Sunday, 28 December 2014

Our Christmas

You reach a point in life when Christmas becomes yours. It might be just that you grow up and want to do things differently. It might not be a choice you wanted to make. It might be because your own family has grown and needs change. It is your choice how to celebrate.

I have only ever hosted Christmas once before I think. And then my Mum was with me so we did the Christmas we have always done together. Just with a smaller oven.

But this year our girls are bigger. We wanted to stay at home and Paul's parents came to stay. So for the first time ever Christmas was being run by us.

I have always adored Christmas  and growing up at home our family traditions held good. Early present opening. Bucks Fizz earlier than is probably advisable. Mum appearing in the room to open a present or two throughout the morning wearing a pinny. A walk. Sherry in a World's Best Mum glass. Fantastic food. That smile my Mum has when she is looking after her family. Lit pudding. Dad's brandy butter. Games after lunch. No time or inclination for the Queen. Home made Christmas cake. Turkey sandwiches. Stories. As we got older there were evening games and cocktails. That was always my Christmas.

So year we needed our Christmas. A Christmas to fit our family and to entertain our lovely guests.

So we did it. And just as expected it was almost exactly the same. The only difference was chicken instead of turkey (because there was less chance of me overcooking it) and the quality of the Christmas cake (I tried Delia I really did). Oh and brandy butter from a jar (sorry Dad).

This Christmas fitted our life. Just as this Christmas has always fitted. It was lovely.

But I missed my Mum and Dad. Because my Christmas is theirs. And always will be.

Unless we win the lottery and end up in Hawaii one year...

Thank you.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Journaling - Day 21

This is it. The last day of Journaling. I don't know why just 21 days - but I don't want to get bogged down with it so this will be the last for a while. Not a bad one to finish.

Things I am grateful for:
1. That the snow hadn't melted overnight.
2. Having marshmallows in the drawer for the hot chocolate
3. Time and space to read and write.

So this morning was pretty idyllic. The girls went and played in the garden early making a snowman and generally having fun. Then we got togged up and went to the hill to sledge - meeting friends from school along the way. This girls are old enough now that they didn't burst into tears when falling off a sledge and the fun lasted a lot longer than usual. But they are getting a bit too heavy to drag on a sledge home - Paul says anyway. I have a bad back so got out of it.

There was more film watching, jigsaws, games, reading, drawing and a trip to town for Paul and Tilly (Phoebe and I stay home in the warm). I wish this could go on forever.

Journaling - Day 20

Things I am grateful for:
1. Fresh air
2. New bargains from Fat Face
3. Snow at Christmas.

So today we went for another walk, this time to the Botanical Gardens. We found the bear and searched for riddles. The kids had a ball. It's all been going better than I ever expected.

We ended up in Starbucks (after a quick trip to Fat Face sales), then came home and played, watched How to Train Your Dragon 2, cooked the world's biggest gammon. As I read to my clean pyjama'd girls the snow began to fall. And fall. Beautiful. Finally snow during the Christmas holidays/

Journaling - Day 19

Things I am grateful for:

1. Christmas food
2. All our lovely gifts
3. No rain on Christmas Day

Today worked really well. Presents and smiles. A walk to the Park. Dinner (only one broken plate and some dubious roast potatoes). Puss in Boots. Famous Five. Champagne.

I am lucky to have a lovely family. Even if the smallest one really doesn't like losing.

Journaling - Day 18

Things I am grateful for:
1. Ecclesall Woods/beautiful places to walk near our doorstep
2. Community - it was lovely seeing everyone on Christmas  Eve as the kids got involved in the Nativity at Church.
3. My slow cooker.

Christmas Eve was pretty good all in. I managed to get a lot of boring necessary jobs done in the morning before taking the girls for a short walk in the woods with a packet of biscuits.

Our guests arrived in the afternoon and we all went to the Nativity at Church in the evening. I don't believe in God but was treating it as a cultural education experience (and a nice Christmassy thing to do with the added benefit of me getting to sing carols). The girls dressed up (an angel and a king), spent time with their friends and loved the Christingle part - although I'm sure my Christingles never had jelly babies on them. There were carols, smiles, candles in the darkness and it really felt like the start of Christmas. It had the added bonus that Tilly said she now thinks she knows more about Christianity than ever before so the educational bit worked.

