Our beautiful baby daughter Anabelle was born sleeping June 2010.
Blessed with the screaming arrivals of our gorgeous rainbow sons,
Alexander October 2011, Zachary November 2013 and Lucas July 2016.

After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows
Heartbreak. Joy. Death. Life. But most of all Love.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Twenty Twenty

Well its been a year hasn't it.  When we all reflected on the End of Decade last New Years Eve, and looked to the new chapter of the 2020s we had absolutely NO idea what was in store did we. No-one could have comprehended the kind of life we have all had this year. 


Today feels absolutely flat.  It is definitely not the New Years Eve to be wishing people a Happy New Year. When lets be absolutely honest, at this stage of play going into January just feels like an extension of the grim that is Twenty Twenty. With huge amounts of continuing uncertainty and nothing really to look forward to. I'm saving my Happy New Year until we're not living in the midst of a pandemic! 


We've been so lucky in so many respects this year, I completely get my privilege of financial and job security this year, that none of our nearest or dearest have been severely affected by Covid, and those that have, have had it mildly in the grand scheme. We have had plenty of loveliness and happy memories in-between the hard stuff. Our little world of our four walls and family remains intact in much the same way as before the pandemic. We have what matters. I know that. 


But, my mental health feels wobbly. I'm struggling with uncertainty where anything can change from one day to the next, quite dramatically at times.  This week I think I've got end of year 'grief' going on; just feeling utterly hopeless and not even the news of the next approved vaccine to bolster the spirits. I think it is because it feels such a very long way from my age group that it barely seems a real light for this never ending tunnel at all.    


Twenty Twenty is by far NOT the worst year I've lived through but it is a year where liberty has changed beyond all recognition and its all beginning to take its toll.  The stress feels ever acute. All the worry.  The constantly feeling on high alert. What a pendulum of emotions it continues to be. Anxiety, fear, determination, anger, rage, resentment, sometimes glimmers of hope.  


March it all snowballed in utter disbelief. School shut down for the majority of children and I cried for days about it all.  Then the constant news of deaths and danger made me anxious to the point of almost being agoraphobic; where even the walk to the post box once a week felt like a massive ordeal. We barely left the house for two months other than food shopping or shifts at work. Jon did the food shopping, I did the shifts in work. I didn't go into a shop until nearly August.   


To July, where after just having some sort of heart attack and Jon another blood clot scare (yes, that weekend!), I snapped to my senses and realised life was for existing to live, not living to exist as we had been doing for months, and found some resolve  to not let Covid fear control me, to get us outside some more. We enjoyed a summer of respite within relaxed rules. 


And then there was the new school year. Where it all felt ok to begin with, still confident following a calm summer. Providing some hope after nearly six months of home-school for the majority. But then it wasn't ok. Cases spiralled and schools became central to spread. The work related stress is profound and I can safely say in my 14 years of teaching I've never felt stress like it before. Constantly feeling exposed to too many people and families. Four household members in our family in school equals over 100 families we have contact with in a week. It really is pot luck isn't it and a bit inevitable eventually. 


Many education staff feel thrown under a bus; with only a matter of time until it 'gets us'. I'm surprised we haven't had it already if I'm honest. It leaves you feeling resentful. Painted the usual villains of 'lazy teachers with all their holidays and time off' in the media, many forgetting that school staff and school leaders are constantly jumping through hoops with ever changing impossible demands and trying to implement the next directive. 


All the while we don't feel particularly safe - who knows where the new variant of Covid with its extra spreadability leaves schools and all the ongoing madness for the new term!  After the initial lockdown, we're now in a stage where it appears schools will remain open to all, at near all costs even while the peak is worse than Spring.  And whilst I agree the most important place to be for a child is school, (and I love my job, and when I'm there we jump into it and will always go above and beyond for our classes),  it also feels the government care less about missed education concerns really than they do having an on-tap childcare service. Especially bonkers considering just over a week ago the headlines proclaimed Wales currently had the worst rates of infection in the world!  We're here to babysit the nations children all while not considered important enough to be prioritised for key worker vaccines that would more safely keep staff in schools. Schools that have always been a germ pit on even the best of days but apparently immune to the effects of Covid loving a crowd!   I dread to think the collective stress levels of the population who work in all sector key worker roles right now. 


