The Smiths’ Christmas Letter

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Dear Family, Friends and any other random person interested in the minutiae of my life

Happy Christmas! Wow, what a fantastic year 2015 has been for the Smiths! I am sure you are all dying to know all the wonderful things that have happened to us and how successful we have been so here’s a blow-by-blow account…

Little Johnny has had the BEST year! In March he started to CRAWL!   What a superstar! He is still waking every hour during the night and screaming for his mummy but we don’t mind because he is so cute and adorable and we treasure every moment with him. He’s definitely got a powerful set of lungs – we are all sure he is going to be an opera singer when he grows up (after all Aunty Jean was the star of her local operatic society for many years so it’s in the genes…!)

What about our gorgeous little Rosie? Well, she’s had quite a year. She must be the busiest 6 year old in the country! Mondays – gymnastic club (watch out Nadia Comaneci, Rosie is coming!), Tuesdays – swimming lessons (one-to-one, she is learning SO much more with the individual attention), Wednesdays – flute (she’s showing so much promise and her teacher says she’ll be ready for Grade 5 by the summer), Thursdays – ballet (not quite en pointe yet but not long now!) and Fridays – FREE time! Rosie likes to entertain on Fridays with one of her darling little school friends – always such fun and something Mummy looks forward to ALL week.

The only little cloud on the horizon this year for Rosie has been the “biting”. We have spent a lot of time (and money) on getting to the bottom of this with Rosie and her psychologist and we are all sure that for Rosie the “biting” is just a sign of affection for her friends and siblings. Sinking her teeth into their flesh is just her version of a kiss – rather sweet when you think about it. All her friends’ mummies and daddies have been SO understanding and anyway Rosie is just so so sweet that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her instantly.

Just time for a bit of mummy-boasting. Rosie was MARY in the school nativity! We were so so proud. Rosie and I spent months researching the role so she could really get her teeth (ha! ha!) into the part. I also spent days making her the most beautiful Mary costume – I love sewing. Even if I do say it myself, Rosie was the STAR of the play – everyone said so. Joseph was less convincing and picked his nose throughout which upset Rosie no end – I explained to her that it is very difficult to work with animals and children – she totally understood.

As for Archie – he continues to amaze us! He is spending increasing amounts of time in front of a screen and less and less time communicating with humans. We don’t mind though as he seems to have made so many WONDERFUL friends on the Internet – all seem thoroughly nice and normal. He seems to have lost interest in all outside activities and hobbies but we are so proud that he is showing such focus on his computer studies. I have taken to texting him when his supper is ready – we all think this is terribly amusing but I’m not sure Archie really understands the irony!

There was a small incident this year with Archie getting a little carried away with his father’s credit card. Daddy dealt with this so well and with such patience and empathy. All part of life’s rich tapestry eh? No-one said this parenting lark would be a breeze. Anyway it’s all behind us now and Archie will have repaid his debts by the age of 35.

What about Daddy? He’s had another phenomenally successful year at work. He is without doubt the lynchpin of his firm and we are all SO proud of him. It is quite clear that he is regarded as a hero not only at home but at work too. This year he’s managed to juggle the impossible demands of his job with running 15 marathons, raising thousands for charity and he’s still home every evening to read to the kids. Reading to children is SO important and nothing makes me happier than to hear Daddy being Daddy Pig (he’s just so good at the voice) while little Rosie laughs hysterically.

Then there’s little ol’ me! Another blissful year of motherhood and parenting. I can honestly say I’ve loved every minute – don’t miss work, adult company or intellectual stimulation in the slightest. I have to admit to a little “stumble” in the summer when I thought perhaps I might go back to work – part-time of course. The children were very upset and protested so much that I soon gave up on that idea – it’s SO lovely to be so loved, wanted and needed! Anyway, who would take Rosie to ballet – I know that 3 hours drive to a ballet school may seem a bit excessive to some but it is such a good school and she is so talented apparently? Anyway, each day is so different and brings so many new joys that I have on occasion even managed to miss Wine O’Clock!

