Trying To Stop The Christmas Crazy..

…and why I could never judge those who don’t.

I read an article the other day about a lady who last year bought so many Christmas gifts for her family that when they were piled up in her lounge her tree was barely visible. Cue many nasty comments of course and the odd nod of agreement from those who could see the festive season from her perspective.

I wouldn’t presume to know what makes this lady tick. Perhaps she is trying to compensate because of something else that happened that year or 10 years ago. Maybe she just really likes treating her kids and works hard to. It’s possible that the newspaper contributed a fair percentage of the money spent on those gifts in exchange for her popping her story out there and laying herself open to all of this judgement from people who really ought to know better. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s not really my business.

christmas shopping

Christmas Past

It did make me think about my own version of Christmas though. Of what (if I stop and think about it) the most vivid memories are of the childhood Christmases I shared with my parents and 4 siblings.

I can’t really remember very much about Christmas before my siblings arrived. My Mum was diagnosed with my brother when I was just 4 years old. By the time I was 9 years old there were 7 of us living in our 3 bedroom house. Quiet Christmas was never an option. Noisy, full and fun. That was us.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a child but there were certain things that happened every year

We would always go to see Santa. We’d always have an interesting and hilarious buffet at our grandparents house. We would always (ish) be good on Christmas eve lest we were made to stay up! and we would always wake up to a full stocking at the end of our bed. There would always be a lot of gifts waiting for us in our living room. I mean a LOT.

The gifts would be sorted into a pile for each of us. We would all come into the room together and excitedly find our designated spot. Dad would grab the video camera, someone would get the Christmas music playing and Mum would have a piece of paper and a pen at the ready and then the organised chaos would begin!

As far as I recall we would take it in turns to open our gifts yelling out who they were from and what they were so that a list could be made for easy reference when “thank you card time” came.

In no time at all those presents would be opened and the living room floor would become a sea of colourful wrapping paper with all of us too enraptured by our new toys to care.

Of course we took everything for granted – as was our right as children at Christmas.

But aside from a few exceptions, we really don’t remember what was beneath the wrapping paper. It’s not that we were entitled brats. Not at all. We just remember other things. When I asked my siblings what they could remember they listed

  1. Big piles of presents
  2. The dolls house my Dad upcycled for my sisters.
  3. The year we woke our parents (and possibly the street) up at 3am
  4. The following year when we slept in – but were woken up by our Aunt and Uncle who arrived at 7am expecting us all to have been up for hours. We found it hilarious. Our parents, not so much
  5. The dining table looking beautifully dressed because Mum did it before they went to bed on Christmas eve.
  6. Christmas dinner. Always tasty. Always massive.
  7. Excitement and happiness

My memories of Christmas are fond ones. I know my parents made that happen and I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been some years. I’m very grateful to them both for those memories – they laid the foundations for the type of Christmas I wanted for my children.

gingerbread men christmas

Christmas Present(s)

Now that all 5 of us have families of our own, when we come together to exchange Christmas gifts it can be crazy. I love it. Between us we have 14 children now. When our lives allow we rarely are able to be in the same room but I know that even if not all of us are physically there, we are all thinking some of the same thoughts and remembering the same moments.

We enjoy some wonderful moments. We visit our Grandfather and if we can we take some food to try and recreate some of those buffet recollections of our youth – we will never come close. A vital ingredient is missing and she can never be replaced. Nonetheless, we all have a lovely time.

The house that we visited adorned with lights as children is long gone but we still manage to find something pretty to go look at and our children love standing in awe.. together.

There is just one thing I am beginning to have second thoughts about

The big piles of presents. Or more pointedly the pressure to provide the excitement that I felt as a child of walking into a room full of gifts.

I know that the guilt I feel at the same time every year a couple of weeks before Christmas is not logical. We don’t have the money or the space for hundreds of toys, our children are in no way expecting to received a huge number of gifts. So why should I feel like I need them? I do. I want to indulge them and every year I panic that I haven’t done enough, that they won’t love their gifts. That they will feel disappointed. Disappointed with Christmas or disappointed with me. I am not sure which. Maybe it’s both? Or maybe it’s bollocks.

This year I am doing things differently. Sorry kids, I am swallowing that guilt down with a large snowball and I am refusing to play the game.

A thought occurred to me while Christmas shopping with my Mum. I was talking to her about how worried I was about my daughter liking her gifts and I had this vision of Christmas future

What Comes Next at Christmas?

I had a picture in mind of myself and my daughter in years to come, having the exact same conversation. Of her worrying about the number of gifts under the tree. Not feeling as though she was good enough. Or hadn’t tried enough for her children. Knowing that it was ridiculous but feeling that pressure anyway.  I don’t want that for my children. Or for theirs.

