Wednesday 11 December 2019

That Time The Kids Saved Christmas...

We thought it was bad the year the oven broke on Christmas Eve, but then the universe said "Hold my pint" and we had Christmas 2018.

Last year was our best Christmas yet since losing Elspeth. We were doing Christmas. We'd decided to do an 'Advent' with the LEGO and built an amazing LEGO Christmas Village sprawling across 3 tables. It was ready for 1st December and it even had lights. It looked great unveiling a little more each day on Instagram.

LEGO scene with child in hood pushing girl on sleigh with village behind.

We had an awesome real tree and for the first time in years we had put up a second tree by the window. With the 1970's ultra-flammable decorations on the ceiling and bookcases covered in tinsel it was epic. My partner even had 3 extra days off before the kids broke up from school, so we had tons of time for preparations for the big day.

We had bought or collected loads of stockingfillers, but only a couple of main presents. This will be important later. It would all be wrapped at our leisure, with Christmas tunes on the TV and warm mince pies.

LEGO Winter Village woman walks past bakery

Wednesday December 19th.Over to the universe...

The little kids were in school, 2 of the big kids back from uni, and my partners first day off. We'd made lists and planned our 3 days organising, wrapping and shopping.

My partner had a cold and a bit of a temperature, and wanted to do shopping and anything that required effort the next day. I had a couple of pieces of work to finish before I broke up, so I was glad of the extra day really. I didn't even make a joke about 'man flu'.

The next day he was quite a lot worse and didn't want to do anything. We still had 4 days including the weekend and I didn't feel great, so I was happy to take a lazy day. I even had a nap, I never take a nap.

LEGO WINTER Village hot chocolate man and snowman

Friday he didn't want to get out of bed, and nor did I. Walk the boys to school seemed like an expedition to the moon. I trudged every step and deposited the boys in the playground like left luggage. I went back home, begged a loose uni student to collect them for me at 3.30pm, and went straight to bed.

The rest of Friday was a bit of a blur, and sort of melts into Saturday. I got out of bed to check people had eaten food at the correct time, or were going to go to bed, but really I was relying on my big kids to initiate some routine.

On one of my forays downstairs I discovered my 10 year old asleep on the sofa with his 21 year old brother. It was definitely very much daytime. My 11 year old was the first one to start vomiting.

LEGO Winter Village Santa being filmed for the TV

Each time I woke, I'd panic, rush round the house trying to work out how poorly people were. I decided a good measure was that if they were on the Playstation, they were better than me. I wasn't dead, so they were therefore fine and I could go back to bed. I recall doing this many times, but I'm pretty sure I dreamt most of them.

Saturday night was the longest night of my life (and I was in labour 22 hours with my first baby). We'd reached a new level of ill. Rather than just sleeping, now it involved coughing and throwing up. These bonus gifts made it impossible for anyone to sleep. At one point my partner and I were both awake, one of the kids had just been ill and I gave up.

I was too ill and exhausted and everyone was just getting worse. I couldn't make them better and Christmas was so close. The Walk-In Centre opened in 20 minutes. It had to be done.

LEGO Winter Village car repairs

At 6am on 23rd December, 5 of us arrived at the Walk-In Centre wearing assorted pyjamas, day clothes and Winter jackets, complete with (maternal duties ticked off well here I feel) a toilet roll and 2 sick bowls, and a bottle of water each (no sharing).

They tutted a bit. Well, you would. We waited our turn and the adults were dealt with first. I will never forget the kind words of the nurse in the walk-in centre. She examined me, put her hand on my arm and said "You are very poorly". I politely said "Thank you" and cried a lot. She brought me tablets and water, and I had to take them immediately because my brain was on fire. I'm pretty sure that was the problem anyway.

I sat on a poorly person chair and the nurse explained that we all had flu. Ah yes, flu. That casual word that slips off the tongue when you have a cough and feel a bit crap. My partner had to go straight to hospital, but my 21 year old was okay. I was not okay, but also had a chest infection, which could be treated.

I was told in super serious tones that I must not go to hospital because I was too ill. My 21 year old offered to take my partner. It wasn't a planned outing, so that turned out to be very complicated. It involved downloading apps. because none of us had any cash and it's 2019, so there's an app. for everything.