So Happy Christmas to you all from the Smiths. We hope that 2016 brings as many blessings and joy as 2015 has for us! It would be lovely to see you all this year so please do give us a call – apologies in advance if you get the answerphone but we are all SO busy and SO happy!

Much love xxx

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What’s your job?

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

At my fortieth birthday party, my husband described me (in his speech) as a collector of careers.  He said this very affectionately but what this rather euphemistic term actually means is that I am a jack of all trades and a master of none.  It is certainly true that I have tested the waters in many different fields and have definitely not, in that dreaded phrase, “fulfilled my potential”.

I was thinking about careers today when my son asked me over breakfast what I did for a living.   Tempted as I was to point out to him that it was staring him in the face and that looking after him and his siblings was a full-time, grossly underpaid profession, with unpaid, daily overtime, no prospects of promotion and constant appraisals (“Mummy, why haven’t you washed my football kit?”, “Mummy, you were 30 seconds late picking me up from school again”, “You know I hate fish pie”) without any hope of those new trendy corporate 360 degree appraisals (“Son, Why do you insist on calling me mate? “Son, what did your last slave die of?”).

While all this was going through my head, I think I sighed and said that my job was looking after them at the moment – the best job in the world (I think  my fingers might have been crossed at that point).  My son then asked me whether I had ever worked (I’m assuming that he felt that looking after them did not count as “work”).  I took him through a potted career history moving seamlessly from banking, through speechwriting, through teaching to life coaching – even if I say so myself, I really have managed an alphabet of careers in my forty years.  At this point, he lost interest and turned his attention to flicking honey cheerios at his sister.

What he didn’t ask is what I wanted to do in the future when they no longer needed me to be there 24/7.  I wouldn’t of course expect him to be remotely interested in this question at his young age but it got me thinking.  I know what I want to do but I just don’t know if I can and how to get myself started – I want to write and I guess this blogging lark is my small beginnings.  I’ve always wanted to write and while some dream of being in films, on TV, being a doctor, lawyer…whatever, I always from a very young age wanted to see something I had written in print with some glamorous pseudonym on the front cover.  Perhaps this is the year when I finally start to put the wheels in motion for this particular ambition – to be honest, right now, I’d settle for writing a column for any publication at all – Deep Sea Divers Monthly or Hair Removal Weekly – not fussy!

What did you want to do when you grew up? I remember my sister, at about age 5, having very clear and very lofty career aspirations – she wanted to be a train driver and if that wasn’t possible, a burglar.  I can tell you that she is definitely not the former and as far as I can be sure not the latter either. I can’t remember what I wanted to be at that age – I think my main ambition was to make it to Mary in the Nativity (never realised I’m afraid) but I do know that as I got older and started choosing subjects that would influence a career decision, I was very envious of those who knew exactly what career path they wanted to follow.  I would have loved to have been able to announce airily that I was going to be a human rights lawyer or a neurosurgeon or particle physicist but I never really had a clear career path.  I just knew that I hoped I would end up writing.

So for the moment I will get on with the day job (what I do for a living as far as my children are concerned) and keep hoping that one day I shall fulfil my potential (there’s that expression again that I absolutely loathe) and who knows perhaps that opportunity to write for Beer Glass Collectors Monthly will one day drop onto my desk!

TV or not TV…that is the question.

Normal service has resumed in our household.  Last week my eldest two were on a TV ban.  It seemed like a good idea at the time – after all, after the Xbox, the TV is really the only thing they genuinely feel affection for – but it became quickly apparent that the real person suffering the punishment was me. They suffered all the symptoms of addiction withdrawal – TV cold turkey – and spent most of the week kicking random objects (more often than not each other) and saying “I’m bored”.  I lost count of the number of times I used those platitudes (which I swore I would never use with my own children as they irritated me so much as a child) – “Only boring people get bored”, “all children have to learn to be bored” and “you have got to learn to entertain yourselves”.  In the end, I was as desperate for the TV ban to end as they were.

