2 Jan 2017

My December 2016

I’ve loved December, I really have. And, sat here, on the 2nd of January, the last day of the Christmas holidays, I’m really sad that that’s it for another year. I’m just not quite ready to go back to routines and reality tomorrow. The last ten days off work and in very much a Christmas and festive bubble have been really relaxing and special; I got to spend some much needed quality time with my little family, and it was so nice to just be – the four of us, not many commitments, not many people to see or visit, and being able to just hibernate in our PJs, watching movies, playing games, going out and about, or just chilling.

But December wasn’t just special because of Christmas, all in all it was a lovely month for the rest of the time, too. So here are my highlights:

1.     Early on in the month we went to see Father Christmas on the Santa Train. It’s an old vintage railway, and it was the first time that Alex was on a train (or saw Santa, for that matter), and he was as baffled as fascinated and excited, as he loves trains. We followed that up with a visit to Bath Christmas Market, which is one of the nicest in the country apparently, and it didn’t disappoint indeed. It was a great way to kick off December and the festive season.

2.     We traditionally decorate the Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, and we did just that. It was the second year that we had swapped our usual real tree for a fake one, and I have to say, I am still quite taken with how it looks and how easy it is to assemble and disassemble. I will always have a soft spot for real trees and I’m sure we will have a real one again at some point, but  for now I am so glad I didn’t have to deal with millions of needles everywhere for weeks on end; a fake one is just so much easier! And the kids loved helping to decorate the tree and put the finishing touches to it. Every year I try to pick up some new decorations that will be memorable and personal to the kids, and my little collection is growing. I want to get some personalised baubles for 2017, as this was on my agenda this year and then I left it too late. So if anyone’s got any recommendations, do shoot them my way, please.

3.      Becky had her first karate grading and is now a red belt. She’s really enjoying karate, and she does it with her Daddy, who is also very much into it, so I hope that they will continue this daddy-and-daughter activity for a long time to come.

4.      It’s Becky’s birthday in December, and this year we held a pyjama party at our house for eight girls altogether. You can read all about it here, but it was a lot of fun and the girls – and most importantly Becky – enjoyed themselves (and I only needed one big glass of wine afterwards!).

5.     A couple of days later it was Becky’s actual birthday, which was a lot more low-key than in previous years, because she’s now at school and it was a normal school day. Because we don’t have any family nearby, it was just the four of us on the day, but we still made her feel special and made a big fuss of her – and ended the day with a treat trip to McDonalds (which is what she wanted, as she’s obsessed with Maccy D’s. Go figure!).

6.      Another couple of days later it was our office Christmas party; it’s always in very glamorous locations in London, but not much will be able to top off this year’s venue, the Natural History Museum. The setting was nothing short of spectacular – and even though I don’t actually care about fossils, there’s something about being photobombed by a massive dinosaur, even I have to admit!

7.     On the last weekend before Christmas we went on another Santa visit. This time we saw him in a very atmospheric yurt, and while Alex was more fascinated by the setting and the lights than Santa himself, Becky chatted away to him as if they were old buddies, and ended the session by confidently belting out “Jingle bells” to him. Santa must have been very impressed, because he rewarded Becky with lots of pressies on Christmas day!

8.     The main day itself, Christmas day was mostly spent opening a huge amount of pressies - so much so, that I had accidentally forgotten about three of the biggest pressies that I had hidden away a bit too well, only for two hours or so later to bring them down, muttering: “Oh, look, Santa even left some pressies upstairs!” Duh! Luckily the kids were so engrossed, they didn’t think about it further, they just grabbed them. The rest of the day was spent eating (I made a mean Christmas dinner, if I say so myself), drinking, and being utterly lazy and just chilling with the kids, playing games and watching movies. Total bliss.

9.      On Boxing Day we went to Wales to see John’s parents and for Christmas Part Two. And after days of indulgence and to dust off the cobwebs, we ventured out to Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly, which is only about half an hour’s drive from their house, and spent a wonderful day exploring the grounds and the brilliant facilities for kids there, on a very crisp and cold day indeed.

We had a quiet but cosy New Year’s Eve, with a bit more hibernating over the last couple of days. I so wish I could carry on. Why can’t December just last a little bit longer? 

20 Dec 2016

When we went to see Santa ... again

The kids with Becky's school "pet" Pecky, which she's taking everywhere, as it's her turn to write his diary. 
On Sunday we ventured out for yet another meet-up with Santa, visiting a zoological conservation project where Santa held residence in a very lovely and atmospheric yurt.

We had never actually managed to visit the place before, so it was as good a time as any to do so for the first time, when Santa was there. The kids were very excited; I’m still surprised that Alex is taking Santa in his stride and is neither particularly bothered, nor particularly scared of him, which is good, as Becky at his age was absolutely terrified of the big man, wherever we took her, and was always crying her eyes out if he even came near her.

