As the end of the year approaches it’s time to reflect on what has passed and look forward to the year to come. I know that this time last year I had no idea that I would be where I am now, in a brand new home, having so much that I could only dream of before. Life had become very difficult in our old home, and although I loved the area and our neighbours, and the kids school, I longed to have somewhere bigger to live. We were really overcrowded and stress levels were high. Sleep was a word no longer in my vocabulary because it’s hard to sleep in a house that is always awake. And no matter how I tried to make the house nicer nothing really worked. It was too small, and we had way too much stuff, too much clutter. I had to cook dinner in ’rounds’ because my kitchen was too small to cook for seven people at the same time. Things are so different now, I still can’t quite believe it. Of course moving house wasn’t easy, in fact I hated every moment of the actual move, it was my worst nightmare come true. I really would be happy to never have to move ever again. Then there were problems finding a school for the littlies, so many of the local schools just didn’t have places for all three of them, but we got there in the end.

Back in February my Little Man went for his very first haircut. This was a momentous moment as I’d allowed his curly blonde locks to grow really long and having them chopped off completely changed his appearance. Then in March we were invited to a press event for Start-Rite Shoes where the Little Man took to the Catwalk.

We’ve had some lovely days out in our home town, most memorable being our trips to see A Squash and a Squeeze at Gas Hall, Room on the Broom at the Town Hall and last week we went to see What the Ladybird Heard.

The year also had some very lovely surprises and treats. I was nominated for a MAD Blog award and actually reached the finals. I still can’t quite believe that. This meant we had a wonderful trip to Legoland as a family which we really enjoyed and of course I got to attend the finals at the Royal Kensington Gardens Hotel. We also had a fantastic holiday at Center Parcs as I was chosen as a Center Parcs Family Blogger, and I also won a fabulous break in Blackpool with my recreation of Blackpool Tower in cake.

So there is so much good I have to look back on, but there always has to be bad too and that comes in the form of my precious little Star managing to slip a disc in her neck causing many months of pain and discomfort and resulting in a manipulation and the dreadful halo collar which she is still wearing. 
So what am I looking forward to in 2014? First up has to be the removal of Star’s halo and having her finally fixed and pain free. I’m also looking forward to a new stage in my life as all three of my littlies will, eventually, be in school full time. Will I find a job? I’ve been missing work for a long time now, but my children come first so I’ve held off until the time is right. My dream is for all the adults in our home to be working by the end of next year. My daughter is doing really well in her new job, my son is taking some time out from his studies but will soon be looking for some work experience so he can continue with his chosen career choice. My other half has had trouble finding work since he lost his last job on medical grounds (he failed a hearing test) so it would be brilliant if something came his way. I don’t really know what I will do, it’s been a long time since I had a job. I better start working on my CV.

When we went to a local Christmas fete at the end of November I picked up some information on all the Christmas activities we had coming up locally. There was another fete  the week before Christmas, a Christmas market, carol singing and lights switch on, on the local village green,  carol services at local churches, nativity plays, Christmas themed messy church and probably a few other things I forget now. Of course there was the wonderful German Market in town too, which thankfully is about the only thing I managed with my girls.

The day we went to the German Market is the same day Star had a hospital appointment and CT Scan. Then she was admitted to hospital and had her halo fitted and then all plans of doing anything else for Christmas were abandoned. Star has been virtually housebound. It’s not that she can’t go out with the halo, but transport is a problem as we don’t have a car at the moment. She can’t get wet, she can’t get too cold, and we had problems finding her anything at all to wear for while too.

So we gained a Christmas Angel with her halo, but had to abandon so many of our Christmas activities I’d hoped to do. We did manage to get Star to the school to watch their nativity play, and we still had Christmas in our new home to look forward too. I found Christmas day to be so much more relaxed and fun with having so much more room, our last home was so pokey we were always tripping over each other. Opening presents would create so much mess that I’d had no choice but to clean up along the way. Then toys and gifts had to be stacked away and used one at a time. This year I just didn’t have to worry, and it all looked less like a pile of mess and more like a fun room filled with Christmas gifts.

We had our Christmas dinner around our new dining table. We’d had dinner around a table before but it would involve having to move furniture to fit us all in. Our old table was pushed up against a wall and only two chairs were in use at any time because we just didn’t have the room. My new kitchen is so much bigger that preparing all the lovely food for the day was so much easier for me. I love my new home and especially my new kitchen.

Boxing day meant a trip to the hospital for Star. That was a little strange, I’ve never seen the place so quiet, even in the middle of the night! Most of the children on Star’s ward had been sent home for Christmas, and staff was at a minimum. When we went for an x-ray, the usually full to bursting department was empty and we were straight in without even a minutes wait. Then Star was treated to a little gift because apparently every child who needs an x-ray at Christmas gets a gift. All was well and we were on our way home within an hour. That’s another appointment down, just a few more and the halo should be off.

We braved the weather on the 27th to go and see ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ at the Town Hall. The littlies loved it and it was good to get Star out again. Although she couldn’t wait to get home afterwards, she does get tired out really quick.

