It was Christmas Eve, about 7pm. All was ready. We had been to the pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk at the Torch Theatre, we'd laughed and we'd found that little spark of Christmas magic.
We had sprinkled sparkly reindeer food on the driveway to show Santa where to land. We had even added extra peanuts as it was extra cold and there was snow on the ground. We had set up at tray for Santa with a mince pie, carrots for the reindeer and a tot of brandy to keep out the cold. H8 and R7 had written their thank you notes and added some home made fudge to the plate of treats too.
We were logging on to the internet to find the NORAD site and track Santa's progress around the globe. He was busy delivering presents in Pakistan.
There was a sound at the door, boots stamping off snow. Santa? No, Daddy.
"Girls, go in the dining room with Mummy," he called hefting a large box through the door. We all fled back into the dining room where the computer showed Santa had moved on to Kurdistan or Kazakhstan or Astrakhan or somewhere.
Brian came in with the big box, placed it on the floor and said: "I've brought you a little visitor."
We peered in. The contents of the box peered back.
"Awww," we said.
He's a Jack Schnauzer, or in other words, his mum was a Jack Russell and his dad was a miniature Schnauzer. We have called him Scamp because he is one.
I have to admit when I first saw the box I thought it was new hens as we have a new coop. Hens would have been less trouble. I am very much in the 'a dog is for life not for Christmas' camp and Brian, quite rightly, thought I would be furious. I was, but only a little. It was an accident of timing and not Scamp's fault that he arrived on this planet eight weeks before the festive season. He is the right puppy at possibly the wrong time but that's easy to forgive.
That's not his present.
He's a total live wire. The life and soul of the party. Until he's tired.
We are getting used to him and he's getting used to us. He likes Uncle Mido, our big dog, but Mido's a bit bouncy for such a little pup so mostly they're together when Mido's in his dog pen and Scamp is annoying him from outside it. It is like having a baby again, or possibly a toddler boy. He's quite destructive, into everything all the time and not yet sleeping through the night. He isn't potty trained yet either and has the charming habit, while I'm sitting at the computer writing this, of gnawing on my new slippers. He's a Scamp!
Me: "I'll just get you a cardigan and then you can put it into your bag and if you DO get cold then you can put it on."
R7: "Okay Mum."
This was this morning before school which is a Christmas party and non-uniform day. R7 has a pretty top that she got with her birthday vouchers. She doesn't want to spoil it with a cardigan. I had already sent her upstairs for a vest. She has a chesty cough and isn't eating very well since she had The Bug last week. I'm fussing.
It reminds me of Claire Rayner who said: "A cardigan is what a child wears when its mother feels the cold."
Wise words indeed for a wise woman who sadly died in October. She wished her last words to be: "Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I'll come back and bloody haunt him."
I wonder what she would think of this blog post by Chris Stovell about her mother's recent experience of NHS treatment (please read it if you haven't already).
David Cameron had better hurry up and fix the NHS. I should think by now that Mrs Rayner has rounded up a whole army of potential haunters should he fail.
It's got to that time of year when the weeks rush past as if just weekends and the weekends are so busy they're like weeks.
A brief resume.
The bluebells arrived (pictured). Four chatty ladies with fluffy blue (ish) feathers to fill Mum's new hen house with cackles and squawks and big brown eggs.
Then H8 had a tummy bug, the fast and furious sort which woke all of us up at 1am on Saturday and provided more cleaning and laundry duties than I would wish for the wee small hours. She was ill for the rest of the night and Brian manfully offered to stay up with her so at least one of us could get some sleep. At 3am the battery went in the smoke alarm and between tending to H8 he fetched the clanky metal ladder, climbed to the highest point of the house and fixed it. R7 and I slept through it all.
On Saturday morning R7 and I went off to a coffee morning in aid of St Meilyr's Church, Llysyfran, and to launch its new website built by Lindsay who hosted the event in her lovely home with her partner Jon and various members of their wider family.
In the afternoon R7 and I met up with Lins again and her wider family at Linda Norris's gallery for a glass Christmas decoration making workshop. Linda is an incredibly talented artist and this workshop was for making pretty things from fused glass which turned out to be easy, relaxing and highly addictive. We're picking up the results on Wednesday when H8 will get her turn as she missed it on Saturday.
