Joy and meltdowns

We have had a pretty marvellous Christmas. We’ve seen lots of lovely family and friends and it’s a time of year where we can really make the most of being surrounded by loved ones. 

As the weather’s been kind, we’ve been to some of our favourite places for walks in a mostly futile attempt to work off our overindulgence over Christmas. The kids have torn around parks and a beach and I’ve loved watching their rosy cheeks and hearing their laughter as they’ve done that. It has been a joy to have time together as a foursome.

But today was not quite so joyous. It started when we decided (unwisely) to visit Build a Bear at around lunchtime. We had visions of the children lovingly selecting their favourite bear and accessories with their Christmas money. 

My daughter selected a Frozen bear and accessories whereas my son opted for a black dragon and Batman accessories. They picked out what they wanted quickly and we joined a queue that snaked around the shop. Again, the children were pretty patient and well behaved. But it took around 40 minutes and the store was hot. 

When we reached the front of the queue at last, our daughter decided to go first and her Anna bear was filled. But then, disaster. She spotted Olaf and her mind changed. She wanted Anna no longer. But I was firm that she had to stick with her first choice, which was now assembled and waiting for cuddles.

But hell hath no fury like a toddler who gets told no. She screamed and kicked and wailed and clutched the Olaf she wanted in a vice like grip. So I, laden with bags, had to wrestle him off her and take her outside as my husband and son waited for his choice to be made and paid up.

There was no consoling her. Her tear-streaked face was bright red with fury. I tried calming her with cuddles but she wanted none of it. But I held her close and hugged her tightly.

After a few minutes, she asked to visit a different shop and there she found something that did console her – a £3 pink teddy bear. It’s barely left her clutched hands since.

Perhaps it is the presents, the lack of routine and the Christmas food – or just the fact that she is two – that led to this monumental meltdown. But I hope that she and I will be back to joyful tomorrow.

How are your Christmas holidays going? 


An alternative Christmas song

I love Christmas but have been feeling the pressure a bit lately. 

So here’s my alternative Christmas song. It should be sung to the melody of I wish it could be Christmas every day

Oh when December comes around

You start spending every pound

On gifts for your friends, your kids’ teachers and your family

It’s not what Christmas is about

You feel yourself try to shout

But your kids want a train and your to do list is insane oh yeah


Oh I’m glad that it’s not Christmas every day

Hoovering up gold glitter that’s sadly gone astray

Oh I’m glad that it’s not Christmas every day 

Let the wine come out – it’s Christmas 

Oh when you’ve Christmas cards to write

Every flipping night

And your kids are behaving worse than your elf on a shelf

There’s the house to decorate

But you’re running kind of late

‘Cos you need to make a flipping costume for the nativity

Reprise chorus

Brecon Mountain Railway Santa Special – a review

Both of our children are fans of trains so we often do day trips to steam railways for our family days out. So Brecon Mountain Railway‘s Santa Specials sounded like a lovely way to visit Father Christmas.

We tried it last year and loved it so we booked again when tickets were released earlier this year.

The railway station is based at Pant Station in Merthyr and is open on selected dates throughout the year. When you visit for a Santa Special, you walk in to a station decked out in tinsel and Christmas decorations. It had us feeling festive from the outset. 

After collecting our tickets, it was time to make our way to the steam train through a walkway filled with Christmas trimmings. We were greeted by staff in festive garb and cosied in to our seats listening to Christmas music in the background.

For the Santa Specials, the journey leads you to Pontsticill Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s a journey full of gorgeous views, which the children enjoyed.

As we neared the reservoir, the carriage became abuzz with excited chatter as the children waited for their first glimpse of Father Christmas, who greeted us ringing a bell.

We alighted to head to Father Christmas’s grotto, which was decked out with Christmas lights. The adults were offered a mince pie and some mulled wine while the children were given mini train chocolates as we queued.

Then, before we knew it, it was time to see Father Christmas. Although neither of the children were quite sure, they told him what they wanted and how good they had been this year. They were thrilled with their gifts and us grown ups weren’t left out as we were presented with gifts of our own.

As we were fortunate enough to be near the front, and for it to be a sunny day, we then spent the time before the journey exploring a bit and visiting the children’s playground. I also loved taking in the gorgeous views.

30 minutes or so later, it was time for our return journey to Pant. Again, it was a journey filled with pretty landscapes to see but most of the children on the carriage were getting tired by then.

Overall, it was another memorable day out for us as a family. At £43 it wasn’t cheap, but it is a day out that will go in the bank of memories of nice things to do together in the run up to Christmas.