Then to top off our Christmas Celebrations we had a party on the 28th. I woke up that morning feeling pretty rough and wishing I hadn’t invited anyone over, but I battled through the day, whipped up a great buffet, and bought some booze. The party turned out to be good fun and I’m glad I made the effort. There is nothing more special than spending time with family and friends at Christmas.
Maybe next year we’ll get to fit in all the other fun, Christmassy activities that we didn’t do this year, but this year was good enough as it was.

My Christmas cake was the centerpiece on the table. 

As you probably already know we are big fans of Julia Donaldson. In the summer we went to see A Squash and a Squeeze and Room on the Broom, so we were delighted to be offered the chance to see What the Ladybird Heard today at the Town Hall Birmingham. We had a truly wonderful morning and the show is on until January 10th and tickets are £11.50. I would recommend it to anyone with young children.

Having read the book I did wonder how they would turn this quaint story into an almost hour long performance. Well, there is lots of music as usual and audience participation, and the whole start of the show is about getting the show started. You probably need to see it to understand.

The animals are fabulous and imaginative, even the little ladybird is captivating. The actors are great fun and extremely talented. The story is really brought to life and is totally enchanting.

I went to the show with Daddy and the three littlies aged 8yrs, 6yrs and 3yrs. Maybe eight is a little old but she really enjoys anything live like this with lots of singing, dancing and joining in. The six year old was really captivated and enjoyed every moment. The three year old went from being captivated to fidgety to a little tired and back again…nothing new there then!

Just in case you are unfamiliar with the story of What the Ladybird Heard, it’s about a couple of bungling thieves, Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len, that plan to steal the farmyard’s prize cow. However, the ladybird hears their plan and with the help of the other animals such as the woolly sheep, the fat red hen and the hairy dog, she works out a plan of her own to the foil the thieves.

On January 10th there is a relaxed performance especially for children on the autistic spectrum, with learning disabilities or a sensory or communication disorder.

We were given tickets for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own.

My little star is a real trouper. She is coping so well and I’m so proud of her. We had a hospital appointment yesterday where she went to have all her screws tightened up. They also gave her an x-ray and things are still looking good. Her Daddy got to see the scan pictures all in order from the start and was a bit shocked at how bad it actually became before they did the manipulation. Thankfully things are looking much better now. It’s still not perfect because the consultant over compensated, but he insists that it will go back once the halo is off.

Sleeping has become easier for Star. It’s probably down to just getting used to the halo more than anything else. She only has pain relief when she asks for it, which is usually last thing at night and first thing in the morning. She has really adapted to wearing the halo and never lets me forget to clean her pin points regularly.

We have found a way of washing her hair.
First I put towels around the edge of her sheepskin. Then I cover her with a black plastic bag. Then I use a plastic hair dressing cape across her shoulder bars.
I put the Little Man’s step in the bath for her to sit on. Then I wash her hair trying to use as little water as possible.
It’s not easy but it gets the job done and so far we’ve not got the sheepskin wet.

Clothes are still a problem but we’ve found that spaghetti strap vests that are a couple of sizes too big will go up from the bottom and stay on her shoulders. They manage to keep her tummy and side bits covered up.
Then we can but button through cardi’s or blouses over the top. Luckily there is not problem with her wearing her normal jeans and trousers. I did buy her some dungarees but she’s not keen on them.

We took her to her school for the Christmas concert and they all made a fuss of her. We even had seats reserved for us at the front. We may consider sending her back to school after Christmas for a couple of mornings a week.

Here she is feeling a little sick after her trip to the hospital, but I wanted to show you how she relaxes, and also how we are dressing her.

Do you watch Downton Abbey, the period drama set in a country estate? The drama has gathered a huge following of loyal fans who love tuning in to see the wonderful scenery, architecture and costumes as well as the often scandalous story lines. It’s the most successful TV costume drama since Brideshead Revisited.

This year Downton Abbey has a special Christmas day bonanza episode starting at 8.30pm on ITV. It promises royal balls, potential romance (that’s a given) and a trip to beach…mmm just what you need on a cold Christmas day! What will be revealed about Crawley sister’s love lives? What will happen to Edith’s baby? And will there be romance between Carson and Mrs Hughes? Something to look forward to as you cuddle up on the settee with a nice glass of a little something, a box of chocs and possibly a box of hankies.

Of course at Christmas times our thoughts turn to holidays and getting away for a while. Now if you are a Downton fan have you ever fantasised about the living the lifestyle of the characters? What would it be like staying in a luxurious English Manor? It doesn’t have to be a wanton dream. Take a look at this list of English Manors available for getaways, or even weddings!

I love the way they are presented giving you ratings for poshness and modernity.I quite fancy the first one, Tumbledown. It has an equal amount of poshness and modernity while being in a lovely quiet village. Plus, it’s a gorgeous house! I can’t imagine a nicer set of places to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Highclare Castle AKA Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is set in Yorkshire, but the exterior shots are actually of Highclere Castle in Hampshire. The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire is used for exterior shots of Isobel Crawley’s house.

Let me know if you are a fan of Downton Abbey and tell me what do you enjoy about the drama? I hope you enjoy the Christmas special.