Another big birthday in the house

Saturday 27 January 2018

It's only been a few months since I was writing about my own big birthday, when I turned 40 back in September. 

Last week we celebrated another big birthday in our house, when James turned 18.

18 years ago it was the beginning of the year 2000. It seems so long ago, and yet also in another way it doesn't seem so long ago at all.

I was a music graduate turned stay at home mum to be, and Mr Housefulofboys was working for the City of Edinburgh Council as a social worker working with the Children and Families team. We had been married for 18 months, and were living in a lovely top floor tenement flat beside Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.  

Our first baby was due earlier on in January, but the days slowly ticked on by with no sign of his arrival. Of course we had no idea that he would be a he, as there was no 20 week scan back then. 

  I was so relieved when at around 2am on the morning, 10 days after he was due, I woke up with what could not possibly be mistaken for anything but the beginnings of baby's arrival.

I had known of a few people who had recently had babies, and who had gone to the hospital too soon, only to be sent home again for a while, and so I was determined to stay home as long as possible. So much so, that when we eventually went to the hospital at around 7am the midwives there were surprised at how far along I was.

At around 11:30am, he arrived. 8lbs 5oz, 21 inches long and absolutely perfect.

Straightforward though his delivery was, how I would have laughed if you had told me then that he would one day have four younger brothers!

The evening that he was born I didn't want to sleep, and sat up in bed staring into his little cot, with a mixture of awe that he was mine and unbelief that he was finally here.

The first morning after he was born, when breakfast was delivered round the ward I was horrified at the fact that they thought 1 Weetabix and a slice of toast was enough to satisfy the hunger of a new mum who was feeding a hungry baby. When all of the other boys were born I was fortunate enough to be allowed home just hours after their deliveries and so could have as much breakfast as I wanted :)

Those early days, weeks and months were special. And hard work. But mostly special. Life seemed to be so busy. It WAS busy. But in a different way from how it is busy now. I guess we just get used to adding more and more to our plates as our families grow. Back then I could never have imagined life being as busy as it is now. But it's still just as special.

Anyway, moving onto the present day and how we celebrated James' big day.

Well, we had two celebrations. One with my family and one with my in laws. Not because we wanted to keep both sides separate! Just because my in laws couldn't make the original date we suggested.

So first of all, on the Saturday before James' birthday my brother, sister in law, nephews and niece, and my other brother and his girlfriend all came round for a birthday buffet.

Dinner was pretty informal. We had slow cooked pulled pork, chicken drumsticks and loaded potato skins.

To decorate the living room, as well as balloons I put up a photo from each of James' previous birthdays. Although I couldn't find the 2nd, 5th or 6th ones. I can picture them in my head, but I think those albums were at the back of the cupboard and I didn't have time to dig right to the back to find them!

I wasn't sure what we should make for his cake this year, and it was Calum (15) who came up with the great suggestion of making a piano shaped one. He also helped me with decorating it.

James' girlfriend came down from Lewis to spend his birthday week with us.

Here they are joined by all the brothers and cousins.

James' favourite dinner is still homemade steak pie. I knew I wouldn't be able to make it on the day of his birthday as it was one of my piano teaching days, when I don't finish teaching until just before dinner and so usually have a slow cooker dinner those nights, so we had it for lunch on the Sunday before his birthday. 

The following day was James' last night in Army Cadets. As soon as a cadet turns 18 they have to leave. They can return as a leader, but need to wait 2 years before they can join their own detachment as a leader. So after 5 years in cadets he was a little sad to be leaving. Although also pleased to have two evenings a week now free for all the schoolwork he has to do this year!

This photo was taken when he first joined, age 13 (Ally was 3).

And we recreated it on his last night, when he was almost 18 (and Ally is 8).

Then it was the day of his actual birthday. We gave him 18 gifts to unwrap for his 18th. Some of them were just really small things, but opening the presents is half of the fun!

There wasn't much of the piano cake left, and we couldn't really sing Happy Birthday again around a half eaten cake, so I asked what he would like for his second cake. Of course he said Chocolate Overload, as he has done for the last 3 years. I didn't want it to be exactly like last year's and so this year I made a giant chocolate cupcake. Covered in more chocolate.

My in laws came through for dinner, which was slow cooked ham - like I said earlier, it was a piano teaching night!

James' birthday fell in the middle of his Prelim exams, and in fact the only exam he had all week was on the day of his birthday! Still, it didn't spoil his day for him at all.

Christmas Part Two - The Bit In Between, When You Don't Know What Day It Is & Blasting Into The New Year

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Continuing our round up of the Christmas season. If you missed part one, The Build Up and The Big Day, then you can read it here.

The Bit In Between, When You Don't Know What Day It Is
Those lazy days between Christmas and New Year are great aren't they? When you don't have to be anywhere or do anything, and when you can legitimately laze around because it's so dark most days that nobody has the energy to do anything anyway!

We didn't hibernate the whole time though. Yes, we made the most of hanging around at Granny and Shen's house and playing with all the new stuff everyone got, but we also made the effort to get out of the house sometimes and blow off the cobwebs. Poor Granny was struck down by the flu the day after Boxing Day so that was another reason we made the effort to go out some days - just to give her a bit of quiet to rest!

