Ah the Christmas letter. A dying art form. Some are very dull while the truly great letters are witty and light hearted, bringing joy and exaggeration to the most mundane of lives.
It’s not really needed in my case, as most of my friends and family have already read my blow-by-blow accounts of the minutiae of our lives all year and are pretty much up to speed. Nevertheless, I thought I would attempt a Christmas missive to recap the year.
Dear Friends, family, and loved ones,
We started 2021 with such hope! 2020 was fnally over, we were all going to get vaccinated and it was all going to be behind us at last! Oh how naive we were back then.
I personally started the new year with a particularly nasty case of Covid-19, and after a gruelling 26 days in isolation, unable to leave the house at all, completely alone with a bored 3-year old, and sick as a dog for weeks, I was pretty much ready to fast forward to 2022 by February. January was not a fun time, and neither was much of February, as I was still testing positive over a month later and still pretty wiped out with general post-viral malaise.
In February my car, Polly the Polo rattled her way towards her MOT and never made it back again. RIP Polly, you were beloved. A rather eye-watering loan from a kind family member allowed me to purchase a better, newer car which we are all deeply in love with, and she’s VERY comfortable. I still haven’t worked out what most of the buttons do, but am convinced she was designed by a man as the touchscreen is designed for someone with longer arms than me…
In March we were given a tantalising glimpse of the “Roadmap out of lockdown” and we all dreamed of the glorious summer we would have, vaccinated and free to mingle! I started planning my lavish 40th birthday party, drifting down the Thames on a large boat in floaty dresses and sunshine, pimms in hand, as a steel-drum band gently played in the background. It was going to be the party to end all parties.
In April a chance visit to my daughter’s foster carer led to us re-meeting the girl who is to be my second daughter, a wonderful 10-year old girl who A and I both adore. Most of May and June was spent in a flurry of adoption admin and house-hunting, as I had always planned to move somewhere bigger when I adopted again, and suddenly things were possible and there was a stamp duty holiday to get involved with etc. I technically turned 40 in May but the party was in July so I didn’t do much at the time.
Then lo and behold I found a house that fit our needs and budget, found a buyer for my place, and added an entirely new layer of never-ending house admin to my adoption admin.
As my big 40th birthday party approached it was clear that the money for the big event was going to have to be re-diverted towards Stamp Duty and moving fees, and the ongoing restrictions on numbers of people who could gather outside (and general fear of Covid, plus number of my friends and family isolating at the time because they’d been pinged) meant that the idyllic strains of steel drums drifted on down the river in my dreams while we downgraded the actual event to a small gathering at my cheap and cheerful local pub beer garden, a bargain bucket of chicken legs and stale cheese sandwiches and the World Cup happening loudly in the background. C’est la vie. Perhaps I’ll get luckier when I turn 50….
In spite of the party failure I genuinely enjoyed turning 40. I feel as though I have finally hit my stride and I am enjoying it. I like my job, I love being a mum, I feel vaguely competent 70% of the time and I’m overall pretty happy with my life choices.
In the summer we managed a marvellous camping trip to the beach near Swanage and a family holiday to Kent, and then I came home and we moved into a complete shitshow of a house.
September, October and November were mostly about builders, plumbers, electricians, failed central heating, floods, electrical disasters and so on. The house has officially been christened Chateau d’Omnishambles, and in addition to absorbing all of my savings (and most of the savings of my immediate family) she has also sucked most of my life force after living in a state of constant emergency for 3 months, leaving me far closer to 50 than I would like…..
Thank god for Carlos The Incredible, my wonderful builder who can literally fix anything and everything, and has done so cheerfully for weeks and weeks. To think back when I made the offer on the house I was imagining I’d be spending my time decorating it and hanging pictures – so foolish and naive!
