Trigger Warnings: Child Suicide, Depression, Mental Health
Today is the day my child planned to kill herself. At the time of writing it is only 9.11am here in the UK. There’s plenty of time.
At the grand old age of 12, my daughter has already racked up and lengthy and substantial record of mental health issues, including overdoses, of which this is simply the most recent.
Although we are open to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), we have absolutely no strategies in place to guide us through this day. I’ve been shouting into the abyss for years now, begging any agency to help us. But, here we are.
I might feel up to doing a big ranty post sometime, but this isn’t it.
This is the post where I say how much strain living like this puts upon me, and the rest of the family. The strain is unimaginable. The distress is is tangible, like you could reach out and touch it. The air is thick with worry.
This is the post where I say, although I try to carry out life as “normal”, smiling, carrying out my usual day to day activities, smiling and coping, under the surface is a layer of tension that never lets up. Ever.
This is the post where I say I love you my child. Through all the stress, the strain, the rage, the anger, the distress, my life would be poorer without you in it. My world would be desolate.
This is the post where I say, you have SO MUCH to offer, so much potential. The world is ready for the taking. You are worthy, you are special. Live and show the world what you’re made of.
This is the post where I beg you, please, please don’t die. Ride it out, stay with us. We need you.
We love Childs Farm in our house. With two kids that suffer eczema, one of them quite badly, it’s really important that products we use on them don’t aggravate their skin. It’s been great to try out a few more products from the range. This time the Childs Farm 50+ SPF Sun Cream and After Sun Lotion.
Childs Farm are a Hampshire based company who specialise in natural “free-from” ingredients and essential oils to create toiletries that are gentle and beautifully scented, suitable for the hair and skin of even the most sensitive of children. All of their problems are extensively tested to make sure they are suitable for everyone, even those with sensitive and eczema prone skin.
My kids both have a little tube of the sun screen in their school bags. With an SPF of 67 this cream acts as a barrier, using titanium dioxide, protecting skin from UVA and UVB rays. It’s not only protecting their skin but hydrates too, and both of the girls have found there’s been no adverse reaction to their skin when using it which is fantastic, particularly as we’ve had some issues with sun screens in the past. It is quite thick, but my tip is to rub it between your hands first, it spreads more easily and sinks in leaving little to no greasy residue.
The After Sun Lotion contains soothing aloe vera, and moisturising shea and cocoa butters. It moisturises beautifully and I can’t tell you how gorgeous it smells, all of the coconut! It’s so soothing and moisturising, I could be tempted to use this every day on my own skin, not just my kids after the sun!
I’d recommend these products to anyone, but particularly children who have sensitive or eczema prone skin. They have caused Chloe no reaction whatsoever and she does suffer really quite badly.
The Childs Farm SPF Sun Cream is £10.99 for 100ml and the Childs Farm After Sun Lotion is £4.99 for 100ml.
Purchase yours from Boots and Waitrose stores or online from http://www.childsfarm.com/
*Products received free of charge for review purposes
Happy New Year to everyone! Keeping up with tradition I have made absolutely NO resolutions, what about you? After an extended Christmas break from blogging, I’m back, but I thought I’d kick off with something not beauty related. Nearly a year ago to the day, the 11th January 2016, I wrote a post about how I’d taken up crochet. At that point, I’d only been going for a couple of weeks, look at the shocking state of those squares!
By the middle of March, I’d really discovered how much I loved it and had started to make more and more things. I’m not known for my ability to stick to things, but a year on from that first post, I’m still here, crocheting away and I’ve made loads so I thought I’d do a little post showing what I’ve made this year (well, since March!).
In March I did the lovely Happy Flower Decoration by Lucy of Attic 24, a really quick and easy project and so cute.
At the end of March, I made the gorgeous Sopan, both the design and the hand dyed Yarn came courtesy of Verity at Truly Hooked.
Next came the Fortune’s Shawlette in May.
March to July saw me make the Harmony Blanket, again the pattern is from Attic 24. It might look nice but don’t be fooled. I hated every single second of making it, and I made an awful error with every single round of every single square meaning it’s basically fallen apart. I also put some of the squares in the wrong order. I just think my heart wasn’t in this one, at all.
In July I made the All Tied Up Summer Top for Lola, she loved it and so do I.
