Dear daughters…

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A few nights ago, I was feeling particularly sentimental. My husband and I came to the end of an extremely busy month, which had various different high pressure or stressful situations, and we opened a bottle and took some time together to relax. We are very excited about this Christmas, Holly’s first ever and our first as a family of four. Scarlett is at the age where she has started asking quite consistently for ‘more treats’ and ‘I want that’, and we’re trying to teach her that that’s a) not very polite but b) not really what this season is about. 

At two years old, we’re (hoping!) that it’s just a riskier tantrum stage, and certainly several other parents seem to recognise it as a phase all kids go through. I went to bed that night and wrote them a letter. Below is that letter. 

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that truly, the unthinkable can ALWAYS happen! Whether it be a presidential election, a referendum or any one of the sad events that have blighted the year. But without sounding like a cheesey cartoon character, good will always prevail. A lot of bad can and will happen, but kindness and magic outnumbers it. It always has and always will, and in uncertain times, it’s even more important to believe, even more important to hold onto.

Here’s to a very happy December to you all dear comrades. I wish you every happiness and an extremely hearty dose of magic! 
“Dear daughters,

Today is the first of December, and your Father and I are both very passionate about December being magical!November has been an extremely busy, hard working, high pressure and stressful one. In a (ridiculously shortened..!) summary, Daddy didn’t have a single day off in November, an already busy month became even busier as it went along and he has been amazing. Girls, I have always been in awe of my husband, admired his work ethic and how well he treats people and this month in particular, those qualities have really shone. You are both extremely lucky to have such a strong role model in your Daddy. It’s kept me going. November for me has also been extremely important. I start Criminology lecturing in January, and I am also working with some amazing people towards increasing healthy communication about mental health for young people, as well as personal safety teaching. A wide remit including how to spot signs of danger, reducing risks, safer choices to make, a whole host of ways for younger people to take preventative measures against crime that will hopefully be incorporated into, at least a few schools. It’s going to be a long, hard slog, but you two girls are the best kind of motivation! You’ve both been at my side for a lot of meetings and countless Skype calls, a local MP told you that you, Scarlett, had a beautiful smile, and you sang Baa Baa Black sheep to him! Moments like that are alongside my research notes to remind me where we started. It may go nowhere of course, I might fail. And if I do, I’ll try again, or I’ll change tact, or I’ll have done all I can and I’ll move onto something else. But failing will be ok.

Anyway, unknown outcomes aside! November 2016 was a busy month for your Father and I. It was very tiring and at times, we were on schedules that didn’t allow for much family time. And you both know how pathetically soppy your parents are when they don’t get to see much of each other and you girls! And we think the Winter season is extra magical, it’s our favourite time of year. 

Last year was a tough one because Mummy and Holly were both so poorly before we even had our little Moop with us. And we weren’t able to deal with it as privately as we wanted to because of circumstances. So THIS year, we are determined to make it extra special! With LOTS of family time, and friends time to boot! 

Scarlett you now understand what Christmas entails and you are SO excited! We were in Bath the other day and you loved seeing Father Christmas in the streets and we picked up some Christmas gloves and a homemade wooden owl that makes an owl sound when you blow into it. You loved it! Our main goal this year is to try and make sure that you learn that kindness and good will and sharing are the most important messages in December. I know that you’re a kind hearted little Ladey though so although a toddlers will is very strong, I’m positive your generous heart will win this stage! And our little Holly! It is your very first Christmas! The bright lights are obviously attracting your attention, and you are finding your big sisters excitement very infectious. 

We’ve started our annual activity calendar so you’ve both gone to bed tonight in new Christmas Star Wars pyjamas, and tomorrow we’re going to a very special Christmas show. Both of which have cost money (although we have plenty of shows we can attend free thanks to Daddy’s work!) but that isn’t the point. Annual activity calendar is about spending time with friends and family. The first year I did it, my family in Australia took part and we sent each other pictures and videos. And since then, December has been one of the ways we catch up with people who mean the world to us but that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like.

