Has Spring Sprung?

In the last few weeks, Spring has emerged with beautiful sunshine against a flawless blue sky. I am so pleased with this turn of events I have felt like channelling my inner Noddy Holder and shouting ‘Its Springtime!”. Following a very wet winter, with a majority of the UK starting to grow webbed feet, we longed for some dry weather and here it is with sun to boot.

I love Spring. It is definitely my favourite season. Summer is a contender, but last year it was super hot and with three children consisting of my 10-year-old son suffering from early sulky teenager syndrome, my 6 year-old boy/girl twins with polar opposite personalities (aka difficult to please) and an overheated dog, it was challenging to say the least. Autumn can be pretty with its vibrant coloured trees and carpets of conkers, but it is also the time of increased spider activity and those particular creepy crawlies just spoil the whole season for me, leaving Winter which is cold or wet and feels constantly dark. But Spring has all the makings of perfect for me, the weather is mild enough that I can rid myself of the abominable snowman look I have been sporting over winter and I no longer have the stressful school run activity of locating missing gloves and trying to persuade my daughter to wear mismatched woollen accessories.

Spring has the whole rebirth thing going on as well, nature has woken up and the children are back out in the garden acting as if they have just been released back into the wild. We currently have blue tits in the nesting box in our garden, which is fascinating my daughter who has now taken to digging up worms and leaving them on the tree for the ‘blue tit babies’, I have tried to dissuade her from this activity and that worms have feelings too but she is on a mission as an adoptive parent to her new bird family. I love the emerging blossom on the trees transforming our ordinarily drab street to something much prettier, along with hardcore daffodils popping up in odd places such as dual carriageways and roundabouts.

Gorgeous mini triffids

Gorgeous mini triffids

I’m probably enjoying the long-awaited burst of flora more than others, hayfever sufferers I sympathise. The minute the first bud pops up on a tree my poor Mum is sneezy, drowsy, teary and other such dwarf names. While I’m taking pleasurable inhalations of freshly mowed lawns she is bah humbugging the misery of the production of pollen.

Woohoo trees are pretty again!

Woohoo trees are pretty again!

For me, Spring impels me to think about diets more so than in January. With a bit of decent weather, some of the general public (you know who you are) decide to flash the flesh in summery ensembles, far too early in the year and looking a tad unprepared for them. My youngest son is definitely of this ilk, if there is the teeniest bit of sunshine, even if the temperature is chilly, he kits himself out in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops despite the shade of blue he is turning on the trampoline. The minute I decide to don some sort of skirt/dress garment that will expose my unprepared pins, I inevitably will bang into a table and produce a huge bruise on my calf, thus limiting my anticipated flesh baring for at least a month to avoid looking like I have been kicked by a horse.

Spring is also the misconceived time for cleaning. Who ever decided the concept of ‘Spring Cleaning’ should feel rather guilty about it. Just as the weather is improving and nature is bursting with life we are expected to shut ourselves away and start cleaning our skirting boards. Personally, I have surface cleaning down to a fine art, thorough cleaning is just not in my make up. With three children and a young Labrador there is often little point in trying to keep order of my household chores, I would much rather play cars with my youngest son or allow my daughter free rein of her paints on the kitchen table. However, I have started to make out I’m more of a clean freak for my oldest son’s benefit, to encourage him to be more tidy and at the very least for him to see his pants on his bedroom floor as a faux pas.

As a Spring fan (careful not to say Springsteen there) I would like to encourage others to feel the same as me. For hayfever sufferers, try not to look at it as a time of pollen induced stress but embrace the antihistamine and move on. For all of us, forget about cleaning out your kitchen cupboards and go for a walk in the sunshine instead. Embrace your obscure summer fashion choices of yesteryear and not stress about the pallor of your skin, remember we are in it together. Most importantly, we need to see Spring through the eyes of our children, my three little ones also love this time of year, from finally getting out and about in the great outdoors without the need for fifteen layers along with the reintroduction of ice-cream on a sunny afternoon, as well as being able to appreciate the beauty of nature whilst seeing creatures emerge from their winter slumber.