I’m not sure what happened for the next couple of months, I started a blanket I’m still working on, but nothing seems to have been made! But at the end of September I started making Christmas presents. It feels so good to have a skill and to be able to make things, but I can’t say I was confident giving any of these away, what if the recipient didn’t like them! I was however pleased.
I started with a Road Trip Scarf for my sister, skipping the flower details.
Followed by an adorable Sleepy Bear for my lovely nephew.
After a huge amount of searching I finally found my dream glove pattern, the Super Easy Grunge Gloves. I made myself a pair, swiftly followed by a pair each for the girls.
Naturally, I needed a hat to go with my gloves, and I’m so fussy it was hard work finding anything I liked, something not too crochet-y looking. The Caron Cable Twist Hat fit the bill. Learning to cable was a huge learning curve for me, but got there in the end!
Finally, using the cotton I made the girls gloves with, I’ve knocked up a couple of face cloths! So, there is a tenuous beauty link there after all! And that is pretty much it! I have two blankets in progress at the moment and a list of things I want to make as long as your arm but thats everything I’ve made since March!
So please, if you are a fellow hooker and you’re on Ravelry, add me as a friend, I’m on there as JustCharlieG and I’d love more people to follow myself! And if you’re not already, do follow me on Instagram, I share most of my WIP’s on there!
EDIT: I don’t know how I forgot this one, but I made this Virus Shawl for my Mum’s Christmas Pressie too!
So at the end of May, Chloe was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. While it was no surprise to many who know her, it was still something of a shock to the system to have it there in black and white. The assessment reports were upsetting and really hammered things home.
We always strongly suspected Chloe had Autism, problems at home meant we really needed some assistance and diagnosis seemed logical. With a confirmed diagnosis we hoped we would be able to access services and interventions that were not available to us with out the label.
Oh how wrong we were. In Exeter, the Autism team is diagnosis only. They do make some recommendations on their reports, but they don’t actually offer any support and so we found ourselves saying thank you and walking off out into the rest of our lives with our daughter having this diagnosed condition and no support.
Can you imagine rocking up to A&E screaming in pain, them doing an x-ray and finding you have a broken leg and sending you off into the world to find a way to fix it yourself? No of course not, so why was this the case with our daughters autism? What’s worse is that we’re not alone, its a story you’ll hear repeated up and down the country with all sorts of neurological conditions.
Our kids are being failed. It’s been proven that the earlier a child is diagnosed and they can get interventions, the better, as the brain develops there is much more ability to change, learning new behaviours is easier.
You know me, not one to take things lying down I’ve spent months trying to find out what we can do. Camhs tried to close our case, “autism isn’t a mental health issue”. It’s been a dark time with lots of tears and stress from me…”how can they do this?!”, “where do I turn?” and while we still don’t know our way in some areas, I’ve managed to access help and support in others, through research and sheer determination borne of my absolute fury.
Lola starts attending Devon Young Carers this week, so she can have something of her own and meet other youngsters in similar situations. I hope it will be valuable for her.
Chloe’s sensory and dental issue continue to be a problem. The specialist dental service have now done a referral to the Occupational Therapy team in Exeter after seeing my desperation. I think the wait, as always, is lengthy, but I’m hoping some of those sensory issues will be looked at. If the dental service hadn’t done this, I would have done the referral myself.
We have had a “Resource Allocation Assessment” and budget has been approved for Chloe to have an enabler for a few hours a fortnight as well attend groups and activities for kids like her, run by trained professionals. Again, if this isn’t done for you by a professional involved in your child’s life, do it yourself.
In addition the Communications and Interactions Team are going into Chloe’s school to observe and make recommendations. I hope this will help the school really get a handle on Chloe and provide advice for helping her through her school life.
Speech and Languages went into school to assess Chloe and while there’s no further need for their involvement they’ve been incredibly supportive, going above and beyond and giving the school advice and helping get the message home, just because she seems okay at school, doesn’t mean she is okay at school. Again, I did this referral myself.
As for Camhs, well they grudgingly agreed to do three sessions of exposure work with Chloe. They didn’t do that, they have done three family therapy sessions instead, the first with just Graham and I, the second with Lola, Graham and I and the final one will be one hour with Chloe. So they have offered one hour of support to Chloe. They have made it clear they don’t want to help any further. As other things have fallen into place however, it feels like Camhs are less important. I would argue though, that Chloe’s mental health is affected by her Autism and they have a duty of care to help…but its the only battle I cant be bothered to fight.
