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Popularity Contest: Mom Vs Dad

One of our kids is accusing us of liking the others more when it comes to buying presents. And he is outsmarting us every single time we try to reason with him. If we argue that they are getting the same thing at the same age, he argues that it’s not about age, it’s about grades. And vice-versa. Basically, we never win. Parents: 0 – Kid: 1 million points. These arguments usually end up with him slamming a door, screaming, “It’s not fair!”, my husband rolling his eyes, and me, sitting on the sofa, replaying the last decade to see what on earth gave him the idea that we have preferences. These “events” usually happen around Christmas or birthdays.

This year, kids have been writing their Christmas lists early, because it would seem that demands are very specific and require some planning – Well, good luck with that! The only one who’s really supposed to write a list is my daughter, but we ask her brothers to do one as well in order to encourage her. Normally, whenever we ask them to do something for their sister (like dress up for Halloween, go to bed early, read a book), we are met with much resistance and defiance. But when it comes to Christmas lists, nobody complains.

Once they were done with their lists, they checked out one another’s list. My “least favorite child” (it even hurts to write it) as he has labelled himself, had some major issues with what his brother had written, and started along the lines of, “It’s not fair, why should he get the latest electronic gadget when I didn’t get it when I was in his grade?”

I am never ready for that, so I always try to use logic and common sense to diffuse the argument. This time it ended up with him stomping to his bedroom with a, “You’re a horrible mom”, so I suppose I didn’t win that one. Yet again.

My husband called foul mouth tween back in the room and decided it was time to get a few things straight. So he explained to him that one  needs to look at the big picture,

“Maybe your brother will get something earlier than you did. But let’s not forget that I have been spending most of my week ends with you only, whereas your siblings are with Mom. So if you are looking for fairness in each individual action, maybe I should split my time equally between the three of you”

In essence, what my husband said to him was, “Spending time with Dad is a rewarding experience.  Spending time with Mom is lame and boring. And as of now, it is officially used as punishment: stop being so annoying or you’ll spend your week end with Mom.

I am literally speechless . . .

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What’s the 25th of December?

Okay, smarty pants, say it! It’s Christmas day. Everybody knows that. But did you know that it is a lot more than just Christmas Day? The 25th December is also:

– The best Christmas ever! That’s what my kids say every year. Needless to say, my husband and I keep upping our game, and we are totally rocking it. High five to us!

– The day where the most people are sick at home. Germs love the 25th, and in our house, they love hugging as many of us as possible. It must be their way of celebrating. This year is definitely their best Christmas as well, as three of us are down with some sort of bugs. Not bad, germs, not bad!

– Pajama Day. Five out of five of us are still in our PJs and won’t consider getting dressed at all. Some of us push the tradition so far as to not brushing their teeth either…

– The only day in the year where my dog and cat get along. Only kidding, they don’t understand anything to the Christmas spirit.

bracelet– The one year anniversary of my exercise bracelet! Happy Birthday! I had that evil stuff for 365 days, wore it for 36.5 and achieved my target (not the original one, not the revised one either, the revised-revised one) on 3.65 days. I shall add that two of these days were when I strapped the bracelet on Pepper. So I am doing not too well. But at least, that gives me ideas for some New Year’s resolutions.

 

– Laundry day. No break there. Even though everybody is still in their PJs, they changed into a fresh one this morning so that did not help the laundry pile.

– The day with the worst news. Every 25th at night, when I put my daughter to bed, she asks me, “Mom, how many more days until next Christmas?” And her little face looks absolutely crushed when I mumble, a little ashamed, “365, darling”. She cannot process such bad news. Today, she tried really hard to understand what that meant, so she added, “Is 365 more than 300 millions?”. Because she cannot fathom 365, but 300 millions, she can!

– The day we are all making an effort to be kinder to one another. And by that I mean, I am not allowed to tell the kids off for doing too much electronics, because it is against the Christmas spirit. However sibling rivalry is in full swing. So it would look like the lovey-dovey stuff only applies to people over the age of 12 – and each year, the age barrier goes up one notch.

Finally, Christmas offers the promise of the best dinner, planned, prepared and cooked by my husband. So like Thanksgiving, I don’t lift a finger. I don’t mean to exaggerate and expect to be lazy two days in the year so on Christmas day, I always offer to help (whereas I don’t bother at Thanksgiving) and my husband always decline. I think that’s my very special Christmas present.

