Monthly Archives: December 2005

Happy New Year (for want of a better title)

It was a truly blessed Christmas. How strange to spend my Christmas in a household of non-Christians and yet find it the most “holy” experience. One blessing was to go to church unhampered by my Dad’s determination to take so long getting ready that the Smudgelets don’t get chance to open any presents before we go. At my sister’s we had opened presents long before it was time for church as everyone wanted to get up and celebrate together – which had the pleasant result that the children were able to choose what they wanted to take with them to church, which was nice as they really wanted to give thanks to God for the love of those who’d given them, as well as us making a leisurely trip down into the town.

Being at a new church was strange, but the church was lovely and the people friendly and in some ways it focussed us in more on the message of the service because we weren’t focussing on hugging our friends and finding out what they had for Christmas. I was impressed at the inclusivity of the church we attended. Mind you, I was a little concerned at the rather effective display of candles surrounding the podium – the people involved in the sketches had to keep stepping over them and one woman had a rather long, flowing skirt. But all was well.

And in the evening I was delighted. Usually we veg in front of the TV, or more often I’m over at my home alone while the boys sleep. But at my sister’s I couldn’t believe it. Once the boys were in bed we turned down the lights, lit the candles, and all sat singing carols to the sound of my nephew’s guitar.

Smudgelet was delighted with his remote-control self-build dinosaur (now fully operational and christened Florence) and his CD player. Tiddles was less impressed with his new PE kit, especially in its fluorescent pink PE bag. (Well, he’s not going to miss seeing that very easily, is he, and noone in their right mind is going to steal it!) but had some lovely presents none-the-less.

Now it’s all systems go getting the place clean and tidy and habitable again.

New Year’s Resolutions:
1)To try to get a bit more exercise by using Dad’s exercise bike for increasing amounts of time per day (starting with 2 minutes!) and taking the Smudgelets swimming once a week
2)To try and cut down the clutter by achieving at least one of good old Flylady’s challenges per day and keeping a star chart to reward myself when I achieve it.
3)To ensure I spend some quality time with the Smudgelets each week doing something we all enjoy, even if it’s just (just?) reading a story at bedtime again – a habit that we have sadly started to break.
4)To reestablish a routine whereby I spend at least an hour a week studying my local preacher’s course and to increase my reading of the Bible by using Surefish’s daily readings while I eat my breakfast.
5) To write to my friend in prison at least once a month without getting distracted and forgetting to finish the letter.

Now, how long do you give me?

And as the year draws to an end here in the UK (OK, so there’s 2 hours to go, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing them!), I just want to wish each of you a really good “Rutsch” into the New Year and chance to achieve some of your longings, to find a sense of deep peace, to enjoy the challenges life brings and to reach contentment without complacency. And I’ll wish myself the same! 😀 Happy New Year!!!!!!

Thanks a bundle, Charlie

He looked so sweet and cosy, curled up there by the easy chair, and I couldn’t bear to put him out into the kitchen for the night. “Charlie, if I leave you in tonight, do you promise not to bring me a mouse at 3am?”

I should have known better than to trust a cat.

I knew what time it would be when I turned the light on, awoken by a persistant mewing at my bedroom door. Yes, 3am on the dot. I very carefully slid my door ajar, just in time to see a tiny creature shoot into the bathroom, pursued by a determined feline. I grabbed Charlie by the scruff of the neck and relocated him in the lounge, door firmly shut to prevent him participating in the ensuing fun and games. One tiny and particularly agile little mousey, running round and round the bathroom floor and decidedly difficult to catch. I couldn’t believe the tiny gaps he was able to negotiate in his determination not to be caught. Waste paper bin in one hand and large sheet of cardboard in the other, I managed to pin him in a corner of the room and begin to manoevre him in when.. well, how did that happen? .. he was suddenly in the opposite corner of the room, sticking his tongue out at me impudently.

3.30 a.m. and finally I have a waste-paper-basketful of tiny mouse and am out in the garden in bare feet and dressing gown, releasing my new friend into the wild again and ensuring he’d had the sense to make the most of his chance for freedom before I let out a most indignant Charlie.