Christmas wreath workshop review

I love Christmas wreaths but have never gotten around to getting one. So when my mum did a  Christmas wreath workshop, I asked her if I could go with her on one this year.

We did our evening workshop at A.J. Gutteridge in Porthcawl. We arrived to a warm welcome and were offered a drink and opted for cups of tea. The wreaths were ready and waiting so we were then given white baskets and told to go off and explore.

We could choose fresh foliage including ferns, holly and rosemary, pine cones and ribbons of different patterns and textures. It was like a magpies treasure trove with glittery berries, trinkets and, my personal favourite, delicate robins.

Once we had selected our items, we were shown how to decorate and fix items to our wreaths including how to attach them to wire and secure them into our creations.

And off we went. We started working on our wreaths using our chosen items. I chose a red and gold theme, but there were a raft of colours and themes to choose from. I found it helpful to do an initial lay out of my wreath to get an idea of where I wanted things to be.

We were advised that using three to five items often helps and the Gutteridge team were on hand to advise, wire items and create fabulous bows. What I really liked was that the team were on hand to help, but gave us the space to work on our own designs.

After about 90 minutes, we were doing the finishing touches and I found it helpful to move items around to make sure I was happy with the final result.

I loved my mum’s Frozen inspired theme, which goes to show the range of colours we had to choose from.

Overall, it was a wonderfully festive evening and we went away with wreaths to be proud of. I felt very pleased to hang it on my door tonight. 

On the school nativity

Today was one of the highlights of the festive season as a parent, the school nativity play. It is a much-anticipated date in the calendar and a day of nostalgia where we can pluck out memories from our own nativity plays.

School Christmas concerts are very different affairs to the ones I appeared in during the 1980s. Girls tended to be angels in recycled bridesmaids dresses. Halos were crafted from metal coat hangers and trimmed with tinsel. Boys were usually cast as shepherds and had tea towels tied around their heads.

Today’s concerts are slick. The cast of characters has widened and the concerts usually have a theme. Children wear a gorgeous array of costumes either home-made to bought. 

What hasn’t changed though is the sentiment and joy the Christmas concerts bring. 

There is no feeling like watching your child and their classmates concentrating on remembering the words to the songs, their lines and their dance moves. Watching them grin and wave like never before when they spot you in the audience. And hearing those little voices sing out loud and proud for all the mummies, daddies, grandparents, brothers and sisters to hear. It’s priceless.

Music tip: This beautiful song Nativity by Caryl Parry Jones sums up how I feel about the school Christmas concert today. Well worth a listen.

What are your favourite Christmas concert moments? I’d love to know.

Ho ho noooo – Christmas as a grown up

I have always loved Christmas. For me, it’s not about the presents. It’s about the music, the food and spending time with loved ones. That love of Christmas has reached new levels since becoming a mum. I love watching Christmas – and all of the magic that comes with it – through the children’s eyes.

What I don’t love is the growing amount of Christmas stuff to do both as a grown up and a parent. Every year, there seems to be more to organise from unusual nativity Christmas costumes (last year a chicken, this year a pig), last minute fancy dress requests and permission slips. And that doesn’t include the gift-buying, wrapping, and card-writing, which is in addition to the myriad of things that go hand in hand with being working parents.

For the next month, our family calendar is a scribbled blur of plans and reminders from Christmas dos to festive jumper days to school trips to visits to the big man himself. 

Throw in our son’s birthday in early December (and the associated party-planning and birthday prep) and the next few weeks are looking hectic to say the least. 

And that makes me worry. I’m always the planner in our household, the one who knows what’s happening when and exactly what’s required. I book things in and try to make sure nothing clashes.

I’ve got a weekly planner on the fridge, a diary, a family calendar and electronic reminders, but with so much to do and going on, I’m worried that I’m going to drop the ball soon. 

Although most of the shopping is done, much of it is yet to be wrapped. I’ve yet to write a single Christmas card and the decorations are still tucked away in the cupboard in a dusty box. 

For now, I’m going to take each day as it comes and hope that my planning strategies will pull me (and the rest of the family) through this busy yet fantastic time of year. 

It’ll all be worth it when I see our boy singing in his nativity play and watch the children meet Father Christmas and promise him that they have been good this year.

But until then I’ll be a hive of activity. I will be trying very hard not to forget about several fancy dress days, secret santa gifts and getting around to writing (and posting) those Christmas cards. Phew.

How do you keep on track with Christmas preparations? All tips welcome.