The Best Birthday Present Ever For A 9 Year Old.

Brand New 9 year old

This evening the smallest DD turns 9.  It’s her last year in single figures. My babies are growing up so fast!

We used to have lovely relaxed present giving ceremonies in the mornings, but now the oldest two are at secondary school, it doesn’t work out like that.

The big girls usually leave for the bus stop at 7:15 am; the little ones don’t get up until 7. They normally pass like ships in the night ( morning?) so don’t have much time for the giving of gifts, but today I made it happen.

I got the little ones up 5 minutes early and bellowed down the stairs to the big ones that they should come up. I had been unusually organised the night before and had forced everyone to write cards and wrap presents for their sister/daughter. DS headed straight for the loo for his early morning sit down and DD2 shut herself in her room to put her tights on. DD1 started shrieking that she needed to sort out her boil and bite mouthguard and all the while DD3 was sitting patiently on our bed. I left the room to hurry up the others and by the time I had them gathered, DD3 had disappeared.

Arghhh! Finally everyone got together and we started giving cards and  presents, when the older two noticed the time and started wailing they would be late for the bus. I pointed out that if they hadn’t faffed around so much beforehand we’d already be on our way, but they continued to fret and everyone got grumpy.

As I said, it used to be much more relaxed when they all went to the same school.

The main thing was that the birthday girl was happy with her loot; she especially loved her microwaveable panda that she’s cuddling in the photo above.

She also has some presents to open this evening, when everyone gets home again. But apparently this was the best present of all.

Dog home from vet

We have The Lucher home again after her accident last week.

The family is all back together again.

 

 

 

 

The Baby Turns Seven

It’s the first day back at school  after the Christmas break for our eldest two today, but the youngest two have an ‘Insect’ day.

Insect days are a throw back to when DD1 started school, misheard the term ‘Inset’ days and imagined that all the teachers turned into minibeasts for the day. We soon explained the real purpose of the day, but her idea was much more exciting and the term has stuck.

This is fortuitous as today is also DS’s birthday. He’s the baby of the family and he’s seven today.

newborn baby boy

Here he is, all newborn and goopy. He was a big boy, weighing in at 10lb 13 and like all our kids he had really obvious stork marks on his forehead. These did fade with time, but you can still see DS’s if he gets upset or runs around a lot.

His EDD was New Year’s Day, so he did keep us waiting for a few days. In fact I was in hospital, waiting to be induced, when my waters broke and he was born at 6:15 am, unlike the girls who were all born in the evening.

Here he is this morning, pulling his special ‘photo face’, waiting to open some of his presents.

new seven year old

He’s just a normal sized boy now;  his high birth weight didn’t result in a XXL child. But I think you will agree that being seven means that he isn’t a baby anymore.

Seven is definite Big Boy territory.

Goodbye 2014

Whoosh!

That’s the sound of another year flying past for me. I can hardly believe that we are less than 12 hours from 2015.

Finally, after years of hoaxes, we will actually be in the same year that Marty McFly travelled to in Back To The Future. By October the 21st this coming year, I expect to be able to buy a hoverboard!

bttf-arrival-time-prank-1

But of course, time moves at different speeds for different people doing different things. If things are boring or difficult, time drags. And if you are having fun, time flies. And as you get older, time seems to pick up the pace regardless.

From what I can tell, having children does seem to make time go faster still but of course I only have my own experience to go by.

2014 was an okay year for us really. We had a great holiday over the summer. We now have two at secondary school and two at primary, and DH and I have managed to keep our eldest safe long enough that she’s now a teenager. This is a definite milestone in any family and comes with its own special challenges!

I’m not sure what 2015 will bring. It’s a bit of a blank slate as we don’t even have a holiday booked yet. Maybe we might buy a new car? Life on the edge, eh?

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions anymore but I’d like to do more creative stuff in 2015. Aim low and you won’t be disappointed, that’s my theory !

Happy New Year to anyone reading this. I’m off to pack away some Christmas decorations and put them away somewhere I will  be able to find them again in 11 months time.

 

Christmas Eve Eve

Today is the 23rd of December and for us, Christmas Eve Eve is a ‘thing’. We usually spend it at home, waiting for the last few presents to tickle through the door but as the kids are still recovering from school, they are easily amused with DVDs and Minecraft.

Deliveries aside, we try and make sure all our actual shopping is finished by this date so we can concentrate on the wrapping.  In our house, with four kids and far too many presents, there is a lot of wrapping.

The first couple of years we had four children, we used to leave all the wrapping until Christmas Eve. This was a big mistake as we often found ourselves still wrapping and putting together things at 4am on Christmas day. Lack of sleep is the last thing you need when you know the kids are going to be bouncing with excitement at the end of your bed  2-3 hours later.

Now, we are much more sensible and start wrapping presents 3-4 days before Christmas Eve. This has become even more important as the kids get older, as they no longer trundle obediently off to bed at 7pm.

Last night we did 3 hours of wrapping and got through around 20% of the presents, so we’ve got  a fair way still to go.

The other thing we do on Christmas Eve Eve is make a gingerbread house. We did the whole thing from scratch a couple of years but I could not get it to stay together. It didn’t matter; it still tasted good.

