It’s the 5th January. As I type this, perched at our dining table in our cold kitchen with a snoring Evie in the buggy next to me, I can see our neighbours across the road from the kitchen window – up a very tall ladder, slowly dismantling the multitude of lights that formed a giant Christmas tree across the front of their house for the last month. Yup, Christmas is officially over.
Although we admitted defeat a couple of days ago and de-Christmas-ified the house in favour of organised toys and a somewhat tidy living room again, walking down our street with doors adorned with wreaths and lights on bushes, I could almost tell myself the holidays weren’t over yet. But the giant christmas tree coming down across the road is somehow poignant, with tomorrow being the 6th Jan and the last official day of our co-parenting ‘holiday’ before my Husband goes back to work, I go back to solo parenting and work juggling 5 days a week and the everyday monotony once again begins.
I still can’t really believe that Christmas is over for another year. I can remember having a conversation with a friend what feels like only yesterday, saying ‘no need to worry about Christmas yet, it’s AGES away’ for her to reply ‘you say that but don’t you think that Christmas always has a habit of creeping up on us? It’ll be here before we know it’ and of course, it’s true, because here we are, the festivities behind us, entering a whole new year. There are times I wonder if the build up to the festive period is, in fact, the truly exciting part? Because as wonderful as the day/s themselves are, they come to an end all too quickly and before you know it you’re hurtling towards January, a new calendar, and a whole lot of self imposed pressure and expectation.
I try really hard (I really do) every year to not let myself get down in January. To not feel the weight of those cold grey days, to not let the expanse of the unknown year ahead swamp me, to remind myself that the journey from one day to the next is really no different whether it’s the 31st December or the 7th October. But every year it’s futile. I really rather dislike the first few weeks of January and I can’t help but feel a little out of whack during them. To be totally truthful, I don’t always emerge from my new year slumber until the spring, when my birthday hits and I feel a re-awakening of sorts. Maybe in a previous life I was an animal that went into hibernation over the winter?
I think it’s the magnitude of it all you see. That new number on the calendar and the prospect of all it could bring. The dizzying excitement of everything I could achieve. That clean slate, fresh start, new you thing. It’s overwhelming.
But over the last few years I’ve kind of learned that January really isn’t my month. March, maybe, but not January. And so it’s totally ok for me to go a bit more slowly. For me January comes with tiredness (so much tiredness), a lack of motivation and usually a fair bit of anxiety. The cold weather, the lack of direction, the longing for Spring, they get me down. So it’s not the best time for me to make big steps forward or work towards a whole new me/life. It is however, a good month for me to plan, to take stock and to look after myself.
So that’s what I’m doing. I decided not to ‘go back to work’ as such (i.e. begin looking for freelance work/ do my tax return/start working on the blog again) until next week, when my Husband too returns to the office and daily routines resume. And although I definitely have a few goals set out for this year (which I’ll share in a seperate post) and things I’d love to make happen/ achieve, I’m trying not to get caught up in the flurry of ‘go go go’ that attacks us every January and just approach it all slowly. I’ve become a lot more laid back about things like life ambitions since I became a parent. I’ve kind of accepted that with a kid around nothing happens overnight, changes take time to process and you just have to accept and utilise the small pockets of time you have to take small steps forward (while simultaneously trying not to compare yourself to others who are moving so much faster).
As far as January’s go, we’ve actually got quite a busy month with lots in the diary to look forward to and keep us busy. And there’s plenty of things to begin making tracks with too – Evie is going to be turning two next month (aah!) so there’s her birthday to think about, plus we’re revisiting childcare again so I can have a couple of mornings a week to work (hopefully) and need to start looking into the option that is right for us, I’m thinking about taking on a weekend job/some extra work to supplement my freelance income (and take the pressure off when it comes to paying childcare costs), we’ve got family to visit, house jobs that need attention and, well, a very big pile of washing to get through – so LOTS to be getting on with.
Right now though, I’m still processing Christmas. There’s still the odd box of biscuits/ tin of truffles waiting to be eaten, I’m still opting for comfy loungewear over real clothes, haven’t looked at the gym timetable for this month yet and I’m not expecting any major life changes to occur in the next 25 days or so.
So I thought I’d make my first post of 2019 a reflective one and share some of my favourite moments from the last three weeks of our Christmas holiday. One of the things I really want to do more of on this blog in 2019 is record more of life’s little moments. Ultimately these are the things I’ll be keen to look back on in years to come and I’m slightly obsessed with trying to capture and write down all of these little snippets of Evie’s (and our) lives so that I don’t forget how special it all was. I think I fall victim to the perfectionist trait all to often with this blog and while I might have the blog post drafted and the ideas ready, I worry that the imagery isn’t as good quality as it could be or that I don’t have the time to write the perfect words. I want to just sit down, and let the words pour out more. And even if there’s very few of them, or only a couple of grainy shots, just remember these times as a family and everything we loved and laughed about.
