25 Dec 2006

Christmas Day


I'm sitting on Duncan's bed, trying to help him get to sleep with my comforting/guarding presence. He pushing a new toy train (it puffs steam and chuffs and there's a tiny red light in the funnel) up and down his bed and chatting to himself. It's been a good day. It's been a nice few days.

The highlights for me;

When I was tucking Thomas into bed on Christmas eve, he hugged me and told me he'd love me forever.

Lady drew a beautiful picture of herself and her brothers for Santa; Santa liked it so much, he wrote her a little message to tell her so.

Thomas wrote a letter to Santa, which he read as, 'Dear Santa, I would like 5 presents please. I like you, from Thomas.' I may have seen a random selection of letters, with his name written perfectly in the middle, but Santa understood perfectly.

Duncan asked me to draw a picture of Santa, so I did. Then he wanted a Santa book. So I made a book, stuck the pages together, and he dictated the story and told me what pictures to draw, then we read it together. There's no doubt now that for the 1st time, he understood exactly what was gong on this Christmas.

At 6.30 this morning, we were all downstairs and everyone was delighted with their presents. Duncan was so excited and happy. He was shouting 'hooray!' and kept hugging me tight and squashing his face next to mine and kissing me saying 'cuddle you' and 'thank you!'

Thomas gave me one of his chocolate coins 'for being a very good adult'.

Lady looked so beautiful in her new pretty combat trousers, you know the cute ones with loads of pockets and a bit of pink embroidery so Action Man wouldn't be seen dead in them.

I played a new Harry Potter Cd Rom with Thomas and Lady; Santa decided against getting a Nintendo DS etc.

We had visitors; Gordon's mum, my dad, step-mum and her 2 sons and we all chatted, drank bucks-fizz and ate crisps.

Gordon did all the cooking while I washed-up and peeled vegetable and played with children. Our meal was wonderful. Gordon's desire to improve the taste of Christmas dinner each year has obvious benefits.

The rum-soaked Christmas cake I'd made was bloody excellent. I alternate each year between soaking the fruit in rum or in whiskey to celebrate our family's Jamaican and Irish roots. ;-)

Doctor Who (the only telly I watched) was great fun.

I thought back to Christmas 3 years ago. Duncan was 3, and because he often had his hand down the front of his nappy, he'd sometimes (or often?) inadvertently smear, well you know what. That Christmas day, I remember washing a whole box of wooden trains and track, hosing him down in the shower, and Gordon getting out the carpet washer and getting to work. Wow, we've come a long way.

Anyway, like Shane says, happy Christmas yer arse.

21 Dec 2006

Other stuff on the homefront

SO, it being nearly Christmas and all, we put up our Christmas tree. (This was a week or so ago; I just never wrote about it then.) It's a plastic thing, bought a few years ago when I came to the realisation that a fresh smelling pine, elegantly draped with lights and beautiful glass baubles, really wasn't the thing to have in the house with a couple of curious children, and lets be honest, one of whom who seemed to be in training for a career in the demolition industry. So each year we dust off the fake tree, and hang the cheap plastic baubles and all the wee decorations that the children have made over the years. One of my favourite things on it is a photo-bauble of Duncan wearing a Santa hat, looking straight at the camera with his tongue poking out. It was made in his old nursery, and he looks such a picture of mischief and fun.

The children had a lot of fun dressing the tree and I managed not to get too crabbit about mess and malfunctioning lights etc. Duncan was especially excited about the whole thing. He was jumping around and marching up and down the kitchen, wrapped in a length of tinsel. singing Jingle Bells! I can see that this is the first year when he understands and shares in the excitement of Christmas. He tells people who ask him what Santa (or Santy as they say here) is bringing him, that he's bringing a present, a 'Thomas real water tower'. Well, we shall see if the old man in the North Pole got the e-mails Lady sent him.

There have, funny enough, been a few parcels delivered from Amazon over the past few days. Duncan did notice them, but I managed to convince him they were all for Daddy. One large package arrived containing a Major buggy. I'd forgotten that it had been ordered for him by the OT. It's a large stroller, designed for disabled children, and we decided to try it out right away. We took a trip to the beach. Duncan enjoyed sitting in it, he had a huge grin on his face and his arms in the air. He got out for a good run around on the beach with Lady and Thomas. When we were going home, Thomas wanted a turn in the buggy but Duncan didn't want to get out so Thomas just sat on his knee and Duncan put his arms around him and held him tight. They looked so cute together, but it was kinda hard going up the hill so Thomas got out after a while. I was pleased that it worked so well for Duncan though, I think we'll make plenty of use of this. It beats having to carry him on my back when we go for a walk and he gets a bit overloaded or tired.

