Tag Archives: Performing Arts

Birthdays, exams and an awards ceremony too

The last 10 days have been busy ones and I for one am glad to be heading into the last week of term, though the dawning of the school holidays definitely does not equate to any time off work for me this year. Looking back at my blog posts from previous years, it does appear that March and April are consistently a hectic time for us and this year was no different. World Book Day passed surprisingly easy, with M heading to school in his own clothes for his school’s Roald Dahl-themed day as he chose to represent “…a material witness at the trial of Goldilocks, Mummy…” in Dahl’s version of that well-loved Fairy tale.

We seamlessly segued from my 40th celebrations to M’s 11th birthday and onto my 4th blogaversary before celebrating Mother’s Day in fine style too. School presented its own challenges to both G and M, with homework tasks, concert rehearsals and posters revising the finer details of grammar and punctuation – fronted adverbials anyone? – filling our evenings and weekends. Next came 2 sets of exams: Performing Arts exams for both children with their Stagecoach school, followed just a few days later by M’s Grade 1 Cello exam, which I’m delighted to say he passed despite a persistent reluctance to give much more than a cursory nod to his daily practice. Continuing with the music theme, G performed with the school clarinet group at her school’s Spring music concert last week, whilst M is singing with his school choir at a regional music concert involving children from Junior schools across our county this week.

On top of all of that, we also managed to squeeze in a trip to London for 4 and an evening spent celebrating the success stories from this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards. Once again held at the Royal College of Physicians near Regent’s Park, the evening was a glittering event designed to recognise some of the fantastic freefrom products nominated this year and was a great opportunity to not only catch-up with friends from the allergy blogging world, but also try those tasty treats that had pipped their competitors to the winning post. Hosted by the fabulous Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, director of the FreeFrom Food Awards, with a helping hand from restaurateur, celebrity chef and awards patron, Antony Worrall-Thompson, the Awards were a real testament to the changes brought about in the Freefrom world over the last few years.

The complete list of winners from #FFFA17 can be found here, but the big winners of the night were Irish bakers, Bfree, whose Sweet Potato Wraps are impressively top 14 allergen free and won high praise from many of the judges for being “…enormously versatile, beautifully soft and pliable, a lovely warm colour and tasting delicious…” This year was the 10th anniversary of the FFFA and to acknowledge this remarkable achievement, nominations had been invited to recognise a Freefrom Super Hero from within the industry itself. There were 5 very worthy nominees, all of whom are, without a doubt, heroes within the Freefrom world, but there could only be one winner and the inspirational Clare Marriage of Doves Farm was chosen for her unquestionable dedication to the production of numerous flour blends that have transformed the lives of those having to bake freefrom.

It was a fantastic night and it was wonderful to be able to mingle with the crowds of fellow freefrom foodies, rather than negotiate them with a small child in a wheelchair as we did last year! G not only enjoyed helping herself to a number of the goodies on offer on the Winners’ Buffet, finding a new gluten-free favourite with Kelkin’s chocolate-flavoured teacakes, but also found the courage to strike up a brief conversation with her very own Super Hero, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, the creator of G’s gluten-free bread of choice, Genius. I can’t wait to see what the year ahead brings for the Freefrom industry and am definitely looking forward to #FFFA18!

Limping towards the Finish line

bucket listDo you remember that long, long list of things that I was facing at the beginning of March? With the month-end in sight, I am, quite literally, limping towards the finish line, just thankful that the long Easter weekend ahead means the opportunity for some much-needed lie-ins and down-time; but how did March go in then end?

World book day and required costume x 1 – M decided on what can only be described as something of a left-field choice for your average 9 year-old and dressed up as Ford Prefect from Douglas Adams’ well-loved trilogy of 5 books, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“. It was one of the easiest costumes he’s ever asked me to make and to our delight, he won a £5 book token for the best WBD costume in his class.'Oh yes we're very proud of him. He's in publishing you know!'

Parents evenings x 2 – Both evenings went extremely well and we are so proud of the strides both children have made during this school year. M has been working hard at beating the challenges of his dyslexia and dyspraxia and is developing some beautiful handwriting when he remembers to try. G has settled well into Year 7 and was described to me as a “conscientious, hard-working, empathetic and focused” member of her tutor group. I was delighted to hear that her confidence has grown throughout the year and that she is developing into a well-respected and natural leader amongst her peers too.

School book fairs x 2 – Attended and books bought.

M-friendly croissants – Recipe adapted, croissants baked and hugely enjoyed as part of the school’s French role-play activity. I achieved above and beyond what I thought was possible with so little notice.

