I think we were just about to leave for Okehampton when I stopped 😉

So, a fairly easy drive across rather too much country to get there and we arrived and unloaded just about in daylight, which made things easier. The boys enjoyed using the cage to carry bags from the car and then it was just a question of lugging everything upstairs and we were done. The usual socialising, dishwasher loading and unloading, kitchen helping and so forth kept me busy while the children for the most part threw themselves into the melee and just resurfaced for meals and occasional reassurance. A was a bit clingy at times and not quite certain of so many people, but still spent a fair bit of time pottering. We managed a bit of music practice most days and read Story of the World as bedtime stories, if only so that we had caught up in time for the Historyetc morning, which involved purple dyed linen squares, fimo charm making, glass bead stringing and a plague of frogs to help us remember Phoenicians, Egyptians and the Exodus. We had a trip out to take part in a nativity at Pennywell which was absolutely freezing (when we were asked to keep the barn door shut so as not to let the heat out I was hard put to it not to ask “What heat?”) but a lovely experience nevertheless. J, K and L enjoyed meeting the animals beforehand, especially J who liked cuddling the ducks, but A was so cold that she just wanted to huddle up under my coat. The Santa visit was a little disappointing, as both boys got the same gift, which didn’t really suit either of them, but L was happy enough with hers (and even happier to swap it for a secret diary) and A is still carrying her teddy around with her 🙂 Warming up with tea/mulled wine and mince pies afterwards was very pleasant, but we somehow managed to miss the fact that almost everybody else was going to a glass/marble museum on the way back 🙁 Still, getting back early meant that we were able to make a start on tea prep and fortunately the children didn’t notice that they had missed out, or if they noticed, didn’t make a fuss. L very much enjoyed taking part in a play with some of the older girls, despite missing some of the rehearsals because of her mean mother making her go to bed 😉 and the boys enjoyed table tennis and pool (?) as well as the inevitable DS-ing. Oh, and there were a couple of walks as well, which I missed because of being busy in the kitchen for one and with a grumpy Anna for the other, but J did both and K and L the longer, colder one (once L had been coaxed into putting on more clothes!). There was snow on Christmas Day, which was excellent timing, and a lovely Christmas dinner, lots of carols and presents… just how Christmas should be 😉

On the way back from Okehampton we decided that it was a shame to have gone so far and be so near to Stonehenge without going to see it, so we detoured from our planned route to go that way, stopping for Daktarin for L’s sore mouth on the way (thanks Jan!). It was the first time any of us had been there and it was quite magical in the snow, but incredibly cold! The car park was closed because of ice, so we had to park further down the road and walk back, slipping and sliding and hoping it would be worth it. It was. We borrowed audio tour sets, but mine wasn’t working (too cold for the batteries, the chap said, and I certainly had to work on warming up my camera batteries to get that working) so the children had to give me edited highlights from theirs. We didn’t hang about, but took lots of pictures and listened to the tour as we were walking there and back rather than in the right places, then lingered in the gift shop, sorely tempted by the snowglobes as that was how we had seen it ourselves. We resisted, but bought a little model to make up ourselves 🙂 Unfortunately the cafe wasn’t open so no nice warming drinks, but we were happy anyway.

Got back late but not stupidly late and the children were all able to surface in time for the last music school of the year. They’ve really enjoyed SMS and we’re definitely signed up for another term, but the more I hear about our nearest town music school the more I wonder if it might be better overall for us – rather more expensive but would include instrument tuition as well, plus it’s for children and adults = more expense again, but I’d love to learn an instrument alongside the children, and it would be good for Bob to pick up guitar again, I think, if that’s an option. We need to find out if their sessions include choir/singing, though, as that’s what the children get most out of at SMS and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them. Girls had ballet, then we all thought about unpacking…

On Sunday 5th December L’s godmother came to visit, bringing gifts 🙂 The children always love it when Michelle comes, because she has so much time for them, but we managed a bit of a grown-up chat too (we were at school together so go back a long way) and a generally very pleasant afternoon, which we followed up by spending most of Monday with Michelle again, but at Emma’s house (J’s godmother and another old schoolfriend) – a very nice way to pass a few hours, even if meeting Emma’s gorgeous puppy did give the children ideas… 😉 Monday evening was judo, although iirc L was feeling too tired so gave it a miss. On Tuesday we went over to Gina’s so that J could have a last piano lesson before his exam, but at least didn’t have to go at stupid o’clock for strings group as that had finished for the term, then on to Djembe, with a horribly screechy car which Chris was able to reassure me was almost certainly not as bad as it sounded (and the garage managed to fix it very quickly the next day as it was in fact caused by a loose bolt – phew!). We swapped K, who was getting into the drumming, for SB, who was finding it hard on her delicate nerve endings (nasty toothy accident at the end of Okehampton), when we left early to go to violin, so SB and J did non-verbal reasoning tests while L and A did violin 🙂 Rainbows Christmas party for L but no gym for the boys thanks to term ending in November!

Wednesday was a Latinetc day, rather a hectic one as we had puddlechicks without Merry and HH had to go out for part of it too. Lots of Skoldo French happened, and some GP French and I think both kinds of Latin, lots of fimo modelling – making the beginnings of a periodic table in fimo and then using remnants to make letter discs and interesting other little projects 🙂 Baked potatoes for lunch seemed to work, but it was logistically interesting for first go with fewer adults than usual to organise serving up, as Zoe had to dash off to look after dog things, so it was just Gina and me with all the children at that point! K had ‘cello and then his Cubs Christmas party but J was feeling a bit tired and under the weather so missed his Scouts one (plus the Scouts calendar suggested it was next week, so we thought it was a normal meeting until too late 🙁 ).

