And so it begins – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 31

We knew it was coming, but we just weren’t quite sure when it would hit and Tuesday came and so did the phone-call from school…

A confirmed case of COVID-19 in M’s year group and so with a quick dash to school to pick him up, home-schooling has started again. I’m not quite sure if I’m glad it’s happened this week or not. Whilst both he and G now have to self-isolate for 2 weeks, which pretty much puts pay to our tentative half=-term plans, they will only miss a few days of school as we have already been told they can return on the first day of Term 2.

It’s thrown my week into disarray as I readjust to having 2 teens back in the house as I juggle remote training for my new team member, numerous mid-year budget review meetings all via Zoom and what feels like a plethora of other deadlines that need to be hit before I too go on my half-term break.

Of course, with much of the North heading into Tier 3 over the next few days and the rest jumping between Tiers 1 and 2 as numbers start to rise again, and with Wales now in its fire-break for 2 weeks, I feel like we’re in good company. Half-term isn’t going to look like what we hoped it might, but then again, what has in 2020?!

 

Birthday Celebrations – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 30

All things considered, we’ve been extremely lucky as, until the last month or so, we haven’t had to celebrate a birthday in lockdown. M managed to sneak his birthday celebrations in at the start of March just before lockdown happened, but now we’re heading into what is a busy season of celebrations for us with birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas all happening in fairly quick succession.

We started with Mum’s birthday in mid-September, which was celebrated in a much quieter way than her 70th birthday last year spent at Bluestone in South Wales. Mike, G, M and I spent the weekend with Mum, took part in an online quiz, enjoyed a family dinner including an allergy-friendly birthday cake and simply spent the time together as a family. Mum has spent lots of her time in lockdown on completing jigsaws and this was reflected in the plethora of new puzzles she received from family and friends for her birthday. It will certainly keep her busy over the next few months, no matter what they bring and I will benefit too as she lets me borrow a jigsaw one at a time to do at home.

Today is Mike’s birthday and that has been a little bit different again. With both Mike and I working from home, and G being able to come home from school when she has a free period, the three of us were able to enjoy a family lunch around the kitchen table before heading back to work. Dinner tonight is a special treat of a Chinese takeaway with menu favourites being chosen by each of us, and will be accompanied by yet another quiz before we settle down to watch the new series of “Taskmaster” on TV. Another family celebration adapted to fit our new circumstances and a school/work night.

Happy birthday Mike – love you always xxx

Summer’s last hurrah – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 29

The glorious weather that we’ve seen over the summer months made a welcome reappearance for the last weekend of September, so we decided on one last hurrah and headed for a family day trip out. Our destination was the beautiful organic gardens of Yeo Valley in Somerset, tucked away in the peaceful countryside near Blagdon Lake. Mike had stumbled across the gardens when he was searching for a location we could visit safely without travelling too far and this seemed to be the perfect place to enjoy the late summer sun.

As with so many other places, Yeo Valley was operating a restricted visitors rule and required us to book our tickets and time-slot before we went. Our entry once we arrived was easy and the gardens large enough that we rarely came across the other visitors there. We weren’t sure whether our 2-hour time-slot would be enough to explore the gardens in full, but they aren’t extensive and we found ourselves at the end with about 20 minutes to spare. It’s hard to decide which was my favourite bit, though G and M certainly enjoyed the rope swing over the stream, the rather rickety lookout point and racing around the teepee.

Our afternoon visit complete, it was a quick hop over to Chew Stoke for a fish and chip supper courtesy of the wonderful Salt & Malt. I’d read some great reviews about their allergy-friendly offerings online and the food did not disappoint, with generous portions that both children wolfed down with the food barely touching the sides. G chose the gluten-free cod and chips, whilst both Mike and M opted for gluten-free haddock and chips and I settled for some scampi. With glorious views across Chew Lake, we decided to eat in the warmth of our car, although they also have a small restaurant on-site which can be pre-booked.

All in all a great day out, and one I would thoroughly recommend.

Life On Hold – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 28

Life has very much been on hold for us all over the last 28+ weeks, and when it comes to this week’s blog post, I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait another week for it to appear. Life has been surprisingly busy for me with work demands all converging on the end of September as we end our financial half-year and are working hard to produce the management accounts to allow mid-year budget reviews to happen before half-term hits. Add in my appraisal and preparations for a new team member starting next week as well as the constant reviews of government guidance and the impact of those on the social care charity I work for, and, well, you get the picture.