Mothers Day – We enjoyed a quiet day together, although sadly my Mum was unwell and not able to come out for lunch with us. We ate at one of our favourite M-friendly restaurants and were once again impressed by the phenomenal memory of the restaurant manager and the care awarded to both children by all the staff. Well done Wagamama!

Riding lessons – G continues to ride every other weekend and her passion for this hobby is growing. Her latest lesson saw her not only trotting and cantering with confidence, but beginning some preparatory steps to get her ready for jumping – scary stuff but she’s loving every moment.

A 10th birthday and a class assembly – These happened on the same day and were both celebrated in style. It’s hard to believe that my little bean has reached the end of his first decade and I can’t begin to imagine what the next one will hold.IMG_1765

Birthday celebrations – M chose a reptile-themed birthday party and I braved holding a tarantula to help encourage G to beat her fears and do it herself. We combined the day into a double celebration and headed out to a local trampoline park in the afternoon with a couple of friends for a belated marking of G’s 12th birthday too.

Dentist and hair appointments – These both happened as planned and really there’s not much more to say.

GOSH appointment – Mike, M and I headed to London for our first appointment at GOSH since the disastrous admission last December. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, not least because the gastro department is currently in a state of great upheaval. M is doing well, even though we haven’t managed to introduce any more foods safely into his diet since last summer and continues to impress us all by drinking the 400mls of E028 necessary to supplement his limited repertoire of food. His weight has dropped on the centile charts and will need some careful monitoring over the next few months as we continue to search for some more safe foods for him. There is, at long last, a chance of some shared care between GOSH and our local gastro team, which would add some much-needed local level support for our family and the next step is really to wait and see when and if that happens.

School play – Thankfully M’s role as Poseidon meant that I could re-use his toga from Stagecoach last year, so that was one costume crisis off my hands. He was only able to take part in one performance as the matinée was on the same day as his GOSH appointment and unfortunately I wasn’t able to see his evening performance as it clashed with G’s parents evening. However, Mike and G went to watch and told me it was great fun and he did really well.

Performing Arts Exams x 2 – Taken by one very-tired G and one determined-to-do-well M. We won’t know just how well they’ve done until mid-April, but I’m told that they both worked hard and performed well on the day. Having watched their performances the week before, I can’t wait to see if all their efforts paid off and are reflected in their marks.index

Spa day – This was a late birthday celebration, a treat that Mike had sorted out for me and my dear friend, and M’s godmother, L. We had a lovely afternoon being pampered, drinking coffee and chatting without interruption by small people, before enjoying a delicious dinner and a few bubbles to mark the day.

Events linked to school topics – This term M’s topic has been India and part of the school experience was to share an Indian meal from a local restaurant. Thanks to previous experience from G’s time in Year 5, I had been anticipating this one for months and a few mini trials of herbs and spices meant that I’ve been able to create a curry-esque meal that’s suitable for M. A mix of cumin, coriander, ginger and rosemary combined with our new discovery of rice cream created the sauce for his staples of chicken and rice. It might not be an authentic dish, but he loves it and it’s meant that he has been able to join in a meal with the rest of his class.

Preparations for G’s sibling camp – I haven’t quite started on this one, but the weekend’s going to be busy as G goes off to camp on Monday. She’s been looking at the list of things she needs and chatting to a friend via e-mail as she prepares for a week filled with fun and activities away from the hustle and bustle of home. She also went to her first Young Carers meeting this week and seemed to settle in really well. There are some other girls the same age as G, including one from her school, who have just started too and she’s looking forward to an afternoon at a local trampoline park during the Easter holidays. Watch this space for more of an update once she’s back and has shared all the news with me!

Easter – Preparations are sorted, food trials are planned, eggs have been bought and I’m looking forward to a peaceful family weekend at home.

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Happy Easter!

 

March comes in like a lion

Ever had one of “those” days? You know, the ones where you’re already insanely busy and barely have time to breathe and yet everything that could conceivably go wrong, does go wrong to an unbelievable extent, plus those few extra and unexpected hiccups and challenges that appear along the way. After the last 48 hours, I appear to be heading into not just one of “those” days or even one of “those” weeks, but more realistically, one of “those” months. The next few weeks promise to be extremely busy and I’m beginning to wonder how I’ll get everything done on time and in the right order. You know it’s a sad state of affairs when we’re only on the third day of the month and I’m already counting down to the start of the next one.

