Just like that, the Christmas holidays have come to an end. Looking back on it, there have been many highlights offset only by the odd bit of familial tension, mainly relating to a couple of disagreements which resulted in yours truly being left behind by the Doyle-mobile (once voluntary and once enforced). But my passenger seat privileges have since been reinstated so all is well that ends well.
The Christmas period began with a trip to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre for a performance of The Snowman complete with accompanying orchestra. This gave us our first indication of how this Christmas was going to be an absolute joy for our two year old Ella. She was thrilled by the dancers, the singers and particularly, the comedy routine which involved Santa inadvertently taking the MC’s bike. She still talks about it a full month later.
We always aim to include one Santa trip in the Christmas programme so choosing which Santa to visit is always a great source of discussion and debate. This year we went with Luggwoods which can be found in the Dublin hills just beyond Saggart. Our kids range from the aforementioned Ella to Aaron, who is well into his eleventh year so we may struggle to get another year out of these Santa trips without grumbling, petulance, tantrums and the other phenomena which usually accompany any family journeys. So there were plenty of fingers being crossed as we headed out the door. The day started well enough in that it wasn’t raining and the temperature could have been described as crisp but not quite cold enough to be uncomfortable. After our elfin check-in we had a brief wait before being herded onto a large converted trailer (think old style school bus without an engine) which was pulled by a pretty sizeable tractor. Once we were all comfortable we headed off towards an enchanted forest. All going well so far as we passed the fairy village, the reindeer house and the elves’ washing line but uh-oh here comes the Grinch. Cue somebody in a green mask shaking his fist at the passing traffic and Ella almost losing her life. Now there has been a long history amongst our kids of being afraid of people dressed up in costumes. I can still vividly remember Lochlan having conniptions when a man dressed up as a teddy bear (while collecting for charity) approached him in Blanchardstown shopping centre. The tightness of the hugs I received that day have yet to be surpassed! From recollection, Disneyland Paris was also a bit traumatic but at least they had the rides and the endless merchandise shops to take their minds off the demons in fur!
Having calmed Ella down from the Grinch encounter we had a very pleasant time at our destination, a sort of Santa’s grotto / barn and we even managed to get a group photo with Ella on Santa’s lap (see above) which I had believed to be beyond the bounds of the possibilities a few minutes earlier. Unfortunately there was a dark cloud hanging over us during this joyful time. We all knew that the only way back to our car was via the enchanted forest and the lair of the Grinch. Although this time we were more prepared for the trailer / bus / tractor ride, we positioned ourselves in a circle around Ella and assured her that the Grinch would not be getting on the vehicle and if he did Daddy would just flatten him with his ever widening Christmas girth (the start of 2020 is not going to be fun for yours truly). Thankfully the Grinch seemed a whole lot happier the second time around, his medications were probably working a lot better and in any event, Ella had burrowed deep under her mommy’s coat. So Luggwoods got the thumbs up from us, until Niki hears about somewhere better to go next year.
After that, it was back to the usual mix of trying to meet up with friends and family while providing enough entertainment for the boys so that they wouldn’t start attacking each other. Star Wars was decent although I’m a bit confused on what the rules are around reincarnation, resurrection, glowing and not glowing during the whole death process as it seems to change depending on the movie and indeed the character. Jumanji the Next Level was enjoyable, particularly the bit where they explain what a eunoch is, that’s one less awkward future conversation with the boys (please see the movie for context!).
Myself and Niki did manage to get a night away by ourselves during the madness as we manufactured a trip to Seafield Hotel in Gorey, a return to our wedding venue. It was only for one night so upon our arrival we quickly made our way down to the pool and spa area. It must be said that the Seafield pool and spa area harks back to a previous Irish era with plenty of black and gold on display. The place was packed and clearly full of people who take swimming pools a lot less seriously than Niki or me. She was the only one wearing a swim hit and I was the only one wearing goggles! Although the fact that my goggles were tinted meant that I came very close to banging my head into the end of the black-tiled pool on numerous occasions! So my goal of powering through 20 or so lengths was quickly abandoned. It was our first time away together from all four of the kids (big shout out to Nanny, Grandad and Aunty Orla) and I couldn’t get over the quiet. We could have conversations without the constant interruptions and we even got to read books together at the same time. Such is middle-aged bliss!