Christmas News (cos we were crap at cards this year!)

As much as I’d like to think of myself as an all singing, all dancing, all crafting Pinteresting super mum, I’m honestly not. The reality is I high five my reflection when I make it through the day with all four children plus my sanity intact. Parenting is some seriously tough shit. As those of you with small people will know, Christmas time amplifies the toughness tenfold- overtired tears, tantrums over nativity costumes, three thousand Christmas discos….and that’s only the parents. The military precision needed to execute the last two weeks of term borders on some mad real-life version of Risk.

Day one: child one - school uniform, party clothes in bag, no snack. Child two - non-school uniform, party snack for sharing. Child three - School uniform, disco clothes in bag, pick up an hour later than usual. Child four - money for ice cream at the panto, school jumpers but any trousers (seriously, what sort of crap is the half school uniform thing?!)
Day two- you get the picture. Dropping a ball puts you at serious risk of meltdown, refusal to leave the house, and bookbag slips of doom reminding you how much of a crap parent you are since you forgot (again) to send in the oh-so-necessary black T-shirt for child three’s nativity.

Anyway, the point is, I epically failed at Christmas cards this year. Unapologetically. Like I said, there was just too much going on. Luckily (most of!) my kids are quick learners and sort their stuff out themselves, and this year I had the privilege of watching my littlest totally nail the main part in her half-hour long school production. The first time in a decade where I have willingly (rather than begrudgingly) spent an hour of my life wedged onto too-small benches watching the back of my child’s head through the fifteen smartphones in the next row. O also had a solo in a pretty packed out church carol service, which she managed with effortless grace and ease and not a shred of nerves. Yep, this year I was pretty proud of the Parr contribution to the Christmas festivities. Next step, surviving the full two week holiday….

So, not being the smug Pinteresting type (I do LOVE Pinterest by the way, I just never get time to execute the lovely crafty pinning in real life) I thought I’d news-blog for you. Like one of those delightfully cheesy Christmas newsletters some families send in their lovingly handcrafted cards. Except not a card. So you can keep up with our news, if you so desire.

The kids are all alive, that’s a win. I say that flippantly, but there is hidden meaning in that. At the start of this year B was having so many seizures daily that I put him to bed every night desperately hoping, but never really knowing, if he’d make it to the next day. Sadly, three of his dup15 buddies around the world have passed away this year. We live with the background knowledge that his condition could take him at any time, so it really is a win that all four have made it through the year! February saw B tech’d up - he had an op to put a PEG tube in his tummy so we were able to administer meds safely and effectively. Since being on the top dose of a few different meds his visible seizures have decreased, but his EEG (brain trace) tells us he is still experiencing similar dire levels of seizure activity, which kinda sucks. He continues to keep us on our toes, needing constant 1:1 care to keep him safe, and has a whole host of B’s angels to help with this. I wish they could know how absolutely vital they are and how hugely they are appreciated. So Wendy, Lois, Elizabeth, Gemma and Ashley, you rock our world. B loves his adventuring crew and has continued to impress us with his growing communication skills. He takes after Mum in his impatience, and can get frustrated when we’re not completely getting it, but has started to use his communication app on the iPad more and more. I never knew the child liked cheese so much until that app- he is particularly fond of searching through for the cheese picture and asking over and over for that tasty dairy goodness! Watching him perform in his school show was both incredible and brutal in equal measure. He was a superstar, and bounced on a trampette before balancing along a beam as one of the lost boys in a Peter Pan scene. Despite the ever present and guilt ridden grief that comes with an unexpectedly complicated child, I loved it and managed not to cry the whole way through! He really is an amazing boy.

BH. Well. Hmmm. How can I sum her up positively AND honestly?! Strong. Bold. Adrenaline-seeking. Fearless. She is an awesome but pretty challenging small person with big ideas. But apparently she is definitely not a little shit at school. We explicitly clarified that with my parent-of-the-year comment at parents evening earlier this term. In short, she’s a firecracker of a kid who more than knows how to make herself heard in every situation. As parents, we drew the short straw in terms of effort in vs visible results out, but she’ll be a worldchanger for sure. Hopefully in a good way! She started at the same theatre school as Ocean this year and totally LOVES it. She did her first exam recently, entirely unfazed by the whole affair, and continues to love being the star of the show.  

