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Is This the Season to be Jolly?
Christmas Cheer from Our House to Yours!
The 'Joys' Of Spending Christmas With Your Family
At the end of the autumn term, the head teacher of our local primary school always ends her newsletter with the following words: "...and I hope you all have a peaceful holiday." She may well intend her seasonal greetings with genuine sentiment but I always detect a distinct hint of sarcasm there. Can you really have a peaceful Christmas with four noisy kids at home all day for more than a fortnight at the busiest and most expensive time of year?
We're not everyone's idea of a typical family - you know, one of those families you see on the insurance adverts. Two point four children who both look squeaky-clean, standing outside an immaculate house with their deliriously happy parents behind them. In the photo, there's also a weed-free drive, a rust-free car and family pooch that's been trained to wipe his feet before he enters the house.
I'm not sure families like that actually exist, but people assume they do and it's by no means easy to live up to such idealistic stereotypes. I'm glad we're not a typical family because if we are then everyone has my sincerest sympathies. We fall into a category somewhere between the Simpson's and The Adam's Family. Dysfunctional is the word which springs to mind. Welcome to Christmas with the Kaye family...
A home-Made Snow Scene Made By Me!
A Family Christmas
For the first few days of one particular Christmas holiday, we all had to stay in quarantine because the children brought home some unwelcome guests from school - head lice. I might just be nit-picking here, but I really think the head teacher should think twice about packing everyone so tightly into the assembly hall for the nativity plays. The lice have a field day, walking from head to head until the entire school is infested. I thought we'd rid ourselves of the tiny parasites after getting through several bottles of insecticidal shampoo and decided to send all four kids to the local hairdressers for shorter, more manageable hairstyles. Ten minutes later they were back. "They won't cut our hair because we've still got nits," they moaned in unison. Great, I thought, now we're the village's very own leper colony.
Some religious friends invited us to a party at the Mormon Church (I have a feeling they think heathens like us need converting). The church is an impressive structure on the outskirts of town with a spire which stretches majestically heavenwards.
"Mum, can we climb up it?" Michelle, my eleven-year old asked.
"Sure," I said, trying to humour her, "There might even be a fairy-tale castle at the top. Say hi to the giant for me, and ask if he's got any gold coins to spare."
At the party, just I was just beginning to think my kids were behaving at least as well as everyone else's, my eldest daughter screeched out at the top of her voice "Are they all morons here?"
"No, Claire you're the only one! They're Mormons - not morons," I glared at her, cringing with embarrassment. At the same time Nicholas, my youngest son, plonked himself down in a plate full of trifle someone had deposited on a chair. "Why didn't the Jehovah's Witnesses invite us to their Christmas party?" He asked.
"It's because they don't bother with Christmas - silly!" I explained in exasperation. And what a jolly good idea too, I thought to myself; a December without Christmas would be sheer bliss - for irate mums like me at least.
By mid-December, the invitations to Christmas parties were coming thick and fast (someone must like us) and we found ourselves at our local pub. Everything was going reasonably smoothly until Santa began to distribute presents amongst the local children. No one had approached me to ask if I'd write down my children's names on Santa's list, so of course they became upset with him for omitting them - especially Alex, my seven-year-old, who proceeded to kick poor Santa on the shins and tug violently at his beard when he didn't come up with the goodies. We decided to beat a hasty retreat before things got really nasty.
Why are my kids so embarrassing? Did I eat the wrong things when I was pregnant? Should I have attended parent craft classes perhaps? Is it a bad mix of genes or am I just plain unlucky? Their behaviour at the playgroup party was even worse as they attempted to engage the toddlers in an unofficial jelly throwing competition.
The playgroup organisers weren't able to find a male Santa and not to be outdone they improvised with a female volunteer. I'm not certain, but I have a suspicion that the lady who offered to be Santa is gay. Mischievous me (not the kids this time) asked "Santa" for a Christmas kiss, even afterwards when she was back in normal clothing. Mistletoe poised in expectation, I pursued her relentlessly. "How about that kiss then? She fell about laughing and one of the other mums, discovering my little game told me to remember there were children present.