WChristmas Winter lEGO Village footballing snowman

My youngest was okay except for waxy, sore ears. My vomity 10 year old was not okay. He was sent to North Manchester Children's Hospital. Ahhh. Now we had an almost impossible situation. The only remaining local relative was my 19 year old daughter, who couldn't drive, had spent the night at her boyfriends's house miles away and was due to go to work.

I didn't have any solutions and they could tell, even before I put my head on the table and sobbed. It was arranged for me to take him to the local hospital - where his Dad and brother already were. I was not to mix with other patients, and they'd ring ahead and explain how ill I was and that I shouldn't be there.

When we arrived at the hospital my partner had already been taken through and was likely to be admitted, but my 21 year old said he'd stay until he found out for sure. As good as their word, my 10 year old was seen by triage and a paediatrician well within half an hour of arriving.

Hallelujah. He was allowed to go home and go back if he hadn't improved next day.

LEGO Winter Village carol singers

Thankfully I'd been able to collect my antibiotics at the Walk-In Centre, but I still had a list. Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, olive oil, rehydrating powders, more toilet rolls. My adrenaline was running out now, I wanted to go to bed. And maybe cry and feel sorry for myself for a few seconds first if I had the energy.

We'd been up for what seemed like several days already, but it was Sunday and I was 20 minutes too early for the supermarket and Chemist. 20 minutes was hours and I wouldn't be able to sit there and wait it out. Darn you Sunday opening.

The little Tesco was our saviour. Not only were they open, they had paracetamol and ibuprofen for grown ups and children, and toilet rolls. They also had a single turkey crown, which I grabbed as we went past the fridges. My 8 year old had 5 quid's worth of twice-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil for his ears. It had a very fancy bottle. My 10 year old had to make do with rehydrating powders that smelled of tea from our camping kit at home.

When people talk about hitting the wall, I think what I'd done was hit and cling on by sheer friction until the last moment I needed to, because the moment we arrived home was when I became more ill than ever in my life. The previous 2 days were an extended kip compared to the rest of my Sunday, and the irony was, I should have probably gone to hospital.

LEGO Winter Village at night

I had been assessed and sent home by medical professionals, so none of my children were worried that I couldn't make it to the toilet and back without passing out. They had no concerns over my dysentery level stomach illness. I woke up many times sitting in various locations, (usually the bathroom) leaning over the massive sick bowl which stank of bleach.

My 21 year old returned home at some point and I distinctly remember him telling me my partner was on Oxygen, and me filing that for when I could understand what it meant.

In the early evening, just like in a movie, my fever broke and when I woke up, I actually woke up. I also understood entirely what 'on Oxygen' meant, and rang the hospital, followed by my partner's parents, and the remaining big kids, who were all coming the next day for Christmas. One of them is at uni in London and was staying overnight with their elderly Grandparents, who could not risk catching flu. None of this was the plan.

LEGO Winter Village Policeman and dogs

Christmas magic started to weave it's web. We all started to recover. The antibiotics were doing their job, I could breathe again. The temperatures had peaked and were falling, and the Extra Virgin olive oil was brilliant for egg butties for those who felt up for eating. We all slept a lot better that night.

Christmas Eve morning we were all shattered and resigned to no real Christmas. We hadn't got anything ready, we weren't hungry and none of us even wanted to watch a movie. I did still need to keep tabs on my partner though.

My partner was in hospital alone and unable to even get out of bed. Our lack of contact was seen as a lack of concern, or that our 10 year old must be suffering. He was worried and also painfully aware that Christmas wasn't going to happen. He was also really poorly.

In our haste to go to the Walk-In Centre my partner had left behind his phone and pretty much everything else. He had nothing. When he was admitted to hospital he wasn't entirely coherent and they'd asked him if he had any valuables. He felt he should say something, so his reply was "my jacket is quite expensive". His 'jacket' is really just a cardi.

Some of the staff, who knew nothing about him, took this information at face value and coupled with the fact no-one visited, believed him to be itinerant. They were utterly lovely to him. Personally I'll never let him live it down.

