Category Archives: Family

July 2021: Yet another school year done…

…and what a year it has been.

G started her A-levels in the sixth form at our local school after 6 months of practically no school whatsoever following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic and ensuing lockdown in the UK. It has not been the easiest year for her whole cohort as they’ve struggled to get back to learning with not only the added challenges of online schooling and social bubbles within school, but also that monumental shift into further education. It has quickly become apparent that traditional A-levels do not suit G’s learning style or allow for her exam nerves, and so she has bravely made the decision to move to a local college and study BTEC courses instead. It feels like a very grown-up choice for her to have made, not least as she will be catching the train to college each day, but with her 18th birthday approaching far too quickly, it is unquestionably the right time for her to make this change.

M, on the other hand, has, for the most part, embraced the challenge of his GCSEs and has shown a definite flair for both the artistic (photography and performing arts) and the scientific (Computing and Science) in his Year 10 mock exams. His cardiology appointment in May revealed that he grew an incredible 12cms and gained 15kg in 15 months, more than he’s ever managed before and he continues to grow like a weed and is fast catching up on me! I’m not sure it would be fair to say that he’s looking forward to moving into Year 11 in September, but he is beginning to think about what he wants to study next and G’s move to another college has helped broaden his outlook on where he might go.

Our summer plans are fairly quiet, though we are hoping to squeeze in a week away at some point, COVID allowing. G is helping out with the Stagecoach summer school for 2 weeks and M has volunteered to help with the sound at a couple of the summer camp family days that our church is running. They both have some school work to complete too, but the rest of this week is mostly going to be occupied with lots of sleep and an outside performance of Macbeth (one of M’s GCSE texts!) to enjoy, our first trip to the Theatre for an awfully long time…and I simply can’t wait!

June 2021: Eating our way around the World

Whilst we still can’t do much more than dream about resuming our international travel adventures at the moment, we have been talking lots about where we’d like to go once we can start again. We’ve discussed weekends away, city breaks, longer holidays and birthday treats, not least because G will be turning 18 at the end of this year. Some destinations have been something of a surprise (Hungary and Russia in the middle of the winter to name a couple), whilst others have been on one family member or another’s wish list for a long time.

There has also been a definite fatigue within the 7Q2D kitchen over the last few months and so, taking inspiration from all of our conversations about travel, I decided to pick a handful of countries and their cuisines to influence our menu choices. It started with a return to a recipe I’d adapted whilst we were watching the Great British Bake-Off last year and both children fancied trying the Japanese steamed buns that were prepared. I made them in the Autumn using duck as a filling and had surprisingly great success. However, I hadn’t turned my hand to them and so decided one weekend to give them another whirl, with plenty of time to fit in a family walk whilst the dough was rising.

In the spirit of travel-inspired foods and, quite frankly, building on that success, this past week has been all about Italy  – another of G’s picks as well as Mike’s hopes for a Roman weekend. So far we’ve enjoyed Gnocchi (though I must admit it wasn’t home-made), risotto, pizza, arancini di riso, and pasta on different nights and with plenty of enthusiasm from even my pickiest diner.

I’m not quite sure where next week’s travels will take us, but it’s been fun and an entertaining alternative so far to the same old dishes that I seem to cook week after week.

2021: 15 years today! – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 51

The last in the family to celebrate a birthday in lockdown, M somehow managed to miss it last year by the skin of his teeth and at one point we wondered if he might escape it again this, but it wasn’t to be. He is delighted though that despite his fears that today might be the first day back at school for a while, instead he won’t return until Wednesday and so he really does get to celebrate his day at home in the way he was hoping.

A lot has changed for M in the last 12 months – he has probably enjoyed one of the healthiest years of his life as his diet continues to expand steadily and his growth spurts have taken him to towering over his big sister and slowly creeping up on me. It’s a joy to be celebrating his 15th birthday at home with him today in a way that is very much his teenage approach to life – sleep, PS4 time with friends, doughnuts and food, lots and lots of food!

Happy 15th birthday M – we love you always, even all your teenage quirks! xxx

2021: Yet Another Lockdown Holiday – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 48

I don’t know about you, but a definite sense of COVID and lockdown fatigue has hit our household and G and M were more than ready for their February half-tern break this week. For M, spending close to 6 hours daily in live online lessons has been surprisingly tiring and the loss of his walks to, from and around school have definitely impacted on his sleep patterns as he is mentally, but not always physically exhausted by the end of the day.

As Mike and I have both been working from home this week as normal, G and M have had their days to themselves. Before the week even began, I suggested that keeping up with some schoolwork would be a good idea and so each morning has been filled with homework, tutor sessions and, in G’s case, making sure that all her A-level notes are legible and neatly written up from her occasionally messy notes. They’ve been out for daily walks, had great fun making their recordings for their end-of-term virtual Stagecoach performance and even took over the kitchen on Shrove Tuesday to whip up a batch of delicious M-friendly pancakes for us all to enjoy.

