Operation Christmas School Holidays

Household Cavalry on Garter Day

Household Cavalry on Garter Day (Photo credit: hmcotterill)

Operation Christmas School Holidays:  Commander-in-chief – me; soldiers under my command – 3

Day 1: injuries sustained – one bruised chin (from scaling the kitchen table during dinner), one  minor knock to head during a skirmish (friendly fire incident (between brothers)). Morale – high; obedience – minimal.  Some issues with chain of command.

Yes, it is that time of year again – my favourite – the school holidays with the added stress of Christmas thrown in too.  So I have decided to adopt a different approach this year and treat the entire holidays as a military campaign.  No doubt there will be victories and defeats along the way but I am determined to instil respect for authority and behaviour fitting of those representing their family on the world stage.

I wouldn’t say the first day has been an unqualified success.  My first hurdle has been a degree of overfamiliarity amongst the ranks – notably, I have been addressed by one soldier as “mate” throughout the day which is not a form of address that I feel befits my status and as “idiot” by another soldier when I suggested that he might like to entertain himself rather than play Fifa 12 on the X-box.

A second issue that has arisen has been the inability of any of the soldiers to sit anywhere near the table when eating or in fact sit at all.  Indeed it has become patently obvious why a “mess” (in military speak) is named thus when you look at my kitchen floor post eating.  I am definitely going to have to crack down on this over the coming few weeks and will need to form a strategy for coping at mealtimes (i.e. me coping with their disregard for the food I’ve cooked, table I’ve laid, floor I’ve cleaned etc).

Perhaps the issue which has raised the most dissent amongst the ranks today has been my (some might say ambitious) decision to spend a day without any TV or electronic devices. In retrospect I am not convinced this was a strategically sound decision for the first day of the holidays and I suspect that the person who suffered the most was in fact, me.  After a rather trying start to the day, I can report that the troops rallied and even attempted a group activity by mid-afternoon (decorating Christmas tree shaped ginger biscuits).  Astonishingly, this activity was completed with minimum destruction to the kitchen and without a single skirmish.

So here we are towards the end of the day.  One soldier has been granted leave to attend a local pantomime; one soldier is watching a division 2 football match from circa 1976 (why?  I have no idea) and the youngest soldier is “learning” Spanish from Dora the Explorer.  I do have to report that the TV has now been switched back on – I do believe it is important for personnel to have down-time before re-entering the fray.

What about me?  Well, I need down-time too – leading is so exhausting – and I am going to reward myself with a glass of wine.  Mission accomplished – Day 1 completed, all troops present and correct.  As for Day 2, we’ll be joined by Field Marshal Husband who shares command – sort of – at weekends. Progress report to follow.

Christmas – the good, the bad and the ugly…

Regular readers of my blog will not be unduly surprised that I have some pretty strong opinions on Christmas – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.  I am very aware that I am tending towards the negatives in my blog so with a most out-of-character burst of Christmas joy, I promise that I shall match every negative with a positive in this piece – that is my gift to you this Christmas. Bah humbug!

Let me start by saying “I love Christmas” – I really do – even the greatest cynics cannot help but get swept up in the magic once a year particularly if you have children and you see it through their eyes.  However, this brings me neatly to my first complaint about Christmas – Christmas, technically speaking, is 25th December give or take a few days either side – it is not, as some people seem to think, a year round festival that starts really gearing up in mid-October.  Christmas should be a magical, exciting time of year and I am unaware of anyone who can realistically maintain a level of frenzied excitement for 3 months.  I do not want to hear piped Christmas music in the shops at the start of November, nor do I want to see constant TV Christmas advertising 10 weeks before I can even contemplate Christmas shopping.  This is not in the spirit of Christmas at all but just a reminder of the truly commercial value that has been placed on Christmas.

What else do I not like?  Tinsel.  I don’t just not like tinsel, I hate tinsel.  It is one of the things that man has invented which is intrinsically pointless, aesthetically very unattractive and downright annoying. You may be thinking that perhaps I have a rather over-developed hatred of what many would see as a rather harmless, benign decoration.  Well, I come to this blog fresh from sewing (yes, sewing..) tinsel onto my daughter’s costume (as a star) for her school Christmas play.  My only advice to you after this painful process is that in much the same way that actors say you should never work with children or

Christmas in the post-War United States

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

animals, mothers should never work with tinsel.  I now have as much tinsel on the floor as I do on the dress – it has “bled” everywhere.  All of this is quite apart from the fact that tinsel just looks horrible – tacky – and the  worst of it is that of course children love it because it is sparkly and they want to drape it everywhere.