I was hoping to end on a quote from my favourite quote bank, aka Ferris Bueller, but instead I turn to published poet and author Margaret Attwood:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

My Over-Acting Thyroid and Me

Half term week is now drawing to a close and what an eventful week it has been. Hubby has been away with work for the whole week so me and my three little cherubs had made ambitious plans to spend some quality time together.  Each day was planned with military precision, weeks ahead of the half term, ensuring each child covered an activity of their choice, saw at least one of their buddies and took turns to sleep in hubby’s side of the bed. And we achieved all of our goals and much more with events popping up as the week progressed. What I hadn’t prepared for, however, was a sudden dash to my local hospital.

At the grand old age of 38 I consider myself to be in fairly good health. Other 38 year olds such as Angelina Jolie and David Beckham may be looking a bit more youthful than me but so would I on their pay packets! But generally I’m doing alright. However, over the last year or so I have been experiencing palpitations, a sort of a weird heart fluttering sensation coupled with the feeling that my heart is skipping a beat. I have visited two separate doctors, one of which put it down to ‘hormones’ AKA ‘women’s problems – get on with it’ and the other put them down to eating too much chocolate and perhaps I should cut down…. erm no can do I’m afraid. I tried to seek comfort from their conclusions, tried not to convince myself that I had some sort of heart condition and tried to ignore them, I even affectionately named them ‘my palps’ when discussing the sensation with friends and family.

Except this month they felt worse and after terrifying myself through self-diagnosis online, I decided to visit doctor number three. He was a bit more thorough and sent me off to hospital for a blood test and an ECG (heart test). Typically, while hooked up to the ECG I didn’t have one of ”my palps’ so was sent on my way.

Our half term continued and whilst in a toilet in our local library, trying to help my youngest son out of Batman costume so he could have a wee, my doctor rang. He said that he was concerned about my blood test results and that I should go to the hospital for further tests, he explained that my thyroid levels were high and that I needed to speak to a consultant about it. So, not really knowing what a thyroid was, I took my time and after lunch dropped the kids off with my Dad and took my Mum up the hospital with me to find the ‘Medical Assessment Unit’ I had been instructed to visit. After endless corridors of my local hospital we finally found our destination and I gave my name to the nurse behind the counter. The nurse said that she had been expecting me and led me to a ward of about 6 beds and gave me a hospital gown. I suggested that there must be some mistake and that I was just coming in for a chat, she just smiled at me sympathetically and closed the curtained wall of my bed, telling me to make myself comfortable.

Trying not to feel like I was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I decided I had better go with it as me and Mum proceeded to work out how to tie up the massive faded blue patterned hospital gown (Stella McCartney really needs to move onto hospital wear after her Olympic designer range). In the following 5 hours (!) I was prodded and poked by a variety of nurses and doctors, had numerous tests involving lots of needles as well as a Tommy Cooper style impression to see if I had the shakes. Finally, after witnessing lots of scribbling on clipboards and hushed conversations between medical staff I was given a conclusion, I was told that my thyroid was in hyper mode, that I had an overactive thyroid and this was the reason I was experiencing palpitations. They were concerned as to why I had ‘ignored’ these symptoms for so long, to which I did try to explain the whole chocolate diagnosis. I was then told that I would have to start a shedload of meds,  that I would be sent for a CT (brain) scan as I had complained of headaches with ‘my palps’ and a lot more blood tests, etc., were to come. There was even talk of some radioactive treatment in the future. They said they were going to watch my heart rate to see if I needed to stay in the night.

My Mum looked worried, I tried to brush it off as a ‘I think it’s very common’ and then started to worry about having to call my Dad and ask him to organise my overnight bag. How would he choose my pyjama’s as I often improvise pyjama tops with my Nirvana and Foo Fighters t-shirts and furthermore, my dressing gown had a massive coffee stain down the front of it thanks to my dog Chester jumping up at me that morning. Thankfully, I was able to save my Dad from this ordeal as the nurses decided I was OK to go home with my take-out bag of drugs.