Finally feels like we’re getting somewhere, I say this tentatively though because we’ve learned the hard way not to be optimistic.
My advice to any parent in a similar situation is this:
Don’t accept what you are told. Don’t settle. Don’t stop fighting. When it feels like you can’t fight any more, keep going. Don’t let people pass the buck. Make people accountable, demand that if they won’t help, they will help you find someone that will. Demand a Team Around the Child Meeting (TAC) and get everyone there, hold them all accountable.
And while all this is going on, and you’re trying to negotiate the system while living with a child who has additional needs, try your hardest to make time for yourself, you need all your strength. Take up a hobby, see friends, read books for fun whatever it is you need to wind down, do it. And find support groups, online or otherwise, find people who know what it’s like, who have either been there, or are going through it themselves, you’ll find other parents a wealth of knowledge about what’s out there and your rights. If you are local to me, Exeter, drop me a line, I can point you in the direction of groups I use or know of.
Just keep fighting.
I was a bit worried that I’d left this review a bit late but the sun is still shining here in Devon and there’s still a very definite need for sunscreen for me and the kids!
I’ve blogged about lots of Badger products before but for some reason it escaped my notice that they did sunscreens.
I received three for review purposes.
The three I received are the Tangerine and Vanilla Kids Sunscreen, the Chamomile and Calendula Baby Sunscreen as well as Unscented Sunscreen. As they are all SPF 30, we’ve made use of all of them over the Summer, especially while we were on holiday in Cornwall.
As you would expect, all of these Badger Sunscreens are organic and natural. I think these are all basically the same, with the child and baby versions having the addition of essential oils. They offer broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB using Zinc Oxide and they are water and sweat resistant for at least 40 minutes. Thanks to sunflower oil, beeswax, seabuckthorn and vitamin E, these are beautifully moisturising. It’s also worth mentioning that the tubes are made from recyclable plastic.
The unscented sunscreen, doesn’t have any scent added to it but it does have a very subtle scent of beeswax. The Baby sunscreen, has the addition of Chamomile and calendula which is a very delicate scent, but the kids sunscreen with tangerine and vanilla is to die for. It smells absolutely sublime!
The downside of these beautiful natural sunscreens is that they are a little harder to rub in than some of the more modern formulas today, not impossible though and they don’t feel uncomfortable on the skin, as I recall sunscreens from my childhood being. Its a worthwhile trade off in my opinion, especially for the glorious tangerine and vanilla!
These Badger sunscreens have served us well this Summer and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for something more natural to protect themselves and their families from the sun.
They retail at £14.99 each and are available from Graftons Beauty.
*products received free of charge for review purposes.
It was in 2013 I think that first talked about Chloe and the possibility that she has aspergers and since then I’ve blogged sporadically about the difficulties we have faced as a family, the decision we faced regarding getting whether or not to get a diagnosis, and once that decision was made, our time on the extremely lengthy waiting list. If you’re interested, you can find all of my previous posts here.
And so it was that Chloe was assessed a few weeks ago. The wait for the diagnosis (or not) was excruciating, although thankfully very quick. We had no idea how Chloe had been in her observation as we were in a separate room. We also were aware the Chloe is capable, on occasion, of seeming perfectly fine (she’s always fine but I mean not displaying any signs of what we suspected). There were times where I hoped there was no diagnosis (meaning there’s hope that things could be “fixed” in simplistic terms) and there were times I was desperately afraid we wouldn’t get a diagnosis (well why do we have the problems then? how can we get help if there’s no diagnosis?)…but both views were accompanied by a constant feeling of anxiety.
As I say, we didn’t have to wait long, about three weeks. I was actually told Chloe’s diagnosis on the phone. The procedure is normally that you would go in for a face to face meeting to discuss the results and next steps (regardless of the outcome), but the assessment team wanted us to have the results quickly as we had a meeting at the school the following day.
To cut a long story short, Chloe has Autism Spectrum Disorder, as we have always suspected. Asperger Syndrome is not diagnosed any more hence the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I’m not going to lie, the report was incredibly distressing to read, the detail of her observation, in black and white, by professionals, hammered home the problems, making a mockery of the fact I was ever concerned they might not see it.