That brings me on to my next dislike – one of which I am not proud – my children helping me decorate the house and the tree.  Look, I know it is meant to be a lovely bonding family affair – christmas music and a nice glass of wine for the adults – well, it’s not like that in my house. Yes, there is copious wine and I can stretch to the odd Christmas tune too but there it ends because I have Christmas decoration OCD.  There I said it – I want to put the decorations where I want them to be.  I don’t want my Christmas tree to have all the baubles on one side nor do I want my staircase swathed in miles of tinsel.  I know that I am missing the point and so I do, with gritted teeth, allow my children to decorate as long as I can re-decorate immediately afterwards.

As I mentioned, I have just made my daughter’s school play costume and that has reminded me of another of my Christmas “issues”.  Quite aside from making costumes (which incidentally I loathe doing as my sewing abilities are remedial at best), I have a slight issue with this tendency for school plays to be a mish-mash of nativity and other Christmas (or often totally non-Christmas) ideas.  Take my daughter’s play – which I should quickly say was absolutely wonderful – the story of the Christmas Postman and the nativity.  Magical as it was, I have now got to explain a thousand times to my daughter that the Christmas Postman is not part of the original nativity so she shouldn’t expect to see him with his postbag in his 21st century Royal Mail outfit standing alongside Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger in every nativity scene we come across over the next few weeks.  Actually, on the subject of nativities, as much as I love a traditional nativity, it is always a reminder of my failure in childhood to ever be cast as Mary – boy did I try over the years but I never made it beyond the host of angels, not even Gabriel.  This has been a source of much disappointment to me over the years and has made me absolutely determined that my daughter at some point will play Mary in a nativity even if I have to create one myself to ensure it.

Enough of my bah-humbugging, I promised to balance the negatives with positives.  So here goes.  I actually love Christmas shopping – choosing the right presents for everyone – I can get quite obsessive about getting it right and I do love the giving of presents when I think I have got it right.  This is in contrast to my husband who complains every Christmas that he is a “net giver”!

I do love listening to the Christmas tunes on the radio (albeit in December rather than October).  For me and I suspect a lot of my generation Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas” is the ultimate Christmas song guaranteed to get you in the Christmas mood – I still find myself playing the “guess who sings which line” game – Simon Le Bon’s and Boy George’s being the easiest to spot, I find!

Most of all, since I have had children, Christmas has regained so much of its magic for me because their excitement is so infectious and I love passing on all the traditions which we had as children at this time of year.  Every family has their own way of doing things (none as good as your own) and with children around you the magic that is Christmas is tangible once again.  Decorating the house (OCD aside), cooking Christmassy foods (except Christmas pudding which is in my view an aberration), writing letters to Father Christmas, opening presents on Christmas morning (at 5am with kids), singing (badly) the descant to “Hark the Herald Angels” and generally over-eating, over-drinking and laughing lots (with the odd family feud thrown in).  This is Christmas and despite my whinging I wouldn’t be without it (in December, not October, that is).  On a serious note, at this time of year, I am reminded just how lucky I am and my children are and how easy it is to forget the stark contrast between my children’s happy and safe childhoods and those of so many other children around the world.  I am determined to make sure my children realise how lucky they are and once you strip Christmas of all its commercialisation (and tinsel), this is what is important.

 

 

Pointless Update

Reunión Furby I

Reunión Furby I (Photo credit: alvarezperea)

Update on my “pointless” list – a kind reader has given me my first (and last) onesie – fortunately for me it does not have novelty headgear too – but all the same it is a onesie probably best described as resembling a snow leopard.  Now I love the person who gave me this onesie but I can confirm that I look more than faintly ridiculous in it and I definitely look like an overgrown giant baby (not my favourite look).  One thing I had not appreciated before I owned such a must-have garment is how flipping hot it is inside one of these onesies.  I started to sweat profusely within about 5 minutes – a sweating snow leopard in a babygrow – not a pretty sight!  I have to admit to being slightly fascinated by the speed with which these onesies are flying off the shelves this Christmas – who (apart from my friend) is buying them? Imagine if you were an alien arriving on earth for the first time and you were greeted by the sight of giant babies wearing all-in-one, furry, faux animal outfits – I’m fairly sure if it was me, I would turn right round again and return from where I came, very disturbed by the sight I had just witnessed.

