S/P/T Days 23 and 24 and ghosts of Christmas past

Day 23 - Winter Wonderland (I wonder why I'm there)

Day 23 – Winter Wonderland (I wonder why I’m there)

Day 24 - Red

Day 24 – Red

You know the drill by now – Silent Sunday means just that, no words. Just one picture. So here are today and yesterday’s photographs for Britmums‘ ‘Snap it, Pin it, Tweet it’ photo challenge.

We did the usual over-consumption thing, again. Every year we say we’re going to cut back. Every year, the shopping bill for a couple of days’ worth of food (and drink) has me feeling extremely guilty . To be fair, this year, I think we have cut back, but food prices have – as expected – gone up. Our local Tesco also has a cunning little plan in the run up to Christmas. Remove all but the most expensive versions of popular products, for example, frozen sausage rolls. You can’t have your customers going for the Everyday Value sausage rolls at 88p for 50 when you have the ‘Party’ range at £2.00 for 40, can you? (I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that the more expensive ones are any less mechanically reclaimed / scraped off the factory floor / from pigs who slept under duvets on feather mattresses – a sausage roll is a bloody sausage roll, they just put them in different bags).

Anyway, enough moaning. I have a cupboard full of Twiglets and a fridge full of cheese. I’m not sure I have enough wine to see me through this afternoon (I only have three bottles, after all), but the Co-Op are wisely staying open until 10pm tonight.

The second picture features my favourite Christmas ornament. It used to hang from my maternal grandparents’ Christmas tree, and it was bought by my mother when she was three. This battered little heart is now shining through its sixty first Christmas.

Things like this always lead me down the path of mawkish sentimentality when I start to reminisce about Christmasses past. I have learned that I must never start thinking back on family Christmasses when I have been on the falling-over water, because it always ends in tears and hand-wringing guilt that my children’s Christmasses don’t live up to how wonderful and magical mine were.

What I saw, as a child, was a day filled with family. My grandparents would come over in the morning when we were very young to watch us open our gifts. There would be an enormous lunch – always minestrone soup as a starter (my mother loathed minestrone soup, so I’m not sure why this was a staple of Christmas lunch), always turkey (my mother always complaining that it was too dry). Nine out of ten times, the stuffing would be forgotten about until 4pm when someone smelled burning. There were always croquette potatoes. We never had croquette potatoes at any other time of the year. Always Christmas pudding. I’m not entirely sure any of us actually liked Christmas pudding.

The grandparents would reappear in the evening, my grandmothers glammed up to the nines as though they were off to the opera. My Grandpa would invariably be 90 minutes later than the others because he was glued to Zulu for the forty seventh time. Even the invention of the VHS recorder didn’t help – he would just tape it whilst watching it so he could watch it again on Boxing Day.

There was laughter, and games, and stories from my grandparents’ past. There were lighthearted squabbles, and demands that my sister and I performed some twee Welsh hymn we’d learned at school. There was Christmas tea – with the too-dry turkey, and home-made mince pies, and trifle (mine with cream and no custard, Grandpa’s with custard and no cream – we were always partners in contrary awkwardness), and special orange chocolate biscuits my mother only bought for Grandpa because he didn’t like anything else.

Boxing Day evening was spent with Nanny and Grandpa (once he’d finished watching Ice Station Zebra, or – in later years – the recorded Zulu he’d watched the day before), the 27th with Nanna and Grandad. Heaps more food – including pickled onions, red cabbage, and – on Boxing Day – the annual ‘take the mickey out of Nanny’s Christmas cake’ (she had plastic candle decorations for the cake that, given her lefty leanings, we decided looked more like Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles). On the 27th, we used to play the ever popular ‘what did Nanna do with the sausage rolls she just cooked’ game, and ‘mustard roulette’, where you would have to guess which of the sandwiches had been liberally spread with half an inch of English mustard, despite Nanna swearing she didn’t even have any mustard in the house.

Our Christmasses at Casa del Raindrops are very different. We don’t have family around. Not because we don’t want to, but my family are all in Wales, and Richard’s family have other commitments to family who live more locally than we do. We don’t have turkey, we have duck. We don’t have minestrone soup, we have salmon or pate. We don’t have Christmas pudding, we have stollen cake. We absolutely do not have trifle. I don’t make my own mince pies. I usually forget to buy Christmas crackers.

