We drove to Sydney on Christmas Eve to stay at a hotel on the beach. We hadn't been to this particular hotel for a while but it used to be a favourite with my husband and I before we had kids. It always seemed the height of luxury, with lovely rooms overlooking the ocean. Well, maybe it was ritzy ten or more years ago. But I don't think they've done any refurbishment since then! Our room was disappointingly shabby with threadbare carpets and smelled funny. The kids' beds were blocking the door to one of the tiny balconies so I'm sure it wasn't originally a "family" room. The available balcony overlooked the dingy backyards of local restaurants, full of rubbish bins and cardboard boxes. Yet it was still as expensive as we remembered!
However, we tried to ignore all that and concentrate on Christmas cheer. We put up our little travelling tree and then the kids went for a swim in the rooftop pool while we grownups read in the deck chairs, enjoying the ocean-scented breeze and (finally) an amazing view. Then a walk along the beach-front to a nice restaurant and back to try to settle the excited children for sleep.
Of course all being in the one room meant that we had to turn off the lights so the kids could sleep, yet my husband and I had to stay awake to put out the presents once the kids were asleep. And put them under the tree in almost pitch-darkness. But finally we were allowed to go to bed. I slept very poorly, excited about Christmas (honestly, I'm as bad as the kids) but also kept awake/repeatedly woken by the revellers shouting and breaking bottles under our window, the garbage truck doing its rounds at 3:15 am (on Christmas morning!) and AGAIN at about 6:00 am.
But finally it was time to get up and open our presents! Yay! We all got lots of things; books and music and jewellery and computer stuff mostly. We bought Aiden a proper drum kit but the car was packed even without it so we just wrapped the drumsticks and left the rest at home. Buffet breakfast at the hotel (a bit lacklustre) then off to Tim's brother's place for big family lunch.
It was lovely to see everyone and share lunch to which everyone contributed, and play with my baby niece who is 9 months old now and very cuddly. Then my kids got to play Santa's helpers and hand out all the presents under the tree. I did have a bit of a disappointment at this point. I got a book from my father-in-law and a massage gift voucher from my brother & sister-in-law, but the rest do a Secret Santa, spending quite a lot of money on the one person, and I didn't receive anything. The person who was supposed to buy for me had a premature baby a few weeks ago (or rather his wife did) and he apologised and said he hadn't had time. Of course I said I understood, and I did. But still. There was no offer of getting me something later, or money to chose myself something or anything. A bit of a downer to get nothing when the kids are piling up stacks to the roof (they still get presents from everyone). His wife also didn't get anything for her recipient. I don't want to seem petty, of course I do understand, but it was a bit of a sad moment during the present orgy.
So, anyway, then off to see my mum and take her to her father's (Poppa is still going strong at 95) for Christmas dinner. Lucky I like turkey! More food, chatting with family, more presents for the kids, three toddlers running around, my cousins who are all younger than me suddenly seeming like adults now they're mostly married with kids, my aunts in the kitchen all evening as usual, rubbishy Christmas crackers with junky "prizes" and stupid jokes inside, Poppa spending forever trying to set up his DVD show us a video of my cousin's engagement party. Good times.
Another, different hotel near my Poppa's - a fairly new building and so much nicer! Really lovely. And an amazing breakfast buffet. I had a special treat of two glasses of freshly squeezed juice, nothing like stuff from a bottle!
We went back to my mum's and helped her with the housework. She is not feeling as tired as she had been, now she's been on the medication for a week, but is finding walking and standing painful and difficult. She still doing her own shopping, and is worried about losing her independence. She spends most of the time lying down. Hopefully if the pills shrink the tumours in her hips it will help with walking.
Then back to my brother-in-law's for Boxing Day BBQ lunch - it is my father-in-law's birthday on Boxing Day so we always all get back together again. Then we all went to see "The Hobbit part two: The Desolation of Smaug" - in two shifts so there was always someone to look after the children. Great movie! Leftovers for dinner and we stayed at my brother-in-law's overnight.
Have I mentioned the spare-room bed there yet? My sister-in-law's parents chose it when they were staying for about 9 months, visiting from China. It looks comfortable enough, a huge thing that takes up the entire room and is much higher than a normal bed. Looks soft, right? The first time I climbed onto it I thought I had bruised my knees. When we travelled in China we found all the beds, even in the Western-style hotels, horribly hard, and this one follows that pattern. Good for your back, they say. But I honestly think decently-thick carpet would be more comfortable.
Friday a smaller family group assembled and we played some games, a relaxing morning after all the bustle of Christmas, then we did the "car tetris - advanced level" challenge, packing everything in somehow and set out for the long drive home. Overall it was a lovely few days. But so nice to be home in my own bed!
This morning I weighed 82 kg, up half a kg (1 pound) and went for a 1 hour walk before it got too hot. I didn't overeat at mealtimes but I did have quite a few unhealthy snacks in between. Back to normal eating and regular exercise!