So with that in mind, here are a few of the things that made our Christmas…
Three whole weeks of tackling everything as a team – it was glorious. I think that’s what I’ll remember most from this holiday – just the amount of time we’ve spent together as a family of three. Time that has allowed both myself and my Husband to indulge in rest, to have the odd long lie. Time which has meant my Husband could take Evie out for a few hours and let me write blog posts or take photos. Time that has seen us do lunches together, take Evie to play cafe’s and out on walks and to the swimming pool together, rather than alone.
It really is SO much easier when there’s two of you around to help each other out. One to pack the car up or get the bags ready while the other gets Evie dressed. One to get up in the morning while the other has ten more minutes in bed to get ready for the day. One to take over when you’re feeling tired, impatient or overwhelmed. One to support you when that tantrum hits.
The first week of our holiday was spent doing many of the normal things I do week in week out, but with the added bonus of having the Husband around to help. He entertained Evie while I drank a cup of tea, took her out for an hour here and there so I could get my final few blog posts up. We went out for little family lunches, long walks, outings to town or the park. And of course we indulged in plenty of the festive activities that the week before Christmas is made for – we watched Christmas movies, baked gingerbread, wrapped presents and posted our Christmas cards. Little acts, everyday moments, made pretty lovely.
Evie’s interest in all things Christmas was really what made the festive season for us this year. She didn’t exactly understand what was going on but she understood enough. She knew something exciting was coming up, she realised Dad was at home more than often, and she got giddy at all the talk of presents and Santa and going to Nannie’s house. There are of course a lot of times when having a toddler is bloody hard work, but there are these occasional pockets of time where it’s just the BEST. And I’ve learned that when those times come, it’s so so important to soak it all in and enjoy it before the next crazy period hits.
I have to say that Evie was an absolute joy the whole month of December, and her obvious excitement made everything more special for us. We loved choosing and decorating the tree with her, seeing the wonder in her eyes when we all sat down to watch The Snowman together, watching her giggle away non stop while making gingerbread cookies, and of course the joy of seeing her open her presents and join in with all the family parties and celebrations. She’s the best!
A big ol’ dose of family time was just what we needed. Not just the three of us spending time together, but seeing our wider family too. This year we spent Christmas at my in-laws (the last one in their current abode before they move this year) along with my brother-in law and his partner too, and it was lovely to have those few days to eat and drink and toast and play games and indulge in all things Christmas together.
And it was great to see Evie’s relationships with all of them blossom too – she had a blast hanging out with Nannie and Grandad (and Charlie – the dog) day in day out, and it took no time at all before she was running around their house shouting ‘Nannie, Nannie, Nannie come play’ at the top of her voice. or chasing the dog around the kitchen table squealing with delight. On Christmas Eve more family came over, and Evie stayed up late playing excitedly with her big cousins and dancing around the living room in her vest. She got to see her Great Grandparents again on Boxing Day, and then spent another late night with pretty much the entirety of my Husband’s family that evening. Something that only 6 months ago probably would have completely overwhelmed her – so many new faces and a strange environment – yet she took it all in her stride and happily chatted and played away. She’s becoming such a confident little thing that sometimes I wonder how I ever thought she was going to be quiet or shy!
Of course we missed my family this year, but the whats app group was filled with a constant stream of photos, we made sure to Facetime and we’re seeing my Mum and my brother later this month, before my Dad retires in February and we’ll hopefully all get together for Evie’s birthday, so plenty of family get togethers to look forward to this year.
I was actually pretty ill over Christmas, and when it first hit the day before Christmas Eve, I was pretty devastated. Thinking it would ruin the entire break and I’d miss out on everything and spend the whole of Christmas miserable on my own in bed. I know – dramatic much? But actually, it’s probably not what I’ll remember about this Christmas at all, and I managed to get through it and still join in with the celebrations as much as I could.
I started off with a few days of constant nausea, dizziness and stomach pains, unable to eat anything without feeling sick. And I mistakenly thought it was either a stomach bug or my stomach issues flaring up badly, so I did what I’d normally do for a stomach bug and spent a day in bed not eating anything at all. Which, in hindsight probably made things worse. After a couple more days of that, I started getting pain in my ears and down my neck and my head felt heavy and congested, with the dizziness and nausea continuing and I realised it was perhaps an ear infection of some sort. A few doses of Sudafed later and the dizziness was almost kept at bay, which reduced the nausea greatly and allowed me to eat small amounts again.
