Christmas and New Year 2018

A Christmas decision

Logan and Caitlin were very insistent that we have Christmas at home, which in some ways is great – it’s so expensive to go away and not be able to join in with anything for Christmas, due to the sheer volume of other people being about. However, being at home for Christmas has never been successful (we had had 3 Christmas days with the children before this one; the first two at home, the third at Bluestone). The only one successful in that time frame was the one spent at Bluestone. So we had to figure out what was different about being at Bluestone (aside from, you know, the obvious of being on holiday) that we could influence from the perspective of being at home. We came up with a couple:

People and expectations: In going away we had taken them away from family and friends and as a consequence lowered their social commitments and expectations. “Ok. We need to replicate that” we thought, so we arranged to have a Christmas Coffee afternoon – mid December. We would have our presents ready for everyone, if people wanted to exchange presents with us (which we discourage as the kids are easily overwhelmed, can’t let go of the stuf they have and don’t have room for more, and frankly, they don’t need presents, they need presence). We would bake a load of goodies and take them with us, setup mulled wine and mulled apple juice, and other drinks. People could just drop in and go off as they please, but we’d be there for like 4 hours. some activities for the kids and it’d all be great. So. That’s what we did.

Presents: Presents were spread out, family had given us presents before we left for Bluestone, we couldn’t take them with us, nor could we fit in ours from one another so we did that exchange before we went away. So Christmas Day was just presents from Santa only and was VERY low key. So we had to aim for that. So we arranged that any presents we had been given before Christmas would be opened prior to Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Eve we would exchange our household’s presents so that by bed time the only thing left would be Santa.

Christmas Eve

And actually – those two things were the only significant differences we could identify. So we did our Coffee afternoon, exchanged presents there. Then opened anything the children got there slowly over the course of the week that followed. We had a special early Christmas planned for Christmas Eve, whereby they’d wake up and get their usual Christmas Eve box (new PJs or an outfit, some new underwear and some hot chocolate ready for bed time routine). Then had a normal morning, followed by a special lunch and a treasure hunt (with picture maps) around our house to find presents that we had bought (and hid) for them – they would open each present in between the search meaning that they had time to run around looking for the next one reducing their anxiety and emotional behaviour. It really worked.

After exchanging presents, the children had a bit of free play time to burn off some energy and emotion. Then as they know I love Harry POtter and had bought me the Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit game, we play that and some other games until it was time to have PJs, get Santa’s treats ready and get up to bed. Every Christmas Eve we hide a new book under their pillows (a tradition we had arranged to hopefully have a little fun)… this year it was a tradition that was finally remembered by them and they were so excited to get through pre-bed time routine to get to their beds . Bed time went smoothly (with the exception of Caitlin feeling a little worried about someone coming into our house whilst she is sleeping… we reassured her that no one apart from us would be in the house. We reminded her that Mumma frequently does things like magic-ing things into a room and she has no idea how they are done, in a similar way her presents would be magic-ed into the living room but offered her the opporunity to sleep in Logan’s room on a mattress. This worked.

Christmas Day

Christmas Eve I had made it very clear to the kids, excitement trumps everything. So no time was too early to ask if it was time to get up on Christmas Day. They would either be told “no, not yet, a bit longer” or in most likelihood “hell yes!”. As I child I was always up at 4am persuading the youngest child in the house to go badger the grown ups to let us get up for Santa’s deliveries. And, anxiety was low enough. For the first year ever I didn’t give up at 8 and go and get them (already awake but too scared to say anything) up myself. They called up at 6am “Mumma, has Santa been?” my heart beated joy “Oh, um… I dunno, why don’t you go down and take a look?”

Santa had been, and he hadn’t left much of his treats on the plate…

The excited screams sounded their way up the staircase. I was worn out, but very VERY happy. I could have cried happy tears in fact “they are doing ‘normal’ kid stuff… what is this?”

The Logan and Caitlin don’t like anyone being left out so Bruce and I have to make each other a stocking and the children had won a stocking at a Christmas Fair so we “had” to fill it for the dog… of course.

The day was very low key, after opening presents, we pulled out the sofa bed and chilled watching the 1940’s version of A Christmas Carol. Then had some breakfast and mostly did a lot of nothing. It was perfect. And ate some glorious food in between. It was perfect. We pulled off a Christmas at home. We know what we need to do now.

New Year

Normally for New Year’s Eve, we have an evening all prepared, we put the clocks forward 3 hours so midnight arrives at 9pm (much more manageable in this house). But actually, some friends were going through a hard time. They came and stayed over. The kids all played together. The adults all played board games and laughed. The kids fell asleep early. We got no photos. It was just immensely fun. A welcome break in the midst of a very stressful time. We loved it.

2018: Looking forward part 2

As a family, on New Year’s Day, we like to reflect on the year that has passed and also “wonder” about what the next year may bring. So we answred the following questions (as individuals, so the children couldn’t be swayed by one another). We don’t really set resolutions as such (although I kind of have made one this year – I will post about that later), instead desires of “what’d be nice” rather than set goals that we are aiming to achieve.

