The Christmas Letter 2022

Well I highly enjoyed writing last year’s missive so I thought I would go ahead and do another one!

Let’s see, looking back on 2022, well…

In January we started the year with a glorious sunny walk in the woods, just me and my gorgeous girls on New Year’s Day which was a lovely way to blow away the cobwebs and start fresh and new.

January brought with it continued work on Chateau d’Omnishambles, with plastering and mess and painting happening all over the shop. But eventually it was all done, the Curtains of Glory were finally installed and we bid a tearful goodbye to Carlos the Builder, who is basically family now.

February (and March, April, May, June and July) were mostly about my washing machine breaking down with the consistency of an ironically much better-functioning machine. February also brought with it the outbreak of War in Ukraine, which was to have far-reaching implications throughout the year, as we know now, but no-one had predicted back then.

At the end of February my match with S was officially approved, and on the 5th March she officially moved in with us! I started my adoption leave at this point, and so I had 6 months off work to bond and attach with my glorious new daughter.

Almost immediately we all got sick and by April my cold had dragged on until it mutated into a nasty chest infection. I was forced to call in the cavalry to help, (both Grandma to help with the children, and Carlos the builder after the conservatory roof collapsed while I lay prone on the sofa). It was my first chest infection, and I was coughing like a 60-a-day smoker, attempting to hack up the gross gunk pooling in my lungs, my throat felt like I’d swallowed 50 tiny razor blades, just breathing hurt, and I had to sleep sitting up.

Thank god for Grandma who made me endless cups of tea, and patiently dealt with A, who followed her around saying things like “Grandma you’re old. You’re going to die because you’re old”

Also in April, S turned 11 so we had some marvellous birthday celebrations and managed some Easter holiday trips to London and Yorkshire to see friends and family. The washing machine died again so I started traipsing my laundry all over the place to apologetically wash it at other people’s houses.

In May, I scored a cheap sleeping bag for A at the Oxfam shop to take camping. She wanted to sleep in it that night, so I thought “Sure, why not? Sounds fun!”

At 7pm she went to bed in the sleeping bag on her bed.

At 8.30pm some sort of sea creature was smothering her and she was screaming and fighting a battle to the death with said sleeping bag.

After removing the bag and putting the duvet back on the bed she calmed.

At midnight she woke up asking “Hey!! Where’s my sleeping bag??” until I shushed her to sleep. At 5am she appeared by my bedside and asked “Mama did you take my sleeping bag? Hey it’s MINE!”

I had some regrets about the entire process if I’m honest…

Later in May we also had this fun moment:

A at 7pm: “Where’s my pink zebra teddy??? I really need it!!!”

“Sorry honey I can’t find it but it’s bedtime now so mama will look for it later.”

“BUT I WANT IT!!!!!”

“Sorry but that’s tough. Mama will try and find it later. Now choose another teddy and go to sleep.”

A at 3.22am: (jab jab jab on my arm) “Hey mama did you find my pink zebra? Where is it?”

May also saw me turn 41 with somewhat less fanfare than last year’s birthday, but I was very lucky I got to see my wonderful cousin and his partner (they came to stay unexpectedly after he got Covid and they weren’t allowed to stay at their planned accommodation). I also treated myself to a new fridge for my birthday after the old one started leaking fluid everywhere almost constantly. Obviously the washing machine broke again so I drove more laundry around town to distribute it evenly amongst my friends….

At the end of May the girls and I took a road trip to Scotland to see some old friends and stomp about St Andrews, my old University town. I can’t think why I thought driving 850 miles and spending over 20 hours trapped in a car with two bickering, irritable, bored children was a good idea. It’s possible I had a mild stroke.

Nevertheless we had a marvellous time and the girls even braved the North Sea, which is insane, and I got to see and catch up with loads of old friends I haven’t seen for years. It was a really lovely half term trip! We came home with mountains of laundry to do so naturally the washing machine immediately died again, because it’s clearly inhabited by a malevolent spirit of some kind. Furtively snuck into my neighbour’s house while he was away to do my laundry (we were also feeding his guinea pigs). Then the internet died too so we had no telly or tablets for several days and the children almost murdered each other with boredom.

In June I did the Refugee Ration Challenge, which I genuinely enjoyed even though it was hard work, and it really helped me to reconnect with the people I work with and support. I will be doing it again next year and will be encouraging others to join me!

June was also incredibly busy as S was in her last term of Year 6 and every week was filled with Sport’s Day and the School Play and Camp Out Day and transition days to her new school and parent’s evenings and meet the new tutor evenings, and leaver’s assemblies, and lots of general running around.

One morning I found myself thinking: You know you’re a parent when you sit calmly in your car for 10 mins enjoying the peace and quiet, staring blankly out of the window, and suddenly wonder which car park this is and what you came here for.