It’s just the four of us; loads of Aldi nibble-food; red wine and cuddles. Christmas Day is usually spent laboriously undoing those pointless bits of wire that hold toys into boxes, looking for the batteries we definitely bought, looking through the wheelie-bin for some vital piece of toy that seems to have been thrown out with the wrapping paper and me drunkenly yelling ‘Stop trampling cake crumbles all over my floor’.

The kids seem to love it. They’ll have happy Christmas memories of their own, they don’t need mine.

Now all that remains is to wish my loyal readers – yes, both of you, a wonderful Christmas, and every blessing for 2013. See you on the other side!


S/P/T Day 22 and a shameless plug


Today’s Britmums ‘Snap it, Pin it, Tweet it’ theme is ‘Look what I made!’.

Good mothers make Christmas cakes, mince pies, vol-au-vents. Not so good mothers shut themselves away in the relative peace and quiet of their bedrooms on rainy weekends and twist bits of wire around other bits of wire whilst Daddy tries to entertain the stir-crazy children downstairs.

I must confess that I am just-a-little-bit-girlie, and I absolutely adore mulberry paper flowers. I made myself a floral headband for a fancy dress night out in November (the pink one in the centre of this collage), and a friend asked me to make her a Christmas one (bottom right). I have since made a few more for little princesses, and not so little princesses.

I ‘advertise’ them on my Facebook page. They cost between £8.00 and £15.00 depending on the size and amount of flowers required. It may sound a lot, but they are extremely pretty and surprisingly robust and considerably cheaper than I have seen them sold on Etsy and other similar crafting sites under the description of ‘bridesmaids’ headbands’. I just do it for pin money, anything I make (which is a couple of pounds at most, I do it because I love making them) goes back into craft supplies.

I am going to be experimenting more with mulberry paper flowers in the new year, incorporating them into wall/door hangings (middle left) and as glass candle holder ‘prettier-uppers’ (I might need to work on the name for that one) along similar lines to the Christmas one in the top left hand corner, which was an experiment with some left over foliage from the holly and ivy headband. It might help keep me sane when I give up drinking in January (for charridee, mate), but more about that in another post.

S/P/T Day 21, and one crestfallen six year old


Today’s theme is ‘dark’. I’ll admit, I cheated with this one. This is a re-edited version of a picture on my 365project. We were running a little late this morning so it wasn’t as dark as I would have liked.

My heart, however, is dark and heavy. Ellis announced to Granny last night that Father Christmas is bringing him a Nintendo 3DS XL.  At £195.00 a pop, Father Christmas is doing no such thing. Even if Ellis hadn’t waited until four days before Christmas before dropping this particular bombshell, he would not be getting one. That’s practically the budget for both children for all their presents.

He was devastated when we told him he absolutely, definitely, most certainly would not be getting this overpriced piece of plastic. I couldn’t bear to look at him, his face looked as though I had just asked him to drown a sack of kittens.

Of course, I did what parents do. I mentally beat myself up about it. I spent last night trying to explain to him that mummy and daddy do have to send Father Christmas money to pay for all the toys he makes, and that we just can’t afford that much – especially as it wouldn’t be fair if he got one and Fin didn’t; and wouldn’t it be much more fun to have lots of little things rather than one big, expensive thing; and that Father Christmas thinks he only wants one because Calum is getting one, and Father Christmas says they are a bit rubbish anyway, really, and nowhere near as good as the Playstation2.

I tortured myself last night remembering how his lovely little face fell in crestfallen disappointment. There was no tantrum, no stropping off. Just a little six year old boy being sad, and rather brave, really, considering mummy had just pee’d all over his festive parade.

The rational, sensible, side of me tells me that no, he will have forgotten all about it by Christmas day, especially when he sees his bike. The same rational, sensible side of me also tells me that children do need to understand that they can’t get everything they want, and that life is full of disappointments and that Christmas, like life, is not just about material things.