My children watch too much TV.  That’s a fact and I’m not proud of it.  I bet if you were honest with yourselves, your children probably watch too much too.  It is so easy to use TV as cheap childcare when you have a million other things you need to do.  My problem with the TV is not just how much they watch but what they watch.  There is so much rubbish out there.  My eldest seems to have a particular penchant for wrestling – I am not even going to pretend to understand the attraction but I am marginally comforted by the knowledge that nearly all his friends seem to share this same fascination – presumably it is a boy thing just as watching “Tangled” 15 times is a girl thing.  I have tried putting pin numbers on various channels so that he can’t access them but actually this is just infuriating because I can’t remember the pin numbers either and as a result I too am condemned to watching some Disney drivel or worse at the end of a long day.

My children look genuinely astounded when I tell them that we only had three TV channels in my childhood and that we never watched TV in the evenings – just watched children’s hour (Newsround, Blue Peter etc) . They look at me with a mixture of disbelief and pity – “What did you do instead, Mummy” – to which inevitably I resort to the old platitude ” we entertained ourselves’ or worse still “we played board games” (which I’m not actually sure we did really but it sounds good).  I think my eldest son thinks that my childhood was actually deprived – he really cannot comprehend such a level of distress and hardship as having only 3 TV channels.

The signs of excessive TV viewing have been there for a while and particularly the effects of advertising.  I was reading a bedtime story to one of the children a while ago and written on one of the pages was the word “bang” (door slamming I think) – I said “bang” with gusto and my son replied, deadpan, “and the dirt is gone”!  More recently, after a particularly long rant on my part about how lucky our children are, how much they have and how money doesn’t grow on trees etc, my eldest son piped up that he had a plan: put my gold necklace (I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was gold-plated) in an envelope, send it off and I would get cash in return – remember the advert?!  If only life was that simple.

One particular gem from my eldest son during coverage of the Royal Wedding last year really made me sit up and consider the impact of excessive TV viewing.  We had watched the marriage service on TV at home and then we were going to some friends for a celebratory lunch.  I told my boys that we could watch the rest of the wedding on the TV at our friends’ house – my eldest was particularly concerned at missing anything.  He turned to me and said in all seriousness,” But Mummy, what about the kiss – will that be in the next episode?”. Now if it hadn’t been quite amusing, I might well have gasped in horror that my son had actually confused real life with TV programmes to the extent that he is unable to distinguish between the two.  To be fair to him, he is not alone and in fact there are many adults who seem incapable of separating fact from fiction, TV from real life.  The curse of the soap opera baddie is the abuse he gets in the street from Joe Public who has failed to make the fairly simple connection that just because the person in front of him “plays”

English: TV receiver

English: TV receiver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

X from Y soap opera, he is not actually X.

So what to do? Well, not watching any TV is not an option and anyway there are positives to watching some things and let’s face it, the TV is an integral part of our existence nowadays.  I would like my children to watch less and I do think their behaviour reflects the amount of and what they have watched on TV.  I think this is particularly true of boys – for example, the wrestling viewing definitely leads to rough and tumble with my sitting room as the wrestling ring (no idea what the terminology should be) and I have to admit to finding it intensely irritating that my son insists on addressing me as “mate” at the moment which I can only assume originated from some trash he has managed to watch on the quiet.  Although my children seem to watch a lot of TV and I am always trying to cut it down, I have to remind myself that for the majority of the day, they are out there with their friends or at school or playing sport and a little bit of downtime is a good thing. Actually one of my major problems with TV is not actually the programmes themselves (although as I said previously there is a lot of trash out there) but the advertising on commercial channels to which children seem particularly susceptible – but that will have to be another blog, another time.