I’d been worried we might not make it to family, but we swung by the pharmacy on route (this was back when I thought it was a stomach bug), I loaded up on all sorts of nausea tablets and bought an abundance of beige food and we got through the journey ok. And I was so glad to have made it to a home full of people willing to help with Evie and let me rest. Just knowing that at least she would be well looked after and have a great Christmas allowed me to relax and took the pressure off, which in turn eased the symptoms a lot.
I didn’t eat all that much over the few days of Christmas, and I didn’t drink at all, which ordinarily I might have been upset about but really this year all I cared about was making sure Evie had the best time, and feeling well enough to be a part of things. Eating plain foods and drinking only water wasn’t all that ‘festive’ but it meant that by Boxing Day I was starting to feel better, and I managed to at least be part of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.
We kept our days slow and relaxed. Evie went out on walks with her Grandparents but until Boxing Day I stayed put on the sofa, watched movies and ate rich tea biscuits. It was probably exactly what my body needed.
Christmas + Presents
Like many parents I’m sure, we had to space the presents out over a good few days, and even kept some back for a second celebration on New Years Eve so it wasn’t too overwhelming for Evie. As much as we tried to keep things low key in the present department and not go overboard, she’s the only grandchild on both sides, and has a pretty big extended family on both sides too, so she inevitably does get rather spoilt when it comes to Christmas.
As my family tradition is to celebrate and open presents on Christmas Eve, we decided to give her a few presents early and let her open some that evening. We got her a pair of festive PJ’s to wear on Christmas Day (they might have slightly matched my own), some new slippers (which she carried around all evening but refused to actually put on), a Christmas book (Peppa might have been invited to the Christmas Eve party) and a little wooden camera toy, as she loves playing with my actual camera. She opened it and immediately put it to her face, looked through the ‘viewfinder’ and started saying ‘Cheeeeese’ while pulling a silly face. She still seems to think that even if she holds the camera, she’s taking a photo of herself!
On Christmas Day she slept in until 7.45am which ordinarily I’d be thrilled about, but on this occasion I’d woken early giddy with excitement for her to open her presents and was basically lying there willing her to wake up! We had her stocking up in our room, the idea being that if she did wake ridiculously early we could keep her occupied in bed for a while before she started shouting the house down and waking everyone else up. So after her milk, we let her open her stocking presents. She was pretty ‘yeah whatever’ with the pack of stripy tights and the framed picture but the excitement levels peaked when she opened a small Candy Cat figure (Peppa Pig in case you don’t have a kid and aren’t subjected to the dulcet tones of the Pig family on a daily basis), and basically nothing really topped that the rest of the day. It also meant that our plan of keeping her in the bedroom until a respectable time went out the window because immediately she declared that Candy Cat needed to go downstairs to play with Peppa Pig and once we obliged, that was her happy as Larry for the rest of the morning. She also made a point of telling everyone that ‘Santa brought Evie Candy Cat to play with Peppa Pig’ as soon as they emerged downstairs – it was very cute, but also served as a reminder that we probably didn’t need to buy anything more than that £2.99 toy to have made her Christmas.
We managed to persuade her to open a few more presents throughout the morning, and the 99p Peppa jigsaw that I found in the charity shop was also a hit (can we see a theme here – girl is obsessed) as was a wooden clock with number blocks to add in the correct places. Although she’d mastered both within about 3 mins of me removing the box! 1000 piece jigsaw next year then?
When it came to all of us opening presents, the whole scenario saw Evie positively ecstatic. She loved the flurry of it all, was helping everyone rip paper off of their presents and declaring ‘That’s Evie’s one’ to everything that was wrapped in anything sparkly, red, or adorned with polar bears or robins. She wasn’t actually all that interested in the contents of everyone’s presents but the unwrapping was definitely a highlight. A few more favourites emerged in a wooden farm set and a fluffy Oleg baby teddy, and we called it a day there to give her time to play with everything.
Slowly over the next few days, things got opened bit by bit and it became apparent that she wasn’t at all fussed by anything clothing related but loved her wooden railway track and a doctors set that then saw her shoving implements into people’s mouths and announcing they needed ear drops or tablabs (tablet’s) to make them feel better, for the rest of the holiday.
We kept her present from my parents until New Years, mainly because we had no idea how we’d transport it to and from Stu’s Mum’s without assembling and de-assembling it, and also because we were planning a Hogmanay night in and a New Years Day just the three of us so figured it would be like Christmas take two and allow a bit of space between all the presents. They bought her a Dolls House, because I’d say since just after her first birthday she’s been so into imaginative play and between a set of Sylvanian Familes she adores and her beloved Peppa Pig figures, she spends pretty much all day coming up with little stories and scenarios for these characters, so we knew a Dolls House would be something she would absolutely LOVE and really indulge her imagination.