 

 

 

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The strategy behind Christmas shopping

treeTomorrow is the last opportunity to do  Christmas shopping. You are probably thinking that I will be running around with my list of presents, trying to get everything before it’s too late. Well, part of it is true. But before I can even get started on that, I have a few appointments to honor so really, Christmas shopping can only happen between 1pm and 3pm. It’s gonna be tight! Some people think I am late and disorganized – pff, what do they know? Normally, I don’t care too much for what people say about my constant crisis mode (i.e. waiting for situations to be desperate before I attend to them). But it is Christmas. And in the spirit of sharing and being loving and kind, I am going to let you in on a little secret. It’s not that I am disorganized. Not at all! It’s just that I live by an accounting principle called, “Just In Time”, and I apply it to every aspect of my life.

In fact, Wikipedia goes further and calls “Just In Time” a STRATEGY. Yeah!! Hear that, people? My whole “Waiting for the last day to buy presents” is a strategy, ladies and gentlemen! Are you impressed? You better be….

I am not going to bore you with the “Just In Time” mechanism. But I will tell you how my accountant teacher explained it 25 years ago. He did a pretty good job, because I forgot a lot of things that happened 25 years ago, but I remember that particular lecture word for word.

Just in Time is this: if you have to catch a train, and you arrive half an hour early at the station, you are going to grab a drink, maybe buy a couple of magazines, go to a wifi café to work on your laptop (of course, I added this last one myself. There was no wifi, no cell phone, no internet and very few laptops 25 years ago….) Whatever you do to keep yourself busy is very likely to distract you enough that you will miss your train. Whereas if you arrive at the train station 30 seconds before the train is due to leave, you are going to run to the platform and jump on the train. Way more efficient than wasting half an hour, spending some money and eventually missing the train. I never forgot that lesson. It has become the motto by which I live my life. Everything I do is “Just in time” And Christmas shopping is no exception.

Of course I missed a few trains in my life, fell short of time on some occasions. But by and large, not having to plan anything is just great. For starter, you are never disappointed that you did not achieve anything, because you never expect to! Secondly, you don’t have to stick to a plan, do things in a certain order. There is no order! No plan, no nothing! Finally, if you ever manage to finish something on time, people around you cannot believe it and are very impressed with you.

“How did you manage to organize Christmas shopping for three different countries, on time?

– Well, you could say I have super-powers…”

Of course, it would be helpful if I could be given a little bit more notice about events in general. Am I really supposed to remember when Christmas is every year? Or birthdays? Be real…

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NO MORE STICKERS!!!!!

And I mean NO MORE!!!

Last week, my husband went shopping with the boys. This is always a fairly dangerous combination. Because you can pretty much guarantee that the kids will nag Stuart to go to the art shop. Stuart never falls for the boys’  compulsive buying demands. But he has a weakness for art. He loves drawing so he can never resist a trip to the art shop. And that always ends up being a really expensive stop… If you think I am exaggerating, ask yourself this question: how many pens is enough? 20? 50? What’s your number? In our house, try A BAZILLION!!!

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So surely enough, the three of them showed up with bags filled with pens and paper pads. The boys threw their coats on the floor (usual ritual in my house: kids throw their coats on the floor. Mom gets annoyed and lectures, swearing she will not pick up the coats. After half an hour, mom gives in and picks them up because everybody is too busy with their stuff). But that’s a whole entire post all by itself so let’s focus on the issue at hand! Like I said, they threw their coats on the floor and started their frantic drawing. It’s like they were on a mission to finish the paper pads before the end of the day.

Meanwhile, I could hear Stuart and Skye in the kitchen, chatting away. It sounded like they were very busy doing something. But what?

Well, I’ll tell you what: they were sticking snowmen stickers and Santa stickers all over the kitchen: windows, fridge, doors… You might not understand why this is a total disaster for me so let me explain by going back six years…

The boys were three and four then. In those days, they would come in my bedroom every morning at 6am – week ends included. One Sunday morning though, they did not  come at the crack of dawn. When I eventually woke up around 7am, I was in a complete panic. Where were my kids? What happened? I jumped out of bed and started to search for them frantically. I found the two of them downstairs, in the lounge. They were both giggling, and there was an indescribable mess of little pieces of paper all around. Then I saw my windows: they were COVERED in dinosaur stickers. And I mean C.O.V.E.R.E.D. Hundreds of stickers, all over the windows.

