Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Birthday Barbecue

My Dad's birthday is three days after Christmas and since my parents were staying with us for Christmas we were able to spend it with him this year. We decided to be a little different and celebrate with a winter barbecue. With a December birthday, Dad had never had a barbecue on his birthday before, so we were pleased to be able to give him a first at the age of 62! Starting the barbecue was no mean feat as we think the coal had got a bit damp from being stored in the conservatory. Dad was determined to start it and kept at it long after we would have given up. His dedication and perseverance paid off and we eventually had a splendid fire to cook on. Mark took charge of the cooking and produced a veritable feast. We could probably have fed half the neighbours as well!

The girls made and decorated a birthday cake for their grandad, which  we were too full eat on the day! We ended the evening by roasting some giant American marshmallows that Tom had been given for Christmas and kindly shared with everyone. I think my Dad had a lovely birthday, we certainly all enjoyed it!

Yes, that is a pith helmet!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Christmas Day

This year we had our second Christmas in our own home. We have always alternated spending Christmas with Mark's parents and my parents, and now that we have four children we don't really fit in my parents' house anymore, especially with the associated paraphernalia of Christmas. This is the second time my parents have come up to spend Christmas at our house and we had a really lovely day. We had a really relaxed approach to the day, not putting any pressure on ourselves in order to ensure that everyone had a pleasant Christmas.

Lily, my early riser, having been told that if she showed up before seven she would have to go back to bed, showed up in my room at 7.02am! Having been up rather late the night before with last minute preparations, it was rather a struggle to open my eyes! The girls came in and opened their stockings and then we went downstairs where the girls sat staring wistfully at their presents piles! Once Nanny and Grandad came through they were allowed to start opening, and they didn't need to be told twice! Tom woke up a little later and Alex later still, so we had a staggered present opening, but everyone seemed very pleased with their gifts and we had four very happy Podlings on Christmas morning.

My Dad was an absolute star with Christmas dinner. He had prepared a lot of the vegetables the day before and when it came to cooking dinner, I was his assistant. It certainly took the pressure off me and we had a delicious traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I couldn't have done it without him and I was very grateful for all his help.

I completely failed to take any photos later in the day, so there is no record of the prettily laid out table, or Emma in her lovely red needlecord smocked dress, or the other Podlings in their Christmas jumpers. I have memories though, and they are wonderful! 

Waiting to start opening their presents!

Emma asked for Sylvanian Families for Christmas. I was so excited! They were one of my favourite toys as a girl and the girls still play with the ones I had. It was a pleasure to get Emma some of her very own and I was surprised to see that the toys are even more charming than they used to be. Something that can not often be said about the toy industry!

Sleepy Alex!

You can just see Alexander's Christmas jumper has snowflakes and red double decker buses on it! It is his favourite jumper now and he wears it as often as he can!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Night Before Christmas

Taken after church on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was lovely. We like to go to Mark's parents' church on Christmas Eve as they always have a lovely nativity service for the children. Any child who wants to can dress up to help to tell the story of that first Christmas so long ago. Lily dressed as a shepherd and Emma as an angel and very sweet they looked too. After church, we went back to Mark's parents' house for tea before heading back home.

It was late by the time we got back, so I needed to get Alex in bed fairly quickly. I put him in his new pyjamas, but there was no chance to get my usual Christmas Eve pyjama photo of all of the Podlings together. Alex and Tom had matching checked pyjamas for Christmas Eve, but Tom declined to be photographed in them! The girls also matched each other in pretty floral pyjamas and were more co-operative in the photo department! After putting Alex to bed with his stocking, the girls sprinkled reindeer food on the lawn before coming inside for hot chocolate and shortbread. We put out a mince pie and some milk for Father Christmas and a carrot and a bowl of water for the reindeer before heading upstairs to bed. I read them 'The Night Before Christmas'  from the copy my sister and I had as a child and said goodnight to three very excited children. They settled down surprisingly quickly, knowing that Father Christmas won't come to fill their stockings until they are asleep.

I love Christmas Eve! There is so much magic in the familiar tradtions, the anticipation of the children and the overwhelming beauty of the story of the birth of a baby boy in a stable two thousand years ago. 

"For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given" Isaiah 9:6

Off to bed for sleepy Alex

Monday, 19 December 2016

A Tudor Christmas

On Sunday afternoon we took the Podlings to Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire to enjoy a Tudor Christmas. The hall was bedecked with Tudor-style Christmas decorations and looked delightfully festive with its greenery. A complete (fake) Tudor Christmas banquet was laid out in the dining hall where Tudor music was being played by a small instrumental group on authentic instruments.