I’m currently watching ‘Once Upon A Time’, an American series for adults but about fairy tales. It’s funny, but it’s reminded me that adults should believe in magic. It’s important to. There have been days I haven’t wanted to believe in magic, or people (which is where magic comes from really girls, it’s from people) and I’ve felt frustrated, and angry, and have wondered why I’m putting the work in. But every time, I’ve taken some time out to breathe, or (more often than not!), your Dad has reminded me what’s important in a whole different manner of ways. And without fail, things are always ok. And I’m constantly reminded that giving in and taking the easy route is never worth it. What can seem like the hardest path at the time, always seems to get us where we need to be! And yes, of course a cheesey series has the same message. For someone who can be so practical at times, both your parents can be laughably sentimental! So there have been times I’ve gone to meetings with certain character pants on to remind me to think of magic when I’m faced with middle aged men who, in a meeting, have patronised me and put hurdles in my way or have suggested that ‘as a young woman’ I would find my goals more difficult. And on particularly tough days, I’ve made a dinner of turkey dinosaurs, smiley faces and spaghetti hoops for us to indulge in childhood comforts as a morale boost. A mug of hot chocolate with squishy cream and mini marshmallows also works a treat. There’s magic in the little things, magic works! 

We are planning to make December 2016 our best Christmas yet. Our family of four is complete, safe and well. And I hope our families friends and family also have an amazing holiday season. God knows with the way 2016 went, the entire planet could do with a short break! And then, ok still a Trump presidency, but hopefully a slightly less challenging 2017 for all! We were very lucky in 2016 to have our Moop join us healthy and safe, you are a shining star in an otherwise pretty terrible year worldwide (history lessons when you’re both older will certainly be interesting when they get to 2016!). 

But, my sweethearts, as I said, magic is in people, and in December, it shines that little bit brighter, and we all have a bit extra to be able to help people for whom Christmas is particularly hard. You two make our December the shiniest it’s ever been. We love you very much and I hope you always remember to be kind, to help others and to give back, not just at Christmas time but all year round. I have no doubt you both will.

We love you very much xx”

Activity Advent Calendar…

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One of our new family Christmas traditions was, alongside the regular chocolate one, to run an ‘Activity Advent Calendar.’ The idea being that each day in the run up to Christmas, we do a little activity together, posting a picture or video online so we can share the tradition with friends and family. Those regular readers will have seen my last post about this in a bit more detail.

As today is ‘December Eve’, I posted the activities on the Facebook group I set up and in case any of you lovely readers want to play, please find the list below, the list of course is December/Christmas based but on the off chance you’re happening across this in Springtime, please feel free to amend accordingly and have yourselves a merry little April…!

The ‘rules’ are loose and simple, either go through them day by day in order, or write the numbers down and pick them out of a hat each day and do the corresponding activity, or simply cherry pick them as you go along. Be as enthusiastic as you want or cut as many corners as you’d like. The only idea is to have fun with it and please feel free to send pictures or share your experiences, if you search ‘Activity Advent Calendar’ on Facebook you’ll find our open group, please feel free to join us and join in! ;

1 – Create a new dance move, as creative as you like, and feel free to give your dance move a name!

2 – Choose a different country, and find a Christmas tradition from that country to celebrate in some small way.

3 – Dance around to your favourite Christmas song.

4 – Go Christmas carolling! If you don’t fancy surprising a friend or family member, sing one to, or with your family, anyone is welcome to treat us to carolling, a cup of tea will welcome any visitors!

5 – Do some cooking or baking, make christmas themed cookies or have a red or green theme dinner.

6 – Dec 6th, in honour of St Nicholas day, do a secret act of kindness.

7 – Play together! Visit a park, build a fort, play hide and seek, whether you have kids or not, pick a game and take a bit of time to play!

