Yes, December - and time to have a quick sort through the children's toys and see which ones need to go. Its usually a fairly fruitless exercise, despite sometimes being the case that the toy in question hasn't been touched for six months or more. That was the situation with Matthew's train set which, in response to a suggestion that it might go off to the next car boot sale, was played with daily for a whole week, with the track eventually covering almost all of the living room and dining room floor. Very noisy when all eight engines were running at the same time.
In the end, we probably set aside a dozen or so small toys - but then the kids promptly started winning more back at the various Christmas Fairs they attended - school, Beavers, Brownies. The school one came first and featured the school choir, sorry Glee Club, singing a selection of Christmas Carols.
Matthew and Cassandra have both been involved this term and seem to have enjoyed it. As well as performing at school, they also went out on tour - doing an hour at the local Tesco supermarket and another hour at one of the large old folks' home near the school both of which seemed to go down well.
They also both got a chance to sing as part of the school's Christmas Show, about how a group of mice helped to foil a robbery at a Victorian school. A curious story but it worked reasonably well.
Here's Cassandra performing her song as a mouse. She'd been worried during rehearsals that she was going to be at the back and not be seen but she did manage to get front and centre in the end...
Matthew, on the other hand, was on stage quite a bit more - but was always in a mixed group and it was difficult to get a good photo. Instead, here's the grand finale of the show. You can see Matthew nice and clearly at the start but he's quickly obscured by loads of other kids streaming onto the stage to join in.
Our decorations inside and outside the house were the same as always with the nodding reindeer on the front lawn greeting all our visitors and passers by, and the kids wouldn't let us forget to throw some reindeer dust out to attract the real reindeer...
It seemed to work as next morning the house was awash with Christmas Goodies. We had intended to travel up to Chris's folks over Christmas but Mary hasn't been well so we went for the next best thing and set up a video link so that they could watch the kids unwrapping their presents. We've done the same with Megan's Mum and Alan for the last few years too so this year we needed to roll-out both laptops and keep our fingers crossed that our broadband connection could cope with two calls at the same time. Actually, it worked a treat - and at one stage we even turned the laptops to face each other so that the grandparents could have a bit of a catch-up too.
Here's a flavour of what they saw - the kids opening their 'big' presents...
Well, it didn't really matter that the weather was rubbish for the next few days as the lego building started immediately and seem to go on for days and days. Matthew could barely lift the instruction book for his Death Star model and you can see it took up most of the dining table.
Cassandra's on the other hand was made up of lots of small sections which could each be made independently.
We did have a break in construction for lunch - although we shared our table with a Lego snowman that Chris had made...
... but after a short walk to the park and back for some fresh air it was straight back to it. Here's Matthew's model at the end of the first day...
Despite managing to stay in bed on Christmas Day until about 7am, it was a little after 5.30am when Matthew woke up on Boxing Day ready to carry on building.
By Day 3, Matthew enlisted the help of Darth Maul and his Lego Crane to help get the main laser dish into position.
... and by Day 4 most of the other accessories were in place, including Darth Vader's Tie Fighter.
It was finally finished on the fifth day. Phew.
All this time, Cassandra was happily enjoying her Lego Friends sets - with the girls enjoying a different activity each day, like a visit to the cafe, the riding school, ...
... and enjoying a pop concert.
We caught up with the rest of the family briefly over Christmas with a flying visit up north but were back down south in time for New Year. Matthew was properly determined to stay up until midnight this year and almost managed it but crashed on the sofa at around 11.30pm. We actually woke him at midnight, which he appreciated, but his catnap then meant he didn't get back to sleep until gone 1am. Ah well. Happy New Year.