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spikegifted.net - Archive Q4 2013



December 2013:
Work: Now this has not happened often lately, but for the first time in many years, I was at work between Christmas and New Year. Owing to not having sufficient holiday allowance, I was back at work on December 30th. The place was, thankfully, comparatively quiet. That, however, did not translate to a quiet time of our team. We were put through our paces owing to a small number of 'urgent' requests. Thankfully, it was quiet on other 'fronts', so we could concentrate on the urgent stuff. 
Home: There must have been a heck of a storm while we were away. While Brittany was experiencing 120kph wind, the same storm was hitting the UK further north. It was immediately evident that there was some damages. The most visible ones were the garden fences. One of our fence post gave way and dragged down the two panels attached to it. It got so bad that I had to remove them. Thankfully, the falling fence panel did not cause too much damage to our neighbor's crop of tomato plants which was just next to the fence. Looking around, our neighbors on both sides had suffered damages to their fences. The wind must have been quite something to cause so much damage.
Home: Owing to the seasonal arrange of the ferries, our return trip from France was from Caen rather than Saint Malo. So, while we had a longer road trip to the ferry port, the crossing was shorter. Despite that the crossing was another rough one. It was quite usual that we had two rough crossings in succession.
Home: Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and return to the UK. We would have loved to stay in Brittany for longer, but I simply did not have sufficient holidays allowance left to facilitate staying for another week. The boys knew something was up, though. It was a difficult assignment to try to squeeze everything in the car. Despite having given away many presents and removed the packaging of much of those we received, we still ended up with more ‘stuff’ on our return to the UK than our outward trip. That were all toys and stuff and the three massive bags of food we bought to be brought back to the UK. And most of this food was for the boys. So by combining their Christmas presents and the food, which was primarily for them, nearly half of ‘stuff’ in the car, by volume, was for theirs. By some miracle, we managed to squeeze everything into the space available.
Home: Merry Christmas!! We have a ‘full house’ with five adults and five kids, including the boys. It was wonderful to have so many people in one place.
Home: I have never experience weather like this in December – torrential rain and storm-force wind. Brittany and western France was battered by an Atlantic storm which brought down power lines and caused flooding in many places. We were particularly fortunate that we were not affected in any way. The real damage were more westerly and inland. We had to stay indoors. Even behind closed doors, we could hear the winds, which could be very unsettling if you were not used to it. We seized the opportunity presented during a period of calm and went to the beach for a walk. By the time we returned, it was hailing. This weather was just getting more and more unusual!
Home: The drive from the port to south Brittany was uneventful. While it was not raining, it was evident that there has been a lot of rain has fallen in recent past. On arrival, we found that the water table was so high that the soil has no capacity to absorb any new rain and the water would simply run off the surface to wherever it could.
Home: Crossing the Channel at this kind of time of the year was always a hit-and-miss affair. Given the wintry conditions, there were strong chances that the crossings would have been rougher than those in the spring and summer. We really hit the ‘jackpot’ this time round. For this crossing, we were on the larger boat. However, all the increase in size did not compensate the rough seas which we encountered. In the end, we were tossed around like a dinghy. Thankfully it was a night crossing and the boys and I slept through the trip, but the Ruler_of_spike had a sleepless night…
Home: As soon as we got home, it was time to load up the car and make our way to Portsmouth for the evening ferry crossing. Despite having done this packing many times before, every trip is different and every time there were different items causing problems in the packing. The boys were getting quite excited as they knew we were going to France. As we could not anticipate the length of the trip, we put the boys in nappies in case we cannot make it to a toilet in time. Despite the nappies, the boys still asked for the toilet. Had we been on the expressway, there was a strong possibility that we would reach the next available toilet long after the boys had to relieve themselves, so the nappies have to go on as precaution. We managed to get away in the timeframe we planned and there were no incidents en route (unlike last time), we got to the ferry port with time to spare.
Home/Work: As with the usual practice, I brought the boys into work on the last day I was in the office before we departed for Christmas. The boys were really spoilt by my colleagues - one of them even baked them chocolate Madeleines, which they consumed at lightning speed. They were playing with our phones and our chairs, hiding under our desks and playing shy with my colleagues. To keep thing interesting, I brought them to see different colleagues of mine in different parts of the building. There was a lot of walking around in s short space of time. Still, the boys managed to get their hands on the remaining Madeleines when we returned to my desk.