We walked home, ate slow cooked stew and the girls went to sleep in minutes in case Father Christmas didn't come. We watched TV, drank wine and it was just lovely.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Journaling - Day 17

Things I am grateful for:
1. Paul letting me have a lie in. I was awake at 4 again for no apparent reason.
2. The cinema. Too expensive but love it when we go.
3. Marzipan. We had two extra friends over today and they made marzipan models. I expect they may have eaten quite a lot of it. I marzipanned probably the world's worst Christmas cake and may have eaten the bits that fell off.

It is inexplicable but I genuinely can't help liking the Nativity films. I took the girls to see Nativity 3 this morning after a quick gingerbread latte and some breakfast. How they manage to get some of my favourite people to be in these films is a wonder to me. I mean Ralph Little? Never mind Catherine Tate, Martin Clunes (who hasn't played a role this daft since Staggered), Duncan Preston, and Jason Watkins. I mean the script is terrible, the jokes are childish, the songs are cheesy - what made them sign up? I like to think it was the joy of Christmas and not the cash.

And despite all these down points I enjoy the films a bit too much. And not just because the girls do. Maybe it's because I don't watch enough films with children larking about in. Maybe it's because they are British. Maybe I'm just a little bit stupid.

It was a good morning.

Journaling - Day 16

Things I am grateful for:
1. Dancing
2.The Ferrero Rocher at the end of pilates
3. Having done the Christmas food shopping

This afternoon we had a little Christmas party for the girls friends who we only see in the holidays. We ate food, did come crafts, played stick the nose on the reindeer, passed the parcel and did a large amount of disco dancing. I got to talk to my friends, spend time with a one year old and watch the girls having a great time.

Then it was pilates, the food shop (surprisingly not too hectic) and an evening in front of the telly. And Christmas TV is isn't disappointing me so far this year. We loved the Wrong Mans (again) and Would I lie to you Christmas special. and we've still got Brian Pern and Never Mind the Buzzcocks recorded and it's only 23rd. I know TV is the drug of the nation, but sometimes it's pretty darn good and it makes me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul.

Journaling - Day 15

I'm getting behind. So this was Sunday. Things I am grateful for:
1. Pantomimes
2. Playgrounds
3. My Mum's chicken pie.

We went to the pantomime in the afternoon. It's an unusual one the Spalding affair. Every so nearly a perfect panto but with an audience who can't quite commit to the things you are supposed to shout out. "Do you want to sing the song everyone?" A Halfhearted "Yes" from the audience. "Well we are doing it anyway" came the smiling if resigned response (I think they've done this show at least 20 times already.

The costumes are good one minute (great in the case of the two ugly sisters) but falling apart slightly another (I swear I could see gaffa tape on the fairy). A paper mache pumpkin one minutes, an animated flying horse and carriage the next. It's a bit bonkers. But the girls faces - in particular Phoebe's - showed that it was truly the best pantomime in the world. And cheesy though it is, watching them light up is the happiest I can be.

Phoebe didn't realise the dames were boys. Although to be fair they both had way better legs than I do and the ability to walk in startlingly high heels so it's an easy mistake to make...

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Journaling - Day 14

Things I am grateful for:
1. Mum
2. Dad
3. Home

Back home home for the weekend. It's been a good day. A quick visit to my aunt to say hello, play musical instruments, gaze at fairground toys and eat mince pies. Then home to Mum and Dad's to eat, drink and play. The kids enjoyed playing in a den, decorating the tree and cake and watching a Christmas film. We all enjoyed dinner, cointreau, talking and just being downright comfortable. Goes without saying but I love coming home.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Journaling - Day 13

Things I am grateful for:
  1. My thoughtful gifts from my hugely lovely work colleagues
  2. Much as I love where I work I am extremely grateful that today was the last work day for a week.
  3. That Paul finished the Christmas shopping and bought the Radio Times.

We still have tonnes to do, everyone is ill or getting ill (including in Tilly’s case violent sneezing and subsequent nose bleeds) and Phoebe is being very wingey and quite unpleasant at times. Despite all this today still managed to be a happy day because it’s the start of Christmas. We wrapped presents and tidied the house (even managing to find the smallest present in the world I thought I’d lost in the process). I’m trying to limit my wholly unrealistic plans of a spotless house and perfect dinner because if I don’t I will ultimately fail and feel rubbish.