Last year I bought a kit with prebaked house bits and managed to get it to stay together before I let the kids loose with sweets and icing. This was the result.

Gingerbread house 2013

It wasn’t as tasty as the home-made gingerbread but I suspect that’s not  the point.

This year we are having another crack at making our own, but it took longer than expected, so is still cooling in pieces in the kitchen. I guess it’s going to be a Christmas Eve project after all.

What does your family usually do on Christmas Eve Eve?

Wanted: Hot Water And Lighting

Some readers may consider this far Too Much Information, but this morning I got up and used the toilet. Then I flushed it. After that, I had a shower and  washed my hair.

This was a big deal for me, because for the last two days, we have had  no running water upstairs and no hot water anywhere in the house. By the time this problem got sorted, after 9 o’clock last night, the novelty of boiling the kettle for hot water and having to queue for our one flushing toilet had well and truly worn off.

I almost cried with relief when the plumber, who we’d had locked in the loft all day, announced we could turn the water back on.

The fun and games started on Monday night, when DD2 came down stairs and told us that there was water running through our bedroom ceiling, through our ceiling fan. Luckily DH was home, and he went up to the loft to take a look. He’s not much one for DIY but he knows a leak when he sees one, so turned off the water while he was up there.

He got a couple of  little shocks from the pipes while he was up there, so once he came downstairs he also turned off the upstairs electricity and the switch that controls all the lighting in the house. Then he rang our Emergency Home Cover Insurers; Lloyds TSB.

They were quite helpful and told him to keep the water and lights/ electricity off overnight. We were also instructed to turn on all the taps in order to drain the loft water tank as quickly as possible.Then they booked us a plumber to come and check on the damage the following morning ( Tuesday), as well as an electrician to come out the following evening ( Wednesday), once things had dried out a bit.

Luckily all the kids were asleep by this point, despite all the stomping about in the loft space, but DH and I got very little sleep with a bucket on the bed between us. I kept waking and wondering if the ceiling was going to cave in on us, and then had a coughing fit at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep.

The plumber turned up on time on Tuesday morning and diagnosed a split water tank. He told us he thought it would be covered by the insurance and submitted his findings, so all we could do is sit tight and wait. At least we had heating and the internet!

In the meantime we dug out torches and lanterns and bought some batteries in preparation for dusk. By 7 pm the verdict was in; Lloyds TSB wouldn’t pay to replace the tank or fix the ceiling, all they had to do was make the situation safe and they had done this. While I marched the kids across the road to a kind neighbour’s place for a bath, DH got on the phone and started ringing plumbers.

The first quote seemed very high, considering the cost of the tank,  but when the second plumber came up with a similar figure, and had availability for the Wednesday, we decided we had to just suck it up. The plumber was very good and worked all day, until just after 9pm when he gave us the good news. We had water again.

I have NEVER been so glad to hear a toilet flush!

The bad news is that we still don’t have lighting. We have electricity downstairs, thank goodness, but the promised electrician didn’t show up last night. DH rang to enquire as to their whereabouts, and was told that ‘unfortunately’ we had been missed off the list and all they could offer us was an appointment ‘after midnight’. We politely declined this, having just got 4 over tired, slightly unsettled kids to bed, so are waiting for them to turn up sometime today. 1-5pm is the time slot we have been given, so we’ll see.

Even if he turns up, I’m assuming the electrician will only be able to assess the situation, not fix it, and then we’ll be back to tracking down someone who can make the repairs, hopefully before the end of the week.

I am a little stressed, as it’s really hard to do things in the dark and I keep falling over our black and grey dogs.

But I’m very thankful that at least it didn’t happen next week, and that we have the water  back on. We can cope with torches, lanterns and Christmas lights for a few more days if we have to; having no water was much worse.

toilet_flushing_5

 

The Last Nativity

Eight years ago I was sitting in our primary school hall, watching my eldest take part in the school Nativity Play. She was an innkeeper, wore a tea towel on her head and had a single line. She remembered it and the words came from her loud and clear. I was the proudest Mum ever as I watched her up on that stage but for some reason I found myself welling up.

I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember what I did with DD3 that day, who was just under a year old. Perhaps a friend looked after her? I can’t remember. But I know that DD2 was at nursery; I remember thinking that the next year I’d have two girls in the Nativity, up on the stage.

That second year I realised that our school Nativity changed very little from year to year. Each Y1 class does a little play then the Y2′s provide the choir, while the Reception children act out the Nativity. It’s very sweet and over the years, as I’ve watched my children on stage as bells, stars, turkeys, donkey sellers and soldiers, DH and I have gradually learnt all the words to all the songs.

Today we went to watch our ninth Nativity play. There was some trepidation as the school now has a new head teacher, and we thought maybe he might have changed it all. We needn’t have worried. It was all exactly as it should be.

DS is now in Y2 and he was in the choir today, singing his little heart out and stopping only to pick his nose now and again. I got to the school a whole hour before the play started in order to get a decent seat. It was worth it as DS was able to see us straight away and he grinned and waved.

