Archive for the ‘family events’ Category

Christmas at home but not alone

We were at home from the end of school to the children’s return in the New Year. Eliza made a few breaks from the house – ‘going into town’ with school or gymnastics friends. Robin met up with his friend A and even came on a walk with L and me. Gabe went to a City game. We all went to a Christmas carol concert, a friends’ party and a pub to meet friends from out of town. There were also games of badminton, squash, football in the garden and, on one dry day, tennis.

At home, but not alone. We hosted three partly overlapping waves of visitors: grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousin, and Wirral friends. Gabe, Eliza and Robin each acted splendidly as hosts. Eliza, in particular, gave up her bedroom for much of the holiday without evident complaint.

On Christmas morning, we gathered in Robin’s room to open stockings. After the children opened theirs, we produced a fourth stocking for L. Each of us had contributed (Eliza with most imagination and commitment), following the pattern of their stocking contents to the point of a favourite fruit – in this case an avocado. It symbolised for me a very happy Christmas break, with L receiving a small return from the rest of us for all the work she put into the whole occasion.


New Year’s Eve games

Spending New Year’s Eve together at home, we decided to play games. The children turned the opportunity for some family fun into a contest. Points were awarded for positions in each game and an overall tally kept.

We started with the alphabet game – naming things of different categories (boy’s name, girl’s name, shop, city, musician, etc) beginning with a selected letter. Gabe and Eliza scrapped over definitions and rules, trying to undermine the other’s efforts with unwarranted ferocity. Robin kept up a running commentary of the categories for which he couldn’t think of anything – which was most. L won this round.

We moved to kitchen table table-tennis. Robin battled to second place behind Gabe, who was unbeaten, despite being taken into extra-time by Robin and L.

Round three was pairs (a memory game, involving picking pairs of cards from a pack spread face-down). Gabe bailed out and Robin played half-heartedly. Eliza was thwarted in the first game as she, L and I drew, but could not be resisted as her fierce concentration brought victory in the second game. It was now well past eleven o’clock.

As midnight neared, Eliza went into the garden to watch the local fireworks. L and Gabe watched the coverage from London on TV. Robin asked to be taken to bed and read to. “It will be exactly the same fireworks as last year,” he reasoned.

Christmas presents

The focus was stronger than ever on the presents the kids were getting each other, and L and me. They exchanged chocolate, and delegated some decisions to L. But there was also more adventure. Robin and Gabe both bought clothes (tops) for Eliza. Gabe rushed into a shop and grabbed the top he understood Eliza to have wanted, selecting the size based on the sticker on the hanger. Presumably he nodded when the assistant confirmed he wanted age 14-15. He is now challenged with finding the receipt so an exchange for a smaller size can be effected.

We were at Grandpa’s in Scotland and did our present-opening there mid-morning. Notable, amongst the wrapping paper, by its absence was football. For the first time in many years, there were no boots, shirts or even footballs given or received. After a meal for 11, we played Bird Bingo and Headbands (iphone version)

Football did come to the fore on Boxing Day when Uncle S/R took the boys and me to see the only Scottish League match being played that day: Dunfirmline v Falkirk. There was some discussion over which was worse – the quality of football or the hot chocolate. We all wondered how the man of the match adjudicator could have come to any decision.

The following day, we had a kickabout on a basketball court with Cousin F, before walking from South Queensferry to the middle of the Forth Road Bridge and back.

Quiet birthday


All of the children’s birthdays are recorded here, with a note of the theme of the party or event. Gabe’s 15th was the quiet birthday. He had refused the option of a party, a meal out with friends, or a cinema trip. L had the idea of a visit to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. “No, thanks. Don’t want to spend my birthday in the car.” He was, he said, happy to have a quiet day. A meal at a pizza restaurant? No, pizza at home. 

And he was happy. A football match, the last of the season, in the morning. Then a quiet afternoon, cheerful and sociable with us all, pizza and presents. L and I briefly worried about some sort of social anxiety, but it’s more like a preference for no fuss and self-possession. 


Eliza’s desire to have pets surfaced again. ‘Yes,’ we said to a question about gerbils and knowing how she stores and accumulates riches like a rodent, ‘you can buy them’. Bumble and Bianco, two small brothers, live in a cage in her room. She seems satisfied and her own brothers happy to have them around without the responsibility of looking after them. 


