Monthly Archives: December 2017

Just “chill”

T has been going out a lot in the evenings to a mate’s house, to “chill”*. It’s mainly to one mate in particular as they have a second living room downstairs where they can sit and “chill” without disturbing anyone. But they sometimes go to another friend’s house where this is not the case – they “chill” in the friends bedroom. I queried why they don’t come here, to our house. They used to come here when they were younger during school holidays but this stopped a while ago. Being the over-thinker that I am, I started to worry that it is because of us. That we are too strict/too boring/too uptight/too whatever for them to want to come round.  When I asked T why they don’t come round here he muttered something about having nowhere to go other than his bedroom and there was nowhere to sit in there etc. It was one of those non-answers where you don’t really get anywhere. I replied that maybe when we get the extension done it will be easier for them and they will be able to come and “chill” here instead. He mumbled something that sounded vaguely positive.

Today is a working day for me and K is in the office. I asked A if she would like to have her friend O over for the day (she went to their house before Christmas so it’s nice to reciprocate) and I would take them to St Albans to look at the sales (using my new way of thinking about work and being Flexible) for an hour or so. Which we did. I left them to their own devices and went off to run some errands. While I was in the bank I had a text from T asking if two of his mates could come round. We have erred on the side of caution to date and not allowed friends round while we’re out. But with the “why don’t they come here” conversation fresh in my mind, I agreed. I called him when I finally emerged from the bank (why was the man behind me in the queue insistent on standing SO close to me? every time I tried to edge slightly away he edged too. And he was quite snuffly and I did NOT want him to sneeze on me) I called T and muttered a quick reminder about not being idiots and breaking anything while I was out. He said they would leave when we got back, to which I replied that they didn’t have to as the girls would be upstairs in A’s room and I would be working out of the way in the dining room, therefore they could carry on playing on the Playstation in the lounge.

We got back at lunchtime and they were still here, which made me feel stupidly gratified. Boys have really smelly trainers and the girls moaned about boy smells as soon as they walked in the house. O has a sister and no brothers so was particularly vocal about this. Keen not to scare them off with squealing and annoying female behaviour I ushered the girls off upstairs with promises of food. The boys, it transpired, had just ordered pizzas which were due to be delivered shortly. Trying to be cool and “chilled” I didn’t worry too much about where they were going to eat the pizzas (the lounge, obviously) but did wonder what K would say if he came home to a massive grease/tomato sauce/coke stain on the carpet. Let’s think positive – these are sensible, mature boys not 5 year olds (or teenagers who have bouts of being sensible and mature but with the regressed brains of 5 year olds).

The pizzas arrived and, still trying to be cool, I muttered to T about being careful not to make a mess – he had preempted me and was already fetching plates and glasses. It was all fine – well I assume it was, I haven’t ventured in there yet. He even took the empty cartons out to the recycling bin. The next I heard from them was shouts of “thanks for having me” (they really are great lads) from the open front door and then silence.

I say silence – they hadn’t been noisy, just deep voiced chat and the odd shout of laughter through the stud wall. I say silence but the girls were still here and they were far noisier upstairs than the boys had been in the next room. What is it about girls and not being able to speak slowly or in a normal voice? I don’t remember being that way, but I was probably not a stereotypical ‘girl’. I mean, I was a girl – just not a girly girl. I don’t know if girls with sisters are noisier than girls with brothers? Do brothers make them less hysterical; make them more rounded off because they don’t listen to silly voices and don’t respond to shrieking with more shrieking? Don’t get me wrong, they’re not like it all the time, they have bouts of being calm and quiet, and that’s nice. And O is the perfect friend for A as she makes her be silly and she has A LOT of fun with her.

As much as I want the kids friends to want to come to our house, to like being here and to feel welcome and at home here – I’ve always wanted to be someone they’re happy to chat to, not nervous of – I also love our house when it is just our house. I like the peace and quiet. We’re a quiet family – which I know can be misconstrued as boring or dull or too straight or uptight – but that’s who we are and we can’t change that. All I can do is try and be “chilled” and calm when they are here and know that they won’t be staying forever.

 

 

*I use the word “chill” in inverted commas as this is what I am told they do. I don’t know what it means. I assume they sit and chat and laugh about whatever 15/16 year old boys chat and laugh about. I don’t really want to know. I expect I would be bored or disturbed. Hopefully bored. It’s hard to be interested without looking like I’m giving him the third degree, to be aware of what he’s doing without policing him all the time. We’re in that halfway stage where he needs privacy and his own life but, conversely, he’s still a child that needs looking out for and guiding. Just “chill” mum.