A year where we've come to appreciate the important things. The human connections that make us. The support networks that carry us.  That we are nearly all social animals to our own degree. Isolation is hard. A year where I think I actually appreciate baby and toddler parent separation anxiety because I have not coped well with being separated from my parents at the age of even 35. Realising that parenting is actually way more intense when you don't have the family backup support and never a break in sight. That even those odd few hours visiting grandparents in the olden days, even when you were still there with them and not just dropping children off, meant someone else was giving the small people attention long enough to feel like you'd had a breather. 


A year where not seeing family who live away physically hurts when you think about it, and lets be honest, even the family who live around the corner might as well live on the other side of the country too. Not seeing your friends hardly at all. Who knew how precious a weekly family roast dinner was, or a cup of tea with a friend?   


Apart from those few blissful weeks of summer respite, where extended households were allowed for a few weeks and you could meet people outdoors...  relationships have predominantly been maintained over a screen. Wales has been in lockdown more than its been out.  We're a nation on the edge quite frankly aren't we! 


And I know, I know all this heartache it is all for the greater good. Because what is the alternative?! Covid is completely out of control in the entire UK and those in change plan appears to be  hope to get people vaccinated at some point?! We still don't have a concrete end game do we.  I constantly wonder how countries managed to be more fixed pre-vaccine than we're anywhere near in a much shorter time.


We have, for most part, lived by the rules. When we have ventured further afield or seen more people, we have agonised over every interaction, felt guilty, even within the rules, especially as the autumn rolled in again. 


But as Twenty Twenty ends, I also feel a bit at the end of my rope. This week I've felt panicky and caged. Which considering how scared I was to leave the house nine months ago is almost hysterical. Increasingly in recent weeks, I feel often overwhelmed and like my life is now nearly totally out of my control. I'm deeply concerned that each layer of 'new normal' implemented or new restriction introduced, conditions us to accept the next crazy layer of 'new normal' and everything just continues to spiral - things that are normal now, 12 months ago would have been unthinkable. That maybe the autonomy of life and property have gone for good. 


I don't know what the answer is. But I can safely say I hate the words social distancing and long for the day they can leave my vocabulary again and we can go about our business without analysing our every move. 


Yes, I think it is clear to see I'm really struggling to look on the bright side at the moment. 


But amongst it all. A year that has seen absolute chaos; we have found moments of joy too.  


I've appreciated the slower pace of life immeasurably and realised how thinly we stretched ourselves before Covid; the long hours we both do at work, the busy commutes, the rushing home to get whichever child to their next appointment, the swimming lessons, the karate. We are, (and will be again no doubt), terrible at over-committing ourselves.    Working from home isn't without its challenges - especially combined with children - but we've all felt the benefit of not having to get us all up out and dressed for 7.30am. The benefit of Jon's working day being his working day and not the commuting hours on top. 


Being able to eat as a family more regularly, especially in the first lockdown, because Daddy was home from work at tea time, instead of nearly bedtime. Had more family time and quiet time. The boys relationships are all the closer for their months with only each other; although I will admit that by mid-August they were ready for a break away from each other too!   


We found new ways to connect with those we love; the rainbow clothes weeks and the finished results will be some of my favourite collaborations of the year.    That we found a new appreciation for the childcare we had and days off.  The two Nana and Bampi sleepovers we did have in August and September in our few weeks of extended household felt like absolute luxury and believe me I'm booking another one in as soon as extended households can resume again! 


We've appreciated and discovered more on our doorstep,  explored further on foot. Made the best use of our garden yet! I loved how inventive our children have been with their play at times, building obstacle courses and making their own fun outside. (Although on many occasions throughout lockdown I've felt sorry for our neighbours because my boys have been loud. Loud outside, loud inside! I dread to think the noise that goes through the walls!) 


