Niddler Christmas Letter – 2016

Howdy!

Gosh, that’s all a bit American isn’t it? Well, it may have only been the last 2.5 months, but they’ve had quite an impact on our family – we’ve had American refugees from Trump lodgers staying with us! We got to know Ryan & Elizabeth through church this last year, and they needed somewhere to stay for the last few months in the UK while Elizabeth finished her masters course.

We jumped at the chance – as they’re both amazingly good fun, and it proved to be a very successful time – although it did mean that Lizzie wept when they left, as she was so attached to them (the rest of us were misty-eyed). We fully intend to see them again… guess we’ll just have to make the trip to California (and see her parents, who are amazing too, and our other friends out there!).

Starting from the end

Well, as we seem to have started at the other end of the year, why don’t we work backwards this time...

Other than the lodgers (with whom we had several adventures, including a trip to London to see the lights [shown above]), the end of the year was (as ever!) filled with a craft sale to raise money for CAP – Anna worked her socks off to make things (flamingos were very ‘in’ this year, and she had to make a load more than she expected) but in a break from the norm, Matthew joined in and made some pom-poms, but not just any pom-pom… but Pokéball pom-poms – which proved VERY popular! He’s also got into Pokémon-Go just a little bit – he insists it’s a way of getting Lizzie out doing some exercise, but it seems he’s rather enjoying “helping”, even at times when she’s not interested!

Probably Lizzie’s highlight of the year was going to see The Next Step Live at Portsmouth Guildhall – it’s fair to say she was incredibly excited, which became stratospheric when she learned that her father had paid extra for a special encounter (“her love was available for purchase, and I’m buying” he said, [mis]quoting West Wing) which gave her a signed poster and a photo with the stars – you didn’t get to properly meet them, but through a bit of sneakiness and good timing (everyone else was looking the other way) she ran up and got a hug from Jordan Clark – her favourite member of the team. We were all there strictly for her benefit, definitely none of us (including Grandma – who had the good sense to take her hearing aids out) screamed, cheered or was entertained – speaking of screaming, when a theatre full of pre-teens all scream at the same time, it’s quite an experience!

The summer

Well, we had quite a summer this year, with 7 weeks of school holidays to fill Anna had a real challenge keeping Lizzie entertained and not exhausting herself. We rounded the summer off with a trip to Beaulieu for their annual petrol-head weekend – Lizzie is totally converted, and absolutely loved seeing the cars, hearing the engines and even getting a photo-op with The Stig! Now she is much better at telling the difference between a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and an MX5 – you can imagine what she’s more likely to see on the roads, and previously they were all Ferraris!

We had an absolutely smashing time camping in Matthew’s uncle’s orchard with his uncle’s daughter’s family – Lizzie in particular enjoyed the freedom of being able to run around with wide limits and 3 energetic boys!

While Matthew was working Anna and Lizzie had various adventures on their own, including going to New Wine for the first time, driving Anna’s new car to Shropshire to visit her sister, and Lizzie had her very first summer camp experience with a week at Fairthorne Manor – dropping her off at the bus every day was far more terrifying for her parents than for her!

You may have noticed in your Christmas card that Matthew now has a beard – that holiday was when it first appeared, on the basis that it’s easier than shaving when camping in a field with very basic facilities, and Anna rather likes it – so it’s here to stay! Of course, he joins his brother and father on the beard front, however his doesn’t yet have any grey… and it turns out his forehead is bigger [and before his brother points out he’s also more gormless, he’d like to assert that he’s deliberately looking like that in the picture].

Fred

No summary of our year is complete without mentioning that we now have a pet! Fred was a birthday present for Anna, and he’s been a highly popular member of the family since then. Like many dogs he can be a bit effusive with the licking when he first meets you, and as shown he likes to stick his nose out the car door when we’re driving along. He doesn’t drop hairs all over the house, there’s no poo to clean up, and he doesn’t need much feeding (just the occasional strawberry) – so he’s really the perfect companion for us.

Fred is such a firm favourite that there was a small panic when he went missing – it turned out he’d accidentally been put away with “spare Fred” (purchased after we realised how precious he’d become) but it was a very tense 24hrs.

Spring

Lizzie turned 7 in the spring, and had a Hawaiian-themed birthday party! With hula skirts, (paper) flower leis and beachwear the order of the day she had a great time, including the “coconut bowling” (which probably hung around the hallway for a good month after her party, “pass the palm tree” and the dining room decorated with a standard-lamp-palm-tree! Her present from her parents was a climbing frame in the garden – it takes up most of the garden, but is a firm favourite during the warmer months and she can now climb up on to the trapeze without any assistance!

Matthew (like last year) played a lot of board games earlier in the year (not so much recently as he’s been a combination of tired, ill and busy)  – he even managed to fit in a “LAN party” (playing computer games with his friends until the small hours) – Anna and Lizzie took it as an excuse to get out the facepacks and have a girly sleepover (at home, but Anna slept in Lizzie’s room so she wasn’t disturbed by the noise) – so much fun all-round!

Zer German

At the end of January we said goodbye to our German lodger, she’d become such a part of the family (“my big sister” as Lizzie calls her) it was difficult for all of us, although we were pleased to welcome her back in September (in the picture shown) where she and her little brother demonstrated their athleticism at Rock Up, Oxygen Trampolining and by walking the South Coast Path. Regular Skype conversations keep us together, and help her to keep her English up – as by the time she left, she was having top-speed complicated arguments with Matthew! (he was just helping her practise, not baiting her, obviously).

And finally…

Have a lovely festive season, and we hope and pray that 2017 is a blessing to you, wherever you may be!