The girls made Tudor spice bags which were often given as Christmas gifts in Tudor times. Bad smells were believed to cause illness, so pleasant smelling bags containing lavender, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel and the like were made to ward off the less pleasant odours that would have been common at the time. Lily and Emma enjoyed grinding up their chosen ingredients with pestles and mortars and the room they were making them in smelt wonderful! I made little bags of lavender for Alex and Tom.

Afterwards, we had a little wander around the hall in the lessening winter light, with Emma pausing to try on some clothes in the dress-up area. We have been to the hall a couple of times before, but I never fail to be delighted by the quirkiness of the place. The long hall, precariously balanced on the top of the manor, is a wonder of uneven floors and leaning walls. How the building survived long enough to be restored and preserved is a wonder in itself! We had a lovely couple of hours at the manor and then came home and warmed up with some much-needed hot chocolate. It was a lovely way to start the Christmas holidays.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Feeling Festive

The girls had their school Christmas dinner today and were allowed to wear Christmas jumpers instead of their uniform. How sweet do they look!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Catching up - Part 1

My new favourite photo of the Podlings, taken by Lake Garda on our recent holiday to Italy

Remember me? I can't believe such a long time has passed since I last blogged. Four months! It breaks my heart that there is a four month gap in the family record that is Podheim, but I fear that if I try to catch up before I start blogging again then the enterprise will be doomed to failure. I miss my blog. Life has been very busy this year, which is inevitable with four children. Juggling the needs of four children across a ten year age gap whilst simultaneously trying to keep the house from descending into chaos can leave one with very little free time for blogging! They say that you should make time for the things that matter though, and keeping a record of the memories we make as a family matters to me. I may need to consider a different way of blogging to fit in with this busier time in my life, but I need to keep the blog going in some form. Not least because, one day my life won't be nearly so busy and I would be sorry not to have this record to look back on and remind me of the good times we had when they were young.

So, what has happened since mid-July? Although I have not been recording them, we have been making plenty of memories. Tom embarked on a new chapter in his life at the end of July as he left primary school. We are so proud of our handsome young man, who has blown me away with his perseverance and pragmatism during his (not always happy) years at primary school. Life is not always easy for Tom and yet he overcame so many challenges at school and came out of a very tough year smiling. He makes me proud, this wonderful boy, to be his mother.

Tom in his school leavers' assembly

Emma turned seven on the last day of school, the first time her birthday has ever fallen outside the summer holidays. She was not impressed at having to go to school on her birthday! 

My sister had her second baby, a little boy they have called Ethan, the day before Emma's birthday and we managed to get down and meet him when he was only a few days old. We all enjoyed soaking up his newborn sweetness and getting to see my sister and her family again after far too long.

My newest nephew, baby Ethan

We started the summer holidays with a trip up to Lake District and a visit to Wray Castle and Lake Windermere. I took a great many lovely photos on this visit that I hope I will find time to share on the blog. It was a wonderful day and one that I remember with great fondness.

In August we had a short weekend break to Sussex with Mark's mum and dad. As ever, we packed a lot into our time away and managed to fit in visits to Wakehurst Place, Beech Hurst Park, Worthing Beach, Pevensey Castle and Battle Abbey.

We took our main family holiday at the end of August. For the first time we went away for a fortnight instead of our usual week. This was probably just as well since we began the holiday with a trip to accident and emergency with Alex, who split his head open by riding his bike into a wall at the motorway services on the way up to Northumberland. It took a few days to get over the shock of that one and it is worthy of a post in its own right! The rest of the holiday was considerably more enjoyable and I would like to be able to share more photos from it at some point if I can find the time. We had a lovely time.

A sunset picnic beneath the ruins of  Edlingham Castle

September was all about back to school, with new challenges for the Podlings. Lily began her last year of primary school and Emma started her first year of juniors. Tom started high school, a big step for him as the school we felt was the best fit for Tom (and his siblings in due course) was not chosen by any of his former classmates. Starting high school is daunting enough, without starting it on your own! Tom has adjusted to his new school far better than we had hoped. I have been so impressed with how well he has coped with the change. His new school has been wonderful with him and he is finally getting the extra help and support he needs and deserves. It has been a big change, but a very positive one and Tom has matured remarkably since he started there in September. We are so proud of how well he has handled it all. He continues to amaze and astound me with each new challenge. 

This is turning into a rather long post; it is getting late and I am rather unwell at the moment. I very much wanted to update the blog today, so I will post this as part one of the update and I will try to post part two later in the week, which will hopefully bring us up to date. I will leave you with this lovely picture of the Podlings I took on one of woodland walks. Sometimes, they just co-operate for photos (and often they don't)!