However, our evenings this week have been dedicated to family time and what better way to spend that time than in some friendly rivalry around a board game. To avoid squabbles as much as possible, G and M have taken it in turns to pick the evening’s game and we’ve had a real mix so far this week. From honing our art talents in “Telestrations” – we soon discovered who the weak links in the family are – to developing our deduction skills in “Cluedo“, all via a musical interlude on the kazoo in “Play that Tune”, there have been a lot of giggles to be heard. We’ve revisited some long-standing family favourites as well as playing those bought at Christmas, although the Reindeer Hoopla has yet to make an out-of-season reappearance!

Like so much of the last 48 weeks, this half-term might not have been quite as we would have liked or planned, but we’ve had a lot of fun together, perhaps even more so now that the children are older and can be challenged a bit more in our games. I’d be hard pressed to pick a personal favourite from our table filled to the brim, but would highly recommend “Telestrations”, a game we can’t wait to play with my Mum once we’re able to visit her once again. The topic of which game is picked for that evening’s entertainment has been a key part of our dinner table conversation and it’s been fascinating to see which games each child chooses.

What’s your recommendation? Any family favourites that are always picked, or something new to you that you think we might also like to try to?

17 Today – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 38

When we marked G’s sweet sixteen this time last year, we were looking forward to a year filled with next steps and new adventures. Her GCSEs were looming and plans were slowly being made for her Sixth Form choice and beyond. And then COVID-19 hit and everything started to look a little different. Weeks on lockdown at home together have flown past, the new school year arrived before we were really expecting it, long hair was cut into a stylish and far more grown-up look that I certainly was ready for and just like that, here we are celebrating G’s birthday once again.

This year continues to be unlike any other and G’s hopes for a small dinner out with her closest friends have been put on hold as we linger in the restrictions of Tier 3. Instead, it will be just as she has asked – a quiet day together as family with a film of her choice, a Chinese takeaway supper and the one thing that hasn’t changed since she was small, a birthday cake baked and decorated with all the love in the world.

Happy 17th birthday sweet girl, love you for ever and always xxx

Remembrance 2020 – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 34

A few years ago G was asked to do some school work about the Second World War and contacted my Gran to ask for copies of any photos she had of her and my Granddad from that time period. These were duly sent, along with some memories my Gran had of that time and in was handed a very personal reflection of WW2. Two years later, or thereabouts, M was asked to do something very similar and as well as using those sent to G, he also asked for any photos or information about my Dadcu* and also Mike’s grandparents.

These are the images the children received with a small insight into the work their great-grandparents did during the war:

Walter (Mike’s paternal Grandfather): volunteered as a sailor during WW1 and was injured when an explosion happened as he was boarding a ship which led to him being sent home to recuperate. During WW2 he again volunteered, but this time was late in joining the Canadian war effort and the war ended just 2 weeks after his paperwork had all been completed.

Dudley (Mike’s maternal Grandfather): was still in Jamaica during the time of WW2 and so didn’t fight.

 

Daniel (my maternal Dadcu): Joined the RAF during WW2 and was based in Canada and the USA for most of the war years. We have a wonderful photograph album of his time there, which I remember pouring over both before and after I travelled to Ottawa for university. It was amazing to think that my grandfather had spent time in the same places and walked the same roads that I did so many years later, although it was near impossible to identify where many of his photos had been taken. He also spent time in Berlin after the war before returning home to the Welsh Valleys.

Josef (my paternal Granddad): made the decision to leave Czechoslovakia before Hitler’s invasion and joined the Free Hungarian Army to fight for the Allied forces in Egypt. From there, he then joined the Free Czech Army and eventually ended up in England, where he met my paternal Gran, who was also doing her bit for the war effort. They married before starting their family in the post War years and then settled permanently in the UK. I wish I knew more about my Granddad’s wartime experiences and those of the family he left behind in Czechoslovakia, but sadly most of those stories have died with them before we had time to capture them.

#timetoremember #remembranceday2020

* Dadcu = Welsh for Grandfather

 

 

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.

Grief in Lockdown – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 19

Lockdown hasn’t been easy anywhere around the world, but the last 10 weeks or so have been really challenging for our family. Mike’s Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma back in 2012 and has spent the last 8 years valiantly fighting against this disease. Sadly, last weekend that battle came to an end and a much-loved Dad, Father-in-Law and Grandpa passed away. Despite Mike travelling back to Canada just over a week ago, he is currently stuck in quarantine and didn’t manage to see his Dad in person before he died, although he has spent time nearly every day of the last 10 weeks speaking to both of his parents either on the phone or via video-call.

The grief that has hit G and M is reminisce of that from 2 years ago when my Uncle passed away, and the 3 of us still in the UK are pulling together to support each other as we work through a gamut of emotions alongside the added strain of Mike now being away from home until the beginning of September. They have many wonderful memories of the last 16  years and I’m so glad that they both were able to spend precious time with Grandpa despite the ocean between us.

Grandpa, you will be greatly missed, but we know you’re now resting easy after a long, well-fought battle and are no longer in any pain xxx

 

 

Family connections – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 18

One of the changes that many people have experienced during last few months of lockdown has been more limited contact with their family members. Mike’s parents, brothers and their families are all in Canada and his usual contact with them can be sporadic at best, reliant on emails, FB messages and the occasional phone-call. Due to some changes in family circumstances in the last couple of months, Mike is now using both FaceTime and WhatsApp on an almost daily basis to stay in touch as well as get and give more regular updates from both sides of the pond.