All together

My sister C. flew in from London last weekend for her Christmas visit. I picked her up on Friday evening, then on Saturday afternoon, we went with Lady to do some Christmas shopping before driving all the way to my brother's house way out west. Lady stayed the night with them; she and her cousin A. are great friends. Then C. and I went over to another brother and went out to a pub in town with him and his girlfriend. It was such good crack. I chatted to a few people I knew from way back when I was at school, and to a few others I'd never met before. So much bullshit spoken in one short evening, well...not so short since we didn't leave until about 3am. I'm always on my worst behaviour when I go back home!

I'd booked a room in a restaurant for Sunday lunch so I could join all my siblings, our partners/spouses, our children and Dad and G (our step mum) for a Christmas party. I cannot actually remember the last time we were all together. I have 1 older brother and 3 younger brothers and 1 younger sister. So there were 13 adults and 9 children at the party. The restaurant is situated right in the middle of northern Ireland, so even though we were driving from North East and South West, no-one would have too far to go. My dad and step mum had picked up Gordon and my boys since I was away in our car. Lady travelled with my brother and his family and I met them all in the restaurant. I had wondered how Duncan would deal with the situation and when he first saw me, he was upset and crying asking for a "Christmas train", whatever that is! We all went into the room and a large table had been nicely decorated for us. The children were able to run around a bit and play together and Gordon and I took turns doing 'Duncan duty'. Someone had to stay right by him all the time since twice, he slipped past us all and into the kitchen, which really wasn't the safest place for a curious, agile, autistic boy. He enjoyed going outside for little walks or pushing buttons on a couple of game/gambling machines in the bar area. We all ate our meal; plentiful and fairly typical pub-grub standard. Then we all exchanged presents. We had decided to buy one gift for each adult and child, sort of a secret Santa thing, except 2 of my brothers had already bought gifts for all the children by the time I'd told them abut this plan so the children all ended up with a pile of gifts. We all truly enjoyed ourselves. It was marvellous just to have everyone in one place like that, and getting along so well because we really do. We may have driven each other mad at times when we were children, but as adults, it's just great to be part of a large family. Our children range in age from 9 (nearly 10) to 3 and they had so much fun together. I'm so glad Duncan was happy enough to just do his own thing even though we did have to be apart from the main group often when we were looking after him, but that's OK.

After a few hours, we packed up the bulging gift bags in our respective cars and drove off, each to their own corner of the country. My sister had to go back on Monday evening, so we just had a nice quiet day until then. We've all agreed that we will do this again regularly.

12 Dec 2006


We arrived in Barcelona around midday on Tuesday. The airport bus dropped us very close to our hotel so we dropped off the bags and walked down La Ramblas to the harbour. Our hotel was right on this, the most famous street in Barcelona, a great location, thronged with people at all times of the day and night, home to bird sellers and flower stalls. I'd been warned by so many people to be wary there at night, but it never seemed that risky to me. Like anywhere, you just have to be careful and alert.

We had lunch by the sea, and although it was the middle of December the temperature was 20 degrees (C, obviously), so a nice change from chilly, damp Ireland. Gordon picked the restaurant. He'd eaten there before when he was in Barcelona on business, and he'd been wishing then that I was with him, so this time, I was! After we'd eaten, we wandered round the city, going wherever we felt like and ended up in a food market off La Ramblas. It was amazing, hundreds of stalls of fish, meat, offal, fruit and breads. We bought some cakes (passed on the entrails) and returned to our room. The hotel was terrific, the room was clean and comfortable and the staff were so helpful.

In the evening we wandered around for an hour or so, keeping an eye out for somewhere good to eat, but enjoying the sights too. Then I started to feel too hungry and tired and demanded to be fed (I don't do well on an empty stomach) so we went to a restaurant we agreed looked good. It was a wonderful meal, with lots of fresh fish and a nice bottle of cava which all left me feeling good!

We didn't even leave the hotel next day until 12, and headed across the street to a cafe for breakfast. I loved that at that late hour, we were automatically handed the breakfast menu! It was pouring, but we borrowed a sturdy hotel umbrella and were perfectly protected under it. To escape the rain, we went to the Picasso museum first. That man's work is fascinating. I was almost completely ignorant about him, and seeing the progression in themes, ideas and styles all together like that gave me a real appreciation for just why he is so revered. Like so many great artists, he was BIG on perseveration!

In the evening we took the metro to Gaudi's church, probably the most renowned Barcelona landmark. It was one of those moments when the splendour of what you're seeing just hits you in the guts. I looked round when coming up the metro steps and caught my first sight and although I have seen photos of Sagrada Familia, it was something else to behold it for myself. It looked like stone that had come to life, columns went into the ground like triffids, steeples looked like honey comb; it just appeared so organic. I loved it.

