2 (Star Wars) version of Operation. We played them all. Such fun. Christmas felt old school, like it did when I was a kid.  The only thing missing was the huge tin of Quality Street. ( Must remember that for next year.)

The day passed so quickly, the TV didn’t even go on and I forgot to Sky Plus Downton. (Having now watched it on catch up, don’t think I missed much.) The day ended much as it started, with poor EB, after a valiant effort all day, being sick in his cot. Except this time I found myself grappling with mince pie infused vomit. Lovely.

Despite EB being off colour, it was still a very lovely Christmas. Arguably, we tried to pack a little too much into Xmas eve, left a few too many things until the last minute, could have done with having some spare light bulbs in the house and being a little better briefed on the assembly times required for some of Pip’s new toys. Yet, overall our first Christmas morning alone as a four was fab.  Aside from feeling that I’ve eaten far too much and need to fast forward straight to a health kick, I’m rather sad it’s over. In fact, I’m already looking forward to Christmas 2014. Roll on the New Year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


My favourite month of the year; a month of preparation, anticipation; things to make, decorate, wrap and post. Social calendars crammed with commitments, never ending to-do lists and a stoical resolve to get things done.  Twinkling lights inside and out. Baubles, berries, garlands and seasonal nick naks that would never normally grace our shelves add cheerfulness and colour to an otherwise stark winter world. Wood smoke, chestnuts roasting, gingerbread, clementines, mulled wine, homemade puds and locally made sloe gin; for me, all part of the magic of Christmas.

This year will be our first year waking up on our own, as a family of four on Christmas morning. It feels like I’m finally a grown up. I can't wait. Pip at aged 4.5 has hit the sweet spot for belief in Santa Claus and all things Christmas. As we count down the days I can see the magic fizzling inside him; he jumps around excitedly like the doe eyed dear on a bottle of Babycham.  EB hasn’t got a clue, but his recent birthday illustrated just how fun climbing on piles of boxes and messing about with piles of paper can be when you’ve just turned one.

A new baby, the house project, Pip starting school; this year has been non stop busy.  Most of the time, I’ve been in headless chicken mode, but as the year draws to a close (and truth be told, as the builders leave and take a two week break), I have found the time to ease off, to relax and immerse myself in the festive spirit.  It’s been wonderful.  I know I can never get these years back with Pip and with EB, that these are the years to really cherish and I intend to embrace every wide eyed, amazing moment that Christmas offers.

We’ve crafted; home made recycled decorations for the tree, we’ve baked, for the cake stall at the school fair, we’ve sung the songs from Pip’s nativity play time and time again, and rejoiced in him being the best camel that surely ever made it’s way to Bethlehem.  The cards are now sent, the presents wrapped.  Writing his letter to Santa, I asked Pip what he hoped the big man in red would bring him.  "A Lego train set", "A jumper"  ‘Some wine for when I am a Daddy’ (When I suggested this might be a long time I was told that he planned to 'save' it.) and finally,  "Some earrings for you, Mummy". Such a thoughtful soul he is.

This year, as I took charge of decorating the tree, I tried to overcome my controlling ways and make it a family affair. Pip proved himself a worthy wing man, and certainly, a far speedier tree decorator than I have ever been. "But we don’t have candy canes, Mummy" he said, as we stood back admiring our handy work as the day drew to a close. “Doesn’t a tree have candy canes?”  Now ours does. A new tradition, voted for by Pip. Albeit rather high up, so EB can’t reach them.

This December I’ve found time for a little sparkle, dug out some fancy Choos from c. 2009 and even been to a party. ( A proper grown up party - one without 20 screaming 4 year olds and a harassed looking entertainer. One with canapes and bubbles. Lovely). I even rocked a bit of bling.  As EB turned one at the end of November (and breastfeeding finally ceased) I've planned some days and nights out with Husband.  A touch of Christmas shopping and afternoon tea in the West End was a fabulous way to ease us into the end of the 2013.  “How would you describe this year?” I asked Husband as we sat caked up to our eyeballs and awash with tea. "Very busy" came the minimalist reply.  Understatement of the year.

In these last few days before Christmas we will be visiting Santa in his grotto, celebrating our wedding anniversary and bestowing gifts on our neighbours to thank them for their patience during a year when they’ve put up with incessant drilling and excessive brick dust.  On Christmas eve, we'll be visiting Daddy’s office (Pip is beside himself with excitement at this) going out for lunch and then heading back west via a boat trip down the Thames to attend the afternoon crib service at our local church.  After putting the children to bed I am looking forward to sitting quietly, a glass of wine in hand, arranging the presents and stockings in front of the tree and making it look magical. I’m going to savour the calm before the unwrapping storm and come 5.30am (ish) let the party begin.
Thank you for reading in 2013. Happy Christmas! x

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Bed

In my mid twenties I became very particular about my bed. The turning point came when I was finally earning enough money to stop living like a student and start enjoying some of life’s little luxuries. My weakness; Egyptian cotton sheets and feather filled accoutrements; feather duvet (goose down not duck), feather pillows (Hungarian goose down),  feather filled ‘occasional’ pillows for reading or sitting up. I loved the soft, downy comfort of it all, the fact that my bed resembled one you’d find in a luxury boutique hotel. I regularly spent a fortune in the John Lewis bedding department - but it was worth it.