There is only one way as I see it that can change. There are amazing things that I take from my childhood Christmases and feel like I should make a point of saying that my Mum and Dad did not raise us to be materialistic at all. This is not about them. I need to stop. I have to offload that guilt and replace it with something else and I need to remember that we already have everything we will ever need to make those memories our children will hold onto for many Christmases to come.

my children at christmas

 

Gift Good Scents This Christmas

Hands up who else knows nothing about perfume..

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is looking for that perfect gift. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to my first event as a blogger along with my sister blogger, Jaymee from The Mum Diaries.

It was at The Perfume Shop in the Queensgate shopping centre in our fair city of Peterborough with a handful of other local bloggers and we were to learn of the delights of Christmas gifting.. Scent style!

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The Perfume Shop mission statement is ‘To share our genuine passion for perfume & people and offer the most knowledgeable fragrance expertise on the high street.’ and they certainly did!

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It’s All About The App

The Perfume Shop was founded in 1992 and is now the UK’s largest specialist fragrance retailer with over 260 stores nationwide. They are in fact the only fragrance store which uses the Michael Edwards app. I hadn’t heard of this app before but it is fantastic if (like me) you are clueless when it comes to buying fragrance. You can search by ingredient, fragrance family or (and this is my personal favourite) you can find out your gift recipients current perfume of choice and the app can tell you what else they are likely to love!

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Finding A Gift

The best value way to buy fragrance is most definitely as a gift set and The Perfume Shop has one for every budget and every age group.

Their gift sets for children are very sweet and some are hypoallergenic making them a great choice for sensitive skin and most are under £10.

There is something for everyone from the celebrity and sporty perfumes aimed at the young ones to Gucci bamboo (which, if my Husband is reading this is the one he should buy) as well as all of the other big names you would expect.

The Perfume Shop are supporters of Alzheimer’s Research UK and as well as 50p from each gift box purchase they also donate the 5p carrier bag charge to them. Look out instore for the promotional Look Good Feel Better products which help raise money for their work providing practical solutions to ladies dealing with the visible effects of Cancer. On top of this they also offer a military discount. The season of giving indeed!

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As well as fragrance gift sets The Perfume Shop also offers a W7 advent calendar stuffed with goodies which at the time of typing this is on offer at £12.99 – that makes the cosmetics 50p each! Also on offer are several make up palettes and some Ghost baubles priced at £8 each which contain a mini bottle of perfume as well as a little treat (this varies) and would be very welcome in my stocking!
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Click It, Collect It, Tick It Off Your List

There are hundreds of possibilities at The Perfume Shop and all eligible for free gift wrapping and a free click and collect service! If the gift you want to buy is not in stock they can order it in at no extra cost and have it wrapped and waiting for you…. Seriously, how easy is Christmas shopping these days?! Embrace it!

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BRAT is the word of the day

The Lurgy Is Upon Us

Now that the children are back at school, we have tackled Bonfire night and Halloween and Christmas day is coming it’s time for the winter stomach bugs. They are inevitable in this house and my Facebook feed tells me we are not at all alone!

   rice

So, how DO we deal with a problem like Diarrhea?*

Dehydration

It is really easy for little ones to get dehydrated when they are suffering with vomiting and diarrhea. You can offer water and even milk if they will take it but make sure they are sipping, not gulping their drinks. I always gave Col & Bess fruit teas when they were younger. Ginger is a good one for nausea. If your baby has a bout of sickness it is safe to continue to offer them their usual milk and if you are breastfeeding and have a bout of sickness there is no medical reason for you to stop nursing – aside from feeling like shit obviously

toast

Something To Nibble

While they are vomiting it is best to stick to clear liquids but that won’t be forever. It’s always tough to know when to introduce solid foods back into your child’s diet after a bout of sickness. Bland is key as is little and often. A good way to get them nibbling again without stressing out their system too harshly is by using the BRAT rule.

Bananas Rice Applesauce Toast 

You can’t really stick to this for more than a day or maybe 2 after the sickness has stopped so you should be re-introducing fruits and vegetables as soon as you can after your child starts to feel well.

It is very normal for a weaned baby/toddler to regress after a bout of sickness. Of course Vegetables are the first thing they cross off their list of must eats. Don’t worry too much about that, just let them take their own time.

I usually make some scones. You can add all sorts of things to them such as cheese or grated vegetables.

poorlycol

The most important thing to remember is this. It won’t last long and when it is finished you will have earned yourself a considerably large glass of your favourite beverage. If you can keep it down..