Across the road, there was a Christmas fair. Rows of stalls and almost all of them selling figurines and for the crib, all different types and sizes of Marys and Josephs etc., and others specialising in moss, bridges, gravel in various colours (to recreate the Bethlehem road network?) animals and little battery operated fake fires for the stable. Wandering around were loads of families with young children and there was such a happy, festival atmosphere. Even late into the night, there were many children out and about with their families.

For our final meal, we decided to eat really late, so we'd be out as Gordon's birthday began. So we went to a restaurant called 7 Portes, for some Catalan food. We didn't arrive until 11. 15 and I was worried that we'd be turned away, but no, they were still seating diners at midnight. It's different in Barcelona!

The food we had was great (a bit salty for me, but perhaps that's the Catalan way?) One irritating thing though; our lovely waitress brought our meals to the table, announcing in Spanish (or Catalan, I couldn't tell though they're quite different) what they were. I'd ordered a stew of monk fish, Dublin Bay prawns and potatoes and Gordon was having Paella. We both paused to admire the plates, before getting ready to eat. Suddenly a sour faced waiter swooped over and snatched my plate away without a word. He went on to berate our waitress who'd obviously given me the wrong thing. I felt a bit guilty because she had said what it was, and I, who only know about 10 words of Spanish (most of which are found on Mexican food menus) didn't realise it wasn't what I ordered, it just looked about right! Anyway, apologies were made, we waved them off, I had my meal and we tipped her well at the end because the nasty waiter had left her almost in tears.

But anyway, we were able to see in Gordon's birthday together and enjoy some good food in a great setting. I was feeling on such a high, my face was hurting later from chatting and smiling so much!

We managed to have breakfast in a local cafe again before going to the airport and getting back home. I was so happy to be back. The house was, as expected, a bit of a mess. All 3 children had a great time with their grandparents. My Dad told me that my step-mum enjoyed spending that time with them getting to know them better.

So Barcelona, we really enjoyed our short time there. It was great to be away from the children for a while and do things on the spur of the moment, and not have to keep tabs on some small people. But best of all, was going home and having all 3 of those small people run up for a hug and show or tell how much we missed each other.

4 Dec 2006

Dancing with Happy Feet

Lady had another grading in Jujitsu on Saturday, and has gained her yellow belt. She's so happy and proud, as are all the rest of us. When she came home with Gordon, Thomas ran over to hug her and congratulated her; it was really nice.
Apart from that I had a great morning out alone having my hair cut at a fancy place and I'm really starting to look forward to our trip away now.

Yesterday morning we all went to see Happy Feet at the cinema. I enjoyed it at first, it was all very sweet and a bit Moulin Rouge like, and the cute, odd penguin dancing to Stevie Wonder was fun to watch. But, I wish we'd all left at least half an hour before the end; it really dragged on, Robin William's voice-over was annoying and some characterisations were kinda racist and the whole environmental theme was way over the heads of almost all the children watching. Why can't more children's films just be pitched at, what do you call them again, oh yeah - children! It would have been better to preach just one worthy message while entertaining with a nice story. Oh and one more thing, at the end (sorry if this spoils it for anyone) the humans decide to quit their destruction, because of how cute the dancing penguins are, so basically, the elephant seals, who can neither sing nor dance and nor look anything close to cute, well they're totally effed!

Anyway, while we were watching it, my own little Mumble was wriggling about, walking up and down the side aisle (the cinema was only about 20% full) and he kept dancing along, doing the jiggly feet thing and all! It was funny to see his timely demonstration that some children dance instead of singing; we did like the neurodiverse penguin thing. He also lay in the aisle for a bit and then as it went on for far too long and he (and Thomas) lost all interest, he ran to the exit and started to chew his top before stripping down to his vest. I did move about the cinema a fair bit to stay near him.

Later Gordon went shopping and came home with an inflatable punch bag (oh, and the eggs, milk, juice, tea etc. too!) That was a big hit (boom boom!) Lady started demonstrating her martial arts skills; I haven't seen her do it for a while and I was well impressed at how good she looked, but then, she is a yellow belt now ;-)
Thomas and Duncan just enjoyed bashing the bejaysus out of it. Duncan for some reason keeps trying to lie on it and quoting from Finding Nemo, specifically, 'swim down, swim down.' I'm not getting the connection at all yet.

So anyway, I'm lying in bed typing this before starting my day. I've got to tidy and clean like crazy, make it appear half decent for my dad and step-mum who, like angels, are looking after the children when we go away - tomorrow. Woo hoo!