I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. As I had not had coffee yet, I thought crying might be just easier…But, a split second before I engaged into my complete breakdown, I looked at my boys. They were both so, so, so proud of themselves, waiting for me to react. So I decided to laugh my head off and congratulate them on their great art! Wow they were so happy. So much so, that they ran upstairs with their box of stickers and proceeded on decorating my bedroom windows … all four of them…

It was cute and all that. But what was not so cute was the time and effort it took me to get rid of these stickers. Five years. It took me five years. Hours of scrubbing and trying the latest products on glue, goo and any material removal. And let me tell you, NOTHING works on dinosaur stickers that have been drying in the sun for a long period of time.

Now I hope you understand why I was not so thrilled to see Skye and Stuart sticking snowmen all over the kitchen. I warned them, I will not clean that mess. No way!

“Listen to me the two of you. It might sound like fun, but cleaning that mess is really hard. Don’t you count on me to do it!”

“But mom…”

“No Skye, I won’t do it. I have done this once and I won’t do it again. You have been warned.”

“But hun…” Oh now my husband was siding against me!

“Ah don’t you start! I am telling you, you better be ready to clean these windows for the next five years, because I won’t”. I was not going to let them drag me in their mess, was I? No! I was going to stand my ground!!!

By now, they were both looking at me like I was crazy.

“Why are you looking at me like I am nuts?” I said, still angry. “Do you not remember the dinosaur stickers? I mean COME ON!”

“Oh yeah, I do remember!”

“SO?!! Am I being unreasonable?”

“Ergh, yeah. Skye, why don’t you tell mommy?”

“Tell me WHAT?”

“Mom, they are not stickers. They are magnets.”

“Oh…. Well… Whatever…” That’s all I could come up with…

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My least proud 2013 moments…

A new year is starting and we all enter it with fake commitments, and promises that we are unable to keep for more than a few weeks. It is also a good time to reflect on last year and how we want to remember it. What comes to your head when you think about 2013? A proud achievement? A sports victory? A successful promotion, whether from a job or from diapers to potty? For me, given that my life evolves around my house and kids, what stands out from the daily routine are the stuff I do that deserve a medal for their silliness. I am sure I do some stuff right, like…. hum….. wait, I am thinking….. there are so many examples…. nothing comes to mind at the moment, but I can assure you, I DO SOME STUFF RIGHT! But the things that stick are the stupid ones. And this year, I totally surpassed myself…

The first example happened very recently and it is so fresh in my memory that I cringe as I am writing it. For once in my life, I bought some Christmas presents in advance. OK, don’t get too excited, I only bought a few… Most of them were still purchased on the 24th. But for once, I found something for the kids that I liked so I decided to get it. Just like that. When I got home, I did not know where to hide the presents – so I did what every sensible mother would do: I asked my husband to hide them. It sounds a trivial detail to write, but it turns out to be majorly important to my (unfortunately) true story. One Wednesday night (again, sounds trivial, but it is a critical part of the story), I asked my husband where he had hidden the presents.

“I put them on top of the recycle trash can”

“You WHAT?”

” I put them on top of the recycle trash can. Why?”

“Because I took the trash out earlier and the presents have been …. RECYCLED!”

Bummer!!! That will teach me to shop in advance… To add insult to injury, the trash gets collected on a Wednesday so had I asked the question a few hours earlier, I would have been able to save the situation. Once I realized that the presents were a goner, I made sure that I would not get the blame for it. So first, I tried to convince my husband that he was the one who took the trash out that week. I did not succeed… I think the fact that he was in Europe the whole time did not help my case. So then I decided that it was his fault anyway. Because who puts bunch of new stuff in a paper bag on the recycling trash? Still, not my proudest moment of the year.

Another thing I am not too proud of is getting really angry at some lady who decided that stopping for a school bus was not for her. It just happened to be my daughter’s school bus. As she drove off, I turned toward her car and shouted, “What the f%@^? Are you insane?”. A few days later, my daughter and I were playing lego and Skye dropped something on the floor. She was trying to put the pieces back together but the poor thing has inherited my patience gene (or lack of) so she got really frustrated and went, “Oh Gosh! What the f@#%?” Oops… I could not even tell her off, she is way too smart for that sort of things. I already got the, “Can only adults talk badly?” question so I just pretended I did not hear her. She went on, “What the f#%@? mom!!”.

