Tag Archives: Stagecoach

2021: Exercise resolutions – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 43

With a new year comes so often new year resolutions and the inevitable challenge of seeing just how long those plans for a new you last. I’m not one for making resolutions on a regular basis, and this year really isn’t any different apart for a determination to keep going with some of the changes to our exercise regime that we introduced during the first lockdown in early 2020.

Back in the spring we were fortunate to mostly have glorious sunshine and longer days, so it wasn’t difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to go out for our daily walks or to kick the children outside during the day, especially when we came across beautiful new friends like this one. G took to fitting in an hour’s dance every lunchtime and M spent innumberable hours out on the trampoline. Comparatively this time round, the cold, grey, wet and miserable weather has made everything that little bit harder. Mike and I are still managing to get out daily to fit in our 10,000 steps, although it’s almost always dark by the time we leave the house. Our longer, more adventuresome walks are restricted to the weekends, when we can just about drag both children with us without too many complaints and we can venture a little further as the daylight hours allow.

The bigger challenge has been in getting M and G up and exercising during the week. This time round they are both following their normal school timetable with live online lessons, and so have much less opportunity to get outside during the school day. Thanks to Joe Wicks and his return to YouTube PE lessons, I’ve been able to get G and M doing a 30-minute session every couple of days and a colleague of mine has shared a 7-minute workout that G and I are trying to do daily. Stagecoach has also returned via Zoom and that gives them 2.5hours every Friday evening which is much needed and enjoyed.

The biggest disappointment of all has been our impossibility in successfully getting M out and onto the trampoline with any sort of regularity. During the summer months, he spends hours out there merrily bouncing around, but the wet weather makes the mats slippery and more dangerous for him to be on. You may recall we lost our new trampoline over the summer when Storm Francis took down one of the trees in our paddock and squashed it into a tangled mess. We replaced it and despite the declining use of it as the weather worsened, it was great to have it as an easy exercise option for M. Unfortunately, the arrival of Storm Bella over the Christmas period saw us sacrificing a second trampoline to the weather as our 12ft behemoth was whipped across the garden and driveway and dropped on its side in the garden at the front of the house. The damage is enough to render it unusable for the time being, though hopefully it’s simply a case of replacing a couple of pieces to get it back up and running soon for all our sakes!

All Kinds of Celebrations – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 39

With Christmas now just a smidgeon over a week away, you’re probably in the process of winding down at school and at work in preparation of a few days to quietly celebrate Christmas in whatever way you’ve decided to do so this year.

However, December marks one of the busiest months of the year for us and this year, even with all of COVID-19 restrictions, has proven to be no different with birthday celebrations had, Stagecoach achievement awards received for 13 (G) and 11 (M) years of uninterrupted attendance and the end of the school term as well as anniversary celebrations and Christmas still heading our way. I simply can’t wait for next week and a chance to put my feet up and rest!

Going that extra mile – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 37

There is no question that the last 9 months have had a huge impact on the mental wellbeing of all in the UK and worldwide. The rapid change to our usual routines left many feeling extremely discombobulated and the uncertainty of knowing when we can get back to anything that even vaguely resembles our old “normal” can lead to a sense of a loss of control, which itself can drive anxiety levels sky-high.

As we’ve all adapted to a life that is a great deal more home- and family-based than many of us are used to, so have many organisations similarly changed how they work in order to continue providing their services in whatever way they can. The benefits from doing 4 weeks of Stagecoach on Zoom were absolutely tangible for G and M, and it was encouraging to hear them giggling their way through the 3 hours of classes on a Friday evening. They’re delighted to be able to be back to “real life” classes this week and seeing some old familiar faces, both teachers and friends.

One organisation that has definitely gone the extra mile is Over The Wall. I’ve written numerous times about the amazing impact their camps have had on G and M over the last few years and this year was no different. It would have been so easy for them to simply shrug their shoulders when it became clear that camps couldn’t be held as normal, but instead they rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to produce the fantastic online “Camp in the Cloud” sessions for all who had applied for camp places. The week-long activities broke up the mundane experience of life in lockdown and challenged both children in a different way that they very much needed. That opportunity to connect with other young people who really understood how they might be feeling once again proved invaluable. Some might think that this charity’s determination to still deliver their regular offering as best they could despite the circumstances is going the extra mile, and I wouldn’t disagree, but I’m actually speaking about that something more they’ve now gone on to do.