As we’re approaching the final countdown to Christmas, it was nice to be out and about as a family and leave the pre-Christmas stress and craziness behind. We had a little wonder round the area and saw cheetahs, chimpanzees, wolves, reindeers, meerkats (my favourite!), mongoose lemurs and more, and then we stepped into the yurt, where Santa took time to chat to Becky (and Alex, though he kept wondering off and marvelling at the Christmas lights and decorations), who sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer” with and for him – very confidently, I must add. Maybe she will actually be a popstar when she’s older, which is her biggest dream right now!

It was a lovely day out, which we ended with a huge hot chocolate topped off with cream and marshmallows. I just love Christmas. Such a magical time for kids - big and small! 
Five more days to go, peeps!

From one raindeer to another.
Hiding in a woodland den.

I love this picture of Becky and John. They are best buddies.

Gratuitous shots of mongoose lemurs and a meerkat, because they are just so cute.
The kids meet the big man. 

18 Dec 2016

So My Little Girl is 6

So Becky turned six earlier this week. Six! I honestly don’t know how this happened. While she will always be my little girl, she is growing up so incredibly fast. Four years felt like a big milestone, like a departure from toddlerhood, and whilst five years also seemed like yet another step up, six feels on another level altogether (I guess I will say this every year, but it does feel so momentous every year!).

Everything, from her looks through her demeanour, her interests, hobbies to friendships and overall skills and abilities have developed so much over the past 12 months; a lot has obviously most certainly to do with school and the fact that she is now in Year 1, which seems to accelerate everything somehow. 

She is a bubbly and extroverted little girl, and she has lots of friends whom she socialises with regularly, and these friendships are getting stronger and stronger as time progresses. When we had her pyjama party last week, it became so obvious to me how many beautiful relationships she has formed with so many different girls, and each friendship has its own dynamic and foundation, which I think says a lot about the type of character and personality Becky has, and how open, adaptable and friendly she is as a person.

She loves going out on play dates or birthday parties and her social calendar is considerably more packed than mine - we’re at various celebrations or other social gatherings nearly every weekend, which she absolutely enjoys – especially dressing up in pink party dresses, getting her hair and nails done (by me), acessorising and so on! She’s a typical little big girl.

She’s so funny and has us in stitches most of the time; the way she says things or asks things – she’s very dramatic and a bit theatrical; in fact, I think she would do well at a stage school or theatre group or so, which I will have to look into (I wonder whom she's got that from *ahem*). She’s also very confident and chatty – our little chatterbox, as we call her, and even though she can drive us nuts by just never shutting up, we wouldn’t have her any other way. She’s so incredibly eloquent though – I marvel daily at the wealth of her vocabulary, the sophisticated words she often uses, her grasp of language generally (she can do a mean American accent, which is hilarious!) and how articulate she is for a 6-year-old.

She continues to learn and speak German, and even though English will always be her primary language and the one she uses most frequently and naturally, she has days where she puts real effort into speaking German back to me or consciously asks how you say something or other in German or how it's pronounced, which I think is great. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on her, but at the same time I am keen for her to be bilingual, so I’m trying to strike a balance between teaching and facilitating German, whilst also ensuring that we still function as a family unit and that John, who doesn’t speak German, is included in everything and doesn't miss bits of conversation or so. 

It was parents evening at Becky's school recently, and aside from the huge praise her teacher had for her academic achievements  - she said that Becky is doing really well with her reading and writing, as well as Maths (apparently she always asks to be given new Maths challenges, which I’m astonished about as I always hated Maths; one thing she definitely hasn't from me)  – she also said that she wished every one of her pupils was as enthusiastic as Becky; that Becky is always up for every new thing, never moans about not wanting to take part in something, always gives everything her best shot and will try and try with determination until she has mastered something, which I think are almost more important life skills and character traits than any other academic accomplishment. She also said that Becky is always kind and polite and treats everyone in the same respectful and friendly manner, and I can’t express the sense of pride I feel hearing this.

Lots of people frequently comment on what a lovely child Becky is - of course I know that, but I’m obviously biased, so it’s nice to hear it from others, too, especially teachers and her friends’ and peers’ parents etc.

She has always been confident and outgoing in her personality, but physically she had a tendency in the past to be a bit more timid and a little scared to push herself. This has really changed over the past year, and whilst she is still considered and careful in what she does, she has become a lot more daring and courageous, which is brilliant. She’s learned to ride a bike without stabilisers in the spring, and since the summer she has been learning karate and recently had her first grading and she's now a red belt. How awesome is that?

To me, Becky is perfect, and I love her more than she will ever know. She’s the funniest, kindest, cleverest and most beautiful girl I know – and best of all, she’s mine!

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