September also brought with the advent of A’s immunity deficit. After all those months of not mixing with anyone she spent all of September and October having colds, flu, worms, fevers, vomiting bugs and everything else that incubates in the cesspit of nursery. We had our first panicked trip to A&E in which her fever rose so high it freaked me out, complete with swooning and convulsions from the child, but of course by the time I showed up frazzled in A&E they handed her some juice and she promptly perked up as if nothing had happened, and I felt like a right old idiot. That little trip aged me about 5 years let me tell you.
I have spent most of December battling the NHS website and app attempting to book a booster vaccine and get hold of more lateral flow tests, and staring bleakly into what looks like another year of Covid in 2022. The good news is I got re-approved as an adopter so one major hurdle is out of the way! One more panel to go in February but hopefully by March next year I will be a mum of two officially.
Ok, ok, enough about me already! What about those girls then?
Well for S, my daugther-to-be, most of our visits I’ve been learning how to be a mum to a 10-year old, which means discovering that all my food is “gross” and “smells disgusting” and “no-one eats yoghurt out of a pot anymore”. There is SO much to learn. Overall though we are getting on very well and slowly figuring each other out. She’s pretty bloody special so we love spending time with her and getting to know her slowly.
Mind you I was recently in charge of 3 kids at once as S had a friend over for a playdate. Approximately 20 mins in the friend managed to flip herself upside down off a swing, landing with a smack on the back of the head and then the swing promptly smashed her in the face on the return. Resulting in a very bloody nose and a minor head injury and I barely know her mother! I doubt I shall be allowed to have S’s friends over again, especially once that poor girl’s black eye comes up…
After a slightly tense exchange about use of her tablet on one occasion we decided to draw up some house rules together as a family to help us manage expectations of each other, so that S knows what I expect to happen and so that the girls could get involved in helping decide how we want things to be in our family.
I’m finding our resulting list of House Rules funnier than I thought I would, so thought I would share it with you at this festive time of year:
Rule Number 6 – no licking each other was mine, as A’s new favourite thing is licking our faces and it’s DISGUSTING.
As for A’s year, well, she’s turned 4, and growing and evolving, saying hilarious things fairly regularly, Her favourite topic of conversation is poo, closely followed by wee. Bodliy functions in general fascinate her. The highlight of her year has definitely been getting a big sister, who she WORSHIPS and who is also willing to carry A everywhere, unlike her evil mother who keeps “throwing her back out” and insisting she uses her legs to walk around like some sort of peasant. The second highlight of A’s year was discovering that you can get yoghurt in a tube (who knew??) and squeeze it directly into your mouth. It blew her tiny little mind and she hasn’t gotten over it yet. I can still hear the echoes of her shouting “YOGHURT IN A TUBE!!!!!” as I drift off to sleep.
All in all I’d say 2021 was a pretty huge disappointment. With the exception of meeting my second daughter and getting to spend lots of time with her, which has been amazing, everything else has been extremely mediocre. Between the house and the car I’ve spent (and borrowed) far more money than I ever dreamed of this year. I’ve aged far more in a year than I ought to have. My 40th was mostly cancelled, my long-delayed trip to see family in Australia was once again cancelled (for the 3rd time now in case you were counting). We didn’t “solve” the Covid problem, we all got vaccinated and things are still grim as ever, nothing really got fixed, and we are headed for yet another lockdown no doubt. Except this time I geniunely can’t see anything getting better next year, there’s no magic bullet like there was last year, no magic vaccination, we’ve all had it and nothing much has changed, which is a VERY depressing thought. I’m not terribly hopeful that 2022 will be any better at all, but in order not to be too melancholy, I’ll leave you with this, my favourite anecdote from the year:
Driving somewhere on the North Circular in London, where I am literally always in the wrong lane:
A: Mum! Mum!
Me: Hang on a minute bubba
A: Mama!!! Mama!! Mama!!
Me: Just a second honey mama’s just concentrating on driving for a minute
A: Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!
Me: IN A MINUTE! This is a really complicated roundabout…
A: MAMAAAAAA!!! MAMA!!!
Me: Oh Jesus Christ WHAT???
A: I don’t like bears.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!