Following the resounding success of their online camps, OTW has gone that one step further and continued to hold cabin chat sessions via Zoom on a monthly basis. G and M were both keen to participate and that hour or so at the start of each month has been a real lifeline for them. Cabin chat was open to anyone who had attended the virtual camps no matter where they are based and so both children have found themselves in groups with others from across the UK. It has been an hour to chat, laugh, accept and set challenges and just generally share how the last few months have and are affecting them. They’ve both made new friends and once again the boost to their mental wellbeing has been evident immediately. The planned chats have now finished, but we’ve all got our fingers tightly crossed that they will start again in the New Year.

Of course, none of these things could happen without the dedicated team of staff and volunteers at Over The Wall and we can’t thank them enough for going that extra mile and once again supporting G and M as best they can. Over The Wall have announced today that they are planning to continue with the virtual camps next year and beyond, even once the residential camps are able to start up again, which is quite simply the best news ever.

Stagecoach on Zoom – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 35

When we headed into lockdown last March, one of the activities that G and M missed the most was their weekly Stagecoach lessons. With G marking 13 years and M 11 years of attendance at our local Stagecoach school this Christmas, the loss of it was palpable. Between them they’ve only ever missed a handful of lessons, with M continuing to go weekly no matter what – feeding tubes and broken limbs have barely slowed him down.

Like so many organisations and schools, Stagecoach Head Office attempted to introduce an online platform for their weekly sessions, but neither child really connected with it and found their own ways to explore their creative tendencies at home instead. With September and the return to school, so also came the return to weekly Stagecoach sessions and the children have really thrived from being back with their friends despite the necessary restrictions in place. An unexpected and forced 2 week hiatus due to M’s need to self-isolate was a disappointment, but G and M embraced the challenge and took to practising their dance routine in M’s bedroom whenever they could instead.

With the second lockdown coming into play before they managed to get back to actual lessons, G and M were worried that it might be weeks until they could get back to what they love, but the local Principal had different ideas – and so Stagecoach on Zoom was launched. Every week they log on to join the rest of their stage for their usual 3 hours of Stagecoach and our sitting room is cleared, with the furniture pushed to the sides to make room for their dance and drama. It’s been something of a learning curve for everyone as they learn to navigate the finer details of Zoom sessions, but it’s also been a huge success.

It’s been great to have this touch of the normal back as part of their weekly routines and whilst G is missing her regular dance teacher – who knew she’d miss his criticism and yearn to not be told how amazing they all are – the benefits they’re reaping are definitely tangible. I’m even enjoying being able to reclaim a few hours of peace and quiet to myself, even if it is just in a different room!

Lockdown 2.0 – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 33

My predictions weren’t quite accurate as I had thought we might be heading into a second lockdown either in the lead up to, or during October half-term, and whilst my Welsh family, friends and colleagues did so, Boris held off for another week before finally giving in to what had seemed to be inevitable to many.

I know that there are many out there who do not think this is a good idea or what is needed, but I’m not in that camp. Working for a regional care provider for adults with learning disabilities, I am seeing the increasing infection rates of COVID first-hand. Fortunately, I’m not on the frontline and despite my own health risks, can continue to work from home, much as I have been since our first lockdown back in March. For those naysayers out there, the risk is very real to those who are vulnerable and this lockdown is an attempt to help them as best we can.

Lockdown 2.0 looks very different this time round. G and M have gone back to school after half-term, and after the required self-isolation that kicked it off early for them, though all bets are off for how long that will be the case. This continued opportunity for learning as well as socialising with their friends is undoubtedly essential for their mental well-being and the benefits of being in a routine installed by someone other than Mum are also easy to see. Their out-of-school activities have paused again, though their Stagecoach classes are moving to Zoom from tomorrow. G and M are as intrigued about quite how that will work as I am, and I’ve no doubt an update will follow in due course.