And it’s hard to even describe how I’ve felt the last few weeks, happy, sad, relived, vindicated, positive, negative… and everything in between. So far though, for me personally it’s had a definite impact on how I view and manage situations, it’s like something’s clicked in my brain…instead of wondering “why is she behaving like this? arghhh!” now (nearly always but not every time!) KNOW why and knowing means I can manage the situation considerably better than I could before.
At this point in time I don’t know whether I will continue to discuss this subject on my blog, Chloe’s older, more aware, and I’m keen for her not to be defined by this label, but equally, it provides an outlet for me and I think talking about this stuff can be a great help for other parents going through the same thing. I have no doubt there’s much more of this story to tell, getting the help we need, family life and so on, but I may choose to keep this private from now on.
But for my blog, and for those who have followed this journey all the way through, I wanted to share the outcome. Thank you to everyone who has supported, shared their experiences and been so kind over the last few years, it really does help.
Gosh I don’t know where the time is going at the moment. It’s been a week since I last blogged, although it’s fair to say that my last post my mind has been elsewhere! Mostly on the kids. We’ve had parents meetings, assessments (no answers yet!), dramas, days out…it’s been non stop.
Speaking of the kids, well they have been trying out a new product, OptiBac Probiotics.
My two are particularly prone to picking up every single bug doing the rounds at school. Chloe doesn’t cope well with illness and finds it very stressful, while not much gets Lola down but it often feels like she’s never 100% well. In addition, Chloe’s eczema is not good at all at the moment.
I’m terribly au fait with probiotics but we’ve been giving them a go.
Children are full of bacteria, good, bad and benign, but recent studies have shown that a dose of good bacteria can decrease the risk of common childhood infections by 25%. Probiotics work in different ways so its good to opt for probiotics specifically for children. Each box contains sachets of powder. You can either purchase a box of 10 or a box of 30 (£6.99 and £16.99 respectively).
Each sachet provides 3 BILLION live cultures and 0.79g of FOS fibres which are well documented for their effectiveness on the different level of the immune response. It’s also worth mentioning that pregnant and nursing mums can also take For Babies and Children as the natural bacteria will pass through to baby either during birth or while nursing.
Practically speaking I was concerned I would never get this product into my kids because they are both so incredibly fussy, one of them has never even taken Calpol. I needn’t have worried. Ideally these need to be taken with a meal, ideally breakfast and as they are flavourless you can just mix them into food or drink. Lola never even noticed these slipped into her milk.
Having only been using these for less than a month its hard to say whether Chloe and Lola have been less prone to bugs but I am totally convinced that there’s no harm in introducing probiotics to their diets, they can only do good, or at worst, nothing. It is worth mentioning that Lola had a cold just over a week ago but it cleared up in record time so I’m inclined to think these are helping to strengthen her immune system.
Time will tell if these make a difference but for now it just feels good to know I’m doing SOMETHING.
I would recommend these for new mums, babies and children up to the age of 12 and I also recommend the reviews section of the website, the reviews are really incredible.
You can purchase OptiBac Probiotics for Babies and Children from the OptiBacProbiotics website, and be sure to check out the rest of the comprehensive range too while you’re there!
*Product received free of charge for review purposes
Well it’s been a very long time since I’ve done an update of this sort. Those here for the lipstick posts may wish to skip this one. If you’re interested in the background, you can find relevant posts here, here, here and here.
I woke up feeling sick this morning. Literally sick to my stomach, the reason being the time has nearly come. After three long years, some of you will have been with me this whole way, on Monday Chloe’s assessment starts. I am not sure how long the assessment process lasts, I think it could be months, I really don’t know. I guess it all depends on how many people they wish to involve and how much there is to investigate.
Three long years we’ve waited for this appointment and now it’s nearly here I kind of wish I had more time. I’ve got so much information ready both in my head and on paper, we’ve even got what is called a “working” diagnosis, of Aspergers, but still I’m so frightened. It’s not like I want Chloe to be labelled, but there are issues we desperately need help with and in order to get this help we have to go through this process. In fact, I’ve been assured a diagnosis isn’t all that important as there will still be, or should be, a plan of action after the assessment, regardless of the outcome. This is what we have waited for.