Wales from space, courtesy of UK astronaut, Tim Peake

Wales from space, courtesy of UK astronaut, Tim Peake

The month started with our rather low-key marking of “Dydd Dewi Sant”, or St David’s Day for those of you not au fait with the Welsh language. Fortunately, this simply required some frantic scrabbling around my drawers hunting out the daffodil brooches that the children and I wear every year and remembering to pin them securely to school jumpers before heading out the door. The children were both keen and proud to wear their daffodils, though equally unimpressed that their friends didn’t know why they wearing them and so took the opportunity to quickly educate their classes. If I’d been more organised, I might have posted on the day itself, but I wasn’t and I didn’t, so this is me recognising that celebration of my heritage now.

But after that gentle start to the month, things have already started to ramp up. The next four weeks include:

Gotta love my left-field boy - who better than Ford Prefect from HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

Gotta love my left-field boy – who better than Ford Prefect from HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

  • World book day and required costume x 1
  • parents evenings x 2
  • school book fairs x 2
  • M-friendly croissants (eek!) for French role-play at school with just 3 days advance notice to attempt adapting my MEWS-free recipe
  • Mothers Day
  • riding lessons
  • a 10th birthday (how did he get to be a decade old?)
  • birthday celebrations, including themed party and cake
  • class assembly x 1
  • dentist appointment
  • hair appointment
  • GOSH appointment
  • Easter
  • Performing Arts Exams x 2
  • school play, which translates into costume provision, rehearsals and performances
  • Spa day – a late birthday celebration which will be much-needed as it comes in the middle of the busiest week
  • events linked to school topics which will undoubtedly require some inventive cooking from me
  • preparations for a sibling camp for G, which gives her a week away with other youngsters in similar situations and, more importantly, a week away from M

gin-and-tonI’m sure that there will be things I’ve already forgotten and likewise, there’s no doubt that there will be more items added to my list as March passes by. Needless to say, I will be blogging about many of these occasions and just how I overcome the challenges of taking my M-friendly cooking and baking a step further than I ever imagined possible. Once all of these things are out of the way, it’ll be time for a well-deserved drink and, in case you’re wondering, mine’s a large gin!

What a performance!

honkM’s love for the performing arts is something I can really relate to, having spent most of my formative years loving nothing more than singing, dancing and acting whenever possible. Both he and G regularly attend our local Stagecoach theatre school and have not only grown in confidence, but have also developed skills that will stand them in good stead in whatever career path they choose to follow.  G is not a natural performer, but her continued hard work, dedication and determination to be the best she can, has seen her win the lead role of “Ugly” in this term’s performance of the musical, “Honk”.  This isn’t a musical I’m familiar with and I’m looking forward to seeing the chosen extract in a few weeks’ time with my daughter in the starring role.  If her enthusiasm is anything to go by, it will be a fantastic experience.

G has also been spending time focusing on her clarinet and has two big events coming up over the next few months.  The first takes place at the end of March and that’s her Grade 1 clarinet exam.  She has been practising at home as well as at school and I delighted that she is confident enough to take the exam.  Secondly, she is once again performing in our local education authority’s music concert, which brings together instrumentalists from across the county to perform at a local music venue.  She loved doing it last year and is looking forward to playing in it soon.  G has had several pieces of music to learn for these occasions, but she’s determined to perform well at both and is working hard at perfecting the music as best she can.

Courtesy of swanwickhall.derbyshire.sch.uk

Courtesy of swanwickhall.derbyshire.sch.uk

M, on the other hand, was born to be on the stage and demonstrates a natural flair and understanding for direction in his classes.  He loves to take any and every opportunity to perform that comes his way.  It provides him with a focus away from his ill-health and he has had to develop a stamina to perform, no matter how his body is behaving.  After all, as we all know, “the show must go on“.  M is passionate about the stage and would love nothing more than a career on it; but he is also surprisingly realistic that not everyone can succeed and has talked extensively about what other opportunities the theatre could offer him in the future.

Over the last few months, two amazing opportunities have come M’s way and it’s been great to see him keen and able to make the most of both of them.  The first was offered by the Ellen Kent Opera Company, who were looking for child extras to be part of two operas they were performing at our local theatre and approached M’s Stagecoach school to find them. M was, unsurprisingly, desperate to be involved and was selected as 1 of 4 children who would perform a special dance during the performance of Aida.  He had 5 half-hour training sessions to learn the routine and the small group then had just one run through on stage with the orchestra on the evening of the performance itself.  We were nervous as to how M would cope with the extra rehearsals, his nerves and the stamina required, especially given how poorly he was in the run up to Christmas; but we needn’t have worried.