“I don’t know, honey. Should we play something else?”

“Yeah, but what the f$@%?”

“OK, I think it is quite enough of this” I wanted to be really mad, but it was hard not to burst out laughing…

“What? What the f#^%?” I had to stop this. So I did the only sensible thing: I lied.

“We don’t say “what the f%@!”, we say “what the truck!” But it’s really bad, you are not supposed to say that, ok?”

“OK. What the truck!” It worked!!

It’s not a perfect solution. Because when she says, “What the truck!”, it is pretty obvious what she means. But it’s ok. I am now working on perfecting the lie and telling her teachers that Skye is obsessed with trucks and that’s why she is saying that. A mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do…

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas is over!

That’s right! Christmas IS over! So how many more blogs Am I going to write about Christmas?! I mean, COME ONE! What more could there be to say on the topic?!!

Sorry guys, it’s my last one, so bear with me!

On Christmas eve, our church had organized a photo booth before the service. Because they say that people like to dress for that particular time of the year. So it would be the perfect opportunity to have a nice few shots of all family members looking their best.

In our house, gathering everybody to go to church is usually quite challenging – well, gathering everybody to go ANYWHERE is, really… We have been going regularly to the same church for over two years, yet every week end the kids are totally surprised when we mention church and try to negotiate out. EVERY TIME!!!. So try to get them to dress nicely on top of it was truly pushing it… The boys were having none of it. They were wearing their sports outfits and no way were they going to change. No threat of telling Santa made any difference and I for one was not going to wrestle them out of their casual clothes and into their nice ones. So forget it.

My husband and I were wearing our jeans, because we were under the impression that the dress code thingy did not apply to us… The truth is, I have nothing posh to wear, I don’t have time to change, and most importantly, I don’t want to change. As for my husband, he had already changed four times on that day. First he got dressed, then he changed to go to the gym. Then he changed back to his normal clothes. then he put some scruffy clothes to work in the yard. Then he finally got dressed for church. So the look he gave me when I asked him if he thought he was dressed enough was saying something like, “Look who’s talking, Scruffy!” so I felt I had no ground to say anything.

The only one who was too pleased to oblige was my daughter. she has a vast number of party dresses that a friend gave me so she’ll jump on any opportunity to wear them. My daughter’s style is pretty unique. She has very strong opinions on what she should wear and it is not up for discussion. No one is allowed to interfere with her style. So here is what she decided to wear for her nice Christmas eve photo….

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Is is Christmolleen? Is it Hallomas? Whatever this is, NOTHING can explain why she chose to wear clogs?

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Do pets have Christmas?

Of course they do! It would be cruel to not make them feel special on Christmas day. Plus, they are the easiest ones to shop for so it’s not that hard.

I hope they don’t remember too much about the previous years though, because we always get the same thing. We did not use to. When Pepper was little, we used to get him toys, or furniture (i.e. a big cushion to sleep on). But that silly dog would eat everything, destroying his Christmas presents within the hour. So we heard him pretty loud and clear and after a few years, we decided to buy him food for presents. Not any food: a gigantic enormous bone. Check it out…

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It usually takes him a couple of days to eat it. During which time he stays in his basket the whole time, chewing on that thing. His gums bleed, his teeth hurt, his nose is covered in bone dust. But he does not let any of that distract him from his goal: eat the bone fast! eat the bone fast!!

Athena gets food as well. Because that’s all she lives for. Athena would not hesitate to sell us all for one scoop of croquettes so we thought she would be really pleased. Of course, it’s hard to know for sure. She is pretty rude and never thankful.

As for the fish, well, I am ashamed to admit that we did not get them anything. My son and husband were tasked with doing the Christmas shopping and their take on it was, “Fish don’t care, they don’t have feelings”.

Well, I am not sure about that. There is actually a whole book dedicated to the emotional behavior of fish, called “Do Fish Feel Pain” by Victoria Braithwaite.