Things got a tiny bit frazzled by the end of term but thank god I wasn’t also at work or it would have been a lot more manic!

In July my lovely friend Cee-Cee was over from Australia so we had a great time hanging out and catching up, and I did lots of watching Wimbledon, quilting, making bread and wondering if I would have made a good frontier wife….

The summer brought with it several heatwaves and a drought. Plenty of long, hot, sunny, days, and very occasionally the temperature upstairs in the bedrooms reached “Fuck no” on the thermometer so we had to sleep downstairs in the living room. The school holidays were LOOOOONG and it was only day 3 when I started feeling like I had done two tours of ‘Nam. The kids were Jekyll and Hyde for most of it, taking turns to be either angelic or evil spawn.

The washing machine died again and I cursed every god I could think of. Then we had a break-in and got robbed which was extremely unpleasant. The insurance company refused to pay out for the expensive electric bike that was stolen but on the other hand the washing machine company FINALLY admitted defeat and refunded me so I could buy a brand new washing machine! It is the sexiest household appliance you’ve ever seen in your life.

August brought more long, hot, sunny days, two lovely seaside holidays, camping, fish and chips, swimming, sandcastles, seeing lots of family and friends (including my brother who came over from Australia who I hadn’t seen for almost 4 years). The kids had an amazing time, as did I for the most part, although a seagull DID bitchslap me in the face and steal my pasty, and A DID throw up all over the car every time we tried to drive home from our holidays. But overall the holidays were marvellous, apart from the moments when the kids were being whiny ungrateful little so-and-so’s, but apparently that’s normal.

In September both girls started new schools and I couldn’t be prouder of them – they both took it in their stride and coped incredibly well with such a big transition. I got ready to head back to work by batch-cooking like there was an apocalypse on, and filled the freezer completely. Meanwhile the conservatory sprung a leak, and the corner of the outbuilding subsided, leaving an incredibly large crack in the walls. Sigh. Omnishambles strikes again.

At the end of September S’s adoption order was granted and she legally became my daughter forever! We were all thrilled, but celebrated in a somewhat muted way by doing the big shop at Lidl, cleaning the cat shit off the grass, and having an early dinner, early bath and watching a movie in our pyjamas at 6pm. Very rock and roll. I had another stinking cold so I celebrated the formal arrival of my second daughter with lemsips and cough syrup in lieu of prosecco.

In October life got predictably busy as the girls’ respective social lives went into overdrive (SO many new friends to have playdates with at 2 new schools!) and there were birthday parties and after school clubs and swimming lessons and football matches and homework to grapple with. I settled back into life at work, snagging the good desk at the office and making sure there were teabags and biscuits in the cupboard. Obviously in the background heating bills went insane and mortgage interest rates climbed like they were being chased up a mountain by a bear, but I decided to leave that problem alone for now. Somewhere in there we had a new Prime Minister, a mini-budget disaster, and then another new Prime Minister and we all ended up an awful lot poorer….

In November A turned 5, and life somehow got even busier and harder to manage in general as I struggled to juggle work and kids and the house and everyone’s activities and social lives. But nevertheless we had some lovely celebrations both for A’s birthday and to celebrate S’s adoption as well. My heating and electricity bills became like a car crash, something you can’t look away from no matter how awful it is, so I found myself staring at the smart meter readouts in horror every day, wearing more jumpers and getting into a routine with our hot water bottles. November also bought mould and condensation (possibly related to not having the heating on), and a shiny new dehumidifier that we used once, looked at the enormous jump in the electric bill and calmly turned off. It’s now an extremely expensive doorstop…

November also brought more general illness and malaise for A and myself, including some nasty colds, and diagnosis of gout for me which is a masssive pain in the arse (I have to give up MARMITE for god’s sake! MARMITE!). It is also however a very strong incentive to lose a bit of weight, as my gout attack left me unable to use my hand for over a week, (it was VERY painful) and losing weight will help reduce the chances of another attack. So you know, if it’s lose weight or stop being able to use your hands, I suppose I’ll have to get a bit more serious about diet and exercise….

December brought with it my first work trip away for more than 3 years, a week-long training in Paris, and lovely Grandma came to look after the girls for me. It was a nice break and fun to be delivering training again after such a long hiatus. The girls coped extremely well with me being away, my first time away properly since I adopted either of them, although of course as soon as I got home there was a lot of clinging to me and shouting at me in equal measures.

Christmas shoppping this year was less painful financially than you might think – my years of being uber-organised meant that we had plenty of homemade (cheap) presents and I have been quietly procuring various stocking fillers over the last few months so there were no surprises financially. The gout means I will have to try and rein in my excess eating and drinking tendencies over the festive period, but hey ho, nevermind. I’m sure that’s a good thing really…

So that’s our year! Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year! Here’s to 2023!

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