Work: 2013 has been a very busy year and despite the fact that it was now the middle of December we were still very busy with various projects. We were wondering when the whole show was going to slow down. After seeing the months going by at breakneck speed, I was hoping that December would see a drop in activities to allow our team to 'catch our breath'. Alas, that was not the case... Catching breath would have to be done another time.
Home: They have been practicing for weeks and the Ruler_of_spike has endured hours of the boys singing - the boys' nursery class' nativity concert was upon us. I had to leave early as the concert was during the boys' normal afternoon class. Given how much they have been singing in front of the Ruler_of_spike, we were quite eager to see how would do in the concert. And we were hugely disappointed. We did not know what happen, but we suspected that the boys suffered "stage fright". They were place on either end of the front row and they did not sing, perform or participate in a single song. On the other hand, the teachers must have put them there for a reason, probably because they were seen to be doing well in the practices. In any case, the boys missed an opportunity to show how capable they could be.
Home: To ramp up the festive spirit, and the boys were fully aware of existence of 'Papa Noël', we invested in a couple of Advent calendars for the boys to count down to Christmas and familiarize themselves with the Christmas characters. All the buildup to Christmas was a new experience for the boys as this was the first time they were aware of the festive season and the practices which went along with it. And they were loving it! Being impatient little boys they were eager to open the remaining windows ahead of time. It took all of our persuasive powers to stop them from opening all of them ahead of time.
Home: Christmas shopping was not something we generally indulged in. It was not the case before the arrival of the boys and it was even less so after the boys were born. What we tended to do was bits of shopping here and hoped that each trip was short enough that it would be over before the boys had a chance to misbehave. This year, we did something different: we did all the shopping in one go. It was not intentionally so, but it just so happened that the store we went to had something for everyone and, with us not wanting to spend more time on additional trips, we made some decision on the spot instead of 'having a look elsewhere'. It was all over in a couple of hours. Thankfully, the store was sufficiently large and had enough things to keep the boys entertained. All in all, it was a tolerable experience.
Home: Sometimes, the boys said things to us that just made us wondered where they got them from. Being careful and diligent parents, particularly the Ruler_of_spike who spent nearly every waking moment with them, we pretty much have an idea where the boys got certain expressions from. So, it was totally baffling when Master Cheeky went up to the Ruler_of_spike in morning with a frown and announced: "Mummy, I am very grumpy today!" He then marched off with a cheeky smile. The reason for the comment was completely unfathomable as nothing has taken place that morning which would have caused him to be particularly grumpy. It required all of the Ruler_of_spike's self-control to not to laugh, but we still did not figure out where he got this choice phrase from.
November 2013:
Home: Our existing, which we have had since the beginning of 2010 was coming to the end of the financing. While it has been a perfectly adequate vehicle for the needs of our family, the car was showing its age. Newer models of the same car had bette fuel efficiency, improved ride comfort and a better feature set. Additionally, the car was approaching an age which it was liable to significantly drop in value, should we chose to keep it. So we decided on investing in a new car. Fortunately, our friend at the dealership was able to offer a deal for part exchanging the existing one. In the end, we had an updated model of the car, which we were very happy about with very little outlay. We believe we have worked out a good deal.
Home: The boys had hardly been at their nursery for month and half and we were already preparing for the applications for the September 2014. That was right. Being three-year olds, the boys were only in 'nursery'. For next academic year, they would be in 'foundation' class, which was the real starting of school, according to the UK education system. This meant we had to apply for schools again. As we were trying to put the boys into certain types of schools, all of which had 'supplementary application forms' which we had to fill in also. For some of these institutions, we had to call the school up for copies of the form and had to be returned in person. There was additional confusion as to whether we had to reapply the school which the boys were in already or whether the application was automatic. There was all the research, small prints to read and all the form filling (on paper and online). Certainly not an experience to be repeated anytime soon.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike, having spent nearly every waking moment with the boys, knew all the little developments of the boys. One day, Master Chill walked up to her and using little wooden stick from a toy set, which he held between his index and second fingers, brought it up to his mouth. Almost at the same time he pretended to reach into his trouser pocket and pretended to pull out an object. This 'object' was brought up to the tip of the wooden stick held by his other hand and he made a 'click' sound and smiled at the Ruler_of_spike. He then threw the stick down on the floor of the living room. Without displaying any alarm, the Ruler_of_spike asked Master Chill where he had learn that, and he replied 'from high street'. The power of observation of these boys was just unbelievable! Nothing was escaping their attention. Needless to say, that incident was never mentioned again...