The miserable ward I manage to escape from!

The miserable ward I managed to escape from!

Yesterday, I had my CT scan. I was instructed to lay on a bed in front of a giant metal doughnut looking machine. The nurse then made a swift exit and my bed began to move inside the doughnut, my pillow started to heat up and a red light began to move across my head, then it started to make an industrial Hoover type of noise as my bed shifted back and forth. Starting to feel like I was in a bad Sci-Fi movie, I tried to look up into the nurses room but couldn’t quite see. After about 10 minutes, my bed spat me out of the doughnut and I was told I could leave and that my results would be sent to my doctor. I scanned the nurses face for any sign of concern but she had the whole poker face down to a fine art.

I am on day 5 of my drugs now and ‘my palps’ thankfully have decreased, I am trying not to Google my overactive thyroid condition too much as there is always a worst case scenario that I might not need to know. I still have more tests to come and a trial and error course of meds to sort my thyroid out, but I am hoping my ‘hyper’ thyroid will calm itself down and behave for the foreseeable future.

House of Pain

I am emerging from a weird sort of hibernation today. For the last three weeks my house has resembled an episode of M*A*S*H with makeshift beds and bandaged bodies groaning from different rooms. I have taken on the role of Hawkeye and have been administering pain medication to my three poorly patients. My patients have been my husband, my dog and my daughter, as all three of them have had operations.

Firstly, hubby was booked in for a minor operation. We have decided to draw the line at three children and to ensure this is a definite choice, my hubby made the brave decision to have ‘the snip’ (only took 2 years of me badgering him). He wasn’t completely willing as apart from the obvious fears of the pain he may have to endure, I think there is a male ego thing related to this particular male operation. For Mum’s we become fairly used to being pulled around and examined with little dignity from the minute we get pregnant and long after the baby is born. I had so many examinations during and after my pregnancy with the twins I was pretty much on auto pilot of stripping off from the waist down at every appointment, even if the doctor was only interested in my blood pressure! After three children, all delivered naturally and numerous smear tests, I did find it a little tricky to feel too sympathetic about my hubby’s upcoming surgery but I did understand his concerns.

On the day of the operation, my husband and I travelled by train to a clinic in the west end of London, which literally had the smallest waiting room I’d ever seen. We waited amongst the other nervous looking men and their partners until he was called through for the procedure. In just less than an hour, my hubby emerged looking a bit pained. I had expected him to be walking like a cowboy having just dismounted from his horse but it was the opposite, he wasn’t able to take big steps but instead was sort of shuffling. Clutching his paper bag of dressings and leaflets we carefully left the surgery and ambled down the street towards the Underground. Hubby was now resembling a geisha with his tiny steps and his legs shut together which meant I had to adopt a similar walking style so as not to leave him behind, this seriously doesn’t work in rush hour London. Apart from flinching everytime the dog or kids came anywhere near him and walking tentatively for a few days, his recovery has been fairly straightforward.

Next up on the hit list was our dog Chester. As a 2-year-old male Labrador, Chester has become a little over sexed of late. Thankfully, his heightened hormones have mainly been directed at cushions, his bedding and a weird obsession with Chihuahua’s and he hasn’t tried to hump any of us.  However, whenever we were out on a walk, Chester’s hormones were raging at any dog that was unlucky enough to cross his path. Whatever breed or gender he was climbing aboard, I was left trying to drag him off the poor dog he was violating and apologising profusely to the horrified owner. If a Chihuahua was within a 2 mile radius he was gone, nose shoved in a place that made the features of the toy dog literally cry out for help. When it came to the point of an annoyed dog owner suggesting he ‘sort my dog out with some bricks’ I knew it was time to seek veterinary help!

