Christmas has arrived in the Potty household.
The tree is up, and the cards are being blu-tacked to the book shelves in the time-honoured way I learnt from my parents. That is, with just enough blu-tac to stay up when you install them, but not quite enough to make it through the night. Then, when you walk into the sitting room in the morning, they are lying like 'ex-cards' - cards that have had enough and simply can't take being forced to co-exist next to all my rubbish chick-lit novels any longer - all over the floor...
The advent calendar previously referred to here is in full swing, and amazingly we are still on track to install the Infant Jesus in his manger on 24th December. So far Boy #2 has resisted velcro temptation and left the little characters where they should be - on the calendar, trekking their way each day closer to the stable. Heaven help me if the Boys realise that each of them (palm trees included) have loops on the back to allow them to be used as finger puppets. We would have shows like 'The Three Kings go on a Train' and 'T-Rex and the Shepherds' to sit through every night...
Did I mention the Tree is up? I did? It's just that this fact astounds me. Growing up, my mother was - and still is - adamant that Christmas Trees go up on Christmas Eve. Not before. Never before. An early Christmas tree was tantamount to admitting that you don't make your own mince pies, as far as she was concerned (well, she probably wasn't, but that's how it seemed to me). 'Not Us', if you know what I mean. So for years, after I left home, that's when the tree went up. 24th December, not a minute earlier.
Children change all that though, don't they? The levels of excitement about Christmas have been building here for some time now, and what with the majority of Husband's family arriving for lunch yesterday and a Boy who couldn't quite understand why everyone else got their tree so much earlier than us, I caved and agreed we would put it up before the guests got here. Which was when, scenting an easy kill, Boy #1 started to make 'additional demands'...
1. Father Christmas doesn't only have a mince pie when he does his rounds. He has cookies. Where are our cookies to give to him? (Note to self: make nut-free cookies).
2. Trees look lovely all decorated, don't they mama? Especially when they've got cookies on them. We are going to have cookies on ours, aren't we? Mama? Because at school we talked about Christmas trees, and everyone said that they always had cookies. And I said we did too. Because we did, last year, didn't we? (Blast. He remembers the cookies. Note to self: Make cookies tonight).
3. And they have to be decorated cookies, don't they? Otherwise they just look boooooring.... Last year our cookies looked beautiful, mama! (Who was that woman in charge last year? She clearly had too much time on her hands. Note to self: Make and ice cookes tonight).
It was at this point in the proceedings on Friday afternoon that I made the mistake of asking Husband, who was in charge of catering arrangements for the next day when his family visited for lunch, what he had planned for pudding. Nothing, it transpired. Not because he had thought about it and decided that after the Indonesian Rijstaffel (trans: Indonesian feast) he was making no-one would have any room. No, more because - well, he just hadn't thought about it.
This was Not On. One of his family is famed throughout the land for her desserts. I may not be particularly concerned about appearances but the thought of the 'what a lovely lunch, and no I really didn't need any pudding' comments that would follow if we simply turfed them off the table once the rice ran out were too much for me.
With plenty of eggs in the fridge and the chance of an early-bird trip to Sainsbury to pick up some strawberries and cream, Eton Mess was the sweet of choice. Though of course, meringues need to be made the night before, so...
4. Note to self; make meringues after the cookies have been baked and iced... Easy, right? What could go wrong? (As it turned out, getting the wrong type of cream, that's what - but barefaced cheek and a little nerve will get you through most situations and we had liquid Eton Mess instead - and no-one was any the wiser. Or, if they were, they were too polite to mention it...)
That same evening I fielded a call from my mother-in-law, demanding Christmas lists with menaces.
5. Note to self: make Christmas list...
So in between baking the cookies, making the meringues, icing the cookies and panicking because I couldn't find the decorations (what fool put them out of sight on top of a cupboard in Boy #2's bedroom? In the same place they always go? Aaah yes. That would be me.) , I wrote one. It makes for sobering reading - not because it's practical, or sensible, but in fact because it's neither of those things. So far it consists of 4 cd's (Katy Perry, Razorlight, Lily Allen - even though I know that's not out yet - and The Kaiser Chiefs), anything sparkly, pretty, and over £50 from Melissa McArthur on the Kings Road, and - oh, here is a sensible one actually, somebody pass me the Big Slipper - a 'One Touch' can opener.
It's not exactly... inspiring, is it?
I'm almost 42 years old. There are a whole load of things that should be on that list that aren't. Like... a pa to organise paying the bills on time and before the final demand drops onto the door mat. Like... a course in how to prepare and cook fish properly (now that's what I call grown up). Like an alarm not just to tell me when to get up in the morning, but when to go to bed the night before. New tea-towels. Place mats. Perhaps an unchipped glass vase or two. A safe to put our important 'stuff' into in case of break-ins or fire. Important 'stuff' to put into a safe, for that matter. New boobs. A tummy tuck. The universally-desired extra hour in the day (or, in my case, extra hour at night - for sleeping).
6. Note to self: Make lists. Get organised. Grow up.