Thursday 9th December was Tots, as ever, then CHEF sports for the boys and then J’s piano exam, which he was very nervous about, particularly scales… Dashed back to teach, made easier by exams moving forward since there was a gap before our time 🙂 and then enjoyed a nice gentle Friday – much-needed!

The girls had their last ballet lessons of term on Saturday, and Sunday was more dancing, with folk dancing for all the children in the afternoon. We left Bob at home to do jobs 😉 A nice quiet couple of days at home, doing gentle HE, music practices and lots of Christmas cooking and crafts, making chocolates and so on, and then we were off to London on Wed 15th (sadly missing a Christmas crafts Historyetc) to see Father Christmas at the Harrod’s Grotto. This is something I’ve been trying to book for literally years, but each time I only think of it too late for the ridiculously early time the tickets go up and miss all the slots. This year I finally managed it, and booked extra so others could join us 😉 We went in on the train and arrived with plenty of time to look round the toy dept. first, admiring all the displays and enjoying a magic show, then met up with Gina, Dave, J, E and S to go and join the queue… Considering it was free (apart from a £5 booking fee, which gets loaded onto a loyalty card for use elsewhere in the shop) it wasn’t bad, although the queue was quite long enough and the Santa we saw (I think they have several working at once, behind carefully guarded doors so you only ever see your own one) was jovial but slightly vague. The children were delighted with their outsize chocolate coins and pleased enough to get a book (until they realised they all had exactly the same book as each other!) and to pose for a photo (which we declined to buy; it was nice but not *that* nice!) and we were not rushed at all, so they all had a good chat. Afterwards the children were given certificates making them honorary fairies or pirates, signed by Mrs Christmas and Tinkerbell – they could have been signed by Peter Pan, but we didn’t wait to see him; the toy dept. beckoned again. We had packed lunch with us, but the Biffs didn’t, so we set off for a museum where they could buy lunch and we could eat ours. The V&A came up first, so they stopped there, but after a quick scoot round we went on to the Science Museum, since we had more time to spare than they did and there are better places to sit and eat your own food there. We then spent several hours in the Launchpad, including a talk about rockets, which found K and J dressed up in nose cone (K) and fiery helmet (J) sitting on wheeled chairs to demonstrate Newton’s second law of motion, and then L trying to push a heavy body (large man on wheeled chair) and then travelling at great speed halfway across the room when he took his turn to push her 😆 Once we were in danger of being thrown out (or locked in) we went back to Harrods to find a nice way of spending our £5, and of course ended up spending rather more 😆 The children begged for one of the magic tricks we had seen demonstrated (J has been practising and is now quite proficient at making lights appear from nowhere, pass through people’s heads and so on 😀 ) and we got a Christmas pudding for FIL, thus resurrecting an old family tradition.

Thursday was to have been a very difficult day, with Tots in the morning and then an afternoon of rushing around between violin stuff for L and tuition stuff for me, but fortunately my tutee cancelled (unfortunately for her it was because of a nasty accident at school, but it made my life easier at least) so at least we only had to be in one place at a time rather than two. It looked as though we were going to have some snow at last, but it stopped at about 1/2cm, not really enough to be any use to anybody! L played a duet with her teacher (Jingle Bells – nothing fancy!) and was one of the first to play because it was done in age order. She should have been first (since A was not playing) but there was somebody who had to leave early and so went before her – I think she was relieved! After the violin pieces Kate, their SMS singing teacher and A’s beloved Baby Music teacher, did some singing and games with the children while the adults got first go at the party food and a much needed cup of tea 😉 and then I left them to it, as Bob had arrived by now, and dashed off to teach my A-Level retake student – who gave me a lovely box of chocolates for Christmas 🙂

Quiet Friday, doing not much, but with friends round 🙂 and then Saturday was Crisp Packet Fireworks, which was fab (we bought both the books!) and an extra child coming home with us, as S came for his long-promised sleepover. We returned him on Sunday, after the christingle service at our old church, and then were unexpectedly invited to lunch with A’s godparents (it’s been a godparenty kind of month!) which was lovely. On Monday we had been invited to a children’s social, but as it turned out Bob’s car wouldn’t start so he had to take mine and that left us with a quiet day at home, putting up the tree and decorations and then livened up at the end with “ice” skating in the annual town get-together. I missed it to be at home for a tutee who didn’t turn up (grr) but the children and Bob had a good time, at least. On Tuesday Bob still had no car so we performed some complicated vehicular manoeuvres to enable us to go and play/collect a bike and Bob to work (plan had been for him to work form home, but poorly work laptop knocked that one on the head – one of those weeks!) and then Wed and Thurs we stayed at home, which was rather nice actually. On Friday Bob’s parents, sister and nephews came across from Colchester for lunch and we had a very convivial few hours, then went to a family communion (kind of children’s midnight mass, at 7pm) came back and read lots of Jotham’s Journey, found socks to put up for those who couldn’t find their stockings (actually socks are far easier, especially when it’s one of a pair 😉 ) and left out three mince pies, some alcohol and a few carrots, as per Harrod’s Father Christmas’ instructions.

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