We’re going to watch the Wartime Farm Christmas Special later on, on iPlayer. Perhaps seeing the kind of gifts that children received – and were grateful for – in 1944 will help him to realise that what he already has, and what he will receive, is far more than many children could ever dream of.


Tomtes, tantrums and twenty minute blogging

See me? I have this Christmas malarkey sorted. Totally.

Yesterday’s custard creams must have provided me with the carbohydrate boost I needed to get my backside off the sofa and my brain into gear, as last night we wrapped the presents. All of them. We also built the bikes.

Well, I say ‘we’. Richard built the bikes. I drank wine and offered gentle words of encouragement, a spare hand when required, and the requisite wifely concerned furrowed brow when another expletive-dampening sigh emitted from the poor man’s lips.

There’s a lot to be said for walking into Halfords, with your darling offspring in tow, and buying ready built and tested bikes , isn’t there? I see that now. Benefits include: Not having to frantically search for a missing front wheel washer that isn’t actually missing; not having to watch your beloved partner tear out what little hair he still has; having fully-functioning front brakes; and actually buying bikes that fit your children now rather than relying on online bike frame sizing guides that seem to indicate that your average four year old is the height of an adult wookie with an inside leg measurement that would send Naomi Campbell into paroxyms of rage .

Of course, this is Scotland, so there is every possibility that the boys will have grown the required three inches by the time the weather is decent enough to let them out on said bikes. Failing that, we have a cunning plan to strap housebricks to the pedals.

We know Ellis will love his bike. His last bike, a rusty, scratched and battered Raleigh, has been all but worn out with repeated races around the field and, seeing him ride it now, I fear for his knees as they get increasingly close to the handlebars. We are less sure about Fin. To be honest, we don’t really know how Fin will react to the whole ‘Christmas thing’. If the eight complete meltdowns about absolutely nothing we endured this morning (in a space of forty minutes, no less) is anything to go by, I do not hold out much hope for Casa del Raindrops being a haven of festive cheer and peace on Earth this Christmas morning. I rather suspect I will be in frustrated tears by 9am because Captain Cranky has declared everything ‘wubbish’, bitten his brother for picking up ‘his’ piece of wrapping paper, and thrown his bike into the Christmas tree.

But we shall see. And, of course, Bjorn the Tomte is watching.

Bjorn (Again) - See what I did there? Did ya?

Bjorn (Again) – See what I did there? Did ya?

Fin actually has a very special relationship with Bjorn. Since Bjorn arrived from Sweden, he has sat rather imperiously on the mantlepiece watching each drama, each cosy family moment, and every shrieking meltdown (mine included) with a look of rather inebriated detachment.

Over the past few days, on several occassions, Bjorn has been carried – very, very carefully, into the kitchen where I am informed by a certain small (though not as small as Bjorn, just) person that  ‘Tomte wants to tell you something’.

Bjorn then proceeds to whisper into my ear, much to Fin’s wide-eyed amazement.

Funnily enough, Bjorn only ever tells me all the kind, thoughtful, clever or brave things Fin has done. Of course, he knows about the tempers, the fighting, the screaming-for-no-reason; but Bjorn understands why Fin does these things. It is, of course, because Fin has a Tantrum Pixie* living up his nose. Everybody knows (nose?) that the only way you can stop the Tantrum Pixie* from making Fin cross is to say ‘Off you go, Tantrum Pixie*, bring back kind Fin for a cuddle’ and tweak Fin’s nose. The Tantrum Pixie* really doesn’t like that, and off he skulks, leaving kind and lovely Fin free for smiles and cuddles.

Child psychologists and other experts are probably, by now, shaking their fists at the screen and forward-planning for several years of therapy for parent-induced PTSD but, sorry, it works for us. Fin’s tantrums have, at least recently, calmed down far, far faster than when I just leave him to settle himself down. We will work on ‘ownership’ of his actions and responses when we better know what we are dealing with. Until then, if expelling the Tantrum Pixie* via a gentle tweak of the nose and some magic words stops him beating up his brother, smashing things up and terrorising his classmates, I can work with that.