Chloe, like all children, indeed all people, is ever changing, but what sets her apart from say, her sister, is that her needs are so demanding. While we can have months with one problem (refusing to travel anywhere new for example), this can quickly disappear to be replaced by another issue. It is my belief that Chloe actually lives in a state of anxiety all day, every day, which is the root of many of her issues, and these can change as she focuses on one thing for a few months, then switches that over to another. She is still argumentative and challenging in the extreme and her behaviour is hard to manage, she also seems incredibly hyperactive a lot of the time. Add into all of this some sensory issues that just make every day life a bit more tricky..
I’m playing a lot down as I’ve detailed the problems in other posts and while things change constantly, NOTHING changes.
Some things have improved of course, we can now travel further distances in the car and aren’t so housebound any more, and she is much much better at occupying herself for more of the time so things are just generally easier, however, outbursts are more aggressive, and more extreme and socially things are not good. Don’t even get me started on the dental issues.
The Easter holidays, which have always been a source of extreme stress, have been relatively laid back, and bar a lack of social events for Chloe, haven’t been too bad at all, we even enjoyed a lovely grown up trip to town, the highlight of the break in my opinion.
So, with this looming and the Easter holidays I hope you’ll forgive my infrequent blog posts, and wish me luck for next week…I think I’ve got a few anxious days ahead of me. Chloe meanwhile, is blissfully unphased by the whole thing 🙂
I thought it was time I checked in and said hello to you all as Christmas has kept me rather busy this year.
I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a great New Year.
Christmas for us has been up and down, there have been wonderful presents, for myself and the rest of my family, as well as wonderful local food, but the excitement has proved too much for the kids and Chloe has had a couple of anxiety attacks, one of which resulted in the both of us having to leave the other two in a theatre to watch a panto without us, but overall, it hasn’t been too bad.
I treated myself to the most amazing pair of boots just before Christmas, Dr Martens Aimilita’s. They do up with ribbons, who could resist.
Having been searching for new boots for some time these are just my ideal boot. I also had a suede pair for Christmas, knee highs with tassels so I’m fully booted up for 2016!
I especially loved my Christmas manicure this year, I used Sensationail shades Light Em Up (the glitter) and Red, Red Wine. I’m so impressed with Sensationail, my collection just keeps growing and growing!
My other news, and I apologise if you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook (because you’re probably sick of hearing about it already) is that I’ve taken up crochet. I had a wish to give it a go, taught myself a few basic stitches, made a few granny squares and am now working on a blanket, its incredibly soothing to do, and I’m so impressed with myself, and I don’t get to say that very often. It’s going to be single bed size when its finished so I’ve got lots to do yet. I think I’ll do a separate post about it soon, but for now, here’s a sneak at what I’m working on. It’s far from perfect, a few rows are back to front, but I’m on top of that now.
So this is really just a quick check in from me to say hi and wish everyone well, and I’ll be back soon with Mac Ellie Goulding reviews, Clarins Spring reviews, my crochet post and much more.
Hope Christmas was wonderful and in case I’m not back beforehand, Happy New Year!
Sub-heading: Dinovember and Expensive Advent Calenders can also sod off.
I’m going to preface this blog post with this picture…
Looking at this creepy little fella gives me the heebie jeebies…imagine that watching your every move for the whole of December. I could just stop the post there because, y’know, nuff said. But why deprive myself of a much needed rant?
Elf On a Shelf. So for those who don’t know, Elf on a Shelf is concept to get your children to behave well over December, by putting this Elf around your house so he can watch what your kids are up to and report back to Santa, so that Santa can can get his Naughty and Nice lists ready.
Now leaving aside the fact that I threatened my kids with a lump of coal one particularly stressful December, this is a little creepy no? Not only does it look creepy with its Mona Lisa eyes that follow you around the room, but its sole purpose, spying, is creepy too. I also don’t want my kids to be good in December just because of an elf. I want them to be good all year please.
Then, there’s the issue of adding this new commercial tradition to our lives. Wasn’t Christmas traditional enough without this hideous new one? (See Also Advent Calenders Rant further down the Page). And isn’t Christmas magical enough without this new piece of tat? It certainly was commercial enough.