We spent Hogmanay assembling it (rock and roll I know), with a glass of fizz in hand of course and after a whole LOT of food (I had to make up for my lack of eating over Christmas). It turned out to be a LOT bigger than we were anticipating, but I just couldn’t wait to see her little face the next morning as I knew she would adore it. Right enough, as soon as she came down in the morning it was all ‘wow wow wow, a house!’ and she launched straight into the imaginative play with Mummy cooking dinner for baby and baby refusing to eat anything Mummy cooked (honestly I don’t know where she comes up with these things LOL). She played with it pretty much non stop the entire day, and it’s been a favourite ever since with the Sylvanian Hamsters now having taken up residence.
To be entirely truthful, I think I’ve enjoyed playing with it almost as much as she has and resetting the scene and putting all the furniture back after she’s gone to bed at night is my new favourite activity!
I couldn’t talk about the Christmas Holidays without mentioning Moana, or ‘Mo-Nana’ as Evie calls it. Other than Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine which she watches now and again after a nap, she’s never really been big on TV and I try not to have it on too much during the day (unless I’m really tired) so I was surprised at how taken she was with some of the films we watched this holidays. Sometimes in the afternoons, particularly if she hadn’t napped and we were trying to encourage her to sit down for a while (girl never stops), we’d put a film on. The first few Disney ones I tried she wasn’t one bit interested in and she’d just shout at me to ‘look for nother one’ or ‘switch off Mummy’ but for some reason Moana was an instant hit (I think it’s the singing) and aside from Peppa (and The SnowMan which mesmerised her), it was the only film/TV I’ve seen to hold her attention for longer than ten minutes. She dipped in and out of course, usually coming running back in to tune in for the songs, but we must have watched it at least five times this holiday. I didn’t mind, it’s one of my favourites too – such catchy tunes.
So basically I’m expecting that next Christmas she’ll be perfectly happy to snuggle on the sofa with me and watch every Disney film ever made right? Too soon?
A Quiet Hogmanay + An Epic New Years dinner
Other than assembling the Dolls House, we had a low key quiet Hogmanay spent indoors. We made plenty of food, let Evie stay up a bit later than usual, played with her new toys, listened to music and then once she was in bed cracked open the fizz and watched the fireworks on TV. I managed to stay in my party outfit (albeit with slippers on) until 9pm when I admitted defeat and put my PJ’s back on and honestly, seeing in the bells in my pyjamas on the sofa with my Husband and a glass of fizz was all I needed. Probably one of the nicest Hogmanay’s I’ve had as there was absolutely no pressure to try and make it into ‘something’ – we just relaxed.
The next day the Husband made an epic Steak Pie (probably my last meaty meal for a while as I’m attempting to go meat free as much as possible this year), we took a long walk in the frosty sunshine with Evie while dinner cooked and she played happily with that Dolls House, content as can be. Lovely.
Lots of cosying up at home playing
And then it was January. We had a few more lazy days of chilling in our pyjamas, playing, watching movies (before our Sky Movies ran out) and taking the odd walk into town for supplies/fresh air, before we took the Christmas tree down, blitzed the house and attempted to get back to some sort of normal routine.
And that brings us back up to speed. This week has been about organisation, cleaning, washing, de-cluttering and soaking up this last bit of family time before the normal day to day calls again.
It really has been so lovely to have this extended time as a full family of three – no work to go to for my Husband, no playgroups or swimming lessons or classes for me and Evie and no freelance admin to try and fit in to my evenings, weekends and nap times for me. It’s been a little glimpse into how I guess we’d love things to be all the time – that longed for balance that I know we’re not the only family to seek.
I read Siobhan’s 2018 reflection post the other day and one sentence really struck a chord for me. When talking about her family dynamic she said that her and her other half both want more of what the other has, and that just sums up things for Stu and I too. He’d love more time at home, more time with Evie, more days to spend on adventures and outings and teaching her new things. And I’d love a little more time to work, to ursue my own dreams, some time to myself, some time to be creative. If only we could find a way for both of us to have equal amounts of both. To be together as a family as much as we are apart. Wouldn’t that be the dream? Maybe, just maybe 2019 will be the year we start working towards that.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, however you spent it, and here’s wishing you all a great start to the new year. Whether that’s a slow and steady start like me, or a hit the ground running start if that’s what works for you.
Happy New Year!