Of course, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Oh no, I was far too awake for that. I decided to read for a while, knowing full well that before I’d finished a few sentences I’d be well away to the land of Nod. Pah. A book and a half later, I decided that maybe reading was not the answer.

Cats. Who’d have ’em?

Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone

This is the most amazing Christmas ever. Coming away to my sister’s was such a good idea. Well, apart from sharing a room with Tiddles, that is. I am just sitting here typing while he goes properly back to sleep after waking when I came up into the room – and I need him properly asleep so I can do the Santa bit. Only trouble is, I couldn’t find their proper stockings when I was packing the car so they’ve had to make do with gift bags this year.

It was lovely this evening to sit with them in the lounge (while the rest of the family did the washing up!) and set up our nativity scene together. We’d brought it with us from home, knowing my sister’s family to be non-Christian, and somehow it was very special doing it on Christmas Eve rather than as part of doing the decorations as we normally do. We set up the tray for father Christmas with an apple for Rudolph – and, thank goodness, were able to leave it in the lounge instead of their bedroom as we usually do. Doesn’t do much for Father Christmas’s heartburn, I can tell you, gulping down sherry and mince pies late at night in a dark room occupied by two shallow-sleeping children! Then we had stories and poems before bed, and a check up on Santa’s progress courtesy of the fantastic NORAD website.

This afternoon was magical too, with a surprise visit to the New Vic theatre under the guise of a last minute shopping trip. Instead of fighting our way through the shops, the Smudgelets were delighted to discover we had seats for an amazing performance of A Christmas Carol. Interestingly, it was Smudgelet who was most enchanted by this performance, despite our seats being so high up in the balcony that he had to stand on tiptoe for most of the play.

And a delight for me came when the boys were asleep in their beds and my sister, brother in law, middle nephew and me sat down for a game of Cranium Cadoo – a younger version of Cranium, one of the best board games ever invented. We’re quite excited, actually, as I have indulged in a different version of the game as a Christmas present for the entire family so I think we’ll be playing that tomorrow night. It’s such a fun game – and I say that even though I actually came fourth in both rounds that we played… though I think C was cheating, if the truth be told. Playing board games with the kids is fun, but playing with adults has a certain edge to it, especially adults that you love and feel totally at ease with.

I can’t wait until tomorrow. It will be strange going to a different church where we know nobody, but other than that this will be the most Christmassy Christmas I have ever experienced. Oh, and we’re having goose for dinner!!!!

So, I know I’ve said it already but it doesn’t lessen with the resaying – have a great Christmas, all of you! Merry Christmas!

(PS to Jack: it’s a housewarming present. You don’t have to wait until Christmas to open it if you don’t want to 😉 )

Will we ever make it?

The car is packed and ready. The lounge door is ready to be closed and bolted against intruders looking to “help you with a bit of tidying up” (a.k.a. my big sister). The fridge is empty of anything that might go smelly. The bins are out, the beds are made, the last lot of presents is wrapped and concealed in the boot of the car.

And, needless to say, Dad is feeling ill and Smudgelet has lost one shoe. One shoe!

Merry Christmas.

Oooooooh, I nearly forgot

I can’t believe I forgot to post this bit of blogging. I am the proud wearer today of a sticker which declares “I met Santa at Havenstreet”. If I had got the hang of this fancy linking business, I would provide a handy link to http://www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk/ but as it is, I won’t. If you want to look, you can jolly well cut and paste 😉

It was an extraordinarily magical afternoon out, as it generally is. Christmas dinner in the station cafe – a delicious plateful, served by a past pupil from work! Thence to the grotto. It’s a fantastic grotto, with numerous moving toys and spinning lights. I was disappointed that they were not doing the little bottles of sherry (one of my few alcoholic indulgences of the year) as we always take these home to use for Santa’s tray. This year he’ll have to do without sherry and we’re planning to leave a flask of coffee instead – much safer not to drink and drive!. But, once reassured that I was indeed over eighteen (just), the kindly elf gave me a rather delicious cup of mulled wine. I declined a full cup, knowing full well that an inch of wine would be perfectly adequate to bring a rosy glow to my cheeks and my brain.