G and M usually spend time with my Mum on a very regular basis be that after school or during the school holidays, and haven’t been able to do that since the middle of March. Instead we’ve replaced that time with regular phone-calls and weekly FaceTime chats on a Saturday so Mum can actually see how we’re all doing and we can compare current hairstyles, which always brings a smile. A couple of weeks ago we even managed a face-to-face meeting in our garden and fortunately the weather didn’t stop the happening, although it perhaps wasn’t as warm and sunny as we’d have liked.

Last week though, was a new venture for us. Following on from the success of our weekly quizzes, M proposed a family quiz and asked each member of the family to set a round of 10 questions on any subject they wanted. I added an additional round, pulled together all 8 rounds into a Powerpoint before hosting the quiz via Zoom. We covered a range of subjects from Star Wars to literature and from pop culture to facts and figures relating to our birthdays. It was a great way to spend an afternoon together, full of laughter and a few frustrated brows when obvious answers were missed. And, already a repeat performance has been requested, though I don’t quite know when it will happen!

Awareness in Lockdown – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 9

This week has been a focus for raising awareness for 2 causes close to our hearts: National Eosinophil Awareness Week (NEAW) and Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW). It somehow feels apt that these two go hand-in-hand this week as we have so often experienced first-hand how closely linked life with EGID is with the mental health well-being of all in our family. This year that is even more important as so many of us are struggling with the changes that the coronavirus lockdown has brought with it and none more so than the young people in our household.

National Eosinophil Awareness Week: We have been very active in raising awareness about eosinophilic diseases for a number of years, but decided to start taking a step back from that last year. Eosinophilic Colitis (EC) was the initial diagnosis that we received for M all those years ago from his consultant at GOSH, but in recent times, the diagnosis criteria for this condition have faltered and existing diagnoses have been actively questioned by many within the medical community. These days conditions such as mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) have been bandied about in relation to M, but ultimately the root cause of his health problems still remains a mystery to us all. As I’ve said so many times, having a name to put to his health issues has helped us all, even when very little is known about it, and I continue to use both his original diagnosis of EC and the newer one of MCAS when filling in paperwork or talking about M with other people.

Despite our own uncertainty about whether EGID is the correct diagnosis for M or not, I will always continue to encourage and support the fundraising and awareness-raising efforts of organisations seeking to research and understand this family of conditions more. Lockdown maybe stopping us doing anything active to raise awareness this week as we have in the past, but it’s good to be able to do my bit even from within the constraints of my own home.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Mental health well-being has been a buzz word in our household for a number of years and never has that been more important than now as we see the impact of 9 weeks in lockdown on us all. I’m a happy introvert, who enjoys spending time in my own company and so, in many ways, lockdown life is suiting me quite well. Regular contact with my work colleagues through Zoom and conference calls, webinars and online catch-ups with other friends is keeping me in touch with the outside world, which is especially important at a time when my T1D is keeping me at home.

However, I see a greater effect on Mike and the children and I think a lot of that is due to the changes to their daily routines. I am still working 9-5 every weekday, albeit from home and more often 8-7, but the 3 of them are going through a very different experience to me. Mike was furloughed from his job as a chartered surveyor on 1 April and for someone who is very used to being out and about as he values or surveys properties every day, the restriction of staying at home has been difficult. He is also much more of a social bug than I am, so not having daily face-to-face time with anyone other than the children and me has also taken its toll. However, that being said, the online capability to chat to family and friends across the world is something he has definitely embraced, even taking part in his regular whiskey-tasting evening via Zoom the other night!

As for the children, well G and M are almost a perfect reflection of Mike and me. G is comfortable entertaining herself and being in her own company, whereas M thrives on spending time with his peers as well as being constantly active and mentally challenged by them. Both have found lockdown difficult and we have worked, and continue to work, hard together to find the best outlet for their emotions as well as effective ways to meet their social needs. Chatting on WhatsApp or connecting via the PS4 has been a good solution and both are also having tutoring sessions via Zoom or MS Teams every week. This connection with people from outside of the family has been key to giving them something that is a very faint semblance of what they’re used to experiencing daily. Keeping them in a routine has also been important as Mike and I are very conscious that their return to school in September, after the best part of 6 months home-schooling, will exhaust them physically, mentally and emotionally from the minute they step through the school doors, if not before.

The buzzword for MHAW has been Kindness and considering what random acts of kindness you can do for others has been much encouraged. However, I think it’s key to remember that, whilst showing kindness to others in all situations is important, so is showing kindness to ourselves. We truly are living through extraordinary times and we shouldn’t feel guilty if we are not coping as well as we perhaps believe we should. Be that by taking some time to do something we love to do as an individual – bubble bath anyone? – or spending time relaxing with our family or even reaching out to a friend because we just need to talk, being kind to ourselves will improve our own well-being, which is something we all need right now.