I’ve decided to shorten my pre Christmas list radically to help my mental health. So my list is now this and (listen to this brain) the whole family will help me and they don’t actually mind (well Paul doesn’t):

  1. Change beds. Although we might not bother.
  2. Clean out the rabbits and fish. Blooming pets. I can’t really avoid this one.
  3. Hoover. Only in rooms people will sit in. 
  4. Clean the bathrooms. Roughly just so they smell ok.
  5. Go food shopping. For turkey, pre-prepared veg and vodka.
  6. Bake mince pies and Christmas biscuits with the girls. Then eat them.
  7. Wrap remaining presents.
  8. Drink wine. Probably during all of the above. Well maybe not while cleaning the rabbits out.

So really that’s only 5 things that aren’t very pleasant and we have 6 days to do them. Even I can’t fail to manage that can I?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Journaling - Day 12

Things I am grateful for:
1. The kids breaking up from school
2. My new calendar that Phoebe made me. She isn't great at waiting for things. It's too exciting.
3. That I woke up from my nap (seriously) not feeling sick.

I was supposed to have some friends over for wine tonight but have cancelled for fear of giving them any kind of lurgey I might be harbouring. I was expecting that to be my good bit. Instead the best bit was picking up the girls. I've had enough get ups and remember to takes to last me a couple of weeks. Now I'm just waiting for the girls to go to sleep so I can drink tea, eat biscuits, sob over DIY SOS  and have an early night.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Journaling - Day 11

Some days if I write more than the grateful for and the good bit I trickle into talking about negative things. Because days at the minute can be pretty trying. So today I'm going purist for the positive and hoping to forget the rest of it.

Grateful for:
1. Comedy. It's the Comedy awards on Radio 2 today. It made me laugh on the way home, especially "Lost Voice Guy" (who is coming to Spalding in May I see.) Laughing outloud to the radio is joyful because it took me by surprise.
2. Good children's TV programmes. Because it feels slightly less useless when they watch Mr Stink instead of something where people pour slime over their heads. Although the kids do love the slime.
3. No-one being hit on the head by the light that fell from the ceiling this evening at singing.

Tilly's swimming now has the added benefit of having my friend's son in the same class. So we caught up and chatted which was fab. Then in the evening it was our last singing session with mulled wine, cake and more talking. The only problem is my throat now hurts quite a lot.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Journaling - Day 10

1.Tilly's enthusiasm for life - never fails to impress me.
2. A husband who helps.
3. Mookau. I just did lots more Christmas shopping.

This morning was Till'y Christmas performance. I really enjoyed it despite the random nature of the actors changing between scenes. Who knew Scrooge had so many sides to his character - some of them female. With both our girls you can always hear them singing as loud (and roughly in tune) as they can. Tilly had extra responsibilities like introducing the play and moving props at the end and took them very seriously as usual. She had been concerned about the rest of the cast's projection but she didn't need to worry. It was fab. Surely this must nearly be the end of the pre Christmas shows now? And the raffles?

I'm writing this now because in a while I have to do the trek to swimming and by the time I get back form the stifliing pool there's a chance I won't remember how happy I was this morning...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Journaling - Day 9

Things I am grateful for:
1. Mushrooms
2. Christmas lights on houses
3. Not getting a parking ticket

It's been a trying day. Not least because I'm now trying to get things done before Christmas, have no time to do anything and am trying far too hard. Tilly told me off for wanting to clean the oven. She said she won't bother when she's a grown up. I said I have the same idea which is why the once I year I actually do it it's a task of epic proportions.

The good thing today was my second week of pilates. It's such a tiny group - really friendly and welcoming. It doesn't feel much like exercise but it's relaxing and a good thing for my back. Plus it got me out of the house after 2 hours of bickering. Who knew Christmas card making could be such an angry thing. I came back after an hour much calmer and ready to tackle some stuff so it was a wise move. although I feel guilty that I haven't done any more exercise since last week.

Wow it's been one of those days. Focus on the positives love.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Journaling - Day 8

Things I am grateful for:
1. Chloe and Ian.
2. Our rabbit putting herself back in the hutch so we didn't have to chase her round the garden in the cold.
3. That I've finished writing Christmas cards. Well nearly.

I am feeling under pressure today. I knew it would start soon - the impending Christmas fear - and this is when I get a bit stupid and try to make everything 'perfect' before inevitably failing. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle it. I find it very difficult to limit myself to the things I have to do and want to do. I'm not thinking about it tonight it's a bit too much of a mental and emotional challenge.

