Adrian got my brother (who’s here to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us) to join him in playing Skylanders. They haven’t found any common interests in the past, so I was pleased to see them having fun together.

We went to the annual gingerbread house exhibition at the Museum of Architecture. The museum also had other exciting exhibitions and activities, such as chairs that could be spun.

The gingerbread houses were numerous, varied and interesting. Many were technically very impressive – such as houses that had almost no flat, non-curved parts, or houses tall enough that I would expect them to collapse under their own weight, but somehow they don’t.

The Skylanders shelf has moved from design stage to building stage. Eric did the sawing; Adrian is doing the assembly.

Adrian got a Skylanders game and a bunch of Skylanders figures for Christmas. These are now his new favourite thing.

Meanwhile, Eric has been working on designing and building a shelf for our entry hall (for a very particular purpose, so we can’t find an off-the-shelf one).

Now those things merged, and Eric ad Adrian are designing and building a shelf for all the Skylanders figures.

My mother and my brother are here for Christmas.

My mother is an incredible energy thief. This is not the kind of thing one is supposed to say publicly about one’s mother, but I’m tired of pretending.

She enjoys complaining. Literally, she enjoys talking about things that upset her, because then she can be righteously upset. And I have to listen.

She criticises and denigrates just about anything that anybody does. Other people’s actions, opinions, choices – basically anything in the world – fall into one of three categories: it’s either something she agrees with, or something she has no particular opinion on, or it’s wrong/stupid/weird. There is no room in her world for simply having different opinions on anything, without the other opinion being wrong or stupid. And she simply must tell me how wrong/stupid/weird it is, whenever one of those things come up, and I have to listen.

She never has a conversation with me – only against me. Every conversation is an argument, or at best a debate. To everything I say, she will find a counter-example, counter-argument, counter-something. I can say that the sky is blue, and she’ll say that, well, it could be bluer.

I have stopped talking to her about anything I care about. I don’t talk to her about my work, my hobbies, my interests, my plans, my worries, hopes or concerns. Because there’s at least a fifty-fifty chance that whatever I say will be met with disapproval or contempt.

Instead I just listen and make polite noises, and grin and bear it.

The odd thing is, when I see her in a situation that involves other people, she can be perfectly nice: funny, polite, charming. I wonder if it’s just me she doesn’t respect at all – or if she has no respect for any human and simply feels that she can let down her facade with me and show what she truly thinks of people, myself included.

I can do it for a while, but it truly wears me down. Two days is about what I can take. My nerves are in a twist, I have a headache and I can’t sleep. I am running out of energy to constantly parry her negativity, find ways to turn the conversation in a more positive direction or change the topic, etc. I start snapping at her instead, or avoiding her. And both of those of course only make things worse.

I go to nature to charge my batteries. Today Adrian and I went geocaching in Ursvik. We walked, climbed on rocks, played with sticks, and found three fun caches. Now I mostly feel like a human being again.

Christmas dinner was a candlelit affair.

We went for a walk.

Yes, yes, we did Christmas as well… but I felt that we also needed to move our legs and get some fresh air.

I am not very excited by Christmas any more. It’s mostly yet another chore.

I’ve never quite seen the point of teaching kids to believe in Santa Claus. The “It’s a tradition” argument doesn’t fly with me. “Everybody else does it” is also not a valid argument. “It makes kids be good” is the worst of them all – if the only way you can teach good behaviour to your kids is by lying, then maybe you have problems…

So the kids are fully aware that Christmas gifts are from people to people, and fully involved in the whole project. They buy or make gifts of their own, and they help choose gifts for each other. (Ingrid is markedly better than me at predicting what Adrian will enjoy.)

And wrapping all the gifts is a big, messy, fun project of its own, that we also do together.

All that is left of the snowman.

Doesn’t look like we’ll get a white Christmas this year.