Mike is also still working, despite our initial doubts as to whether he would be able to or not. We had been preparing for the possibility of a return to furlough, but he is delighted to be able to continue to work and is squeezing in as many valuations and surveys as he can at the moment. Both he and the children continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of them bringing the virus home to me and have been good at adapting to our new routines.

I’ll be honest, this lockdown is not looking all that different to the last 33 weeks or so for me. We haven’t been spending hours out shopping or at the pub, and we haven’t been spending time with anyone other than occasionally my Mum. Whilst I’ve stayed with her 3 times since March, she hasn’t set foot inside our house and nothing will change there for the foreseeable future. We will continue to do our daily exercise, although that becomes less attractive now we’re heading into winter and seeing less sun.

Whatever your thoughts about, or approach to, this second national lockdown, stay safe and keep looking after yourselves and those who are higher risk around you.

Channelling Creativity – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 13

When writing my blog posts, I usually find that inspiration will hit for the next during the writing process, although I do occasionally find myself scrabbling around for ideas to develop and explore. This post is the result of one such experience. The truth about the last 13 weeks for most of us is that one week has very much been like another. In our household, weekdays have, and continue to involve, getting up and ready for the day, heading downstairs for work or homeschooling, some venturing out for water, lunch and copious amounts of coffee and eventually the end of the day, for me at least.

Evenings are time for family, daily exercise and bed. Weekends vary a little with no work and much longer walks with the children, but the truth is, there isn’t necessarily a lot of new and exciting things to share with anyone most of the time.

However, the one thing we have been doing is spending time developing some new skills and channelling the creativity hiding inside. With no choir rehearsals, sports or performing arts going on, it’s been really important to find other ways to spend our free time. As I’ve mentioned before, M has been honing his photography skills in preparation of starting his GCSE syllabus next year, whilst both he and G have been choosing to bake different treats every couple of weeks, which have been delicious to taste-test afterwards. G also decided that she wanted to share her joy of dancing with our community as a whole, so every lunchtime, 6 days a week, she goes out for an hour’s exercise and dances her way through our village.

I have also been feeding my inner creativity by learning to knit, a skill that both my Dad and my Gran first shared with me as a child and something I’ve long been tempted to revisit. Someone in our village offered some “How to Knit” kits near to the start of lockdown and whilst I don’t think I’ll be winning any awards for the end results, it’s been fun to relearn how to do it. And thanks to the discovery of a box of brand-new baby clothes and other paraphenalia from a few years ago hiding in the study, I’ve spent a few hours creating some baby bouquets and clothes bundles. With the help of one of the ward sisters, we’ve been able to donate these to

the NICU at our local hospital, somewhere that looked after both G and M at the very start of their lives. G helped out here as well, by making some beautiful hand-drawn congratulations postcards to accompany each bundle. It was fab to not only flex my creative muscles once again, but to also work with G to create something beautiful we could share with others in our community.

The 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries – Week One

Without a shadow of a doubt, the world as we have known it has changed radically in the first 3 months of 2020. The fast spread of the COVID-19 virus not just through Wuhan, China, but worldwide has shocked us all and we find ourselves living in extraordinary times. Times that go far beyond the much-fabled “interesting times” often quoted as an ancient Chinese curse*. Life will never go back to the way it used to be for most of us, if not all and so we have to search for our normal despite not really knowing when things will start to be more “normal” once again.

Our first week at home was mostly a good one.

G and M continue with their home studies, though some days with more dedication and, let’s be honest, success than others. They’re keeping up with the extra courses they’ve both signed up to as well and we’ve found additional activities to keep them busy. G has been using the Diversity online tutorials to hone some more dance skills thanks to their 20DV website and I’ve signed M up for online tutorials for his bass guitar through Fender. Stagecoach Performing Arts has also provided some at-home online learning videos, which helps break up what can be long days.