 

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Christmas

Christmas has gone by in a matter of minutes. It feels like a day at the most has gone by since my last blog, but here I am back at work and it’s all over (bar the leftovers).

Christmas Eve: we popped to see G&G for a quick cuppa to see them before Christmas and then my brother and his family were over to ours in the afternoon for a walk to the pub followed by cake and presents. We did this last year and it worked really well, so we decided to do the same this year. It’s getting increasingly hard for us both to fit everyone in at Christmas, especially if we are working in between. So this works well for all of us and I’m hoping it may become a bit of a tradition. The kids all got on well and we enjoyed the walk. It’s always easier to get them to walk without moaning if there is the promise of a drink at the end of it and on the way back the incentive of a slab of cake and a present!

The day itself was lovely: waking up at 7.50am and waiting for the kids to come in with their stockings; downstairs for a bacon sandwich (cold sliced gammon for A and I as per my childhood) and presents with the tree lights on as it was such a dark day; K’s parents arriving safely and in good spirits; a lovely meal cooked relatively stress free; A’s amazing cheesecake for dessert; a round of our new board game which the Silver Squad won. The only blot on the landscape was the discovery (by K) that one of the passenger windows on my car had been left open for 24 hours and the backseat was soaked. Not a great thing to happen at any time but infinitely worse for it to be discovered on Christmas morning just as K’s parents were pulling up outside the house. I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t leave a slightly ominous cloud over proceedings but it didn’t ruin the day. Thankfully, as he works for a flood restoration company K has the odd bit of equipment in the garage that can sort this sort of thing out so all is well. But, it wasn’t without a lot of grumbling and huffiness.

Boxing day was like my Christmas Day as G&G came to ours. It was a lovely day with K’s parents here on Christmas Day but I love Boxing Day and it’s always a bit more relaxed with G&G. Cold meat, new potatoes, salad, cheese. What’s not to love about Boxing Day?

There have been differences this year. T & A still came in to our room for stockings, we still had the same day we normally have but Christmas Day evening saw just K & I sitting watching a film while T was in his room chatting online with his friend and A in her room watching YouTube tutorials for the new make up she had. Boxing Day saw T going out round to see a friend in the early evening as G&G left (they dropped him off en route) and K, A and me watching Snow Bears (the most joyful programme to watch when you are feeling even slightly under par – which I wasn’t but I am keeping it on the planner should the need arise).

And here we are, 2 days of work before 4 more days off and then it will be back to reality again.

Neighbours

Posting for yesterday.

We’re lucky to have really lovely next door neighbours. They’re good people. We get along really well. We’re not in and out of each other’s houses all the time – we borrow the odd onion or splash of soy sauce now and again; we get together for dinner every few months or so; we used to do reciprocal babysitting when our kids were younger; we chat over the garden fence now and again in the summer. There’s no pressure to be socialising all the time, but we know we’re there for each other in an emergency or to borrow a screwdriver. It’s perfect.

Yesterday we were invited to go round for a family afternoon/evening of playing games and a bite to eat. It was lovely. We played some new games, learnt some great mind tricks, and had a really tasty meal – all 8 of us, kids and adults around the table, chatting. Then we watched a film before walking the 4 steps back home.

A really happy start to the Christmas weekend.

Family, Lights and Cards.

I went to see my Nan today, so that I can see her before Christmas. It was lovely to see her but it always feels very bittersweet these days. A happy but sad all in one.

This afternoon the B4 went to Waddesdon Manor to see their Christmas lights show and beautifully decorated house. The lights were really pretty and clever – moving images projected onto the outside of the house in a ten minute show which reflected things you see inside the house. It was like a firework display but without the bangs and it was intriguing and clever. The house was like nothing I’ve ever seen before: from a life size model zebra in front of a Christmas tree; a bathroom with model sea-lions playing in the bath; to a birdcage with multicoloured birds (again not real) and fairy lights; and rooms set out with beautifully decorated tables, it was spectacular.

We followed it all off with a woodland walk lit by lanterns made by children from local schools. Really lovely.

It’s not often we do something as a family now without at least one reluctant member of the party. But we all enjoyed it and a hot chocolate always helps keep spirits up. Not sure my bank account is so happy (£14 for four hot drinks!). In other news, we had a lovely card from Miss T and a gorgeous handmade card from Little Miss J, which is taking pride of place on the windowsill. All in all A Very Good Day.

Simple things….