LEGO Winter Village baker with doughnuts

I spoke to a nurse on his ward, who told me he should be discharged by bedtime. It was a huge relief. We might not do anything special, but at least we'd all be out of hospital. I knew he didn't have any money, and I wasn't feeling able to drive, so said I could pay for a taxi when he got here. This proved to be ridiculously complicated and involved sending my 21 year old to the cash machine with my card to get cash - I was now well enough to know I didn't want any more bloody apps.

My 21 year old was feeling a bit better and a brisk run to the cash machine had perked him up even more. He offered to go and get some food. We were 3 days overdue our 'big Christmas food shop' and pretty much out of everything, including toilet rolls. This was beyond my wildest dreams.

He took my youngest with him and they walked to the supermarket. I'd given him a list of possible items that might be left in a supermarket at 3pm on Christmas Eve, and my cash card. They came back with Christmas. Just like a real Hollywood blockbuster, my partner was returning from hospital in his taxi and passed them, both smiling away with their backpacks and bags full of treasure, and an 18 roll pack of quilted luxury.

Christmas LEGO Village tree stall

The hospital paid for my partner's taxi. It was only when he was getting into it and the driver asked which homeless shelter he wanted, that he realised why he'd spent a day and a half being asked unusual questions by people concerned for his welfare.

Our big kids can all make a mean curry, and have mastered pasta sauce and stir fry, but Christmas dinner was well out of the comfort zone. Two of them offered to do veg and veggie, and the only meat eating big kid took on that turkey crown which fortune had placed in my way the morning before. The plan was afoot.

Christmas LEGO Village Pretzel stall

We all went to bed really early on Christmas Eve, and we did remember the mince pie for Santa, which was a miracle in itself. My partner and I now had the job of not only staying up, but creating Christmas gifts out of thin air.

We basically opened every cupboard and box we could think of and took out anything new. If re-gifting was an art form, we cracked it. I split up the gifts I'd bought my partner, he split mine, and we padded everyone's stockings with fruit and sweets. It looked pretty good in the end.

Then we wrapped. We wrapped everything we absolutely had to, which didn't even include presents for our 19 year old who was sleeping overnight at their Grandparent's house, and we both shed a little tear that we'd managed it. We were asleep by midnight. Good job because otherwise we might just have spotted Santa.

LEGO Winter Village mum with train set

Christmas morning was just awe that it had come together. I don't think anyone really cared too much about what they were opening, although we did score a couple of huge surprise wins. All that grinning was exhausting, and I had to bow out mid-morning for a small 3 hour nap. My partner took 5.

When I woke up I had the most amazing moment of all. Dinner was in the oven and the big kids were scared, but confident. By the time I woke my partner, it was to invite him down to a fabulous Christmas dinner feast, and a visit from his son, without compromising his Grandparent's health.

It was not the Christmas we anticipated, but it was beyond our wildest dreams. I don't want to do it again though...

My partner's parents rearranged and visited a few days later.

I hope that whatever life throws at you, you have the best Christmas you possibly can.

And I hope that you have taken away a message from this post. All your loved ones really need for Christmas, is you - well.

A huge thank you to every member of the NHS who gave up part of their Christmas with their family, to look after me and mine. Thank you for being there, and thank you to everyone who works this Christmas. I hope I see none of you. 


  1. The NHS are amazing as is your family lovely. xxx

  2. Oh Jenny... I knew you all were poorly but I had no idea it was this bad. I have something in my eye...
    I hope Christmas 2019 is happy, and above all, healthy for all of you.

  3. Aww! This is such a heartwarming post.
    Bless you all! It sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas, all rallying around despite the illness. Let's hope you have a Christmas with no illness this year x

  4. Kudos to the kids for looking after you guys and saving Christmas. You were so crazy ill, glad you are all back on track though and can celebrate properly this year - stay away from people with colds etc! Sim xx

  5. You know, I'm so behind this year, nothing is wrapped, haven't even bought a lot, food shop will be Mon or Tue but I know it'll come together with a few late nights between then and now! I can't imagine what you went through last year, how poorly you must have all been feeling but love your big kids for pulling together and making the day as special as it could have been. It's only as I'm writing this I realise the comments above me were written last week - before the latest incident to hit your family - which I'm sure will haunt Christmas day to some extent but I know your wonderful strong family will plod on and make the most out of the day, enjoying it to fullest despite the recent sadness. Wishing you all a fantastic day!! xxxx


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