Not a happy patient!

Not a happy patient!

We visited the vet after determining what the difference was between a castration and a vasectomy, which was a little reminiscent from the week before with my hubby. Chester was led away, his tail wagging, oblivious to what the rest of the day had in store for him, again it was a little reminiscent of the week before with my hubby. We collected him that evening with his massive cone to wear, struggling to walk on wobbly legs and a private area that would make the bravest person heave. His recovery has been a bit more laboured, he hasn’t been allowed out for walks for two weeks and for a dog who has a 2 mile run every day he has been super miserable. The cone that he was supposed to wear was a nightmare, not only did it take a wrestling team to fix it on his neck, but once he was wearing it, he proceeded to nudge the backs of our legs with it and scrape it up and down the walls. He has finally recovered after two weeks in depression with my constant shouts of ‘leave it alone’ after we abandoned (and he proceeded to chew) his cone. He has been out for walks but not amongst other dogs as yet, that test is to be trialled next week when I immerse him back into doggy society and hope that he has learnt to control his hormones a bit more.

My last patient of the month was our little girl. She has always had abnormally sized tonsils and adenoids, suffers with constant glue ear and is always dealing with some sort of cold. In her six years of life, we have visited numerous doctors to no avail, were told that she will ‘grow into her tonsils’ or that she can ‘learn to live with them’. After a concerning amount of time off school last year with throat infections, she was finally placed on a waiting list for surgery. The date we were sent, of course, was the week after Chester and hubby’s operations. I had longed for a solution to my little girl’s constant anguish with illness, but when the day arrived for her to have the problem eradicated, I was petrified. We arrived at the children’s ward bright and early one morning and settled Millie in her sterile and unwelcoming bed, against colourfully designed walls, amid hospital equipment and toys.

The view next to my daughters bed.

The view next to my daughters bed.

After the consultant talked us through the upcoming procedure of removing said tonsils and adenoids, puncturing her ear drums to drain fluid and inserting grommets, we had to paste on our hopeful smiley faces for the sake of our anxious looking daughter. We were led to the operating theatre were I was given hospital scrubs to wear, as I would be accompanying my little one through anaesthetic. Hubby was placed in the most starkly decorated relatives room ever seen and I followed her hospital bed and nurses down the daunting corridor and into pre-op. My job was to distract my daughter as the anaesthetist inserted the needle tap thingy in her hand. So I proceeded to promise my daughter the world in exchange for her looking at me and not the hand that was being dealt with. Unfortunately, her tiny hand didn’t accept the needle insertion so they had to try the other hand. I changed places with the surgical team, choking back the tears as my little girl stared wide-eyed at me looking frightened and begging me ‘to keep her tonsils’. They managed to put the needle in her other tiny hand and within seconds she was out cold, at which point I almost collapsed in a heap. One of the nurses led me back to the relatives room as I burst into tears, blubbering at the nurse ‘she didn’t even count back from ten’. Hubby was waiting there opposite another Mum, in much the same state as me, as we waited the longest 45 minutes of our lives.

The most depressing waiting room I never want to see again.

The most depressing waiting room I never want to see again.

Thankfully the surgery was a success, however, once back in childrens ward an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic kicked in resulting in her heart racing, her temperature raging and the poor little lady vomiting. Thankfully, the nurses were quick to react and brought her back to normal with medicine and a fan. We then spent the next 9 hours trying to make our little girl comfortable and feeding her crisps and sandwiches (doctors orders) so no ice-cream as expected. The last two weeks of her recovery have been tough, she has suffered greatly with pain, especially in her ears, her appetite is non-existent and her diet has mainly consisted of jacket potatoes and chocolate milkshakes, but she is starting to turn a corner now. The pain has eased and she is starting to show an interest in food again. I am spending far too much money on my food shopping and hosting a kind of Generation Game each evening bringing different food items in front of my daughter with an accompanied ‘Wow look whats on the menu tonight!’.