When R7 and I got home Brian had finished the ironing I've been putting off for a month (ahem, at least) and he had done the rest of the week's washing too, which was all dried, folded and put away. He had vacuumed the house, fed and watered all of the animals and then cooked dinner. I think I'll keep him.
Sunday's long run is usually just me and my iPod but this time I was joined by Lins' cousin Tracy and her daughter Louise. Tracy is has run marathons (London, New Zealand) and has a sub-two hour half marathon PB. Louise, like me, has run the Cardiff half, so I was in good company. It was very icy, particularly on the highest part of the route which led me to compare us to Bambi on ice. Tracy, however, was referencing the skating hippos from Fantasia. Hmm. They are two lovely people and it was terrific fun despite the conditions. It really made me think that I must find myself some regular training companions.
In the afternoon, H8 being much recovered, we went to Haverfordwest to retrieve R7's favourite hat from M&S lost property and buy a Christmas tree. Bri muttered a bit about the cost of the tree (five feet of glorious Nordmann fir) but he stopped at the sight of the girls skipping happily ahead singing: "We've got the Christmas tree" over and over in happy little voices.
We then went into Pets R Us (as I prefer to call it) and cooed over the new batch of baby guinea pigs. We're all a bit besotted with GPs (I used to breed and show them). Unfortunately we haven't the room for more or we'd have lots (I once had 28) and we can't (at the moment) afford a bigger GP house. Although I did check with our two boy GPs when we got home and they said they could find room for a couple of lady pigs. Naughty boys. Maybe one day...
In a week where everywhere has snow except here, white, the subject of this week's Gallery at Tara's Sticky Fingers blog, was a difficult one. Yes we've got frost but not the wall to wall white some places are subject to.
Instead I give you a wave crashing on to Chesil Beach in July.
My two have been a little unenthusiastic about writing to Santa this year. In fact they were getting me quite worried with their reticence.
"We trust Santa to get us some nice surprises," said H8 with heavy emphasis on the 'trust' bit. Hmm.
R7 accompanied her sister with an enigmatic smile.
Then yesterday two jolly envelopes arrived with the postman (stoically on foot as our driveway still resembles the Cresta run), one for each girl, postmarked Lapland. They were intrigued.
In it Santa told them he had lovely surprises for them and their friends, who were named, and that he knew about our chimney and was looking forward to whooshing down it on Christmas Eve.
"How does Santa know about my best friend?" said R7 wide-eyed. Best friends are quite changeable at this age and Santa knew the current favourite.
I am definitely coming to your house on Christmas Eve, wrote Santa in H8's letter, is there something you would like me to bring for you? Now let's see, you have a nice wide chimney so I can whoosh down into the fireplace without getting stuck.
H8 was very impressed indeed with that. We have an enormous Cimne Fawr. So that's how he's been getting in all these years.
You'll have a lovely surprise on Christmas Day, he added in R7's letter. When children make a special Christmas wish the wind brings their wishes all the way to the North Pole and whispers those wishes in my ear.
They were quietly thrilled with that. We always put their letters to Santa in the wood burner and send them to the North Pole using the medium of fire, sending the words on the wind as smoke. Obviously our method of communication works.
The got out paper and pens and wrote letters back to Santa.
Thank you for all of my presents over the years, wrote H8.
How did you know about my best friend? asked R7 (who still can't get her head round that one.)
So through the medium of the internet I would just like to record a colossal Christmas-sparkly thank you to Santa (and to his little helper) for a lovely bit of Christmas magic.
I'm late with this week's Gallery again. The theme was celebration and we had a celebration of our own to do - R6's seventh birthday.
I considered pictures of that - kids, balloons and cake - but decided against it. The photograph below makes me think of celebration. It was taken on September 1st 2008 - the last day of the school holidays. We had just endured six weeks of rainy summer holidays and finally - finally - out came the sun and we went to the beach.
What you have is H8 - then aged six - flinging herself into the sea in one glorious celebratory splash.
As an aside, this was R's birthday cake from yesterday's celebration:
I can't remember how many horse-shaped cakes I have made now - at least four. This is a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing and marzipan flowers. By the time the girls move on from ponies to boys I might be in the realms of life-like equine sculpture in the medium of fudge - or possibly not...