Home: The annual orgy of pointless fireworks was upon us! The residents of our town continued to outdo each other in setting off fireworks from their backyards in the few weeks leading up to Bonfire Night (otherwise known as 'Guy Fawkes Night') and for weeks after it. The peak of this pointless creation of noise, smoke and expenditure of vast amount of gunpowder was at the weekend of immediately after Bonfire Night. Being prone to be alarmed by sudden sounds, and nearly everything else that was unexpected, Master Cheeky was totally spooked. The Ruler_of_spike spent a great deal of time calming him down, only for him to be scared by the next bang. His brother, Master Chill, meanwhile, was little bit subdued and tired as he had a temperature. No rest for the parents again.
Home: The ever-resourceful Ruler_of_spike has come up with the idea of bringing the boys to try 'tennis'. Of course, the boys were a little too young for what we, adults, would consider as 'tennis', but we could see the fundamentals. They were asked to try to throw the over their heads, which mimicked the action of a serve. They were invite to stand sideways on the service line and to swing at a ball which flew over the net, which resembled the action of hitting a ball. The baseline shuffling was a little bit more difficult to breakdown but they also practiced it. The part with most fun was the 'treasure hunt', where the kids were asked to bring back as many balls from around the court as possible. Master Chill had great fun, especially on the treasure hunt as he thought he was going to keep the balls he collected. Master Cheeky was a little spooked as he could not fund a mini racket which he liked the look of... 'Tennis training' had to be delayed for this child.
October 2013:
Home: When I was at school, half terms were eagerly looked forward to as they offered a respite from being at school. Now that we have children, we were eagerly waiting for their first half term... It was not so much we were planning to do a lot with them during the half term, but the exactly opposite. It was a chance to catch up with the boys' sleep by giving them the opportunity to have naps in the afternoon. During the school term, as they were attending the afternoon class, we made sure that they had their naps during weekends. There was a marked improvements to their behavior and temperaments on Monday afternoons compared to Fridays. Therefore, the Ruler_of_spike made sure that they slept as much as possible. Unfortunately, by the time they were fully rested up, it was time for them to return to the nursery.
Home: One of the things the boys developed over time was their tendency to misbehave when they did not have the full attention of the Ruler_of_spike. For example, if friend come to visit the Ruler_of_spike, the boys would roaming around the house, causing havoc, making a mess and generally made it impossible for their mother to have meaningful conversation with the guest. This would apply to when she has a phone call or bumped into someone on the street or whenever they knew they did not have the Ruler_of_spike's full attention. In short, their behavior was such that it was impossible for her any kind of social life in their presence. That was just unfair.
Home: The afternoon session at the nursery was proofing to be very difficult for everyone. I have mentioned that it was difficult for the Ruler_of_spike owing to the timing of the class. It was also taking a toll on the boys also as they were missing their much needed afternoon naps. While they cannot express themselves eloquently as adults, we could observe from their behaviors that they were not themselves. The nursery session was right where the boys' nap time would be. As such, instead of resting, they were engaged in learning activities. I would leave this to the 'experts' to decide whether this was good for the boys or not. Closer to home, it was immediately obvious that they were missing their sleep. They were tired and had even shorter attention span after their class, which meant that they were even more difficult to handle. They were at each other's throat all the time and the Ruler_of_spike was suffering from their constant fighting, complaining and making a mess of the place. So, not only was the Ruler_of_spike suffering from the poor timing of the nursery, she was suffering because of the boys being there. The things we did for our children!
Home: Once in a while, the Ruler_of_spike had things to do which meant that she could not do everything she needed to do. With other families, it could easily be the mother or the mother-in-law who would step in and help out. Unfortunately, in our case, no such character existed, so it was either paid childcare or me. The problem with paid childcare was that it was not reliable as we were not regular user of such services. So I was the poor substitute to the normal five-star service provided by the Ruler_of_spike. On the day which I was 'on duty', there were not that many things going on, so there was no need for me to rush forward and backwards with the boys before lunch. Just the whole pre-nursery routine was so action packed that I was totally drained by the time I was back from dropping them off. Before I knew it, I was back in action again, picking them up from the nursery. Of course, after getting them home, I had to keep them entertained, fed and readied for bed. For me, it was an action packed day. Heaven knows how the Ruler_of_spike could do this day in, day out.