Having disgraced ourselves at three parties we decided to remain at home for the rest of the holidays and I realised we probably wouldn't get any invitations the following year. Perhaps we'll all go abroad anyway; at least the kids could get away with being outrageous amongst complete strangers and get some good weather into the bargain.
Over the holiday period, I grew increasingly annoyed with my local council who didn't cater adequately for the rubbish disposal of larger families like us. (They charge 6.3 pence to empty our wheelie bin each week) but over Christmas, just when we needed it most, they didn't see fit to empty them for an entire fortnight. And to add insult to injury we were issued with a flimsy, black bin-liner which fell apart as soon as I placed something in it. With six people in our household, the bin was full to overflowing long before New Year. I had to do night-time raids depositing rubbish in neighbours' bins (an illegal procedure I later discovered) and on finding them full too, I tried the big green bin at the village hall, only to be caught red-handed by the guide leader.
She doesn't like me, I know it and I'm sure she thinks I'm an ever-so-slightly-deranged, alcoholic. It all stems from the time when she saw me sweeping the pavement outside the local biscuit factory with a dustpan and brush. "I broke a bottle earlier on the way to the bottle bank," I explained, in case she thought I'd developed a phobia about litter, "So I've come back to clear it up."
"One of your wine bottles was it?" she glared at me, frowning in a disapproving manner (actually it had been a bottle that contained head lice treatment lotion but I thought I'd better not mention that).
I realised then that she must have noticed my frequent visits to the bottle bank on several previous occasions. "No vodka actually, I'm on the hard stuff now, you know," I replied, playing along with her assumption.
Christmas is always a hectic time in our house and is exacerbated by the fact that children number one, two and three all have birthdays during the holiday period (I sometimes think I should purchase one vast iced fruitcake and have done with it). The only possible explanation for their arrival in December is because my husband only feels amorous once a year on April Fools' Day. My fourth child, by the way, was born in the summer; he was conceived on bonfire night, but I don't remember there being any fireworks.
To temporarily escape my crazy family that Christmas, I offered to take a friend's dog for a walk. I thought I might get some fresh air, burn off a few extra festive calories and combat the stress of family life at the same time. Wrong. "Dougal" is a dog who chases helicopters; an absolute canine fiend who would have the Barbara Woodhouses of the world in fits of despair. He ended up taking me for a walk - no, a run - around the village and who did we bump into on the way? Yes, you've guessed - the guide leader.
The microwave packed up first thing on Christmas morning and the vacuum cleaner exploded in sympathy later that day. Never one to give up easily, I reverted to cooking the entire dinner in the oven and afterwards cleaned the dining room floor with my granny's ancient "Bex-Bissel" sweeper which I resurrected from the garage. Proud of my achievements, I couldn't help laughing when my friend - a farmer's wife - rang to say she'd burnt the turkey.
That evening, in case anyone was still unaware of our presence in the locality we all dressed up in our silly Santa hats and red coats and went carol singing (deliberately omitting the guide leader's house). We managed to collect over twenty-five pounds with just a few discordant lines of "We wish you a merry Christmas" at each residence. Maybe the people in our village like us after all - or did they just pay us to go away?
Quick! Where's the Parcel Tape?
Thank Goodness for Computer Games and the Internet!
My children have all grown up now since the above article was written. They've all survived to tell the tale without me having to bundle them off to Africa and now I'm a proud grandmother. I'm impressed with all the home entertainment available for kids nowadays most of which is highly educational. My two grandsons are computer literate at the tender ages of seven and five and I must admit I feel totally inadequate when I don't understand some of the games they play. Even in the short number of years that have elapsed since my own children were small, there's been a vast improvement in all aspects of home entertainment which is a great relief for busy mums. However, make sure your kids still find time for some fresh air and exercise during the course of the day and everyone will be happy whether it's the Christmas holidays or not. Christmas around the world can be enjoyed in many different ways whether you have snow to add to the fun or are lucky enough to have a Christmas barbecue on a sun-soaked beach.
Remember To Keep Santa and His Reindeer Happy This Christmastide!
Keeping the Kids Amused over the Holiday Break
Beating the Boredom During the Festive Season
Christmas Cheer Is Always Near
Have a Great Christmas!
© 2015 Stella Kaye