Three weeks, three operations and three poorly patients. I’m hanging up my scrubs for now.

Technophobic Parenting

Being a parent can often involve a multitude of roles covering everything from cleaner to chef or chauffeur to psychoanalyst and the negotiation talents of Alan Sugar for when it comes to mealtimes/bedtimes or bickering between siblings is often helpful.

The latest required string to my parental bow is the need for technology know-how. Don’t get me wrong, I can confidently find my way around the internet, am fairly proficient in Word, Excel and Powerpoint and hopefully Social Media savvy (although still trying to become enamoured by Twitter). However, when we bought our 10-year-old son a tablet for his birthday in December, his knowledge of the internet in a week left me in the dust. Trying to keep up with him clicking between various tabs was like trying to understand the conversations in one of the modern Star Wars films. In the early days of his new gadget, I sat down with him to ‘show him the ropes’ but instead ended up with my first-born helping me create a Google account while he become frustrated trying to explain Google + to me. Say What Now?

This is the child that has looked to me for advice from birth. Those big green eyes have penetrated my soul as he has quizzed me about all manner of weighty subjects over the last ten years, as I in turn imparted my pearls of wisdom about what worms eat, or if Spiderman has to wee like normal people, but computers, this is a whole new world that I wasn’t ready to share with him yet. A world that he is sort of doing a lot better at than me worryingly.

computer says no

Our son is not only a bit of a computer whizz kid, but I am proud to think that he is a sensible little fella too. He has a nice group of friends that are all polite boys, we have never had any fears of him being bullied and on the whole, apart from the usual strops about going to bed early or not wanting to eat his broccoli, he is a happy child. And like most other parents, I thought I knew my son, we talk a lot, he tells me lots of things about his school life, he talks to me regarding his concerns about whether he’ll make the Chelsea soccer squad when he’s an adult and I in turn try to steer him to other career choices, but I was suitably shocked to discover that my innocent little man was actually making YouTube videos.

He sometimes borrows my laptop as he started writing a blog last year (http://williamsmatchoftheday.wordpress.com/)  and I am actively encouraging this new-found desire for creativity by allowing him use of my computer. However, when he left it logged on (again!) the other night after he had gone to bed, the only tab open was YouTube displaying the numerous videos he and his friends have been making.

The thing is, my son and his friends are addicted to Minecraft and for those of you who are not familiar with this game, it is basically a combat, building, strategy type game with graphics which remind me of those that were used on Ceefax many years ago. Yet despite its seemingly awful layout, it has become the biggest thing for young gamers worldwide and most definitely amongst my son’s friends. He has assured me that the Minecraft he plays is only single player mode and that the things he builds/blows up are only in his realm and that he doesn’t have the ability to talk to anyone on the site. Phew…However, he and his friends are sharing their Minecraft creations with each other on YouTube. To me, this is mental. YouTube is a place I use to view music videos and film trailers, YouTube is also the place some people go to watch porn, upload dodgy videos of themselves and a lot of stuff that is definitely not suitable for a naïve 10-year-old. My other major concern, when I saw the fresh face of my son on his YouTube video talking to his friends and the World Wide Web (argh!) about his latest Minecraft tactics, is who else is watching this!

This then provoked the conversation I had been dreading. Me and hubby sat down and talked to our innocent boy about the risks he runs from posting videos on YouTube, that it’s not just his mates that could be watching and that some bad grown up people may pretend to be a 10-year-old Minecraft fan and will want to talk to him and that’s not OK. The confused expression that I was met with during this conversation made my heart skip. This young boy of mine is on the verge of growing up and is doing so into a very different world that I experienced when I was his age.  My computer knowledge at 10 was watching my older brother take at least 15 minutes to load Pac-Man onto his Spectrum with ear-piercing screeching noises emitting from his cassette deck.

