The latter will be remedied, but Christmas, frankly, can go hang.
I have much more important things to write about, chief among which is the fact that we now, inexplicably**, have a four year old.
Obviously this demands my full attention, and as Eleanor's birthday happens to be the same day*** that many people spend finding presents in their underwear, devouring unreasonable amounts of food, and generally rejoicing that a saviour has come to earth and his name is Santa Claus, it seems reasonable that Eleanor should take priority.
This year Eleanor wanted a Pirate Party and we were happy to oblige.
We were slightly less happy by the time that we'd printed (and promptly mislaid) the invitations, created a passable girl pirate poster for stick**** the eyepatch on the pirate, wrapped up a suitably booty-filled parcel to pass, baked and iced (with much piratical swearing) a ship-shape***** cake, planned all the other games, made all the other food, and tracked down various nautical napkins, party bags and general celebratory tat.
But finally we relaxed in the knowledge that the difficult bit was behind us.
More fools we.
We forgot, of course, that while all the other things may be fiddly******, tedious, time consuming, and tiring, they at least do not contain the most fiendishly unpredictable and troublesome factor of all.
The party, in fact went pretty well, assuming ones criterion for a good party is "Does not descend into complete chaos", but there were a few hiccups along the way.
The first came when one of the guests came down with the flu, presumably from a spare germ that had decided to break away from the pack and infect someone outside of our family for a change*******.
This reduced our pool of guests to three, with Ellie's friend Dan, as he had been last year, the only boy.
Fortunately he did not, as he had last year, feel left out and awkward.
Maybe he thinks pirates are more macho than fairies, or something.
At any rate Dan soon avenged this slight when he bounded in, looked happily around the room and announced "I think we should pop all the balloons!"
I would not, of course, have let him burst them all: they were Eleanor's birthday balloons and she didn't want them popped.
It would have been nice however, to let him pop one of them, unfortunately the party included three infants******** and, torn between potentially upsetting three little ones, or definitely disappointing one big one, I went with option two.
I then spent the rest of the day feeling like a bad hostess.
Later on Dan also wanted to pop all the bubbles people were blowing (is this a stage they go through or something?) and while I couldn't let him do that, he was able to pop some bubbles at least.
Then there were the games.
Things got off to a less than stellar start when my happy suggestion of "Shall we play some games?" was met with a chorus of Nos.
On further enquiry I was furnished with such reasons as "They might be boring", and "I might not win" (thank you Eleanor) so, safe in the knowledge that they weren't boring, and facing the possibility of my daughter's not winning everything with total heartlessness, I went ahead and inflicted games on them anyway.
Pass the Treasure went pretty well, Stick the Eyepatch on the Pirate was fairly successful, though fraught with blatant cheating, Musical Islands gave us no problems beyond the fact that the same two children kept winning, and Captain Says was utterly ridiculous.
Dan won every round.
Even when he stopped playing and started being the captain instead, he still, to all intents and purposes, won.
It seems that, somewhere between the ages of five and six, children go through a developmental burst which allows them to understand the rules of Simon Says: among the assembled pirates only Dan had reached that heady age.
No matter how often we explained the rules, no matter how wildly we telegraphed oops, I didn't say "Captain Says", as soon as any instruction was given, all the other children leapt********** to obey.
Eventually we had to stop and serve lunch just to escape the insanity.
Lunch was vaguely successful : nobody liked everything, I had cunningly made a vat of plain pasta-with-pesto as a fallback for fussy eaters, none of whom would touch it, and I forgot to serve the potato-skin-boats that had taken me half an hour to assemble that morning, but everyone found some things they liked, nobody suffered an horrendous allergic reaction to anything, and the ship shaped cake went down like the Titanic.
Following this the kids all charged off to play upstairs and, apart from a few games of I Spy Through My Telescope, and the revelation of the totally chosen in advance, not at all just made up to give a prize to anyone who hadn't won one, location of the hidden treasure (everyone stuck a sticker on a map when they arrived, yes, normally this would be in a footnote but I think my asterisk key is getting tired), the party was over.
In the end, despite, or perhaps a little bit because of, the hilarity and riot, everyone had a good time, Eleanor didn't care that she hadn't won a single game, and everyone went home happy.
They also went home with an enormous balloon each.
Dan can burst that one if he likes.
*Due partly to the amount of other things we had to do, but mostly to our having had every cold or flu bug in the western hemisphere, one after another.
**Well, not inexplicably, I mean, I know how it happened: I was there for much of it after all.
It still seems pretty weird though.
*** This was not the plan.
She was supposed to be born on the second of January, so we could buy her presents in the sales.
****Because, as Eleanor pointed out, a pin would hurt too much.
******For which read aggravating beyond belief: have you ever tried to ice a cake shaped like a pirate ship?
It should be quite simple.
******* It has been suggested that perhaps there are simply an awful lot of bugs going around at the moment.
I dismiss this theory out of hand, in favour of the obvious truth: They Are Out To Get Us.
**********(*********) One of them male, so Dan wasn't the Only Boy after all.
*********Maybe I should start using numbers or something, before this all gets out of hand.
********** Which was odd because we hadn't told them to leap.
Sorry, there doesn't seem to be an option to add numbered footnotes.