I’m writing this in America. We did four days in New York, smack bang in the middle of Times Square. The night we arrived, a Santa Con was going on. Santa con is where everyone dresses up as Santa and then goes out on a pub crawl. My poor jet-lagged children were so surprised when they saw Santa’s being slammed up against cop cars getting arrested. ‘Mummy, why is he saying swear words?’ the youngest asked tearfully.
My (awful) British accent went down a treat, with everyone telling me how posh I was (me!), so when lots of people with giant Disney heads on approached me, wanting a photo, I assumed it was because they thought I was some sort of royal. I grinned alongside the Hulk, a pair of Minnie Mice (or is it Meeces?) and a giant Minion, who then all demanded money.
We are now in New Jersey which is as different from New York as anywhere could be. We’ve gone from the city that never sleeps to the state that never wakes up. In New York, we went to see the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The husband went to see boxing, while I took the children to Aladdin. We got kicked out at the interval because the two youngest ones fell asleep, blocking the aisle, then got physical when asked to move. Here, we are off to see a zoo made up of disabled animals, one legged donkeys and blind horses.
On the first night we came, the hotel was hosting a beauty pageant winners Christmas dinner. The husband got really excited and snuck off as soon as he could, claiming he needed to get some ice. He was back very quickly, iceless and disappointed. Apparently, they used to be beauty pageant queens, forty-years ago. He pushed some of them in their wheelchairs over to the Christmas tree, so they could have a photo. One of them offered to do their old dance routine for him.
The next night was a meeting for people wanting to make a million dollars on the pyramid scheme. We met them in the restaurant, which had ‘biscuits and gravy’ on the breakfast buffet. It was even worse than it sounded, so were the ‘cheese blitzers’ (cheese in pastry with jam on top). I never thought I’d miss my no-added-sugar muesli, but I do.There is a sign in the corridor which says ‘Please wear pants beyond this point’ which so far, people have adhered to.
I wouldn’t say staying in one room, with three very excited, high-on-sugar children and a grumpy husband is a relaxing experience. They wake up at 7am, all confused about the time and crack open the Lucky Charms.
I’m doing the kindness advent calendar this year. I already ate a whole chocolate one. I swear they put drugs in those tiny chocolate Christmas trees, so you can’t resist ripping off the back and going MAD on the 1st December.
The husband started buying Christmas day treats like roasted peanuts which I ate immediately. There is no point buying mince pies or chocolate covered raisins before the 24th December. I can’t sleep knowing there are Toffifee in the house.
When I was a kid, my mum used to buy Fussells condensed milk and leave it in the fridge. I’d sneak down in the night for a spoonful and my dad would be there already, in his pants, dolloping it onto a shortbread biscuit.
I’m trying to teach the children Christmas is not all about getting presents. It’s hard though, being an atheist. My daughter has one line in the nativity ‘No you can’t come in’ which is used in our house all the time, so she’ll be fine. I wanted her to make the most of her time on in the spotlight, maybe sing that old 90’s dance classic ‘Not tonight, not, not tonight, your name’s not down you’re not coming in’ but she said no.
It’s getting colder, and darker, and no one wants to get up in the morning. Not even the dogs. The only time it’s fun to get out of bed in the dark is if you are going on an exciting holiday. There is nothing exciting about a wet Wednesday.
My children moan and grumble all week, refusing to rise, but come Saturday morning, are up with the lark. Isn’t life funny like that?
I’m writing this on a train that is going to be delayed and won’t be stopping at any of the normal stops. Isn’t life funny like that too? This morning, after carefully selecting a clean, ironed shirt, I went downstairs to make my morning cup of tea. When I rinsed the teaspoon, the water from the tap rebounded off it and soaked me. Life is full of these small annoyances. There isn’t much you can do about it. That didn’t stop me from calling the tap some very salty names.
I get cross and annoyed by things I can’t change. Bags of dog poo hanging from trees. People with no children parking in the spaces for people with children. People who litter. That rainy wind that blows in your face. People who tread on the edge of a homeless person’s blanket. Trainers with a hidden wedged heel. People who say, ‘winner winner, chicken dinner’. Leaking teapots, bags with holes in, snapped shoelaces, umbrellas with a bent spoke. Umbrellas in general actually.
I imagine this anger like a small internal wood burner, keeping me warm. We all need a little fire inside us. One of my children has rather a large log burner inside her. It’s more of a steam engine actually.