I’m excited for my children’s technological future and I personally want them to embrace it (within reason) and be able to become savvy in its positive sides. If tablets and whiteboards are the way forward in the classroom then I want my children to know their way around them with their safety being paramount. I talked with my son about how people should act appropriately online and what sites he is allowed on. We have told him to never use his real name or to show his face in any YouTube videos, if he needs an avatar then he should use a cartoon one like mine. As an extra safety measure, I am attempting to fold washing behind the chair in which he sits on his tablet and have a little peek at what he is accessing.

When we bought the tablet for his birthday present we downloaded the parental controls as suggested by the information provided, however, it wasn’t very clear to me what he was protected from exactly. Can he stumble across adult content from an innocent Google search? Can he be cyber bullied on gaming websites? What should I be worried about when it comes to him being online unsupervised? It makes me feel unable to protect him from this virtual world he is embracing and such a long way from the days he spent creating pictures of the Tweenies on the CBeebies website. But as long as we make this technological journey together or with my interfering eye over his shoulder, there’s no reason for him not to benefit from this new world he is discovering.

If you have any concerns over your children’s safety online, there is help available. The ever so knowledgable people at Childnet are launching a Safer Internet Day on 11 February to help concerned parents and their tech savvy children explore how to enjoy the internet in a safe and responsible way. Virtual worlds needn’t be places to fear, Disney Club Penguin are running the campaign ‘It Starts With You’ which also offers help to parents and children on how to make the online world a better place. Just make sure you ask permission before using your child’s tablet to look them up.

Well Hello 2014!

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is behind us already and here we are welcoming in 2014. It only feels like last week that I wrote my recap of 2013 http://anounceofmedotcom.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/farewell-2012)

As I started to fill out my 2014 calendar yesterday, that is how rock and roll my New Years Eve is these days, I felt that at least a few months had vanished from my memory, that the year had flown by and that we had been cheated out of a few weeks here and there somehow.

2013 has been a funny old year. It provided us with a pretty decent summer with temperatures staying hot for a number of weeks and not just for a Friday morning like the dismal summer of 2012. Still, we Brits aren’t used to warm weather, as Andy Murray experienced in the Wimbledon Final when the roof was closed to ward off ‘evil sun glare’ and nearly put him off his game. In fact the highlight of the final for me was not just his historic victory, but seeing the nice but dull tennis star get a bit cross about the roof, that and Gerard Butler with Bradley Cooper decked out in pastels looking a bit tipsy in the crowd.

Miley Cyrus made an effort to make power tools more alluring and ‘treated’ us all to the introduction of twerking. I will admit to finding the whole tongue thing she does a bit offensive but can we really be so shocked by her actions at the MTV awards when the biggest selling song of the year was the worryingly titled song ‘Blurred Lines’ complete with a video featuring clothed men alongside fairly nude women and bizarrely a goat. The whole act between Robin Thicke looking like a predator in his Beetlejuice suit and Miss Cyrus looking like an awkward teenager acting sexy with a foam finger was just odd beyond words and I thought Billy Ray’s mullet was the worst thing to be associated with the name Cyrus.

The horse meat scandal was big news in 2013. You can read my versions of events at: http://anounceofmedotcom.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/make-mine-a-veggie-burger-please. But in short, the big shops all pretended to be shocked when somehow it was revealed that cheap meat products contained traces of Dobbin. Despite the fact that the meat in question was a multipack of burgers for £1.50, the British public were shocked that prime cuts of beef were not used in such products. I’m not a meat eater but my children and hubby are and I have always been a bit of a meat snob on their behalf. I grew up as a teenager with the threat of Mad Cows Disease lurking in our burgers and I have a strict vegetarian mother who allowed us to eat meat as long as the animal had been given a good quality of life, decided upon its choice of death and funeral preparations before making it to our plates. We are told that the scandal is behind us and that horse meat is no longer used, just make sure you read the labels carefully in future as a majority of our foods are pre-packaged in Europe where horse is openly on the menu. If the ingredients say ‘meat’ you might want to swerve it for a clearer definition.