Then in to see The Man In Red. We’re incredibly lucky on the Island that it’s actually the REAL Father Christmas who comes to see us at Havenstreet, rather than the helpers who fill in for him in all the other grottos. You could tell he was the real thing because a) his beard was real, b) he recognised the boys from last year and knew which village they lived in and c) the gifts he gave the Smudgelets were precisely what they wanted: a set of cars for Smudgelet and a radio-pen and Beano diary for Tiddles. We remembered to let him know that we’d be at Auntie Mal’s for Christmas and he made a special note.

Then, to round off our visit, a ride on the train. We try to go at least twice a year, always at Christmas and then sometimes when Thomas the Tank Engine comes to visit or when the Steam Festival is on. Funnily enough, I could use the steam railway to travel to work if I could afford it – it runs between our village and where I work! We still love to make oooooooooo-ing noises as we go through the tunnel, to wave at all the passers-by, to gaze out of the window to see the engine go past as it changes end, to spot the crocodiles in the swamp and gaze through the woods to spot a peasant or red squirrel. Pure magic.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to see Santa.

A moment’s rest

I am nearly ready to go.

Well, put it this way, there’s very little left to do that won’t wait patiently until we come back. I’ve still got to pack my suitcase (and think what on earth I’m going to wear on Christmas Day!) but apart from that the main things are done – i.e. the presents are all wrapped and loaded in the car. And I have extracted from my elder sister a sincere promise that she will not, repeat not, venture beyond the door of the lounge or my bedroom. Hopefully, however, she will venture into the kitchen to a) feed the cat, b) pick up the huge load of ironing that I have, conscience free, left for her to do and c) feel moved to clean the kitchen floor for me. I love my sister! 🙂

I had the pleasure this afternoon of baking mince pies. I haven’t done it for a while and they are, to tell the truth, my speciality. I seem to have a knack for creating very short pastry that just melts in the mouth. Mind you, it has its drawbacks, as it also has a bit of a tendency to just melt in the hand, too! It was nice to make them in the tray I used to use when baking with my mum as a child. After Christmas we plan to make special mince pies, me and the Smudgelets and, because they ran out of time for carol singing last year, they and a friend are going to adopt the Austrian/German tradition of going house-to-house around the close dressed as the three wise men and bringing mincepies to all the neighbours while singing “We Three Kings”. I think the neighbours might rather like that……. especially the ones who are deaf.

Needless to say, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong today. My friend who is in a similar situation (apart from having a husband to “help out”) always says “I love talking to you, Smudgie, because it reassures me that however bad things are for me, you’ll have the same with knobs on”. Tiddles helped out by clearing all the rubbish out of the car this morning. He informed me that he’d put a rubbish bag in the back and one in the front for on the journey tomorrow. Little did I know that he’d decided to cut out the middle man and have the bags pre-filled with rubbish!

I’ve been held up with phone calls (a lovely long chat with an uncle I haven’t spoken to for years) and visitors (a lovely long chat with my youngest’s godfather who called round for coffee), with Dad needing to check up on things for the holidays, and lastly with Smudgelet parting company with his Chinese Take-away tea. I was worried that he was going down with something, until I realised the cause. Last time we had Chinese, he found he was unable to eat it all. This time he was determined to, so stuffed it in and didn’t pause for breath until his plate was absolutely clear to the very last piece of rice. So serves him right!

Giggles

I will, in the spirit of Christmas, forgive those who giggled at my misfortunes the other day…….

… eventually 😉

(a note to those who do not yet understand my sense of humour: my series of mishaps was posted with the direct intention of affording you some amusement, as well as to get the frustration out of my system 😀 )

Warm glow

I have to (carefully) share with you the most special moment which happened this week.
A truly heart-felt compliment which has stayed with me all week, and will do for a long time to come.

I was sitting in a cafe with Tiddles, drinking hot chocolate and eating cake and discussing our Christmas shopping (In particular discussing a policy of Woolworths’, which I think extremely dubious, of not issuing receipts for purchases under one pound – for my son who has had difficulty with sticky fingers in shops in the past, it is essential that he be able to prove he has paid for things). I noticed the people at the next table were quite interested in our conversation, but neither of us knew them so we just carried on. Then we split up to do a bit more Christmas shopping.