DP. Legend. Total legend. Gets stuck in with every sports club going at school, takes life in her stride and is thoughtful and helpful to boot. Teachers rave about her, she’s hitting way above her level academically, and is all round awesome. She’s currently really enjoying year 8 and we are loving watching her grow into her whole own independent woman. Not perfect, you understand, but who is? We still get teen angst and attitude but she definitely so far has her priorities right. She wrote an awesome slam poem this year about disability, while lots of her classmates chose themes like McDonalds. I guess there are some ups to tricky life experience! Long may it continue…

O is my sensitive soul. Christmas is a hard time of year since my mum passed on just after christmas almost three years ago. Her and O were birthday buddies (great planning on my part) and shared a special bond and a special love of all things Christmas. My mum was THE best person at thoughtful presents, and so we all feel her loss a little more around the festive season, especially O. O has been busy stage school training and getting stuck in to her part in the ensemble of Bugsy Malone (in February, at the Pavilion, please come!) since auditioning back in November. She is a talented performer, and, like BH, shows nothing but confidence in her singing, dancing and acting abilities. She’s in the last year of primary, and has loved it so far, getting lots of great opportunities to sing and dance in various shows and choirs. Taking her to our (incredible) local church carol concert was magical- she watched the choir with eyes aglow while asking me when exactly she could audition to be a part of it. She has a great sense of humour and we often invent impromptu nonsense songs around the piano, much to her and BH’s delight and resultant hysterical giggles. Lovely girl.

And us? Well, we survived. By the skin of our teeth. S had a bike accident a few months ago and went through the back window of a car, slicing himself up pretty impressively. Not one to cause a scene, he calmly phoned telling me they were taking him in an ambulance and he had 11% battery left, followed by a police visit to the house to drop off his mangled blood-covered bike. Thank you NHS for sewing him up nicely. He’s enjoyed getting fitter this year and has been running, swimming and biking in the spare bits of time he gets. I have gotten back on my bike after a different accident a couple of months after S. Seems bikes are lethal apparently. Not to be outdone by S, I came off, dislocating my knee joint, rupturing my ACL and fracturing some bone I can’t remember the name of. They also picked up I had old woman style osteoarthritis in both knees. Currently I am having regular physio and need quite a big reconstruction op, but planning that in is going to be tricky with the B issue. Being out of uni for a month when I was in cast (full on leg job, proper sexy) frustrated the hell out of me, and has meant this semester has been particularly challenging work-wise. What with not getting in for the teaching and all. I’ll be honest, at some points I have wanted to jack it in. The planning around me commuting to Winchester, Stu working, the kids being where they need to be and B’s epic ongoing admin just to do life is a lot. Throw in any added pressure and you have instant family implosion. Which is what we’ve felt a lot this year. Wading through mud, watching everyone else sail by in their speedboats.

I have realised that I have a choice though. Without consciously choosing to see the good bits in life, I could easily become a hardnosed, nasty-ass bitchy nightmare. I sometimes am. This year, my resolution is to grab hold of the teeniest tiniest best bits and pursue relentless optimism. That’s no mean feat, and doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly become some insane and unreal cheesy grinner unable to feel the shit bits. The shit bits are real. They hurt. This year was hard. Every year is probably going to be hard. BUT. I have some amazing friends. I’ll offend someone by missing their name off if I start naming names, but you know who you are. I have a family which hasn’t gone under yet, who, despite my worst fears and guilt of no one getting enough,  are thriving and turning into some quite impressive, compassionate, loving, mature people. This year, I’ve been to gigs, slept in a field at a festival, visited worldwide family, met some brilliant new friends, got drunk with some awesome old friends, got through HALF a degree (!), cried over beautiful friends taken too soon, laughed with my kids, watched Bond with S, and lived. This year I’ve lived. Next year, I want to do the same, but better. Loving deeply, hurting wholeheartedly, laughing brightly and living richly. I believe this life is all we have, and I intend to grab it with both hands in 2016.

Live richly, to the depths of human experience and the heights of human imagination. And always, be kind and be brave. Kindness and bravery can change the world.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I love you all.


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