And somehow, this Elf, oh how his behaviour has evolved. No, he doesn’t just sit on the shelf. No, in order for your kids to believe in the magic, he or she has to move each night while the kids are in bed. So the kids believe he’s real and alive and that he’s been to the North Pole to report back and then come back to your house! But this is where things escalate. While ‘lesser’ parents may just move the Elf from one shelf to the mantle piece, there are those who put a huge amount of effort in creating elaborate scenes to amaze and shock their children with when they get up in the morning. And for those too stupid (heavy sarcasm) to have their own ideas Pinterest is FULL of ideas you can copy. And the thing is, you have to do this every day. If you do something amazing on December the 1st, every day better be amazing and don’t even think about forgetting. Competitive and creative Mummies of course rise to the challenge, while the rest either don’t care or feel inadequate. And a lot of the ideas I’ve seen involve the Elf doing something a bit naughty or cheeky, like tipping something over…remind me what the point of the Elf is again? To encourage good behaviour (blurgh)…. I must give a special mention to those who have their elves doing rude or adult things because that is genuinely funny, and the sole reason I can see for having it. I particularly loved the Elf snorting a line of Cocoa powder and the various pictures of Elf caught in compromising positions with naked Barbies.
It’s a commercial venture, trying to create a new tradition…which makes them money, and its working. There’s the Elf, the book, the dvd and lo and behold, now there’s the Birthday Elf so you can blackmail your kids twice a year, what fun! It doesn’t even make sense. Santa’s Elves don’t give a crap what kids get up to in the month before they birthday. Fact.
And while this post is tongue in cheek, and I don’t really care what you do with your family in the run up to Christmas, there is the issue of your kids asking why they don’t have an Elf if their friends have one in their house, and how will Santa really know if they’ve been good. Frankly, I’ll tell them its just a toy and not to be sad. I’m not going to think up my own elaborate lies as to why the Elf is in their friends house, but not ours.
Christmas is already exciting, the build up in our house is ridiculous, advent calendars, Christmas Jumper days for charity and parties and discos at all their after school clubs and in school, along with a natural excitement mean that for me…in our house, its all quite exciting enough without causing me extra stress (trying to remember to move the damn thing, never mind constructing elaborate scenes with them). So you can stick your Elf on a Shelf “tradition” thanks.
Which leads me onto Dinovember…. a whole month devoted to your kids toy dinosaurs coming to life and getting up to mischief… see previously mentioned pinterest, competitive mummies, feelings of inadequacy and a general feeling of just why. Meh. Oh and the dinosaurs, pretty destructive. The idea is to feed your kids imagination and create a sense of wonder, I get that, and I’m sure that those things are true…but you know… the magic is all uploaded daily to Facebook, where the kids can’t see but all the other parents can go “wow you’re so amazing doing that and I’m so inadequate”. Again, its tongue in cheek and I don’t really care what you want to devote your evenings to, but once my kids are in bed, I’m thinking pyjamas, crap tv, slobbing out on the sofa, not arranging five dinosaurs around a destroyed loaf of bread and uploading it to Facebook. Personally, I think I’m living the after 8pm dream and as for feeding my kids imagination and giving them a sense of wonder, that’s what Minecraft is for no?
Finally… expensive advent calendars. For adults this is a yes from me. I haven’t got one, but I wish I did 🙁 But honestly. I remember my advent calendars as a child, they didn’t even have chocolate in them! You just opened them and all there was, was a poxy picture! But you know what, it was magic and it was wondrous because we were counting down to a huge event. I don’t mind the chocolate ones if I’m honest, and I don’t even mind the Lego or Playmobile ones really… they are just so unnecessary. I can’t even imagine presenting my kids with an Advent Calendar that didn’t have chocolate in it… because somewhere along the way, the point has been lost, its not a countdown to Christmas, its chocolate every single day in December!
I LOVE Christmas, I love that we don’t have long to wait, my kids are already excited, and it is undoubtedly magical. You couldn’t accuse me of being a Grinch in any way, but I really do hate that damn Elf.
Note: I honestly don’t care what y’all do in your family at Christmas, this entire post has been written with tongue firmly in cheek. Much love to you all, no matter how you celebrate, and Merry Christmas (it’s really still too far early for that particular greeting, but that’s another blog post entirely….)