She lets rip often, and though it’s awful and always ends in tears, I almost envy her. How I’d love to stamp my feet, throw myself on the floor and beat it with my fists. How wonderful it would be to trash the house and not have to clear it up after. To kick over the clean washing, smash eggs on the side, tip the cutlery drawer upside down. An orchestra of chaos, a symphony of sound. I’d love to proudly sit upon a pile of destruction, only to be patted and told ‘poor poppet. You didn’t sleep well last night, did you?’
My daughter has been going to her anxiety classes. She overheard me telling the husband I was going to kill him, put a hand on my arm and said ‘Mummy, we all have feelings and ALL feelings are OKAY.’ What a little poppet she is.
She’s the one who makes the bed and feeds the dogs and cat and worries about the wind hurting the plants in the garden. I worried that life was going to eat her up. Then I looked in her anxiety book and under ‘what traits should a good friend have’ she’d ticked ‘Must be good-looking’ and ‘Have good personal hygiene’ so maybe she isn’t so ‘save the world’ after all. She looks the most like me, which is a shame for her because while I often want to murder the husband, he’s got a beautiful face. When I’m feeling romantic, I tell him his eyes are like lovely, posh chocolate buttons. Other times I tell him they are like old teabags. He tends to only comment on my face if I have a hair growing out my chin or dinner round my mouth and (affectionately) calls me ‘pin-head’. I’ve been reading the children poetry at night-time, hoping it might inspire him to be more imaginative with his language. The eldest doesn’t got past ‘How do I love thee, let me count the ways’ before his loud snoring starts, with the odd chuckle now and again.
I dream my teeth rot and fall out. I dream I’m naked on the school run. I dream that trees follow me through dark woods. I dream my cakes don’t rise and my friends are in a secret cinema club without me. He dreams Spurs called him and asked him to play in the Cup Final, and they won, because of him, and made him a crown.
He’s got a new computer game, where he is a cowboy. He’s really bad at it. He can’t work out how to get on his horse, he keeps kicking it instead. And rather than shoot someone, he can only jump up and down. He gets very cross and does loud shouting. Our Labrador, a nervous soul, thinks he’s being told off and runs outside with his tail between his legs.
The youngest laughs when he kicks the horse, which I find worrying. She is not a little poppet. She’s a little, um, pest.
They are too old to be bribed with stories about Santa watching them. She just rolls her eyes and says, ‘My presents come from Amazon’. The eldest pretends to still believe. She uses the voice she’ll no doubt use when she comes to visit me in an old people’s home when I’m senile and incontinent (and wearing purple). ‘Yes mum, of course Santa comes down the chimney. Anything you say mum.’
So, to be really cool and unique parents, we took our children to LEGO LAND. I wasn’t mad for it, but my mates were coming, and everything is always funny when they are there. We woke up late. The car didn’t work. We got stuck in traffic for two hours. I was in charge of the map, so took us the scenic route and we arrived at 12pm, hungry, cold and cross.
We were sent to park in a field in a different county, so it took another 45 minutes to get to the queue. The theme for this week’s column is the letter ‘Q’. It’s all we did, literally. We queued to get in. We queued for the loo. We queued to get my bag checked. Then we found our friends, who were in a queue. They waited for sixty-minutes for a ride that took sixty seconds.
It was the kind of cold that make you want to keep your hands in your pockets and your hood up. The kind of cold my children called ‘hot’, so I walked round clutching coats and hats and scarves like the abominable snowman and was still cold. We queued to get hot chocolate, to find they had sold out. We queued for rides that weren’t open. We queued half an hour for the free lunch included in our ticket and then gave up, sucking on humbugs for sustenance. Bah.
We queued two hours for the Ninjago ride. Lines of irritated parents and kids needing wees, snaking round and round. Every time we turned a corner we thought we were going to be at the beginning of the ride. More queue awaited us. The people in front of us has the right idea. They were in all mountain climbing gear and had bananas in their pockets, which they ate approximately an hour in. Their planning was admirable, but their lack of children was slightly disturbing.
By the time we finally got to the front of the ‘ride of your life’ some of our party were in tears. They’d peaked at the bottom of the third staircase, became frightened and wanted to go back. We got into two carriages and spent two minutes going past giant TV screens. The aim of the game was to ‘kung fu’ chop the baddies with your hands. No one told me you had to use a forward motion. I waved my arms around like a 16-year-old who’d dropped his first pill at a rave. I scored 16 points and got nothing but cramp.
I was supposed to be a 4D experience. The carriage moved slightly but that was it. I could have saved myself hundreds of pounds by staying at home and spinning my kids round on the office chair while they played Nintendo Wii.