So here’s my holding photo to keep your taste-buds tantalised for the next post – some rather delicious #allergyfriendly fish and chips from a great day out last weekend – enjoy!

Virtual Appointments – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 27

Another significant change that has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the way in which medical appointments are held. Appointments are a regular feature of life for both M and me and they have continued in a variety of ways since March, some of them decidedly better than others.

For M, his appointments with his gastro consultant at our local hospital have been held over the phone, although I would have preferred the video conference option that was originally offered. A key part of M’s hospital visits for me is the visual review of his health, and whilst I can see just how much he has grown and how healthy he is looking at the moment, I would have liked for his consultant to have been able to do the same. He also has his height, weight and blood pressure monitored to ensure that he is growing as is expected, something which is particularly important as he heads into puberty. Right now, things are looking relatively stable for M health-wise, though his return to school last week has seen both him and G picking up a heavy head cold and bringing it home to generously share with Mike and me.

In comparison, I’ve had a mixture of telephone and face-to-face appointments with various members of my healthcare team. My long-awaited referral to one of our local hospitals for consultant-led care of my Type 1 diabetes finally happened and, even though the initial appointment was done over the phone, I am now the proud owner of a prescription for the Freestyle Libre sensors, something I’ve been self-funding for the last 4 years. This technology has made a huge difference to my T1D management and so both the community care nurse and consultant were happy to support the funding of this equipment for me.

My podiatry appointment was face-to-face (or should that be face-to-foot) at the health centre in the next town over. I was required to wear a mask throughout and use hand sanitiser each time I went in and out of the surgery, which happened more often than you might think for 1 appointment. I was called in by the podiatrist, who accompanied me to and from the building, bearing his pack of anti-bac wipes to clean any surface I touched whilst I was inside. The appointment went well with an almost clean bill of health for my feet, the only problem being a rather painful case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot. A couple of new pairs of shoes with arch supports later, and already everything is beginning to improve.

We’ve both also had appointments for vaccinations, which obviously have to be done in person. M had his Year 9 booster jabs during the summer, whilst I had my annual flu vac last weekend. M is having his flu vac this coming weekend, with both G and Mike booked in for them in a couple of weeks time. I’ve also had an appointment with my GP, which required me to take and email photos to them ahead of my telephone consult. So far, all appointments have gone as well as we could have hoped and I can only hope that as the government guidance changes over the next few months with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases here in the UK, our medics continue to keep in touch and make sure we’re all keeping well.

Rethinking Travel – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 26

Let’s be honest, lots has changed since the start of 2020, but for us, one of the most impactful changes is in the area of travel. We are a family of travellers, loving nothing more than exploring the world around us and we had big plans for this year which have already had to change with no clear indication of when things might be able to get back to something that even vaguely resembles the freedom we had before. This feels particularly relevant at the moment as we start to make plans for October half-term. Our August staycation was truly that with day trips out to relatively local spots rather than overnight stays anywhere else, be that in the UK or abroad. For G, M and me, our only nights away in recent months have been at my Mum’s house and even that has been filled with some stress as I had to adapt to more people in one place than I’ve seen for months as we ventured out on our daily walks.

Half-term will see more of the same, with a repeat visit to the arboretum already planned with my Mum and I’m hoping to find at least one other small day trip we can make whilst Mike continues to work. M has already muted the idea of an afternoon of bowling, or we might even consider a visit to a safari park as that was something we didn’t get round to doing during the summer. However, we’ve also bitten the bullet and decided on a night away from home so that we can fit in plans that were put on hold due to the lockdown.

G has been longing to go to the Harry Potter Studios for months, so part-way through Year 11, I decided to offer her a trip there as the ultimate incentive for continuing to practise her clarinet for her music GCSE, despite her longing to give it up. It seemed fitting that we included this destination on our list of things to do at half-term and, as it will see us heading towards London, we’ve decided on an overnight stay followed by a repeat visit at Chessington World of Adventures. Both children absolutely loved our day there this time last year and M has been asking if we might be able to go back again as he loved the experience of the Halloween extra hours. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look likely that they will be running those this year due to the changes needed to make the park a COVID-secure day out, but I have no doubt we’ll have just as much as fun.

These are realistically not the travel plans I’d really be like to be making, but it’s difficult to see when, or where, we might be able to go abroad again. Whilst many are back to travelling, the additional risk to me of travelling by plane is one that I’m not yet prepared to take and so we will continue to look to holiday here in the UK and explore this wonderful isle we live on.