My 12 weeks working from home is off to a good start with all finance and banking systems working well on our home wifi. There are daily conference calls with the rest of the senior management, sometimes via Zoom, to review the situation across our charity and track the progression of COVID-19 through both our staff and the individuals we support in our homes. I’ve also scheduled weekly catch-up sessions with the other members of our finance teams to make sure they are all coping okay with their new work situation. Keeping an eye on the mental well-being of all my staff is critical in times like these and they have my phone number to be able to call or WhatsApp whenever they need.

It has taken a new level of cooperation and adaption for us all. Mike is used to working from home on his own. He takes to his study in the morning, may reappear for drinks or food and then disappears again until his day is finished. M and G each have work stations set up in our dining room and manage to avoid conflict by being plugged into their own devices as they study. I have set up on the 1 remaining downstairs in the kitchen, which works brilliantly for me as I have ready access to the kettle, but can prove challenging to the rest of the family when they look to escape to the garden or make their lunch.

The last week has been filled with rainbows, working from home and trying to convince 2 increasingly grumpy teens to keep going with their own home studies…and I think we just about managed to do it all.

*There is no clear evidence that the curse “May you live in interesting times” is in fact either ancient or Chinese. It is purported to have come into more common parlance in the early 1900s, in all likelihood in the UK thanks to Sir Austen Chamberlain, brother of UK PM Sir Neville Chamberlain. You can find a good explanation of this origin here. Chinese or not, it is now widely accepted to mean times of trouble, rather than of peace,

Fishy Fridays

Like so many, I was brought up in a time when the tradition of eating fish on Fridays was prevalent, but the increasing restrictions on M’s diet over the last few  years have meant that it was something we didn’t really continue as a family as M couldn’t share in that meal. Add in the challenge of cooking something substantial quickly enough to meet G and M’s increased appetites after 3 hours at Stagecoach on a Friday evening, and I frequently found myself opting for something frozen I could pop in the oven before we picked them up. I often chose allergy-friendly fish-fingers for G, so there was at least a nod to my upbringing on occasion.

M loved fish and seafood before his diagnosis and so getting them back into his diet if at all possible was always an ambition of ours. I remember both G and M tucking into plates of just about every seafood you can imagine when they were small, with M declaring that the only one he absolutely didn’t enjoy was the oyster! G is a little less adventurous these days, though she still loves calamari if it’s ever on offer. We have attempted a few different fish since he was tube-fed, but it is only really in the last 18 months or so that we have been able to find a small but tasty selection that he can tolerate on a reasonably regular basis.

Tuna and prawns now appear on the menu every couple of weeks, but there really is only so many ways that you can prepare these to create any variety in serving options. With M being keen to increase his repertoire of meals, just imagine my delight when I discovered at our local supermarket a safe version of one of my all-time favourite pub dishes, scampi, for G and M to try at home. Whitby Wholetail Scampi is amazingly gluten-, dairy-, egg- and soya-free and the breadcrumb coating is predominantly rice flour, which ticks so many boxes for us. We were pleasantly surprised by the portion size of a box – just the right amount to feed my two – and the texture and taste of the crumb is excellent. This scampi has been a big success in the house and makes for a delicious, quick and traditional dinner for any Friday night!

Summer Photo Round-up 2019

Summer 2019 was all about home-grown entertainment and experiences before heading into a year of GCSEs – both exams and options!

Time to stop and smell the roses

New job, end of term, fundraising plans, health challenges, summer holidays… sometimes it really is nice to be able to stop and smell the roses, especially when they’re as beautiful as this bunch of flowers currently gracing G’s windowsill. A thank you from her Stagecoach school for all her help last week at their summer school – a small acknowledgement of her efforts and one that has very much been appreciated and enjoyed by us all.

We’re all taking a little time this week to slow down and appreciate life. With a couple of days off planned for the end of the week, I’m winding down to just spending some much-longed-for family time together and am wondering if I can convince the children to give up their technology for at least some of that time too. M is spending the week planning 101 things he wants to do with G before we have our break, whilst G tries her best to ignore him and focus on some gentle revision instead. Mike and I will complete as much work as we can and anything left outstanding will quite simply have to wait until we head back to our desks on Monday morning.

I hope you too get the chance to stop, take a breather and appreciate life in its fullest this week.