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Like the consummate professional he aspires to become, M worked hard, remained focused and gave a fantastic performance on the night.  The prospect of dancing on a “real” stage in front of a full house (approx. 2,000 people) didn’t phase him at all and we were all so proud to see him shine.  He stayed true to his character of a child slave in Ancient Egypt throughout his time on stage and Mike, my Mum and I all commented that we have never seen him remain so still and so focused for so long in his life.  It was our first experience of opera and we all enjoyed it, even G, who has asked to go and see another one in the future.

oliverIn contrast to this professional production, M has also been working on a local am-dram production of hit musical, “Oliver!”.  He is playing the part of “Nipper”, the cheeky youngest member of Fagin’s Gang, a part that, quite frankly, was made for him.  He takes part in every rehearsal with gusto, even though there have been occasions when he has been crying in pain less than 2 hours earlier.  I am amazed at how much M’s determination to succeed in this role has over-ridden any feelings of pain and discomfort that have been haunting him earlier in the day.  He has picked up the songs and dance routines quickly and now, as the final few weeks of rehearsals are ahead, he’s working on perfecting them as much as possible.

I am so proud of both our young performers and am looking forward to watching them doing something that they so obviously enjoy over the next few weeks.

Feeling normal

Courtesy of evotivemarketing.com

Courtesy of evotivemarketing.com

One of the hardest parts of M’s EGID journey is that he no longer feels like a normal child and is massively aware that he stands out from the crowd.  Every day is filled with numerous medicines to be taken, carefully planned meals, aches, pains and a constant awareness of needing to make sure he gets to the toilet on time.  As I’ve alluded to before, M is incredibly self-conscious about his condition and spends a great deal of time worrying that he will be picked on or bullied because of his illness and restricted diet.  He has a tendency to isolate himself in group situations with his peers, though he will spend hours chatting to any available adult who’s prepared to listen.

We refuse to let his chronic illness get in the way of his life any more than is necessary, so he goes to school, takes part in after-school clubs and has friends home for tea just like all his friends.  However, every new thing he participates in has to be carefully assessed and I spend a lot of time talking to teachers and organisers about M, his condition and the consequences they might have to deal with.  We have been lucky that we have never come across anyone who isn’t prepared to work with M’s needs and accommodate them so that he can take part.

fish

A recent week has been a perfect example of how wonderful it can be when M can feel like part of the crowd and not stand out for being so different.

Both G and M have been attending our local Stagecoach theatre school for a number of years and enjoy performing.  They were lucky enough to be part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations for Stagecoach back in March and took part in a massive performance of CATS at the Birmingham Indoor Arena.  We are also avid theatre-goers and love nothing more than seeing a musical on stage.  When I heard that the Youth Music Theatre Academy (YMTA) were running a drama workshop for a week this summer and that they were going to be learning and performing routines from a hit West-end musical, I knew I had to sign the 2 of them up.

G and M have been excited about this opportunity for weeks and, since the start of the summer holidays, have been counting down the days until the course began.  By some strange quirk of fate, Mike and I had booked tickets to take them to see this show on tour the weekend before the workshop began, long before we even knew about the course and it was the perfect introduction to the week.  What made the performance even more special was that some of the cast members were coming out to teach on the course during the week and we spent the interval musing over who the kids might get to meet.

The only grey cloud on the horizon was the difficult time M was going through with his health in the lead up to the course.  By the Thursday of the week before, it was evident that he wasn’t going to find the week easy and I needed to be on site with him for those “just in case” moments that might happen.  Fortunately, Jo (the course organiser) had no issue with my presence and welcomed me and M on board with an excitement that meant a lot.  When you have a child who’s chronically ill, then it’s these little acts of inclusion that make all the difference.

I spent the week sitting quietly with my trusty laptop, tablet, mobile phone and books in a corner tucked away from view, armed with snacks, coffee and anything and everything M might need.  The children knew I was there as a security blanket for them both, but I wasn’t an ever-present reminder that there was anything wrong, especially to those who were meeting M for the first time.  He sang, danced and acted his heart out, learning new routines, perfecting familiar songs and most of all, having an amazing and fun time.  We managed his medicine and his toileting with the minimum of fuss and I doubt that any of the other children really realised that there was anything different about him.

Courtesy of www.oscars.org

YMTA – this Oscar’s for you!

The Friday performance to the parents was fantastic and a real testament to the talents of those who had happily given of their time that week to teach the youngsters some new skills.  We were amazed by how much had been achieved in such a short amount of time. My thanks have to go to Jo, Rosie, Joe, Holly and Zach, who didn’t let M’s EGID phase them, but supported and encouraged him every step of the way.  He had an amazing time and can’t wait for the next workshop to be arranged!  Best of all, M had a week where his health didn’t stop him from taking part and he was able to feel and be as normal as any other child who was there.