Countdown to Christmas.

Advent Yankee Candles

This week I have realised with horror that all my Christmas sparkle has totally disappeared. I have no idea what to buy my children, I have nothing I want, there is nothing we need (except more time and money and you can’t buy either of those!) and Christmas is sneaking up so fast that I can’t even begin to imagine what I’m going to do to either find the sparkle or find the time, money or energy to magic the perfect Christmas either.

This rather mournful thought has been bothering me hugely over the last few days. It’s not that Christmas is all about the giving, by any means because it most certainly isn’t. None of my children can tell me a single thing they ‘need’ or even ‘want’ this year apart from Maddy who desperately wants a new guitar of the other variety to the one she already has. (See, I’m not doing well. It’s either Spanish or Classical. I better ask). But it is about the feel of the day, the magic and the joy – it’s about getting hyped up about the idea of a day together and a sense of specialness and having no desire to do anything except enjoy the company of family at the end of a long and busy few months. And a little tingle of excitement and anticipation is all to the good. Apart from anything else, however jaded and wistful it makes me and however much my big girls no longer need a heap of presents and surprises, I still have a 10 year old and a not quite 3 year old – and they do have the right to the same memories as I made for the big girls.

It was while I was thinking about these doleful facts that a couple of products arrived that reminded me of what was always so nice about Christmas when the girls were little and what I miss most.

The anticipation.

The filling the house with Christmas.

The together time.

The little rituals.

The knowing that hunker down family time is coming.

The dim lights and the tastes treats and spice and sweeties.

The decorations.

The nostalgia.

The smell.

It’s all of these things that our current frantic, overwhelmed life is threatening. Not the present pile not even the day. It’s the creation of an event that we relish. I know the day will be fine. I know we won’t fight or squawk and there won’t be spoilt brat grumps that this year we really can’t afford many gifts. I know we’ll eat our normal understated lunch and the early morning tumble will be daft stocking presents and giggling and a quiet weep from me somewhere in the middle.

It’s the build up I miss and while I’m not religious at all, I suddenly remembered that what starts our Christmas each year is the fabric pocket advent calender and the daily sweetie for each child in it. I suddenly saw that what I need this year is to make some magic about the season so that this Christmas, which will be one of Fran’s last ones at home as a child and the first where most gifts will be things they need not fun surprises, will be memorable and treasured.

Advent Yankee Candles

The two gorgeous candle advent calendars we were sent by Yankee Candle made me think about all of this and start to make some plans. 24 doors, all opening to reveal a beautifully scented candle to burn on the day seems the perfect thing for me to get into the Christmas spirit; a lovely ritual, some sensory smells to make me feel the love and no calories either! Perfect. Each one has a range of smells from cookie, to cinnamon to sugar and cranberry and Christmas garland and the house finishes off with a votive candle on Christmas Eve. The design of both boxes is divine and the house made me think in particular of a house my mummy made me when I was little, with a gift on a string for each of us.

Times are difficult right now. We barely make it to family meals together, we rarely sit down and talk, we scurry about servicing the needs of 5 kids and a business and the joy has been rather sucked out of everything. I keep looking at my blog and wishing I was blogging more but the truth is I can’t find words for something that isn’t happening. I’m not writing creatively because most of what I do now is private or safeguarded or simply deeply dull.

And I miss it. I do.

So I’m setting myself a challenge, on the back of 2 boxes of candles that reminded me so much that I love being with my kids and making and doing and laughing with them. I’m going to finds some ways to make December special, like it used to be when the girls were little and we stopped home ed ‘work on November 30th and spent the run up to the big day doing ‘fun stuff’. Last year I watched blogger friends enviously as they made those days happen. I want smells and fun and mess and giggling and silly half arty, well meant crafts decorating the house.

This year I don’t want my Christmas run up to be all on Pinterest. I’m going to find the joy, starting with coming up with something precious and memorable to run through advent that my girls will love. If you’ve written any posts of things you’ve done, please leave me a link below.

And make me do it. I’m all lost and needing encouragement.

Follow Merrily Me’s board Christmas Crafts on Pinterest.

A Christmas Craft Wreath with Toadstools & Felted Holly

The last few years we’ve been able to take part in a pre-Xmas home ed day doing lots of Christmas crafts but this year it just wasn’t on the cards any more (sob, sob) and so I had to make a wreath all on my very own. I’ve been meaning to get round to trying something suitably ‘me’ for a while and never quite had the time. This year I managed, as one of the very few crafty things I did do, to make it happen and I was properly thrilled with the result. It arrived on the door horribly late on in the run up to Xmas, but it did make it. Hurrah.

Yay. This years wreath is a keeper. It's late but it came out just how I wanted it :) #craft

The only fresh purchase in this was the willow wreath from The Range for £8 but everything else came from home. The pine cones are all ones that have been attached to Xmas trees we’ve bought in the past (from the days when we had a fake one) and the berries normally sit in with pomander oranges to make them look pretty (but we didn’t have time to do them this year). The toadstools, which like the cones have wire at the bottom of them, I bought in the post Xmas sales at Van Hage a few years back and have been winking cheerily at me from the craft box ever since. The bells had been in there too and with a bit of coercion, I persuaded the girls to help me felt some holly leaves. I had a bag of green bits from something we did a few years ago and using a holly leaf biscuit cutter as a frame, we made various leaves in different tones, wired them together with berries on wire (no idea why I had those) and then glue gunned them into place. The bells and some pine cones also needed fixing with the glue gun.

I have to say, I’ve very proud of the result. It will definitely come back out again next year.

Bene’s Christmas Stocking.