The positive today though was going to see Chloe and Ian in Leeds for sausage sandwiches and chatting. It's been far too long since we've been. I feel like about most of our friends this year which is more than a bit crap. Of course it was as if we saw them five minutes ago.  Apart from the fact that Ian has grown a lustrous beard since the last time we saw him. The kids loved looking at the alternative Christmas decorations and watching one of the cat's performing daring feats. I just loved seeing oldest bestest friends. That is what this time of year is all about after all.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Journaling - Day 7

Things I am grateful for:
1. I came home this morning to find a bag hanging on my door handle. It said that I should "write some lovely lists" and inside were two beautiful notebooks and 4 coloured biros. I simply have no idea who this is from - I tried to work it out from the handwriting and failed. Thank you. I am so grateful for you and for you doing such a thoughtful thing. You made my day.
2. My friend who shares the driving with me on Saturday morning for Razzamataz. It's a massive help.
3. Eccy Road. A morning with Paul eating bacon sandwiches and doing a bit of Christmas shopping on one of my favourite streets is a good start to a weekend.

Today was such a good day it seems unfair that I have just been woken up by a nightmare and can't get back to sleep. My brain has slightly spoiled it but hey ho.

After our lovely morning, coming back and discovering my present and having a long nap on my sofa (I know what a Saturday right?) we watched the girls' dance routine to when "Santa Got Stuck up a Chimney". It was actually pretty good and they did actual dance moves in time with each other. The freestyling section was a bit bonkers but we were pretty impressed. Clearly Razzamataz is paying off. Plus they'd been playing together planning it for an hour without argument and were making good use of the disco ball.

Then we went over to one of my best friends in all the world's house for a Christmas party. The kids had glitter tattoos and played for hours with the other children and we had the chance to talk and catch up with friends in possibly the best kitchen ever. It really feels like Christmas has started. We drove home, put the children to bed and watched Hope Springs with the fire on while eating sandwiches.

I know I am so much better because I never for a moment thought "I don't want to go" and wasn't anxious at all. Plus having been out socially two days in a row I still feel happy and positive which is a massive change. Despite the fact that I'm awake at 4.48 which is frankly unfair.

Journaling - Day 6

Things I'm grateful for:
1. Fun and fascinating work colleagues and friends.
2. Blue skies.
3. Christmas lunch at work. Definitely festive.

It was our work Christmas do and once I got over my initial anxiety about turning up in a pub on my own I really enjoyed myself. The people I work with are so much fun and so eclectic it makes my life richer for knowing them. I wore sparkly shoes, danced to One Step Beyond, ate food and drank wine. And talked, an awful lot, most of which I imagine was gibberish. My head hurts today which is a shame because it really was a good night  and I don't want my lasting memory of it to be ibuprofen and a nap on the sofa. Wine is my friend and yet also my enemy...

I also bought a homeless man a cup of coffee on the way to the pub. It's a a very small act of kindness that I do very occasionally and in the freezing cold last night I couldn't just walk past. The idea I'm following at the moment encourages you to do small acts of kindness I guess so it puts like into perspective and spreads positivity. So I'm going to think about this more.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Journaling - Day 5

Things I am grateful for today:
1. Small children in nativity plays. Especially my own.
2. New sparkly shoes.
3. A comfortable bedroom where I can listen to rain on the roof.

I've just come back from a music concert at school. I was initially not convinced as it cost me £10 for the 3 of us to go and watch Tilly who takes approximately 48 seconds to play her guitar solo. Actually it was lovely (if a little long) and there was free wine although I should have gone up for seconds. Children playing instruments is a little bit magical. Plus it's made me want to tune the piano. and play again. Maybe Paul will sort that out for me as a Christmas present.

Oh and Phoebe is now 100% totally and utterly convinced she wants to learn clarinet. Or flute. Or both. But not trombone.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Journaling - Day 4

Things I am grateful for:
1. Pasta sauce. Sometimes I just can't be bothered.
2. Ice cream. See above.
3. Stationery. I'm in a list writing place and you can't beat a lovely notebook. Or a 20p one from school.

The happiest thing today so far has been watching my biggest daughter and her best friend rock and roll dancing in the kitchen. They learnt the moves at Brownies last week and through themselves into reliving the dance session with gusto. They aren't exactly strictly standard but they were giggling and so were we. I'm not sure this counts as journaling - it's a short one. But today has been a bit full on and this was a moment of happiness.