You may wonder where ‘Twenty Minute Blogging’ comes into this. I have spent this morning in a most pleasurable whirl of domesticity, during which time I tidied up, cleaned the kitchen, sorted clothes and found the bottom of the ironing basket. My last task was this blog. I challenged myself to write it in twenty minutes. I managed it in nineteen.

I’m therefore awarding myself the rest of the day off.

*Tantrum Pixie – a child-friendly construct implying you suspect your child is possessed by Satan.

Snap it, Pin it, Tweet it – Day 18

Day 18 - What I really want for Christmas

Day 18 – What I really want for Christmas

Today’s theme – ‘What I really want for Christmas’ had me musing over my morning caffeine fix as the boys scrabbled with coats, boots and gloves ready for the walk to school.

What do I really want? Materially – nothing. I do not crave a TV the size of the wall, or fancy shoes, or Pandora bracelets, or snazzy clothes or a faster, leaner computer. One could always do with a new jumper, or some matching socks, or some extra woolly tights for these cold Winter mornings, I suppose.

I watched them chatting together, my two boys. Ellis helped Fin with his wellies. Fin accepted the assistance with uncharacteristic grace and didn’t try to kick Ellis into the middle of next week. They started chattering excitedly about today’s Primary School nativity, and the impending visit from Father Christmas, and how many sprouts they wanted on their plates for Christmas dinner.

I thought of the families in Newtown, CT. I thought of those twenty tiny children, and the six adults, who were taken away so cruelly last week. I thought of all those unlived Christmases, all those candles snuffed too soon. I thought of all those who will spend this Christmas – and probably every Christmas until they too die – mourning those who were killed that day, the fourteenth day of advent.

I realised that what I really want for Christmas is right here already. With me. I want for nothing more.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….Part 1


Yes indeed, it’s all getting pretty festive here in the midden.

The children have a discovered a new found love of bedtime, helped in part by their not-particularly-Christmassy Spiderman and Thomas the Tank Engine crappy-cheap-chocolate advent calendars (we are a strictly before bedtime door-opening family, none of this new-fangled morning opening for us), and have started eagerly putting their pyjamas on at 6.30pm. Personally, I harbour a deep loathing of chocolate advent calendars, and long for a return to the kitschy, over-glittered, non-chocolate nativity calendars of my childhood. They are, sadly, harder to find these days than rocking horse poo.

(I am going to send my children spiralling into TV Character merchandise withdrawal depression next year by lovingly creating what promises in the guides to be a ‘timeless keepsake that the whole family will cherish’ perpetual advent calendar but which will, in actual fact, look like a few bits of battered plywood covered in glitter and random blobs of mod podge).

True to form, as the start of school and nursery Christmas events sends children everywhere into paroxysms of uncontrollable, pant-wetting excitement; my two are under the weather. Knowing full well that he is to be a Wise Man in the nursery nativity, Captain Calamity decided to funk-up his bed-bouncing dismount on Sunday night resulting in an impressive face-plant and rug slide, and a hideous carpet-burn to the side of his face that even made the doctor look slightly queasy.

As if having to drag The Elephant Boy out in the freezing cold every day so the nurse could check his face wasn’t about to fall off wasn’t enough; the Streptococcus fairy decided to don her Santa hat and pay Ellis’s right ear a visit. Whilst he was at school. I got a phone call at 9.30am yesterday (whilst Fin and I were still in our pyjamas) asking to go and pick up a sobbing boy from school. We were heading up to see the nurse at 11am anyway, so whilst Fin had thirty-six consecutive ‘I no wanna go out in the cold’ tantrums, I tried to get an appointment for Ellis – you know, kill two birds with one stone, yes? Well, no. Nothing until 5pm, when I’d have to drag Elephant Boy and King Grizzle back out in the cold for the twenty minute whiny walk to the surgery.

I’m canny, me. We picked up sobbing boy, and proceeded to the surgery for Fin’s appointment. The surgery was, as I suspected, full of elderly people. No matter how deaf elderly people claim to be, they can hear – and get irritated by – a crying six year old boy from three miles away.