8 – Go for a Wintry Walk! Wrap up warm and walk, whether it be on your lunch break, or just a quick trip round the block at home.

9 – Make snow angels. No snow? No problem, do ten star jumps instead!

10 – Take a Christmas selfie! If you haven’t already, why not join in Operation Christmas Jumper (see The Action Emporium Facebook page or ask me for details!) and donate to Save the Children. Let me know if you did and I can add your selfie into The Action Emporium album and you might win a prize!

11 – It’s the holidays, relax! Pamper yourselves, have a spa treatment or do a homemade one, use a facemask, give each other a massage, paint your nails, just take some time!

12 – Write a list of five things you’ve achieved this year and five things you want to achieve next year, make them as big or small as you like but make sure you acknowledge yourself.

13 – Christmas is about time with friends and family and having fun and playing games, so go old school and play a board game! (Or card game) Whether you all sit round as a family and play a traditional game like Monopoly, a more specific interest game like Zombicide; even just a quick game of cards on your lunch break with colleagues (and if you’re unlikely to see people today or get a chance, why not have a round of solitaire!), forget the new fangled technology and get your board game on!

14 – Pick your favourite Christmas film and watch it, doesn’t matter what it is, if it says Christmas to you (Die Hard is a Christmas classic after all!) then it counts! We’ll be doing ours within our movie marathon day (part of our 30 before 30 challenge) so if you fancy joining us for any part of the day (or want to know which films we’ll be watching to only join us for the ones you fancy!) let us know and you’re welcome!

15 – Make some time to visit a relative or a friend, have a cup of tea and a slice of cake, go for a walk together, or if you’re busy at work, spend some time with a work colleague on a lunchbreak, get out of the office and connect!

16 – Draw a Christmas picture! Be as creative or as abstract as you like but remember to share them with the group. If there’s a few of you in your household, do one together or compete for the best, and if you’re at work, why not take in paper and pencils and challenge your colleagues to creating the best picture to brighten up the workplace!

17 – Christmas party! Christmas is a time for celebrating, and parties often mean party food, attend a Christmas party, or arrange one, or just have a buffet dinner at home! Failing that, create a party feel on your lunchbreak by each bringing in some Christmas buffet items.

18 – Be your own version of Father Christmas, take a bag full of clothes to a charity shop, donate some treats to the animal centre or take part in Operation Christmas Child or similar.

19 – Pick up a Christmas ornament. Either a new bauble for the tree or homemake a fairy for the top of the tree. Or if not for the tree, make a paper chain or buy something to Christmas up your home or workplace!

20 – Après Ski break! As a ski trip is a bit out of a simple activity advent challenge budget, make the most of bringing the Après ski activities home by putting your feet up after a cold day with a glass of gluwein, or maybe visit a Christmas market & get a glass there! If alcohol isn’t your thing, a big mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and squirty cream works just as well! (Optional shot of whiskey or baileys for that ski chalet feel 😉 )

21 – Christmas markets are a magical addition to any seasonal holiday, so go and visit one, either a local one, make a day of it and go further afield or have a look to see if your local school/church/leisure centre are holding a Christmas fair or market. No need to buy, it’s more about soaking up the atmosphere. If you don’t know of one or don’t fancy travelling to one, create one at home, bratwurst, home make some crafts, however you want to create it!

22 – After December comes the inevitable January detox, get a head start with some exercise, go for a jog, swim, exercise class, whatever you want!

23 – Re-enact your favourite Christmas scene, play or film, as creatively or as basic as you want. Or if you don’t have enough time, create a photo re-enacting your favourite Christmas scene, play or film!

24 – December is a time to catch up with friends and family but multiple parties and nights can be expensive, invite some people round for dinner and each provide a course. Get in some crackers and read each other naff Christmas jokes for that real Christmas dinner feel..!

25 – Happy Christmas one and all! Whatever you’re doing, enjoy your day, make the most of every moment and here’s to a happy New Year to all!

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