The couple came up to me, once Tiddles had gone, and shook my hand. “You must be Tiddles’ adoptive mum. I just wanted to say how well you’ve brought him up, how good he looks, how articulate he is. Well done – he does you credit”. I was chuffed (of course) but perplexed. Who were these people? They then introduced themselves – they were fairly close members of his birth family who had known him well as a small child.

They had no need to speak to me – they could have walked out of the cafe and I’d have known nothing of who they were at all. They had good reason to resent me or feel a misplaced anger towards me. But they gave me probably the best gift I’ll receive this Christmas in their generous words.

School’s out

Yippee yippee yippee

And what’s more, I have a freeeeeeeee morning tomorrow to get on with some jobs.
Dad’s at the hospice for the day.
Smudgelet’s at Holiday Club at school.
Tiddles is cleaning Auntie M’s car as pay back for the loan of some pre-Christmas spending money.

In the afternoon I regain all but grandad, and M and I take the boys off for our traditional afternoon out to visit a certain somebody 😉

Meanwhile it’ll be frantic ironing, cleaning, present wrapping and the last few presents to buy. Oh, and clambering into the loft to rescue the stockings ready for Santa. No tree this year, with going away. Not worth it for just two days, sad though it feels not to have one.

I wonder if Tiddles will learn anything from his less-than-exciting Christmas gift this year. Well, unfortunately I can’t afford presents AND £80-worth of replacement PE kit, so guess which he’s getting. I decided the problem must be that the bag is too easy to overlook – after all, how can a huge bag containing t-shirt and shorts, sweatshirt and trousers, trainers, socks and football boots (all labelled) go completely missing without trace? – so to hold all his new kit I have purchased a very special new kit bag. I mean, he can’t possibly not notice one that’s bright pink, can he? Vindictive? Me? Never! 😉

Rant rant rant rant rant

It’s a beautiful day – I love these cold autumn days when the sun is shining brightly but you need a hat and gloves. It’d be great to go out today, but impossible as Dad is in a grump, Tiddles is frantically doing a fortnight’s English homework in one desperate sitting, Smudgelet is taking part in the church nativity, I have loads of work to do, and everything is going wrong today.

Dad’s grump is a classic – he’s grumping because a) nobody acknowledges his independence and the fact he can still do things for himself and b) nobody helped him put his arms in his crutches today and left him to work it out for himself; c) he feels guilty that I am tired and don’t get any time to myself just lately and d) I refused to sit and have coffee with him because I had to put the dinner on and I wanted some time to myself; e) he feels lonely and wants company and f) someone’s invited him round for coffee and he can’t work out why. Actually, the way he is this morning, I can’t work out why either 😉

The going wrong of everything is a little more stressful. First off, I begin to unpack the groceries and discover the bottle of Appletize I bought as a special treat for myself has actually come undone in the shopping and half a huge bottleful has poured out, not only over the groceries but also over the entire kitchen floor. First step is clearly to finish putting the bags of groceries away so I make my way stickily across the kitchen to the next bag which contains the washing conditioner. You’ve guessed it – the lid has come off that as well. It was fine until I lifted the bag, which then spilled its contents all over the floor and all over me in a slimy, sickly-sweet smelling deluge. Nothing for it but to clean the floor.

I head to the veranda to get my new squeegee – a Christmas present to myself after throwing the rather disgusting and dishevelled looking mop out with the rubbish. In the veranda… a blackbird.. courtesy of Charlie I guess.. and very much alive so needing rescuing. Having rid my home of this new visitor, bar a large number of feathers, I return to the kitchen and begin squeeging. I press the handle to squeeze the water out of the sponge and….. yes… the handle breaks off in my hand. Not “comes off” I hasten to add, but “breaks off”. The squeegee won’t squeege. I proceed to mop the floor with a sodden sponge then wade through to prepare the lunch.

But where is my casserole dish? Nowhere to be found. I search high and low, but clearly it’s evading me. Last cupboard to look in is down by the kitchen table – hands and knees job to look in there. I crawl down on the wet floor, open the door and………… out fall a bag of flour and a bag of sugar and burst in a cloud of snow all over the floor.

Please please please can I go back to bed and start the day again?