Ellis sobbed pathetically. Fin loudly proclaimed to everyone that hadn’t installed earplugs ‘my bruvva’s got a bugger in his ear’. I plastered on my calmest, most beatific, ‘perfect mother’ smile. You know the one.

We got seen within five minutes. And I’m not even sorry.

Fings wot start wiv F, and other reasons for blog-writing tardiness

OK, I’ve procrastinated enough this week. Every day I have sat down with the full intention of writing something only to suffer from an attack of ADOS – ‘Attention Defici…Oooooh, shiny’ and before I have had a chance to drag myself back on course it has been time to retreat to the bedroom with some diabolical reality TV and a bottle of Co-Op’s finest Vino Collapso.

The wonderful, hilarious and annoyingly talented @betamother suggested (via Twitter, because we are dahn wiv deh kidz and all that), with her usual brilliance, that I blog about the five reasons why I have not written my blog this week. OK, she said ten. She’s wordier than I am. And not half so lazy. I have officially ‘misread’ her tweet as five reasons. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. I highly expect this to become a recurrent theme.

(Speaking of themes, this most definitely needs accompaniment, click here for the perfect soundtrack.)

Number 5

Crafting. Yes, you read that right. ‘Crafting’. I’ve gone all Kirstie Allsopp again in an attempt to save a bit of money this Christmas, and have lovingly botched presents for my sister, my mum and my dad. Obviously, I can’t show you pictures of my divine creations as my crafting skills would leave you so jealous of my talents that you’d never read my blog again, and also because I don’t want to shatter their belief in Father Christmas.

Number 4

Panicking about Christmas.

This is self explanatory. I’ve done it every year since I became an adult. It started off as a mild wibble around mid November which was quickly calmed with an afternoon of grabbing random items off shelves in John Lewis. Since having the children, however, the panic starts to rise around the first week of July, at roughly the same time as I realise we’re not going to have a summer again. It means that I have plenty of rainy summer days to browse Amazon and buy gifts in a thoughtful and financially sensible manner. You know, like a rational person. OK, a rational person who is allergic to real shops.

This year, somehow, I woke up in the middle of October and realised that it was no longer July, nor had it been July for quite a few months. A quick check of the bank balance then had me trying to work out how to split £2.73 twelve ways. Believe me, it’s not easy.

See this? This is Dante's seventh circle of Hell.

See this? This is Dante’s seventh circle of Hell.

It’s getting there. I completed a ten minute smash-and-grab for the children last Saturday whilst I tried to block out the terrible knowledge that their dad had taken them to McDonalds (as it was cheaper than Sainsburys cafe, AND THEY GET A TOY). Needs must when the devil drives, and all that.

Number 3

Trying to knock some form of education into Captain Calamity

At least this has been great fun. All things considered, we’ve had an excellent week, despite an intial frustrating setback when I discovered that his speech and language therapy will stop next week (after just five sessions), and he will get added to another list for another block, with a different therapist as his adored Kelly is leaving the clinic. Add to this the fact that his keyworker at nursery is on sick-leave for the foreseeable future and he currently has two part-time temporary keyworkers; and you will see why I have really decided to take things into my own hands as far as some of the things he struggles with are concerned.

We are concentrating primarily on ‘maths’ (which he is great at, but I’m including it as a way of helping him gain confidence), literacy, communication and fine motor skills. This involves copious amounts of plasticine, glue, scrap paper, magazines, board games, flour and patience.

What we did this week.

What we did this week.

This week we have been talking about Winter, and Christmas. We have been on a squirrel-spotting nature walk, trips to the shops on the bus, and to the library. We have baked biscuits and washed up. We have fed, and watched, the birds. We have danced and sung songs. We have done mazes, and dot-to-dots, and counting, and made our family from plasticine. We have collected and stuck things (or photos of things) beginning with F (for Fin, of course) onto cardboard. We have been Gruffalo children, and aliens, and fish in the sea, and dogs, and Dr Finlay and his patient. For a while, my right leg was the door to Fin’s fire engine.

We’ve had fun.

Number 2

Masterchef: The Professionals, and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

There is no excuse for this. At all. None whatsoever. But it does give me the perfect excuse to post this.

Number 1

Wine. (Deserved. Really. No…really…)


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