We didn't get run over or held hostage at Waitrose. We did get ridiculously busy though.
Today was going to be a gentler day. One Christingle service, one family meal, one pair of pleasantly tired children. Little Fish and I had an argument over when the ancient relatives were coming; she thought it was for lunch, I thought it was for tea. We phoned; she was right and I was wrong.
OK, so bring our timetable for the day forwards a little; we need to be ready for 1 not 3. Not a problem. One cold pudding made last night (Chestnut fool for anyone interested), one soup converted to pate to reduce the cooking time (Mushroom), one pie planned out and ready to be made in the morning.
A sudden realisation it is not just Christmas Eve, but also Thursday. Which means our cleaner will be here at 11. Perfect; the house should be beautiful by the time the olds get her. But less perfect; I need to have tidied by the time the cleaner arrives so she can reach the floor. And then the phone rings, can a different relative just pop in for half an hour at around 12 please? Sure why not? The day is going to be chaos anyway; might as well get a feel for how we actually live.
I go into hyperdrive. Little Fish grates chocolate and stuffs dates (inside out, it will later transpire) whilst Mog conserves her energy by sleeping peacefully. I start to clear the sunroom - our laundry room - to make space for the table, and make the ever-pleasant discovery that one of the cats has been using piles of clean washing as a litter tray.
Abandoning the cooking, I start sorting washing; anything vaguely damp or yellow gets thrown back into the machine, everything else gets sifted roughly according to wearer and dumped on beds. Our cleaner arrives to discover a kitchen covered in icing sugar, marzipan, and mushrooms. And we spend a frantic hour between us somehow restoring the house to some kind of order, whilst persuading Little Fish into a pretty dress, and catching Mog's coughs so her dress stays pretty too.
Visitor number one arrives; a relative of Mog. She ignores him, Little Fish flirts mightily with him, and I attempt to remove chestnut puree from my forehead. Appearance is so important, don't you think? He hands out presents, I am thankful that I did actually remember to supply a gift for him, he says his farewells and is off just minutes before the ancients stroll in.
Little Fish decides she is starving. I dish out sherry and peanuts, and after handing the nuts around discover they are past their sell-by date and taste it. Nice. Abandoning the nuts we have a rather jolly fantastic meal; one which I may well have to remember and reuse in the future.
Coffee, and I have just poured out the last of it when our friend and ex-carer arrives, unexpectedly, with huge gifts for the girls. I hurriedly show my mother one of the photographs I'd planned to give to her for Christmas, ask her to remember what it looks like and promise a replacement in January, before rewrapping it for P. Subtle.
The ancients disappear to grit and salt the church carpark, whilst we load ourselves up and head off in a more leisurely manner. Too leisurely; by the time we get to the church it is packed out, and the space which has been reserved for us is at the front. Getting there is a mammoth task (and L, if you're reading this, K's jumper is muddy because we ran it over; it's not her fault and she might not even have noticed!), but one we manage in the end, and settle for the Christingle service. Lovely. Mog gets a fit of the giggles halfway through; shoulders heaving, mouth open wide, setting off everyone within her line of sight. Even lovelier.
And then home; Little Fish having grabbed a cuddle with her favourite Troy lookalike. LF is apparently "Darving" again, so a quite tea for her followed by a nice soothing calming shower and evening routine. Except that "My tooth is very wobbly" suddenly became choke choke hiss spit hawk ack ack, and her tooth was out. The second front tooth is nearly out too; so now both girls are missing front teeth for Christmas. Do we know a song about that?
Grannie had to be rung, and has confused Little Fish mightily with tales of tooth fairies and Father Christmas. Little Fish has put her tooth safely on the windowsill, not wanting a strange creature to fly into her bedroom at night, and has gone to bed without a stocking, not much fancying the idea of a strange man in her bedroom either. In any case, Little Fish is not much bothered by Father Christmas; we met him at a party two weeks ago and he gave her a box of chocolates. Ever since then when people ask her if Santa is coming she tells them "No, 'e been already, I seen 'im".
Into bed at last, having evicted the cat, and shortly followed by Mog, who does appear to be a little bit excited by all the Christmassy stuff happening. New pyjamas, an early Christmas present.
Both girls asleep, I settled down to do some serious wrapping up. It was at this point I realised that, in addition to not having managed to sort the presents for the friends we saw earlier this week (and the friend earlier today), I had opened Mog's present (a DVD) several weeks ago intending to replace it but forgotten. Oops. And as I eked out the last of the wrapping paper (the roll having unexpectedly turned out to be largely cardboard) I realised that Grannies gift (pyjamas) had been appropriated by me when I took Mog to hospital, and I'd failed to replace those too. Double oops.
So, for anyone still wondering how I do it all, please know that I don't! It's Christmas Eve, and I don't have Christmas presents for quite a few of the people who really should have them. I don't have enough wrapping paper for those presents I do have, I have no idea where the beautiful handknitted cardigans I sweated blood over earlier this month have hidden themselves so the girls may end up not wearing them after all, the salt and cat litter grit I used to de-ice the ramp has translated itself into a grey slurry which is now coating the floor, and Mog's feed pump is running so slowly I'm going to be waiting up for a good few hours yet until it's all run through.
But you know what? I have two beautiful girls who are both home, happy, and relatively healthy. I've family and friends around me who are happy with our presence even if we come without presents (I hope!), we've a roof over our heads, food in the 'fridge, and money in the bank. And if a barn full of animals, with a pitch invasion by angels and shepherds was good enough at the beginning, I reckon a bit of chaos and confusion two thousand years on is probably fairly acceptable too.
Happy Christmas, everyone.
Tia and the girls.