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Last year I made Bene his very own Christmas stocking; as a January baby he was just old enough to enjoy unpacking one with some help and I wanted it to be special to him, not just bought off a peg. I have a vivid memory of the girls wanting to buy Freddie a stocking ‘ready for next year’ and looking at all the ‘First Christmas’ ones and I hated the idea of going out an negotiating all of that; I just knew it would be too painful. Besides, I had an urge to make one – the girls are all deeply attached to theirs and won’t let me replace them with home makes so Bene was my last chance. And I had plenty of felt fabric!

iPhone March 2013 340First I drew round one of the girls stockings on red felt and then I cut out the appropriate dark green add ons to make it look authentic. (I actually can’t think if I did those for both sides or if I was shockingly lazy and only did one side). I stitched the inner edges of the green bits with a decorative line of red stitches to make it look pretty before gluing them into place. Then I did blanket stitch all around the edge. Top TIP: start by going across one side of the top of the stocking first, then go round the stocking and finish off by doing the second side of the opening at the top. If you are clever, you’ll get it done all in one piece of thread. Maddy designed the train pattern to match the ‘Bene Express she woodworked for him when he was born. She glued it all on to the cloud shape, stitched around the outside edges of the main shape to give it some definition and we stuck it in place. Just perfect.

The Bene Express made by Maddy & his favourite @bigjigstoys train.

Considering hew is now totally and utterly obsessed with trains – and in particular all his lovely BigJigsRail, I think he is going to be very pleased to see it back out again.

Last year it was filled with toys like these.

iPhone March 2013 545We love our Haba Baby Toys; they feel wonderful, look gorgeous and keep little people happy for absolutely ages. I didn’t wrap most of his (I think I folded some in tissue paper) and he enjoyed just diving in and helping himself. This year I think he will be in full mental present opening mode pretty quickly. It’s going to be good to have a toddler in the house for Christmas again this year. It’s been a long time. Too long.

It’s December and the crafts (might) come out.

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Something tells me that I’m not going to see nearly enough of my children this December to pepper the blog with Christmas Crafts. I’m sorry about that; it used to be the highlight of my year to call a halt to maths and english and science on December 1st and crack open the great box of Christmas Crafts I’d bought and hoarded ready. We had such a lovely time in December 2009; snow on the ground, my brother here, me heavily pregnant with Freddie and loving the enforced quiet and togetherness while work ticked along without me.

But they are all big and at school now and Bene is just a bit too small for me to have patience for that stuff yet but too busy wanting to try everything for me to be able to craft with him doing something alongside. Next year, next year I will get back to being a crafty blogger. Simple Crafts misses me and I miss it but I just haven’t had time to do it justice this year.

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However, this year I will get one last chance to enjoy a few days of home ed alongside all my nearest and dearest friends as two of the girls, Bene and I head off on an HE camp that was booked before they started school. Last year I took felt and fabric and the adults crafted together while the kids played (not sure that was totally the plan but it worked); I made a snowman (Bene wasn’t going to let me do much else!) and various friends made very beautiful things too. I don’t know when I’ll get another chance at a camp, so I really hope I get to enjoy this one.

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If all else fails though, my trusty Christmas Crafts Pinterest board is still there. It’s a popular one and it is stuffed full over a good few years worth of great ideas from around the web. Enjoy.

Where was I?

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You may have noticed I was away last week, on our annual trip to a youth hostel with friends. I went away intending to do some work in quiet moments but the youth hostel had poor signal and Bene and I were enjoying each others company, plus I had the company of all my very good friends, so I let rather a lot slide. The week deserves more blogging than that, which it will get, but that's my apology for evaporating.

Before we went away there was a fair bit of frantic activity, which I can now barely remember. It definitely included a WedEd day, where we tested our blood and discovered what blood groups the kids are. I did a variety of poems with them that focused on describing emotions and we did some making too. The next day Amelie's friend Lulah arrived and that was the last I really saw of them and Josie till it was time to go away.

One thing they did do was test out these lovely Christmas Card Making Kits which we were sent to review. (Lulah was very excited to 'inspect' a product with us).

I shall do a proper review of them on the Simple Crafts blog but the kids were very positive about them. The designs are simple but effective and all of them did something different with the designs they had, they were easy to peel and good quality, so a definite hit. I like the idea of something that can be created and constructed from an easy to access set of designs, with no mess and a clear goal but still leaves room for designing yourself.

Since starting to write this entry, Bene and I have spent a night in hospital. He got a cold and cough while away which turned rapidly into vomiting up all his dinner and then huffing when breathing. Last night he had two trips to the out of hours doctor and the second saw us being escorted by a gp to the children's ward for a night of inhalers, nebulisers and steroids. I had to take him on my own, since Max needed to be well slept enough to cope with the big Monday before Xmas parcel day and it was a difficult night. Sitting with him in a room watching his oxygen levels suddenly drop was very frightening, very triggery :( in reality, he was never in danger and I knew that really, but the parallels were impossible to avoid.

Still, we spent much of today waiting for drugs so we could go home and enjoying the sensory room. I love this picture.

Lucily Uncle Rich arrived a hour before he got worse (he also seems to be allergic to another antibiotic, which is annoying :( ) and he stayed with the girls today, so everyone had a fun, distracting day :) Hopefuly I wil get to enjoy my brother a bit more tomorrow. I've not seen him for 3 years, since I was pregnant with Freddie. Goodness :/

Now to get through the next couple of weeks. Maddy has an appointment shortly to discuss why her thyroid is underactive. I hardly know where to start worrying on all this, so I think I'm going to give up. 2012 is not really ending as I hoped it would :/