Special times are what (and when) you make them

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Hi! I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas. We've been together for 27 years, many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time we've raised two daughters (both now at uni) and moved more than 19 times! I wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

So the Christmas and New Year celebrations have come and gone. How did yours go? Alone again?

According to Wikipedia: "Christmas or Christmas Day is a holiday generally observed on December 25."

So if it is "generally" celebrated on December 25, there is nothing to say it can't be celebrated on a different date.

We are like the Royal Family and get to have a lot of celebrations (including Christmas) twice. What a great life.

We had a family Christmas early in December. (It was actually a 21st birthday for daughter #1, Christmas and university graduation all rolled into one.) What an awesome day.

The 21st was 10 months late, but did this matter? Sure, she got to have a 21st earlier in the year, but the family got to celebrate with her again in December. Actually, because of this lifestyle she got to have an awesome 21st: a trip to America. Think about it: a 21st at home with a hangover and not much else to show for it, or trip of a lifetime to America? What would you do?

The graduation was like a scene from a James Bond movie. Although it took place in December, planning started in March (discreetly finding out what hairdresser my daughter prefers, emailing her and setting up appointments, organising flights for her aunt and grandparents, finding a house big enough for us all to stay in, booking a photographer and dinner reservations!) Seems like a lot of work, but the advantage of getting it all done in advance is that come the time of the big event you can put your feet up and enjoy. All of this done from another country ... thank goodness for the internet!

On December 25 it was back to just me and our two beautiful daughters. Later in the day we were lucky enough to receive a Skype date from the man of the house. We opened his Christmas presents for him. We pulled crackers for him. He was with us, but just through the laptop!

The family Christmas in early December involved the over-eating, the decorations and the crackers etc, but we decided to keep the presents for the traditional day. This year, though, we decided on a Secret Santa. How good was this? We ended up with everything from flashing cocktail glasses through to a wooden puzzle (kept us out of trouble for a few minutes).

New Year's Eve was the same - another big event without my husband. Off to the local fireworks and then danced the night away with the girls. Had a great night.

My birthday is the one day of the year I don't cook. I get to pick what I want (especially when there's no-one else at home). Last year it was Chinese takeaway on the waterfront, then home for a liquid refreshment. But wait! I got a second dinner when my husband returned. Awesome: two special days!

The girls' birthdays have proved difficult at times - being in different countries and time zones. I rely a lot on the help of friends/family to help organise things, and try to be organised ahead of time: cakes and flowers ordered online, delivered to boarding houses or student flats. There are some great websites specialising in the delivery of student care packages if you don't have time yourself.

I still make care packages for the girls, even though they're grown up - bundle in a load of special treats and send them off for things like the middle of exams, when they are sick etc. A treat from home can help with morale in a lot of situations. Nothing like the opening of the box! Sometimes the girls share this moment with me via Skype. The looks on their faces are priceless. Being students, I have even sent groceries via the internet - I just order online and have them delivered (especially essential when exams are on or it's in the middle of winter). This way I am assured they are getting something decent to eat. I used to send vouchers or money, but have a sneaky idea this may have been used for liquid refreshments.

So holidays and special events are what you make them. Ours might not be 'normal', but you can think of me as a princess who gets to celebrate most events twice. Pretty special.

More from Auntie Sandy:

If you've got a question for 'Auntie' Sandy or would like to make a comment about FIFO living, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!