*You saw what I did there, right?

Giant Cookie Company

For his 15th birfotor_145951629303314thday Col requested that he have a giant cookie instead of a birthday cake. He made this request well in advance of the big day but guess what? Yes, I completely forgot until the day before. Awesome.

Somebody mentioned that a supermarket was offering a giant cookie service at the half the price of a well-known cookie chain (rhymes with lilies) so I loaded up the car and off we went.

Unfortunately what the helpful person didn’t tell me during our conversation was that they need at least a days notice and there is no wiggle room. The panic started to set in..fotor_145954134324663

Back in the car I googled “giant cookie” and found The Giant Cookie Company, I didn’t hold out much hope but thought I would chance my arm and call them.

SUCCESS! Not only were they able to take my order, they were much better value for money than that national chain and they were more than happy to deliver. As luck would have it they had a cookie ready that I could commandeer and she had time to remake later for the other customer. Phew!

The absolute best part though is the massive choice of flavours on offer: choc, caramel, mint, lemon, strawberry, banana, orange, choc orange, coconut, maple, choc mint, peanut butter, vanilla and all of those come in any colour. The possibilities are immense! 

As you can see Col was very happy with his giant cookie and it definitely ticked all of the boxes when it came to taste!

I’m always happy to use local companies and especially so when they are as lovely as this one. I would recommend them and will be using them again – this time with a bit more notice.

I Can’t Remember When I Last Fed My Child

I remember the first time.

I can recall when he was born the frustration of knowing I had nursed 2 children previously without any issue and the midwife saying that he needed to be given formula right away because he just wasn’t taking enough from my breasts. I remember feeling confused as to why the act that I ha20141017_171337d assumed would be as natural to this hairy little beast as it had been to his brother and sister was just not happening.

I remember feeling pissed off with myself because as much as I knew that I wanted to breastfeed I was just too tired to argue after being in pain for hours before. I remember the temporary relief as he was taken away for his “first proper feed” as they put it and then of course that first flush of our favourite – Mummy guilt.

Mummy guilt is a bitch. I don’t know about you but for me it is there from day 1 right through to, well, I don’t know the answer to that because actually I am 15 years 7 months and 5 days into being a Mum and that guilt has been ever present. That’s ok and I think I would miss it now if I didn’t feel it.

I remember how sad I felt when the midwives (who really were just trying to help I am sure) offered to go get a bottle of formula the following day when again my tiny boy just would not latch. All I could do was in my hospital bed feeling uncomfortable, alone and utterly defeated.

I remember later when my sister arrived. My sister who is 8 years my junior, as fierce in personality as she is short in stature and who as luck would have it also happened to be a breastfeeding peer support. Into my room she strode clearly excited to see her new nephew and armed with the best of gifts for a new mother; COLD caffeinated fizzy drinks and the best kind of junk food. She may as well have been wearing a full set of armour and riding a white steed (probably frowned upon in most hospitals). Moments after she took a look at my fed up face and I had relayed the situation she had marched off and returned with the largest breast pump I had ever laid eyes on. An instant game changer and I had the help I needed.

Of course it was still tough. I soon realised that my little Moose was a snacker – that meant I could kiss goodbye to more than a couple of hours sleep a night. I found my peace holding my beautiful boy close while the rest of the world (or so it felt) snoozed. With a lot of trial and error we got to the 6 month point – that’s where I stopped nursing his siblings – and on we went. When we reached 1 year people began raising an eyebrow if the subject arose. At 18 months I stopped volunteering the information. I was never ashamed or embarrassed about it, quite the contrary but I think people just assumeDSC_1241d that we had moved on. We hadn’t.

I often thought then about how and when we should stop breastfeeding. There is a fair bit written about how to start nursing but not much about how to end it.

Do I wait for my son to stop? Would he ever? Should I instigate the stopping process? What the fuck would a stopping process involve anyway? What if he was still breastfeeding when he started preschool? If they are old enough to ask, is that too old? Did I care if society said it was?

It was something that had become part of his (and my) every day. As much as I am not a fan of routine really, this kind of was our routine and oh man. Those cuddles first thing in the morning and last thing at night. What would make me want to miss those? I read about picking a date and making that the last supper (as it were) and then one day not too long ago I realised that we were sitting on the sofa and we were having a cuddle.

He wasn’t pulling at my top or getting cross because I wouldn’t give him milk. We were just having a cuddle. In a way I wish I could have seen it coming so I could have made myself treasure those last feeds but that’s just not how it happened. As we cuddled I realised that I wasn’t sure how or when we started stopping…

…and that, was that. It was hard, it was easy. We had learnt how together and then it was over