…..that have made me happy today:-

A starting her Christmas baking. It feels like a tradition now and I love that she wants to do it, that we schedule it into the run up to Christmas. It feels like Christmas is really close, which it is.

Getting a quick coffee with my lovely friend, Mrs F: she always makes me smile.

Receiving a message from my niece, E.

The robin that’s been visiting my feeder for the last few days, sitting on the fence outside the window for 5 minutes, rather than just flitting on and off again.

A quick “whatsapp” chat with a lovely friend.

Simple things but, sometimes, they are the best.

Unexpected Happiness and The Golden Hour

I was waiting for the New Year to start afresh with The Happiness. Not a resolution as we know I don’t make them anymore. But, like with the diary, a clean slate in my thinking. talking to a friend yesterday, I realised that if I wanted to make a new start and think Happy again I could just do it now. I’ve heard about gratitude journals and how they can make you think about small things each day that have made you happy or grateful or just made you smile. I get too bogged down in which pen to use, which notebook to write it in. I tried the You app which asks you to use photos to represent moments of happiness. It’s not always easy to find or take a photo to do this. Like most things, I’ve let it slip.

Something else I talked about with my friend was the work thing, feeling tied to my desk, not being flexible and not working the way I used to work. I couldn’t give any reasons why I’ve got into this rut, this mindset, so we decided that as there was no valid reason for it, it should be easy to change! We came up with “The Golden Hour” – time set aside each day (where feasible) to spend doing something I like: a walk, sit and read a book; go out for a swim (not sure I like that really, but it sounds do-able); coffee with a friend. And not to think of it as wrong, something to feel bad about, because I can make the time up later – when I would normally end up sitting watching TV. I tried this yesterday and switched off my laptop around 7.30pm. I’d managed to solve some queries from customers who, like a lot of people, work 9-5 and can’t send emails during the day. They were happy to get a response straight away, it felt good.

Sitting here this morning, I feel a little bit lighter, a bit less tied to my desk. K is hoping to get back from work early and, if he does, we’re going to go to Aldi and do the pre-Christmas food shop – the stuff that can be bought in advance – and then we won’t have to go out tonight to do it. And I won’t feel guilty because I will make up the time later.

I’ve already had some happy moments today (and it’s only 10.45a.m.). K and I have both still got this cold/cough thing. Normally, we would have been grumpy with each other, taking it out on each other, comparing levels of illness. I don’t know why, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s him, maybe it’s just that we’re growing up (finally) but we have been kind to each other. I lost my sense of smell and (far worse) taste over the weekend and it’s made me really fed up. I love food. I love cooking. Not being able to smell or taste what I’ve cooked is torture – how anyone copes with this long term I do not know. Some people would lose their appetite, but if you know me at all, you will know that this NEVER happens to me, so I have continued to cook and eat, but with no pleasure at all. K has been very sympathetic and we have kind of jollied each other along when we have been feeling crap. And not in the usual “get a grip” or “stop making a fuss” kind of way. This morning, I could just about taste my granola. Now, I wouldn’t normally eat granola – I’m a toast girl all the way – but we didn’t have any bread and because I didn’t think I would be able to taste it, it didn’t seem to matter. But I could, and it was the happiest moment I’ve had for days. Fingers crossed the senses return completely to normal in time for Christmas Dinner!

Another unexpected source of happiness is my bird feeder. When I was given it for Mothers Day two years ago, I didn’t expect to get many, if any, birds on it. It’s been pretty sporadic over the time and we have had flurries of activity then periods with no visitors at all. The last two days, however, I’ve had a gorgeous little Robin (Mum and Nan would not be happy – apparently they signify illness, that’ll be the colds and coughs, then) and a Blue Tit coming regularly to grab some food before flying off. They don’t stay long but it’s lovely to see a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye and I stop and watch them until they are gone again. It’s lovely and it makes me smile.

**Additional “happy” moments later during the day: –

Talking to lovely Miss T on the phone and hearing all the exciting plans for Christmas with Little Miss, who at 3 years old is REALLY into Christmas!

Getting a postcard from A’s maths teacher telling us how hard she has been working and what a great result she got in her last test. This is amazing news as maths has always been her trickiest subject. I really couldn’t be prouder.