One of the first requested places to go was the boys' favourite coffee shop, and village shop, where Fraser enjoyed seeing their giant gingerbread man decoration!

We followed this up with a late afternoon walk along the beach, where it was funny seeing snow on the sand.

The boys all indulged in their favourite beach game of wave chasing, well all except for David who had no wellies.

And of course Calum (15) took a few photos. 

Those days between Christmas and New Year are perfect for a little treat or two.

I decided that these in between days would be the perfect time to try and learn a new skill.

For years now I have often thought about how I would like to learn to knit properly. Usually I haven't done anything about it as there are still so many things I have on my 'want to crochet' or 'want to cross stitch' lists! But I have always wanted to try knitting a pair of socks, and after seeing the most amazing sock yarn in the wool shop in Stornoway one day I thought, well why not now? So I also bought the circular needles, downloaded the Winwick Mum Sock-a-long Tutorial that I have read so many good reviews about and set about it. 

How I had to concentrate in the beginning stages! Bear in mind that the only thing I have ever knitted before was a straight scarf, many years ago, and it was not a skill that I found came naturally to me like crochet did.

But I stuck with it and soon had the beginnings of a cuff forming! 

Because of the concentration levels required at the beginning I only worked on it for short times.

Another day, which even had a tiny bit of blue sky, we went out for another beach walk. This was at the request of David, who the previous day had bought himself a lovely new pair of wellies. So of course he wanted to test them out properly!

This was the beach in my dad's village, the one with the fresh water springs that we always need to drink from. It really is the purest water you will ever taste!

James took along some of his new art supplies and set about doing a quick water colour of the cliffs while we explored the beach.

Fraser (4) found some old rope on the beach and pretended to go fishing.

Parts of the cliffs and seaweed were frozen.

He would have sat there all afternoon had the rain not chased him away back to the car!

Blasting into the New Year
The boys all enjoy being able to stay up until past midnight on Hogmanay to see in the New Year, and this year was no different.

I finished the old year by getting a reasonable looking cuff finished on my socks.

And spent an hour or so back in my comfort zone planning what to do with the yarn pack my sister in law had given me for Christmas.

Ally (8) dressed particularly smartly to see in the New Year.

And Fraser enjoyed being able to drink Shloer after midnight!

When we came home from the New Year's Day service at church I took the chance to grab a photo of all of the boys while they still looked smart, and was delighted that out of the many attempts to get one of everybody looking/smiling/not blinking/not messing about I got this one. It's definitely one for the wall.

James took on the job of making the table look nice for New Year's Day dinner.

He folded all the men's/boys' napkins like this...

And the ladies' ones like this...

Dinner was a lovely roast beef, and my contribution was the Yorkshire Puddings...

...and the meringues for pudding. I had so many egg whites left over from the egg yolks that I used to make the pastry for the dozens of mince pies I made the week before that meringues seemed the sensible option for pudding!

Of course, only one of the boys can eat meringues as the others all have an allergy to egg whites, so I made up a chocolate Christmas pudding thing for them.

There was also a third option for pudding, and one that caused great hilarity amongst everyone.

My dad told us all that he was going to try flambeing some pineapples. He hadn't tried it before, but seemed confident enough. I think he's been watching one too many Masterchef!

Everyone wanted to watch Shen set the pineapples on fire, and so everyone came and gathered round the cooker.

No one was quite prepared for how high the flames would go though, and I wish I had filmed the shrieks that came from everyone.

I did get photographic evidence of the massive flames though!

The fire theme continued later on in the evening too. Once everything was cleared up from dinner we all went outside for some fireworks and sparklers.

We rounded off our fun start to the New Year with a game of good old charades.

Before our holiday came to an end we had to have one more beach trip. We met up with friends there, and his time we made sure it was at low tide so that we could walk along to the caves that you can only get to at low tide.

That blue sky very quickly disappeared and we were all completely soaked by the heavy rain by the time we left the beach later on. Somehow it doesn't seem so bad getting rained on at the beach. Well I don't think so anyway!

Just before we left Granny and Shen's I could see my sock starting to look like a sock.

And then it was time to head back home again. Somehow, despite the car being absolutely packed when travelled up for Christmas, and despite leaving with even more stuff than we arrived with, we still managed to fit everything into the car!

It's always sad leaving, but we had timed our return to make sure that there were still some days of holidays left before school went back, so there was still some holiday fun to look forward to.

We were thankful that the weather also behaved on our return journey.

Back home and unpacked there was the inevitable fill up the cupboards with food shop. I thought we might actually need two trolleys for it!

After a few more lazy days, the last day of the Christmas holidays came.

I thought we should do something fun to round off the holidays and so everyone chose to go to the indoor crazy golf.

It was a close fought game, and I'm proud to say that I was second over all!

It was all less than a month ago, but now that school has been back for a couple of weeks and we have settled into all of our old routines it seems so much longer ago already. I'm glad that we were able to fill up so many more happy memories for another year.