So here are our ponderings…

Q: What was the best thing about the past year?
Ariella: Being able to see the children enjoy Christmas for the first time ever.
Bruce: Our Santorini holiday
Logan: Horseriding
Caitlin: Being on the black beach

Q: What are you most excited about this year?
Ariella: Going on holiday again for Christmas, hopefully setting the tradition will make for a less anxious future
Bruce: Having a night out with my wife
Logan: Going to Bluestone
Caitlin: Going to Bluestone

Q: What new experience would you like to have this year?
Ariella: Paintballing. Despite always having been drawn to it, I have never been
Bruce: Rock Climbing – I did try it when I was a child, but I barely remember it.
Logan: To see what it is like to be a miner
Caitlin: I want to go on a cruise

Q: What 3 things would you like to work on, or achieve, this year?
1. Making more “interference-free” family time
2. Allowing myself more time to refuel (and treating my body more kindly)
3. Trying to make a regular slot to work on my degree and my blog
1. Supporting my wife more
2. Cliche but, getting healthier
3. Getting back to art in some form
1. Learning to swim safely
2. Pleasing people less, just being myself
3. Learning to be happy being me
1. To swim without being scared
2. Go to singing and dancing lessons
3. Learn to play music




2018: Looking forward part 1

So… looking forward to the coming year, I feel more hopeful than I have in a while… yes I know “it’s the New Year feeling”… no it isn’t. This is the first in several that has felt hopeful: illness with unknown cause and chronic pain, redundancy, adoption agency drama, knowing the fate of my motherhood lay in the hands of other people, waiting for news on if I was officially my children’s parents and then of course the “I’m a parent of an adopted child, struggling to remove the post-Christmas shrapnel and glue us back together in whatever ragged, wonky and fragile form I can”.

I am not sure I can use words to clearly show how helpless I have felt to begin each year for the last several years. But this year… this year is different.

  • Being away for Christmas means that the explosion didn’t happen, so there’s no shrapnel to clear
  • having had no explosion, or shrapnel, means we only have our normal levels of shame and unworthiness (which are still pretty high, but not “crisis” high)
  • co-sleeping (well, them sleeping in bunks in our room) means we are all having at least double the amount of sleep we were having in the few years prior to this New Year
  • Home educating, and me being with the kids almost literally 24/7, means separation anxiety, shame, self-deprecation, emotionally-triggered situations and so forth are much lower in frequency or severity
  • less anxiety (and shame) means less meltdowns, means more energy for me
  • professionals have finally put the words I have been screaming about sensory, coordination and attachment in black and white (it’s not supported yet – but it’s on paper…)
  • Caitlin finally has a wheelchair, my back, shoulders, neck and legs have been partying for about 3 weeks (from when the wheelchair was collected). The big days can be more often, and it doesn’t matter if I feel like death cause she can wheel herself
  • I finally have an appointment with a surgeon to fix myself… really, it’s more about the fact “I can fix myself” (the children are mentally stable enough for it to not completely spiral now) than I am seeing a surgeon but who’s being picky?

We are starting the New Year with not with just the vim and vigour that, for some, New Year can bring, but with knowledge that life is changing.  Life might actually be “lived” this year. This year may be more than just survived. Hope has been restored!




2017: Reflections

So 2017. What have you added to our Pleasant Chaos?


Ill health
Battles – copious physcially exhausting, and mentally draining battles
Personal challenges

You brought your A game to topple us, but Life, my old chum, you should know by now that I am tough. I am fierce. I am a fighter and I am more determined and strong willed than most you will meet, so here’s what I countered you with.

Travelling – lots of new places and experiences
Family time
A new home
The choice to home educate
holistic therapies
lifestyle changes
Unburdening of commitments we didn’t NEED
Letting go of guilt
Walking away
celebration on our terms

And guess what Life? Guess what 2017? We survived you. We lived. We laughed. We had fun. We may have cried along the way. We may have gotten overwhelmed at the weight of the journeys we endured, but we ended it smiling. We ended it happier, stronger and more united as a family. We take your adveristy and your struggle and we raise you a smile and a hug.

Goodbye 2017.

Hello 2018, we welcome you with positivity and wonder. We look forward to what you can offer us, and what we can offer you.

Let’s do this.



NYE 2017

Knowing that the children really don’t cope with busy, choatic, loud party scenarios when they are anxious we always have a celebration at home that allows them to still experience the “New Year thing”. So we set them challenge activity bags, or envelopes, a bit similar to our advent thing, but this time purely about the night.

So this is what we did this year too… we gave them an envelope, at midday, and inside was another envelope saying that they needed to decorate for a party, move the clock forward 3 hours and have lunch. The inner envelope contained all of their envelopes for the evening with the real time noted in red and the fake time noted in black. This meant they knew we weren’t lying to them, we knew they couldn’t stay up til midnight but we could pretend like when we go on holiday to a different time zone.

The order of events:`

12 midday (3pm) – set the clock forward 3 hours, lunch and decorate for a party (basically, put the christmas lights up).
1pm (4pm) – Present Exploration: Any new things they haven’t got to explore yet for Christmas can be checked out during this hour
2pm (5pm) – Games hour – board games, so the choices ended up being jenga, uno and draughts
3pm (6pm) – Gingerbread house – what family doesn’t enjoy the building a house out of ingredients that are tricky to hold together in a confined space right?
4pm (7pm) – Magic bath time (bath bombs… plural) – they love what Lush! products do to their bath water… so naturally as it’s NYE, we may as well double up right?
5pm (8pm) – Party clothes and face paints – as previously mentioned the children love any excuse to dress up fancy… but they also love face paints. Short time frame meant they just had NYE 2017, 3 balloons and 3 popping fireworks this year, but hey – we got back on track with our timings.
6pm (9pm) – Party Feast –  exactly as it says on the tin… a feast of Party nature.
7pm (10pm) – Chocolate fountain – melted chocolate, strawberries and marshmallows. Mmmmmmm!
8pm (11pm) – Disco time – main lights off, christmas lights on, music and not plugged in microphones (and glow sticks of course)
9pm (midnight) – Midnight mocktails and countdown orange and pineapple juice with grenadine and a netflix NYE countdown

They had a lot of fun, some envelope challenges ran past the hour, but it didn’t matter. we still read the next one on time and muddled our way through. and ultimately ended the year on a high.