 

 

 

 

Limbo time

I always find these few days in the run up to Christmas a bit hard-going. I’m generally sorted gift-wise; the cards (those that I still send) are written and I don’t have much else to think about, EXCEPT:-

  1. The Food Shopping. I hate food shopping. The rest of the year I order our weekly food shop online – unless we are being even more careful money-wise and then we alternate with an Aldi shop fortnightly – because I hate supermarkets. I hate pushing a trolley around, not knowing how much it is all going to come to, having to unload it all, pack it all, unpack it all. I still have to unpack the delivered shopping but not having had the trauma of actually going to the supermarket makes this slightly less arduous. However, ever since the year when we had snow right before Christmas and my online shop couldn’t be delivered, leaving me massively in the lurch, I have erred on the side of caution and taken the decision to GO TO THE SUPERMARKET. I order a turkey from our local Sainsbury’s and as I have to go and pick that up I get the rest of the stuff, that couldn’t be bought in advance, at the same time. And, because I always tell myself it will be hell on earth, it is sometimes almost bearable.
  2. Keeping everyone safe. In the run up to Christmas, much like before any other big event (birthdays, holidays), I worry about people even more than normal. I worry that they will be ill and not be able to enjoy the event. I worry that someone will be hurt. I don’t like anyone going anywhere too far away and won’t really relax until everyone has finished work/school, are safely home. I particularly dislike anyone having to go anywhere on Christmas Eve. School finished last Friday. This is good, except of course I can’t keep the kids locked up in the house until Christmas Day. In fact, T is up in London today. Bloody London. I know, I know, we MUST NOT let threats of terrorism stop us living our lives and London is probably one of the safest places to be, with the increased police presence, etc, etc. He is visiting the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and New Scotland Yard with his cadets group so it’s an amazing experience and opportunity for him. But, I will not really be happy until he is home later. I love the Find Friends app as I can check in at points during the day and know where he is. Not in a paranoid, stalker-ish way, just interested to see where he is. A has gone over to her bestie’s house for a few hours and a mooch around the shops. I do the same with her – I like to know she is where she is supposed to be. Not every minute, just every now and then. It makes me feel reassured.
  3. Baking. A likes to make Christmas Biscuits, and last year we bought a mould that you can bake a series of increasingly bigger sponge cakes in to make a tree so she wants to make that again this year, and then there is the Christmas Cake itself to decorate. I have to make sure we have all the correct ingredients – see Food Shopping.
  4. Wishing I wasn’t working. As soon as the kids have finished school, even if Christmas Day is a matter of days later, I always wish I wasn’t working. There is so much I would like to do. I would like to go to the cinema, visit my Nan, go for a walk. I can only do these things when I have finished work and because I generally use all my holiday entitlement during the rest of the year, I rarely keep any for Christmas. Because I can (and do) work from home, it seems a waste of days to take them as holiday between Christmas and New Year. But I always forget about the run up to Christmas, these few limbo days when it would be nice to be able to do stuff. But, I am working and so they will have to be squeezed into my Friday and snatched hours that will need to be made up later. I really need to get to grips with this in the New Year. No, I’m not suggesting a resolution, just something to sort out.
  5. Hoping that it doesn’t snow. This pretty much goes hand in hand with number 2. If we get snow it will stop people visiting, make life harder, make things unsettled and plans will go awry. I don’t like plans going awry, but I especially don’t like it at Christmas.
  6. Hoping I haven’t forgotten anything. See Food Shopping, Baking.
  7. Wishing it was Christmas Eve tomorrow. I love Christmas Eve, probably more than the day itself. I love getting the presents out and putting them under the tree, filling stockings – yes we still have stockings hung on bedroom door handles to be filled overnight ready to open on our bed on Christmas morning. I love being at home, all cosy and safe and thinking about Christmas Day. We normally try and go out for a walk and a drink at the pub, sometimes with my brother and his family. As much as I would love to go to Midnight Mass (I don’t go to church unless for weddings or funerals but I love the idea of Midnight Mass) like every other year I will get home from our walk and not want to leave the house again. Maybe this year. But I doubt it.
  8. Watching Christmas Films. When the kids were small I loved watching Christmas Films with them. The Polar Express is my absolute favourite. I have to confess to not having seen many of the old classics. I have never seen Miracle on 34th(?) Street (I don’t even know for sure which street it is!) and last year was the first time that I watched It’s A Wonderful Life. But, I love Polar Express and Elf and Nativity. I love Love, Actually but that’s not one for small kids (or even teenagers really – Martin Freeman in the porn film bit – awkward). Unfortunately, as the kids have got older their tolerance of Christmas Films has waned and I find myself longing for the days when they were small again just so I can watch without feeling a bit daft.

Hopefully, the next few days will fly by – if today is anything to go by, they won’t – and it will soon be the magical time. And then in a blink of an eye it will all be over! So much planning, thought and effort for such a short time. But it’s worth it.