Tag Archives: COVID-19

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.

Holidaying from Home – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 21

Like so many others our summer holidays plans have been put on hold this year, first by COVID-19 and then by the loss of Mike’s Dad. After much discussion with G in particular, we had originally planned an epic Disney holiday through Northern Europe to mark the end of 2 years of hard work towards her GCSEs and it was a huge disappointment to us all when we had to cancel that trip. Instead, G, M and I have found ourselves on staycation this week and have been heading out on day trips within a reasonable distance of our home base.

The soaring heatwave has, at times, been almost unbearable, and there’s been much discussion about whether it’s been as hot as either our holidays to Portugal or Greece – it has – especially without the refreshing coolness of a pool or the sea to dip in and out of when needed. It has, however, also got us talking about places we’d like to visit in the future, destinations we’d like to go back to and truly appreciating the ease with which we’ve been able to travel and experience so many different cultures in the past.

This week we’ve explored an arboretum, been on a bear hunt (and other wild animals) and walked along our local pier. Both G and M have both met up with friends “in real life” for the first time since March and I’ve been brave enough to venture out a little more than I have done in months. The week has been filled with laughter, adventure and some hot weather stroppiness as well as building more memories and revisiting old familiar haunts too.

Camp in the Cloud – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 20

Since their first camps in 2016, G and M have looked forward to the start of every year to find out if they have got a place at their choice of Over The Wall camps. The initial outcome of this year’s applications saw both children on the waiting lists for their respective choices and, in M’s case in particular, with fingers tightly crossed that they might be lucky enough to make it to the actual camp when the time came about.

Like so many other activities, the coronavirus pandemic understandably shut down the Over The Wall camps this year, something that we all understood although it did leave the children somewhat disappointed. However, no sooner had we been advised that camp wouldn’t be happening this year, than an email was sent telling us that they were looking into a virtual alternative and to keep an eye out for future updates to be sent. It didn’t take long for the final details to reach me and both children eagerly signed up to the first ever Camp in the Cloud.

M was first up with the online South Health Challenges Camp and about 2 weeks before the start of camp his Camp in the Cloud box arrived on our doorstep. He did a grand reveal and shared opening his box with my Mum and Aunt over Face Time on the Saturday afternoon. Hidden inside was a padlocked box, sealed envelopes labelled for each day, face paints, a stationery set and, most importantly, his team t-shirt revealing he’s risen to the heady heights of being a green boy. The box also included a pot of M-friendly hot chocolate for cabin chat. The note on the container reminded him he could make it with the dairy-free milk alternative of his choice – a small thing that showed just how much OTW focuses on the finer details for each and every camper in their care. They also followed that up with an email just before camp began to remind me to check the ingredients to make sure I was confident that it was safe for M to drink.

The week of Camp in the Cloud came at a perfect time for M. It was a good start to his so-say summer holidays and proved to be a great distraction from the sad news of losing Grandpa the weekend before. The daily challenges gave him a focused activity to try his hand at and he loved being able to explore the virtual campsite, searching for the hidden Newman’s sauce bottles and participating in all his favourite camp activities in one way or another. The highlight of each day was most definitely the camp chat via Zoom, which gave him around 45 minutes to meet his team mates, accept, or set, team challenges and just chat in a face-to-face context, something he hasn’t really been able to do since lockdown began.

I was intrigued to see what M’s response to the week would be and it couldn’t have been more positive. Whilst he commented that it obviously wasn’t as good as going to camp itself, he loved being part of it and having something different to do after so many weeks of the same old, same old. Being able to dip in and out of the online platform during the day worked perfectly for my usually active child and the evening cabin chats really made it feel like camp. M was so impressed with the camp that he even contacted OTW himself to suggest that Camp in the Cloud is something they could continue to do in the future. He loves going to camp and always feels the bitter disappointment when he isn’t successful in getting a place. M believes that being able to offer Camp in the Cloud to those children who aren’t able to go the physical camp would be a great alternative and would reach out to offer the fantastic OTW experience to even more campers than they usually can. Whether they consider doing that, we simply don’t know, but anything we can do to help make it a reality we will.

Now we’re onto the countdown for G’s Midlands siblings camp at the end of the month – and she just can’t wait!

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!

Keeping in Touch – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 16

How have you found keeping in touch whilst we’ve been on lockdown?

Zoom has certainly come into its own since March, with businesses, individuals and groups using this technology for just about every event and occasion imaginable. I find myself on this video conferencing platform almost daily with a combination of management meetings, team meetings, webinars and our Sunday morning post-Church service “coffee chat”. We’ve used it for quiz nights and catching up with friends in Canada, although a number of those have also been accessed through FaceTime, Facebook Live and YouTube. I’m even about to embark on some Zoom interviews for a role within our finance team at work, although I’ve still to work out how to facilitate the excel-based competency test we usually ask candidates to complete under timed conditions in our office.

M has become an expert on MS Teams as his secondary school has finally managed to get itself organised enough to run some “live” lessons for some subjects in the last 5 weeks or so of the school year. He also uses it for his weekly lesson with our local dyslexia centre, who had everything in place as soon as the Easter holidays were over, and have offered him a week’s worth of daily lessons in August so that he doesn’t miss out too much on the learning and support they would have been doing with him since lockdown started.

G will be using MS Teams tomorrow as her tutor has organised an online face-to-face farewell session for her tutor group before she has an unquestionably late induction to the 6th form at her current school in case she decides to stay on there in September. For G, there has been very little contact with the school over the last 15 weeks. There has been no active teaching or engagement with the 300 students in her year group and many of them will not be returning in September as they move on to other schools and apprenticeships for the next step in their studies. Whilst we thought that the contact with M from school had been mediocre at best, for G it has been devastatingly pitiful and has done absolutely nothing to give her any semblance of any support during what has been a challenging time for us all, let alone for those students where the opportunity to take GCSEs and A-levels was suddenly snatched away.

As I mentioned last week, M took his first steps back to life as normal as it possibly can be these days with a return to school for a one hour session yesterday lunchtime. He was in with 8 other members of his tutor group, including 2 of his closest friends and it was a great opportunity to catch up and actually see other people for the first time in months. He wore his face mask into school, but chose to take it off during the session as the desks in the classroom had all been spaced 2 metres apart. He enjoyed the time they had and it gave him a much-needed change of scenery too.

We also met up with my Mum for the first time properly since lockdown began, although it was via a socially distanced cup of tea in our garden – Mum bringing her own flask of hot water, tea-bags, mug and chair with her! I have been either calling or texting her daily to give her regular updates about how we all are, and weekly Face Times with the children as well to give her and them an opportunity to chat. Sunday was the first chance for us all to be together for an extended length of time in person, something that I think we all needed. The weather wasn’t quite as glorious as it has been in previous weeks, but it was dry enough for long enough to allow us to sit out comfortably together and enjoy that time.