Robin’s team qualified for the cup final to play at Trafford United’s ground against the only team they didn’t defeat during the season. On a bright, sunny day, with a loud crowd around two sides of the pitch, the opposition took an early lead. Robin had the best chance to equalise in the first half, but missed. He saw little of the ball, with the other team’s defence outstanding. The second half continued with the other team missing chances. Robin was moved into attack and deep into the second half, screened a bouncing ball from a defender and as it dropped on the corner of the area, volleyed it past the keeper. His team clung on through full, then extra time. Robin took the first penalty and scored. After 4 penalties, the score was tied 2-2. Luke made a diving save and then took the final penalty, scored to win the final and man of the match. Robin revelled in the experience, particularly enjoying playing in front of a noisy crowd. 

Long and short of Christmas

The kids longed for Christmas. Each school day they willed the term to end. Every morning they counted one fewer day until the big one. The allure and magic seems to have survived their getting older and wiser.

Gabe was the most organised about what he wanted, drawing up a long list, none of it extravagant, qualified with a note that he didn’t expect it all. Robin’s was shorter and more ambitious/ less likely to be fulfilled. Eliza the most indecisive.

Eliza also caused consternation, by repeatedly floating the idea that, after their stockings were opened on Christmas morning, no more presents should be opened until the afternoon. She gloried in her preference for deferred gratification and the pain it caused her brothers. She was out-voted.

There was a stronger onus on the presents they would buy for each other and L & me than there had been in the past. Eliza was the best organised, followed by Gabe and then Robin, who left things late. Gabe had a ruse for Robin. He made him a plain Christmas card and handed it to him as a present. He was going to wait to see Robin try to look grateful or disappointed, before handing him his real present. Humanely, on the day, he didn’t leave Robin much time to digest the plain card, before handing over the present.

On Christmas morning, we went to the local park, for a play while the rain held off. Eliza, Robin and I played frisbee across the big field. Robin tore after the disc pulling off amazing collections at full tilt. Eliza threw and caught the frisbee with new found alacrity.

Gabe led the indoor games: Apples and Apples (where he favoured sarcastic verbal connections) and cards, with contract whist a new favourite.

A couple of days after Christmas, family and friends from the Wirral, meant a happy household of 14. Robin’s trumpet playing was mentioned, a request made for a performance and without speaking he went to his trumpet case, took out the instrument, found his music and began to play. Facing away from his audience, he hit every note cleanly and clearly and left the room, again without speaking, to our applause.

Easter Sunday walk

Kids in pyjamas, watching TV: “What are we doing today, Daddy?”

“We’re going for a walk.”

Cue complaints, arguments, insubordination. Then, Robin: “I don’t mind. Where are we going?”

We arrived in Bollington in bright sun. While I orientated myself, the boys played with a tennis ball and a basketball hoop and Eliza scaled a climbing frame. We set off, up to a Viaduct and noisily along a disused railway line. The noise was chat, not carping. Gabe set the question: “Money no object, where would you go on holiday?” Then, “if you could have three second homes, where would they be?”

“One would be under the sea,” said Eliza. 

We completed our outward stretch, then headed back along a canal. Holding my hand, Eliza went through a detailed description of one of her non-sub maritime second homes. 

As we came back into Bollington, Gabe moved onto ‘your favourite three course meal’. L had two – an Indian and another meal. From that it was a straightforward step to a pub for lunch and a group of, if initially reluctant, then ultimately satisfied, walkers. 

Half-term holiday

An idle start to the half-term holiday became much more active when we drove north to St Andrews. On the first day there, after a trip for Robin and me to the barber, we played badminton. Half-court singles and then doubles. Gabe and Robin played a tight match with Gabe lying on his back close to the net and Robin limited to hitting the shuttle-cock into the front portion of the court.

On day two, the boys and I played tennis. The sun was low and stingingly bright. After some rallying, we played two-game matches. Robin, flailing his racket and rushing around the court, frustrated Gabe by breaking his serve. Cousin F’s arrival in the afternoon brought garden football and a gymnastics routine with Eliza.

On day three, Robin and Eliza (reunited as pals), went swimming together. The first time they had been in a pool without an adult. Meanwhile, Gabe and I played a keen match of table tennis on a squash court.

With Grandpa aiming to sell the house, it may be our final stay in St Andrews.