I did not read it, because the day I get time to read a book, it won’t be about fish feelings. But the summary of it is: not only do fish feel pain, but they have quite a complex emotional life too. HA!!! So now what do we do about that Christmas present situation? Basically, it means that not only the fish know they are the only ones who did not get a present, but they are deeply hurt by it. I don’t feel too good about that. I don’t care about fish, but I don’t want to hurt them either… I feel so bad that I avoid passing next to the fish tank so I don’t have to face their sad, distraught little faces. When unavoidable, I run past looking at my feet. Because I can’t look at these guys in the eye. But even by doing so, I can feel their glare piercing through the glass – and that’s despite the twenty layers of algae obstructing the view. Look at those angry fish…

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How to make it right? Buying something now would be to add insult to injury. Asking for forgiveness? Blaming somebody else? I don’t know… This is a pretty nasty situation…

 

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Christmas Eve: the worst night…

When I was a kid, Christmas eve was the best night of the year! Hands down, NO CONTEST! Nothing ever came close to it. I would be having dinner with all my cousins. No adult to bug us and tell us to sit upright, eat with our fork, have a sensible conversation. Our parents were so busy rebuilding the world and talking politics in the next room that anything went at the kids table. As long as no one bled uncontrollably, the sky was the limit.

After a cool and relaxed meal, we would be allowed to do WHATEVER we felt like: watch TV, argue, make a mess. Whatever took our fancy! Eventually, we would have to go to bed. But again, our parents were so noisy talking downstairs that they could not care less what we were up to. And what we were up to was usually: bouncing off the walls, and scaring the youngest cousins with spooky stories. After awhile we would fall asleep, but that was ok, because we knew our parents were going to wake us up after Santa came. Which was always around midnight. Then, it was another three hours of opening presents, playing, arguing. Oh What a night!!!!

When I grew up,  I moved to the adult table, where we would sit, eat, play cards and talk until the early hours of the morning. You might not see the fun in this, but I am French, and in France, that’s what people do.

So for over thirty years, Christmas eve was THE night to look forward to.

Obviously, once I had children, things changed considerably, you might say. And somehow, Christmas eve became the most stressful time of the year!! As a matter of fact, let me explain what I did this Christmas eve, just to give you an idea…

First, we took our kids to church. Sounds simple enough. Except they did not want to go so we had to argue, scream and wave punishments for a good half an hour. When we came back, we agreed that we could have a family Christmas movie, eating in front of the television (ultimate treat in our household!). We had a half an hour argument about what to watch: the boys wanted “Fast and Furious”, a famous Christmas movie classic! Our daughter wanted 101 Dalmatians – closer to a Christmas movie as there is some snow at least – although she has been watching it every day for the past three months so we are all totally sick of it. My husband and I just wanted some peace. Something that the kids will watch without arguing, playing their guitar, or asking a bazillion questions. Finally, after many debates, it seemed like the kids had settled on something – and by that I mean, the boys told their sister to shut up and decided she did not have a vote – Fine by me, whatever!!!

After the movie was over, we argued about the fact that it was time to go to bed. Apparently, my kids are under the impression that on Christmas eve, they are allowed to stay up late and do whatever they like. No way!! Not on my watch!!! Then, we argued about getting a shower (you are not supposed to wash on Christmas eve either…). After MANY arguments, we finally got everybody in bed. We then had to spend half an hour cleaning the lounge where these monkeys had eaten. Because, although the dog had done a thorough job at licking the plates and “vacuuming” the crumbs, he could not reach under the coffee table where a significant stash of food was piled…

Anyway, we cleaned up, prepared everything for the next day (charged the camera, tidied up the house in case Santa decided to take a tour, left him some cookies and milk) and went to bed around midnight.

At 1am, one of my sons woke me up to inform me that his throat hurt, but he did not want any medicine, he was just letting me know. Well, thanks for the information!

He then came back at 2am to tell me that his sore throat was better. Boy was I glad!! “Did you tell daddy?” I asked in a vicious, nasty, jealous moment. But my son did not want to wake my husband. “It would not be fair,” he said. What the @$#?????

He came back at 3am, asking to sleep with us. “Whatever” I growled. And he climbed into our bed.

At 4am, my daughter woke me up because her nose was blocked. “Mommy is going to get a tissue” I managed to get out of my bed and go to the bathroom. I think I walked on the cat as I heard an inhuman shriek but I was too busy trying not to bump into any wall out of sheer exhaustion… When I came back, my little girl was in my bed, with my son, fast asleep. OK!! This kept getting better and better. I  squeezed in the middle and fell asleep.

