Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

We have just returned from another really lovely break at Center Parcs.

This time, we wanted to experience the Winter Wonderland they do each year, as the first part of our build-up to Christmas.

We had booked plenty of lovely Christmassy activities for Lilly to do, including Christmas pottery painting, a Santa and Snowman hunt and a Frosty the Snowman art session which involved lots of glitter and Christmas stickers!

Lilly enjoying the 'Frosty the Snowman' art session

The weather at Whinfell Forest (Cumbria) was fabulous for the whole week – it only rained the day we left. The rest of the time it was crisp and sunny – perfect.

We were very excited to hear that there was going to be a fireworks display on the second night at 5.30pm – conveniently timed before the girls’ bedtimes, which is usually about 6.30pm. It is only this year that Lilly has recovered from her total and utter terror of fireworks – in fact on November 5th Lilly actually ventured out into the neightbourhood with daddy to admire the fireworks… even the really loud ones! But this was her first proper display.

We had such a tiring day on the Tuesday – starting with pottery painting in the morning. Lilly chose to paint a snowman, a stocking and a Father Christmas shaped ornament for the tree. Technically there should have been a lot of red and white involved… but I think Lilly considered white a little bit too boring to paint much of – so snowman ended up with a red face and Santa’s beard is a very attractive mix of purple and green! But they do look rather lovely all the same – and once again I was so impressed with how delicate and detailed she can be when she tries!

In the afternoon we’d gone swimming – which can be a bit of a military procedure with two little ones at the best of times. Everytime we have taken Isla swimming (on all our three previous visits to Center Parcs with her) she has hated it, where Lilly has always loved it. I think Isla has found it a bit of an overwhelming, noisy and hot experience. And at first when we took her in she was upset again and grizzly. So I sat with her in the baby pool and she sat on the edge with her feet in, playing happily with a bucket and a watering can for a while. Once she had acclimatised to the environment we tried taking her into the big pool – and this time, she actually seemed to quite like it! In fact, after a little while, she was giggling! It was a major breakthrough!

Lilly’s favourite thing about the pool as always was going round the ‘rapids’ and dodging the water sprays (she calls the big one Mr Sprayer and the little one Mrs Sprayer!) She also liked swimming outside – which was rather cold, I must say!

After the swimming we were all exhausted so decided to get a bite to eat in the village square instead of going home for tea and coming out again for the fireworks. It was a great plan (although an expensive one) – I was way too knackered to cook after all that exercise – and the timing was just perfect as the fireworks display started not long after we finished eating.

The display was brilliant – and all set to Christmas music. Watching Lilly’s face was the best thing for me – she was totally in awe of what she was seeing. Isla even tolerated the first few fireworks but once they started getting noisier she got upset and Tony took her back to the lodge. As Lilly and I walked home afterwards in the dark she was talking ten to the dozen about what she’d seen and what a “fantabulous” day she’d had. Such a wonderful thing.

Isla is chuffed after doing a slide all by herself for the very first time!

During the week we did plenty of walking and took in all the soft play areas Whinfell has to offer. Isla climbed up and slid down a slide all by herself for the very first time – and was pleased as punch with herself as a result! It then meant that she got a little bit overconfident and wanted to follow Lilly into the ‘big girls” area of the soft play – which meant that I once again found myself six months preggers and flying down numerous ‘tunnel slides’ and crawling through too-tight spaces to rescue a child who was stuck!

We also took part in the Santa and Snowman hunt which involved following a trail to find a series of Christmas related questions which we had to answer (some of them quite hard: name all of Santa’s reindeers being one of them… we *may* have had to google this…) At the end an elf gave Lilly a little prize for taking part and all the entries were entered into a draw… which we only won! We had a phonecall later on to tell us that Lilly had won a teddy making session and we took her up to the Time Out Clubhouse where she chose a tiger toy, was helped to stuff it and then picked an outfit to dress it in. Being totally mad on soft toys this couldn’t have been better for Lilly!

Lilly cuddles up with 'Amelia', the tiger she stuffed herself after winning the Santa and Snowman Hunt

There were, of course, some stressful moments – Isla is at that stage where she only wants to walk and refuses to go in her pushchair. The only problem being, she doesn’t neccessarily want to walk in the same direction as everyone else and is rather prone to falling! Lilly moaned a lot because we didn’t get her a bike, and is possibly the world’s slowest dawdler at the best of times. And Isla was a little bit scared of the jet planes and Chinook which were practicing their flying overhead… although I loved them, I must say. Hubby wasn’t very happy because the nearest place to park the car while unloading was a fair trek from our lodge. But all in all I would say this trip has to go down in my memory as our best trip to Center Parcs yet – and we’ve now been seven times (Elveden twice, Sherwood once, Whinfell four times)!

But of course the main event of the whole week was saved for the afternoon of our last full day – a trip to see Father Christmas. Wewere all really impressed with it… Father Christmas was very authentic and really lovely – it melted our hearts to see Lilly so happily chatting away to him while so obviously in awe! She asked him for a surprise – and he promised her he had “just the thing in mind” for her, before asking her what Isla would like – “erm, I think a baby toy” Lilly suggested. She was also very eager to tell Father Christmas that she had made a snowglobe with his picture in it at the art workshop. And Father Christmas asked the girls to leave out a carrot for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Then he gave the girls a gift each – a cuddly horse for Isla and a cuddly cow for Lilly. This AMAZED Lilly as she had been asking for a cuddly cow a few weeks ago – and Isla goes crazy for horses. So it just goes to show: He knows, you know.