It was a lovely play and although DS was ‘only’ in the choir, DH and I watched every move he made. I found myself remembering the first time his eldest sister had been up on that stage;  at that point DS didn’t even exist. That thought made me feel weird and as usual, my eyes leaked a little.

But today I had a reason, as today’s play was also our Last Nativity. Next year DS will be in Y3 and the Upper School does something different for Christmas. We will never again hear those songs or watch very young children trip up over their costumes, or forget their words. Part of me feels relieved but another part feels sad. That’s a bit of school life that we can now put behind us as a family.

But if you are lucky enough to be going to watch your child’s Nativity play this year, pay attention, listen carefully and take some photos if you are allowed. Because time passes, children grow. Life happens. And sooner or later you  too will be sitting in a school hall, holding the tears back, watching your own Last Nativity Ever .

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The Gallery: Yellow

Pikachu onesie
About a month ago the kids started talking about their Halloween costumes. This is the one DS chose; he is into Pokemon at the moment.

So I looked around Pinterest, decided making a Pikachu costume was way too much trouble and went on Amazon to buy one. I also bought some onesies for the girls at the same time. They didn’t want  them for Halloween but like to wear them for slobbing around the house.

Over the next few days, packages started to arrive but not one of them contained a Pikachu onesie. And after about a week, everyone else’s onesies had arrived except for DS’s.

Finally I logged onto to Amazon to see where DS’s costume was. Opps. It seemed I had ordered his onesie from China and the expected delivery time was sometime after Halloween. I had a very disappointed six year old.

We managed to persuade him that Spiderman was also a good costume and he went out happy enough on the night of Halloween. But two days after the main event, guess what arrived? That’s right- DS’s Pikachu onesie.

And he’s worn it to bed almost every night since…

This post was written for The Gallery over on Sticky Fingers. Pop over now for more Yellow.

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How Do You Do Halloween?

Tomorrow is Halloween. If you did not know this, then you must either be child-free or live in the middle of nowhere.

Whether or not you celebrate Halloween may depend on the ages of your children, the neighborhood you live in, possibly your religion and your opinion on ‘begging’. My children are aged 6-12, we live in a Halloween-friendly area, are not religious and I have no problems with my children trick or treating. So we celebrate Halloween shamelessly.

We have been discussing costumes and pumpkin stencils all week; today we will start carving pumpkins, and tomorrow we will decorate the front of the  house. The kids are beyond excited. I think they prefer Halloween to Christmas!

We live among a group of streets that usually really embrace Halloween, and I don’t think this year will be an exception with October 31st falling on the Friday of the school holidays here. Most people are respectful of the ‘No Pumpkin, No Knocking’ rule. People who don’t want to be bothered by trick-or-treaters just don’t decorate their houses. Some put up a ‘No Halloween’ sign, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

The streets are very busy with children and parents once it gets dark, and if you stay in there is a steady stream of costumed kids knocking at the door. We will go out for an hour or so and the kids will come home with bags full of sweets and chocolates. Over the years I’ve tried different approaches with Halloween loot.

I’ve made them eke it out by allowing them to eat a few bits every day, but the nagging for sweets each day gets tedious. I also found it difficult to keep everyone’s sweets separate. Now I just let them eat as many sweets as they want after they’ve been out trick-or-treating. Usually they’ve had enough after 20 minutes or so and are quite happy to hand the rest over to me for disposal.

We not had any illness or too much of a sugar high since I’ve adopted this way of dealing with Halloween sweets, so I can see it continuing for the forseeable future.

Halloween sweets

What are your family’s Halloween traditions?

 

The Snow Queen: Review

snow queen

The Snow Queen was originally a classic fairy tale by  Hans Christian Anderson and has been the base for many a film since. It was, of course, the inspiration for the smash hit Frozen but even if your children have overdosed on that, then there is still a good chance they will enjoy this lower budget version.

The movie tells the story of the evil Snow Queen, whose ambition to freeze the world destroys everything, including the family of the glassmaker , Vegard. But before they turn to ice, Vegard and his wife are able to save their daughter Gerda and son Kai. When Kai is discovered to have survived, by the Snow Queen’s servant and is subsequently kidnapped, Gerda embarks on a journey across the icy wonderland, facing difficult obstacles and making new friends during her quest to set Kai free and defeat the Snow Queen.

Originally Russian, but now dubbed into English, The Snow Queen kept all four of our children, aged 6-12 years, entertained for around an hour and a half. DD2 was a little irritated by the slightly off-sync speech, and some of the animation feels a bit basic but the kids laughed, shrieked and covered their eyes during some scary bits, but no one had nightmares. They especially liked the characters of Gerda’s pet ferret, Luta and the rather odd looking troll, Orm, and thoroughly enjoyed the luge scene, although the older ones conducted a rather thorough risk assessment of this method of travelling down a mountain while watching.

The Snow Queen is an entertaining movie for children 10 and under which will buy you some peace and quiet over the coming half-term.

You can see The Snow Queen at selected cinemas from the 25th of October, and it will be  released on Blu-ray, DVD and other digital platforms on November 3rd.

We were sent a copy of The Snow Queen to review, but the opinion above is entirely my own.