Back to School – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 25

After more days off school than we ever dreamed was likely, G and M have returned to school this week. As if the move to A-levels and GCSEs was not enough, they’ve also gone back with face masks, social distancing and a very different looking timetable as their new norm. Our annual first day of school photo showed other changes that have happened in the last 6 months – a growth spurt for M, a dramatic hair-cut for G and a mop of lockdown hair that has caused much debate in the household. With less than half an inch in it, G is adamant she is still the taller and only M hitting 5’6″ will convince her otherwise.

Summer Photo Round-up – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 24

A summer like no other, but still filled to bursting with sunshine, laughter and huge amounts of safe ice-cream!

CitC Take 2 – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 23

With the start of the new school term being just a week or so away now, the last few days have been a great end to the extended break from school for G as she has eagerly followed in M’s footsteps and taken part in this week’s Midlands Siblings Camp in the Cloud. She has been waiting patiently for camp to start and firmly put M in his place last week when he offered to help her explore the virtual campground and point out where cabin chat challenges would be set and so on.

Being the ages they are, both children had the same set of challenges, which you might have thought would make this second week less attractive, but in fact the exact opposite has been true. A couple of the craft activities set had proved challenging for M as he found some of the finer details frustrating with his dyspraxia and he spent much of his time browsing the virtual campsite and taking part in the online activities, rather than completing the practical ones.

G, however, has tackled the crafts with relish and with perseverance; and, having discovered that watching the online videos was key, created a beautiful origami crane mobile, a working robotic hand and whizzed her way through the clues for the “locked box” challenge. She has loved joining in the nightly cabin chats and has come more out of her shell as the week has gone on. Her blue team has connected via Instagram, and if the amount of notifications buzzing through to her phone is any indication, they’re a chatty and engaged lot!

With Storm Francis hitting us hard with rain and wind this week and wiping out our new-in-lockdown 16ft trampoline by taking down one of the trees in our paddock, this week’s Camp in the Cloud has been a welcome distraction. Even better, M has re-engaged with some of the free-flow activities he didn’t complete during his week of camp, which has kept them both quiet and occupied with something other than the inevitable screens. In a summer that hasn’t quite been what we were hoping it would be, Over The Wall has kept us all sane and given both children some much-needed smiles on some otherwise grey days.

Lockdown Exam Results – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 22

Exams aren’t easy at the best of times and there can be no question that this year has posed the current cohort of exam students challenges that no-one could have even imagined when planning for the GCSEs and A-levels to be taken this summer. G has been working hard for her GCSEs over the last 2 years and, since the true extent of her anxieties became clear, having additional tuition and learning mindfulness techniques to help her manage the exam sittings as best she could with increased confidence in her own abilities.

Add in the stress following the fiasco with the A-level results day this time last week and it is easy to see why it hasn’t been an easy week at home. G has obviously been massively impacted by the confusion over how her final GCSE grades would be calculated and the huge sigh she gave after the latest government u-turn was announced on Monday evening showed just how heavy that burden has been. She and I have spent a lot of time talking about her results and what they will mean for this next step in her life journey. G knows what A-levels she wants to study and is fortunate to have 2 offers on the table from our local secondary schools, but still has to make up her mind as to where she wants to go for the next 2 years. It is nothing short of a miracle that I have not turned more extensively to alcohol and chocolate to see me through, although there’s still time before we’ve finished ploughing our way through the chaos and reached final decisions!

In many ways the decision to use the centre assessed grades (CAGs) is good news for G as she hasn’t had to undergo the stress of the exams, but this is a concern in itself as she will have no direct experience of how to sit an exam when it comes time for her A-levels. However, we have time to work on managing those anxieties and will continue to work with her tutor to make sure she has the opportunity to experience timed assessments to mimic the pressure of an actual exam.

More importantly, G knows how proud Mike and I are of the hard work she has put in, including her decision to continue following her GCSE revision plan during the first few weeks of lockdown without any prompting from either of us. We hope that her results will reflect her efforts, but G knows that as always we have got her back and are prepared to fight her corner if needed to make sure her next adventure starts as she wants it to.

2020 will always be the year when the exams weren’t sat, but that shouldn’t distract from the hard work and effort put in by all these young people throughout their school careers and the hellish void of information that they’ve been living with since March. No matter what their results are, they all should be commended for their fortitude and determination to succeed in the most extraordinary of circumstances.