There was a fair share of tragic news stories this year. The barbaric slaughter of Lee Rigby on the streets of London demonstrated extremes of human behaviour, from the bloodied sight of the slayers talking to passerbys while brandishing their weapons, to the heroic members of the public who either filmed the events from their phones or tried in vain to help and comfort the poor victim. Other appalling acts of terrorism were seen in Nariobi, Syria and Boston. And Kim Jong-un continued his reign of fear.

The Iron Lady Maggie Thatcher was treated to a state funeral raising questions of whether George Osborne could perhaps be a long-lost son as he blubbed through proceedings, more so than her actual family members. Opinions were divided over whether to feel a loss at her passing, some people heralded an exceptional leader while others enabled the song ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ to reach Number 2 in the charts. More recently, Nelson Mandela made his voyage to the world beyond. He was a legendary statesman with a catchy freedom song, the world mourned his loss and a fake sign language ‘expert’ showed poor taste while doing his own version of Agadoo at Mandela’s memorial.

There was two weeks of excruciating media coverage outside the doors of the baby hospital where Prince George was to be born, bored news crews filled air time with talk of what Kate would be wearing and if Wills would change a nappy when finally a flawless looking royal couple emerged with the privileged tot. Still, at least George is a traditional name for the royal offspring. Elsewhere in celeb land, there was a competition on for the silliest name for 2013 newborns. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian named their daughter North, Wayne and Colleen Rooney tested their spelling ability with the naming of their son Klay, but my particular favourite is Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, whose new husband actually changed his name by deed poll from Abel Smith to Ned Rocknroll and named their son Bear.

Other not so hard-hitting news stories included Cheryl Coles bottom looking set to enter the Chelsea Flower Show next year with its extreme rose tattoo. Justin Bieber pretty much acting like a spoilt brat wherever he went from storming off stage in Brazil when a fan threw a water bottle at him, to showing bad taste with writing in the guest book at the Anne Frank’s museum in Holland that ‘hopefully she would have been a Beilieber’, he has since suggested he will retire at the grand old age of 19.

In my recap of 2012 I predicted that Tulisa would be glad to see the back of that year, in fact, she hasn’t had a great 2013 either. However, I think poor Nigella will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning at a hopeful new start to her new year. In 2013, we saw photographs of her husband appearing to strangle her outside a London restaurant, to her staff rifling through her handbag and outing her alleged drug use, it will be interesting to see if her soft focused cooking shows will see a return to our screens in 2014.

Who knows what 2014 will hold in store. Will Simon Cowell’s baby inherit his Lego hair? Will the England football team manage in the heat of the Brazil World Cup? Will Cheryl Cole have some sort of topiary tattooed across her face? All we can do is strap ourselves in and enjoy the ride. Happy New Year!

Tis the Season to be Jolly..Stressed

In the words of Noddy Holder… “Iiiiiiiit’s Christmas!!!”. Well in a few days it will be, but thanks to marketing mayhem it has been the run-up to Christmas for about a month now! I do like Christmas, I have three children so its hard not to get caught up in their excitement of it all and the impending Santa visit, but I also find it just a little exhausting, frustrating and overwhelming at times.

It seems that the shops are on steroids with their extended opening times that appear to be geared around the eve of an apocalypse rather than a day of celebration. My hubby was up and out at 7.30am this morning to do the food shop and still had to queue for over an hour to get into our normally quiet supermarket car park. Isn’t Christmas dinner just a glorified roast dinner? Why do we see this one day as the reason to eat a huge dinner, buying too much meat per family member along with extra food for leftovers in the evening as part of a buffet, we never eat this way any other time? We have eleven guests for Christmas dinner at our house, along with two dogs and I am really excited about it. I do think Christmas should be about family as it is the only time you can wedge your dining table into the living room and use garden furniture to sit on without it seeming weird.

Santa Chester - Sorry was unable to airbrush out the hands.