Meeting Santa's reindeers

Our other holiday highlights included:

  • Isla saying “wack wacks” to all the ducks – first time she’s done this
  • Isla’s giggling when she, Lilly and I all went down a ‘tunnel slide’ together
  • Isla giggling as we went round the rapids and Lilly’s hysterics at being splashed by “mrs sprayer” as we went
  • Lilly’s insistence that she kept seeing a badger “I saw a badger! He was climbing a tree!!” and later, “I saw another badger, on the roof of that house!”
  • Discovering a ‘secret’ play area that we never knew was there before – it’s above Cafe Rouge, for anyone who wonders…

So yes, we’re still big Center Parcs fans. And no, this isn’t a sponsored post! And it is so strange to think the next time we visit, there will be three children… yikes! And that this could potentially be the last time we’ll be visiting in term time… ouch!!

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Last year we took part in Operation Christmas Child for the first time.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this appeal, basically you fill a shoebox with presents and useful items for a child somewhere in the world who is otherwise likely to go without, wrap it in Christmas paper and the charity Samaritan’s Purse will deliver it to those in need. It is something we feel really captures the true spirit of Christmas and is also a really good way to remind our children just how fortunate they are to have all the toys they have, and all the basic essentials of life right on tap.

This year, like last, Lilly and I went on a special trip to the supermarket, armed with our Operation Christmas Child leaflet, to get all the goodies we were going to need to fill it with lovely treats. Although Lilly was only 2 (nearly 3) when we did this last year, we quite often still talk about the “little girl in another country who hasn’t got many toys” and how we sent her a Christmas present last year, so she does still remember. Now, at nearly four, Lilly was really excited to buy the little girl some more presents, and started off by saying: “I will send her one of my toys because I am going to share with her!”

Off we went around the supermarket picking up some crayons, a colouring book, stickers etc… we also bought some toothpaste and a toothbrush (which Lilly insisted had to be the same as hers at home), some bracelets, bangles and other girly things.

Of course Lilly did quite often say: “Can I have one of those too?” so I kept reminding her how many toys and things she had, and how the little girl didn’t have many at all. She was allowed a set of stickers though!

I couldn’t quite get everything I wanted to in the supermarket – I wanted a little dolly and something cuddly which I had to pick up on a seperate trip, but we got everything in the end… so here is our finished effort…

To anyone who hasn’t done this before, I would really recommend it as a lovely, very visual way to introduce the concept of charity and giving to young children. Not only that but it teaches them that Christmas isn’t all about receiving, it’s about thinking of others and being generous and kind to.

It is obviously something that sticks in children’s minds for quite a while, which is great. And, if you donate the £2.50 postage fee online, Samaritan’s Purse will email you to tell you exactly where your shoebox ended up, so you can remind your little one about the little girl or boy they helped at Christmas time.

I very much hope that taking part in worthwhile charity efforts like this will help to develop my children’s kindness, generosity and consideration for others. And we only had one minor meltdown when I showed Lilly the little cuddly dog I bought to go in the box: “I wanted to keeeeeepppp himmmmm” she sobbed…

But then again, she is only three 😉

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Among the many qualities I hope to instil in my children is a charitable spirit, consideration for the feelings of others, kindness and a willingness to do nice things for other people just ‘because’.

So I was excited this year to take part in Operation Christmas Child with Lilly for the first time.

The idea is simple: You donate a shoebox of fun toys and useful items and Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organisation which runs Operation Christmas Child, delivers them to children who would otherwise go without at Christmas.

Amidst all the excitement of Christmas preparations in our house, the debating of whether to buy Lilly this present or that present and the inevitable decision to buy them both (!) this is a great way for adults and children alike to be reminded that not everyone is as fortunate as we are.

So, after explaining to Lilly what we were going to do – buy some Christmas presents for a little girl like her, but who lives a long way away and who does not have any toys, we set off to Asda to look for suitable gifts. On the way, Lilly decided that the little girl we were buying for was called Jill (after listening to Jack & Jill Went up the Hill) and we chatted a little bit about ‘Jill’ and how happy she would be that she would get some presents at Christmas from Lilly.

We took our shoebox into the supermarket to make sure what we were buying would fit, and we referred to the instructions Operation Christmas Child leaflet to make sure we were buying the right kinds of gifts.

The advice is to include something from each of the following four categories: 

Toys e.g. bear, soft toy, tennis ball, finger puppet, jigsaw, yo-yo…

Educational Supplies e.g. felt pens, pencils, colouring book, picture or puzzle book, chalk, stickers…

Hygiene Items e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hairclips, soap, flannel…

Other e.g. sweets, gloves, sunglasses, hat, bangles, necklace…

We had a good look around and Lilly made a few (inappropriate) suggestions before we settled on some plasticine with shape cutters, a mini My Little Pony, a teddy bear (toys); crayons and a colouring pad (educational supplies), toothbrush and toothpaste (hygiene items) and a packet of jellybeans (other).

Back home and it was time to wrap and decorate the box.

Lilly helped by applying (lots) of glue to the outside so that I could stick down the Christmas paper, and then by drawing inside the boxes to make them look pretty too. Then we packed the stuff inside and included a photo of Lilly and Isla with “Happy Christmas from Lilly and Isla in England xx” written on the back.

Now all we have to do is drop it off at nursery before the deadline (which is fast approaching, by the way, if you want to take part too), and then once Christmas gets a little nearer I will remind Lilly about our box and about ‘Jill’, and we’ll also talk about her on Christmas day too, so that Lilly can imagine her opening the gift we sent. I haven’t had a proper look yet but there are some videos on the Operation Christmas Child website which I might show her so that she can understand.

Lilly is still a little young to properly understand what this is all about, and I think it is currently beyond her comprehension that other children don’t live exactly the same kind of life as her, let alone have to go without the things she takes for granted. But it’s never too soon for her to learn to be considerate and caring towards others and I’m sure we have both got a lot out of taking part in this really worthwhile appeal.

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