On the subject of Christmas shopping, I am also very distressed at the return of that hideous creature the “Furby” – who thought it was a good idea to bring it back for this Christmas season for god’s sake?  To add insult to injury this ugly, little monster retails at well over £50.  Sometimes I really do think I live in a parallel universe to everyone else.  I get Peppa Pig (regular readers will know I am actually a little partial to a bit of Peppa Pig) but Furbies – they are wrong, all wrong.

I’m on a roll now…one last bugbear (bah humbug!)…football kits for kids.  My boys support Arsenal.  I know nothing about Arsenal – a deliberate ploy to prevent me from ever having to discuss football leagues with my children or worse go and watch matches with them.  An aside, the only thing I find vaguely interesting – actually rather pleasing in an odd way – is that the Arsenal Boss is called Arsene – almost poetic.  Anyway, my problem is very simple, premiership football teams change their football strip (home and away) every season so I am forced to buy new football strips every season too.  These football strips are not only deeply unpleasant to look at but they are also extortionately expensive.  In my view, these premiership teams are committing daylight robbery by hiking the prices of these kits way beyond their value because we poor unsuspecting parents, ever keen to encourage our offspring into supporting a team, are forced to buy them on an annual basis (last year’s strip is so passé) in order not to embarrass poor little Johnny in front of his mates.

So there you have it, rant over for the day.  You could be forgiven for thinking I complain about everything.  Well I do, I guess, but only with good reason, and actually those who know me will testify that I can be nice too!

 

 

Looking a “gift” horse in the mouth…

Gift Box

Gift Box (Photo credit: Maeflower72)

I hate the word “gift” – I can’t give you any rationale except that I don’t like it – much like I hate the word “doily” (admittedly not a word in everyday use but horrid all the same).  I much prefer the word “present” – altogether more classy.  As someone who has never ever purchased a Christmas present before 1st December, I am most concerned by my recent behaviour – I have actually purchased at least 8 Christmas presents and all in the first half of October.  This seems to me to be yet another sign of my impending forties.  I have always prided myself on my “laissez-faire” attitude to Christmas shopping and, if I’m honest, privately ridiculed (with like-minded allies) those who start shopping 3 months before the big day.

This worrying new trend I am displaying is actually part of a much bigger picture of most concerning 40s-like behaviour.  I am utterly addicted to any number of luxury “sale” websites – scanning new promotions on a daily (scarily sometimes twice daily) basis – Achica, Cocosa, Groupon….and so the list goes on.  Liking a bargain is not new behaviour for me – I am that person who cannot just take a compliment, “I love that new dress you’re wearing” without saying “Dirt cheap, bought it for £20, reduced from £150”.  The new behavioural trend is my determination to buy “giftware” (actually that is even worse than the word ‘gift’) and “knick-knacks” for which I have no use, place or if I’m honest any real desire.

This morning, I took this behaviour, until now just a guilty secret between me, the computer and my credit card, to a whole new level – I visited a craft/gift/floristry wholesaler.  Yes me who got thrown out permanently from her sewing lessons at the age of 12 because I broke the sewing machine 3 times in one lesson (something of which I am quite proud); yes me whose idea of floristry is to keep the elastic band around the flowers I’ve bought so that I don’t have to arrange them in the vase; yes me who hates the word “gift” and ridicules people who shop for Christmas in October. Yes, little me, very uncrafty me, went of her own accord to a craft/gift/floristry wholesaler on her own and found it overwhelmingly exciting.

So thrilling did I find it that I had to share my enthusiasm with someone who would understand – I called my great friend who also loves such places and who, and this is no coincidence, also turned 40 this year.  I just wanted to grab my trolley and do my own version of “supermarket sweep” – grabbing all manner of useless knick-knacks, giftware, silk flowers (why?), candles (you can never have enough) and most bizarre of all, ribbon (there must be a name for people who feel compelled to buy ribbon…?).

I can only hope this new trait of mine is just a passing phase, a blip on my way to 40.  However, I have to admit to being slightly concerned that once this Christmas is done and dusted, I am going to start shopping for next Christmas in the January sales….help me!