Santa Chester – Sorry for grainy quality but it was probably the most difficult picture I have ever taken, hence the poised hands after the 50th attempt of getting the hat on his head!

My three children have been in a state of high excitement for about three weeks now, writing their unachievable letters to Father Christmas on the basis that “the elves can make the toys so we can put expensive things such as computers and game consoles down”. I have tactfully looked at shopping websites with them steering their interest to more affordable toys that we can buy on behalf of the man in the red suit. Then it is the yearly dilemma of how to give the presents, which ones are from us and which are from Santa. This is a subject that I think should be covered in ante-natal classes as every parent seems to do it differently. Many parents will say all of the presents are from the big man which I worry will leave us parents looking a bit mean with grandparents arriving armed with toys and that we haven’t bothered. Me and hubby tend to do half and half, we give them a big present each from us and the rest of the achievable part of their lists comes from Santa, but this leaves us quite out-of-pocket having to buy extra.

I don’t wish to come across all Scrooge about it. I love how excited the kids are about the big event. My eldest appeared in two Christmas concerts at our local church and they felt very festive, even though it does make me feel like a bit of a hypocrite every year as I say hello to the local vicar aware that I’m only his house of worship for my own means and not as one of his congregation. This feeling of guilt and awkwardness extends through his opening sermon as I uncomfortably get into my prayer position and mumble Amen at the end of his prayer. As you can probably tell I’m not really religious, I have no objections to other churchgoers as I’m sure it can provide a source of comfort to many but I feel a bit too cynical to believe in a lot of the bible stories. I understand you do not have to take a lot of the stories literally but discover the true meaning behind the lavish storylines, but it all seems a bit too far-fetched a lot of the time. I mean wasn’t Joseph a little suspicious about the whole ‘the baby is the son of God’ story that Mary gave him. Did they even know who God was back then?

The twins also had their Nativity this week and this was a very traditional affair with my son playing a shepherd and my daughter playing the part of a door… well to be more precise she was an innkeeper but had a cardboard door she stood behind amongst other door holders and shook her head when Mary and Joseph came a knocking. She had been in character for days as she is a real method actor and the day prior was mute and would only answer us when we knocked on the ‘door’ first! The nativity was lovely and the minute the children sang their first word I was a mess, trying to stifle a sob and discreetly wipe my eyes unable to speak for fear of bawling. Joseph was a little stage shy and stomped off screaming after they had settled in the stable, leaving Mary a single mother clutching her plastic baby upside down by its feet. Still, as true professionals the children brought home the message of Christmas to a standing ovation, which was actually parents standing up and elbowing each other in a bid to achieve the best photograph they could of their little star. After the children had taken their applause, a couple of young chaps were introduced by our Headteacher as local Christians. The lads then asked that ‘J-dog’ and ‘the main dude’ should not be forgotten at Christmas. It was like witnessing a scene from The Book of Mormon as they ‘got down with the kids’ to try to entice their young impressionable interest into Christianity. As I cringed at their youthful approach to bible studies, I did feel that maybe I should feel a bit guilty, they were at least celebrating the alleged reason behind Christmas when all I wanted was to gloss past that bit and talk more about Santa to my kids. Christmas is more about Father Christmas then Jesus in our house even though both are perhaps mythical beings created in some sort of storybooks.

Our Kids Only decorated Christmas tree. We did have to help with the top half - the out of reach bit.

Our Kids Only decorated Christmas tree. We did have to help with the top half – the out of reach bit.

Whether you celebrate Christmas for ‘J-dog’s’ birthday, or for the sole purpose of having ‘Father Christmas’ deliver presents to your children, it does seem that we all lose the message of Christmas sometimes. Christmas means family to me, a time that we can all spend together, buy things to please each other and try to help others. However, it also means a massive earning potential for huge corporations, a career revival for Cliff Richard and a strong possibility of piling on unwanted weight, but where there’s a Ying, there’s a Yang I suppose. Merry Christmas everyone!