Mornings started with my bed making ritual.  The bottom sheet was swept and smoothed in a certain direction, the pillows fluffed, the duvet shaken and aired.  My obsession with my inner sanctum being a place of perfect cleanliness became such that I also started showering in the evenings despite having also showered that morning. The bottom sheet would be given a second smooth down before I got in. Nothing could be allowed to contaminate the purity of my white sheeted haven. (Future husband being the only exception.)

Oh how disappointed I was when Tracey Emin revealed her unmade bed. I felt she was letting the side down. Her bed was a disgrace. Worse still, people wanted to give her a prize for it.  Just wrong.

Then I had children. And everything changed.

Why did no one warn me I should get a plastic sheet to protect my own mattress, not just one for the baby’s cot? The first time my mattress caught the full force of a child’s projectile vomit I almost hyperventilated;  my quilted mattress protector was no match for the contents of Pip’s stomach.  Years later, it still pains me to look at the watermark left on my Vi Sprung Earl Deluxe when I change the sheets.

My morning bed making ritual has become an impossibility since having children.  Instead of smoothing down Egyptian cotton sheets, I am lost in the haze of 5.30am starts and a mountain of laundry so colossal that a fresh change of sheets is usually not a priority until I’ve at least pared the wash pile back from it’s summit size peak to a more manageable base camp level.  These days, I am lucky if I’ve made the bed before I get into it.  My bed is no longer the sanctuary it once was.  Take a couple of weeks ago; the six children visiting with their mothers on a play date were nowhere to be found. "I think I’ll just go upstairs and look for them," I mumbled nervously.  All six were found in my bed; now a pirate ship, complete with duvet mast propped up with a child’s broom.  "Out" I squealed,  pointing to the door as they abandoned ship one by one. The last one, a toddler, left the waft of dirty nappy in my wake as he disappeared out the door, seemingly oblivious to the sacrilegious act he had just committed. *Shudders*

This weekend Husband asked; "Would you like me to look after the kids whilst you change the bed?”. Believe it or not, this gesture was meant as an act of kindness - he knows how much I love my clean sheets. Possibly, he could have offered to do it for me, but knowing my perfectionist tendencies, correctly decided the offer of childcare whilst I performed this important task myself would be preferred. I bolted to the sanctity of my linen cupboard, fingering my freshly pressed sheets. (There are some perks to having a cleaner.)  An early night beckoned.

Oh how good it felt, as I slipped into bed, my skin being gently stroked by a 200 thread count.  How fresh my lovely bed smelt, how crease free and smooth it’s sheets.  A little bit of old-time luxury.  At 5.30am my blissful slumber was interrupted by EB who with a few foghorn like blasts announced it was time to start the day.    Husband begrudgingly kindly got up with him and I settled myself down for an extra hour.  Ten minutes later, Pip emerged, having been woken by the roar of his younger brother.  “Come and get into bed with Mummy” I mumbled, not realising he had already been downstairs.

My sweet boy got into bed, cuddling up;

“Mummy, I’ve got a secret with Daddy” 
“Lovely Darling, it’s still night time, back to sleep now.” 
“I told Daddy I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was so hungry. Mummy, let me whisper the secret.”  
“OK Pip, then you must go back to sleep.”
“Come closer, Mummy.”

I shuffled over to be imparted with the top secret information:

“Daddy gave me a Jammy Dodger”

Grrrr...clearly Husband had decided a bribe to get Pip back to bed was preferable to building Lego towers at 5.30am.  I filed his parenting crime in the ‘deal with later’ drawer to discuss over breakfast.


I knew the truth without opening my eyes.  Yes, the bed was being shared by me, Pip and a BLOODY BISCUIT. Crumbs galore, one night into my virgin sheets.  I could barely stop myself from weeping as the jammy bit ‘got lost’ and was found semi smeared (courtesy of Pip’s head) into my pillow.

Just the start of another normal parenting day.

I’m in the market for a new bed for when we move back to Faulty Towers.  Something sumptuous and grand, something that makes the mere thought of slumber exciting.   I’m reclaiming the sanctity of my bed,  turning over a new sheet and making it mine again. Woe betide anyone who brings a Jammy Dodger near it.