Only to be woken up by my son (again!) at 5am. He was in a complete panic,  “Mom, dad is hyperventilating! Do something! DO SOMETHING!!!”

“No he is not, he is just snoring…”

My reassured boy went back to sleep. At 6am, he woke me up to inform me that “When I will be in college, my sister is going to be a lonely child, isn’t it weird?”

“Yes! I said through greeted teeth, but maybe then I’ll manage to sleep!” He fell asleep again.

At 7am, my other son jumped on the bed, “It’s Christmas!! Let’s go downstairs. C’mon, C’mon, C’mon!!!” And would not stop until I got up.

And that is a pretty typical Christmas eve night, over the past ten years.

I know you are thinking that I am making this up. I am not. And I know one thing for sure: in a few years, I will miss these kind of nights so badly…

 

 

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Last Christmas shopping…

Today was the last opportunity to do my Christmas shopping. Some people call it being late and disorganized – pff, what do they know? Normally, I don’t care too much for what people say about my constant crisis mode (i.e. waiting for situations to be desperate before I attend to them). But it is Christmas. And in the spirit of sharing and being loving and kind, I am going to let you in on why I am the way I am. It’s not that I am disorganized. Not at all!!. My secret is that I used to be  an accountant. What does that have to do with anything, you wonder? Well, in accountancy, there is a rule called “Just in Time”. And  I apply it to every aspect of my life.

Like I said, “Just in time” is an accounting principle. In fact, Wikipedia goes further and calls it a STRATEGY. Yeah!! Hear that!! My whole “Waiting for the last day to buy presents” is a strategy, ladies and gentlemen! Are you impressed? You better be….

I am not going to bore you with the “Just In Time” mechanism. But I will tell you how my accountant teacher explained it 25 years ago. He did a pretty good job, because I forgot a lot of things that happened 25 years ago, but I remember that particular lecture word for word.

Just in Time is this: if you have to catch a train, and you arrive half an hour early at the station, you are going to grab a drink, maybe buy a couple of magazines, go to a wifi café to work on your laptop (of course, I added this last one myself. There was no wifi, no cell phone, no internet and very few laptops 25 years ago….) Whatever you do to keep yourself busy is very likely to distract you enough that you will miss your train. Whereas if you arrive at the train station 30 seconds before the train is due to leave, you are going to run to the platform and jump on the train. Way more efficient than wasting half an hour, spending some money and eventually missing the train. I never forgot that lesson. It has become the motto by which I live my life. Everything I do is “Just in time” And Christmas shopping is no exception.

Of course I missed a few trains in my life, fell short of time on some occasions. But that’s because I usually arrive at the station 30 seconds before the train leaves, rush to the store to grab a few magazines, grab a drink and then go to the platform. So I have not got the gist of it yet … But it’s only been 25 years, I am working on perfecting my art. In the mean time, I am still waiting for the rush to be over and will go to do my Christmas shopping just before the shops close, in a little bit…

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The nativity scene from the twenty first century

Under our Christmas tree, we have a nativity scene. Not that original given that it is Christmas, I hear you saying. Well, ours is actually VERY original.  it is a playmobil nativity scene. Take a look…

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Do you see something missing? Sure you do! The donkey is missing. I am not entirely sure which animals belong to the nativity scene, but I am pretty sure that Mary rode on a donkey. Yet, there is no donkey in playmobil Bethlehem. I don’t know whether we lost it, or whether it was never there in the first place. When we put the decorations out, I was looking hysterically for it. “Where is the donkey? We have lost the donkey!”

Skye dashed out of the room, screaming, “Donkey!! I know where donkey is!”

How odd? It took me over an hour to locate a full crate of Christmas decorations, yet my four year old knows where a tiny little donkey is! Maybe I should surrender the running of our house to her. She seems so much better organized…

Anyway, she came back, waving something in her hand, screaming, “Donkey, I found donkey!”

Oh she found a donkey all right! But not any donkey. She had Donkey. The one and only…

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Donkey. Form Shrek. And that’s who we have in our nativity scene. I think it is quite cute, as long as nobody else from Shrek creeps up in there…