My anxiety has a physical feeling. It's a butterflies turning to sick feeling in my stomach. These last few months I have had this feeling from a couple of times a day to, in some cases, all day. In most situations I cannot tell you what the cause was, or how or why it went away. Or why it came back a little while later.

Anxiety doesn't totally stop me doing things. I function, albeit in a slightly dizzy distracted way. I muddle through with the things I have to do  and often it really is a muddle. In the last few weeks I have forgotten to take things with me, failed to do things I should have remembered and overall felt overwhelmed by the nature of parenting two busy bubbly daughters. I've felt a failure in most regards and I have let myself and everything else slide. There is something to say I have impossibly high expectations of myself (more of that another time no doubt) but recently I have felt like nothing I do is good enough.

My anxiety or low mood, whatever you want to label it, is cyclical. When I am at my worst it is pretty obvious to people who know me. I talk less, cry more, don't ring my mum and write nothing whatsoever. I cut myself off.

I did go to the GP and I've been talking to someone about things. It is a slow process.

The last few days I have felt more myself. Things are clearly getting better because I feel like I can make some changes. So I'm trying. Baby steps and all that. But I worry that this will come back in all it's miserable anxious stupor. So these changes need to improve things not just now but for the future which is a big ask.

It's hard for me to write about this. Partly because I don't want you to think I'm a terrible person who can't cope. Partly because I don't want to you think I'm asking for your sympathy.

But the reason I'm writing this is to add my voice to talking about mental illness. I'm bubbly and chatty (some might say loud) with a wonderful family and home. What have I got to be low about? Well the fact that I don't even know says something about the nature of mental illness.

So here it is. I'm ok by the way.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Journalling - Day 3

1. Hugs. Random ones from friends at school gates.
2. My daughter happily practising her guitar of her own accord.
3. Radio 4. Especially plays.

Manic day. Half an hour of peace in my bedroom while Paul sorted the kids out. I needed some time and after a while it was a happy time. I sat on my bed resting my eyes while listening to Paul make the kids laugh in the bath. Then I dried Phoebe's hair. Strangely the happiness twenty minutes of my day. Warm, calm, routine and strangely one of my favourite things.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Journaling - Day 2

Things I'm grateful for:
1. A warm house. It's freezing out there.
2. Phoebe seeming much better. No temperature or headache. And no waking up in the night either.
3. Angela and Freddy. I don't know many little babies anymore apart from little Freddy. And there is little better in life than a cuddle with a baby and a chat with a friend.

So today I started at my new gym. I say started, I mean I went to a pilates class which is hardly frantic exercise, but I'm starting slow so as not to fail and beat myself up. It's a tiny class with lots of attention and I enjoyed it. Exercise is one of the other things recommended for low mood so I'm forcing myself out there and taking it one step at a time. This gym is small and friendly. They say hello when you go in and everyone knows everyone. And so far very few women are tiny and wearing lycra which helps marginally with my self esteem. A good start if  gentle one.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


Ok so there is a lot to catch up with. I've been struggling of late - more of that no doubt another time. But for now I've been sent a link that has inspired me to try a few changes. Apparently writing 3 (different) things you are grateful for every day for 21 days is beneficial in rewiring your brain. Mine is in need of rewiring. Also journaling one thing that made you happy each day helps you relive happy memories instead of focusing on negatives.

So here goes.

Three things I'm grateful for:
1. Paul. For having the energy and positivity every day despite me challenging positivity every step of the way these last few months.
2. My singing group. Singing makes me happy. Singing in a field whilst slightly giggling makes me very happy.
3. Our real Christmas tree. It isn't artistic. In fact it's a bit bonkers. It smells nice and is covered in memories.And Paul and I walked down the road carrying it home which might just be a new tradition. Especially since we now have a much smaller car...

So my journaling today has to be singing at the Nether Edge Market with Jacapella. I've blogged about my singing group before and I love it. It has made me use my brain a different way and has introduced me to some lovely new friends.

Today we met, drank mulled wine and ate mince pies and ran through our songs in the warm. Then we sang together in the middle of the market. We made it through all our songs with happiness and mostly accuracy (despite some of us singing parts we'd never really sung before). We didn't draw crowds of people. Most of our audience were family, friends and other singers. But we sounded lovely and enjoyed ourselves immensely. And then we did it again on the bowling green while small people queued to see Father Christmas. The sky was blue, the rain came down and a rainbow appeared above us. It was almost poetic. And pretty much in tune.

Afterwards I had a drink with my friend and wandered around the market before buying cake and heading home. It was good.