Secretly (or maybe not so secretly), I even enjoyed the home-schooling (to a point) because it gave me purpose and focus, and because of the way I chose to orchestrate home-school, it kind of felt like an extension of the way we do our Six Weeks of Summer in normal times. How wonderful it was watching Lucas flourish before my eyes; learning and retaining all the stuff I was teaching him! When I think that when we shut down in March he could only recognise the odd number, and L for his name and within weeks he was ordering numbers to 30, adding numbers together, recognising all the letters and sounds and blending them to read CVC words. He really was a little home-school whiz!   I'm glad they go to school, don't get me wrong, but I'm kind of glad I experienced home-schooling and having those uninterrupted months with them we haven't had since they were babies. 


And so, even with all the grim, in what has become our tradition I've still recorded the moments of joy. My end of year list has always been predominantly about the small things; but this year, more than every before, the small things has been where to find it! 


When I named this year Twinkly Twenty - I clearly didn't know what I was talking about though! 


Twenty Twenty - Twinkly Twenty


January 

1st - Sorreya's house festive day 

2nd - Jon and Xander being so happy to play a game of Warhammer together. 

5th - Singing and dancing to "something never change" (Frozen 2) with Zac and Luc. 

6th - Train track play after school.

6th - Reading Harry Potter Book 1, Chapter 1 with Xander.

9th - Playing the Goose game on the Xbox with Jon. 

9th - Zac having a calm evening for the first time this week and doing some lovely drawings! Telling me that he was learning about his superpowers at school and he had told his teacher his superpower is art. 

10th - Xander having a Headteacher Award sticker for his super maths work, and Zac having a Headteacher Award stick for his beautiful drawings of his headteachers! 

11th - Mummy and Xander day. Haircut, Harvester, Cinema to watch "Spies in Disguise"  and the Lego Shop.

13th - Talking about haircuts with Zac and he said he wanted the same hair as Noah. Tried to explain it would be difficult to have the same hair as Noah because they have different types of hair which is all down to their different genes.  Zac said "so you make afro hair out of jean?" - innocence of children.

15th - Xander and the Young Voices 2020 concert. Absolutely epic experience for him participating and us watching! 

18th - A night down Friars with Jo O. TGI's, cocktails, wine! 

19th - Lucas's half birthday and a very sunny day.

20th - Lunch out with Mum

20th - Zac's amazing reading. Jumping up to Level 6, from a Level 4 before Christmas and smashing it!

21st - Zac's amazing reading again. Trying him with a Level 7 and needing no help at all.  I want to try Level 8 now! 

21st - An after school play at the park for Zac and Luc while Xander was at STEM club. 

22nd - Nearly matching pyjamas with Zac and it making him beam. 

24th - Zac star of the week. 

25th - Xander and Jon go to the Morgan and West Science Show. 

27th - Xander having a Headteacher Aware for super column addition. 

28th - An afternoon with Sorreya and Jac at soft play. 

29th - Xander taking part in a presentation to Governors all about Young Voices 2020. 

30th - Zac reading a bedtime story to Lucas. 

Feburary 

2nd - Afternoon tea at the Mecure Hotel Cardiff with the Babyclub ladies. 

7th - 9th - London weekend with Babyclub girls.

10th - Paw Patrol at the cinema with Lucas. 

11th - Disco ready smart boys and Zac being amazing and coping so well at the disco. 

12th - Zac doing super spellings.

15th - Zac's long awaited Mummy and Zac day. Cinema and shopping to buy a Poly Pocket.

16th - 18th - Hannah holiday! Wilderness Woods and Bodium Castle - the days of storms stopping long enough for us to get outside! Lots of very muddy adventures. Reaching middle age and joining the National Trust! 

19th - Viva Brazil with Sorreya and Keith 

24th - Zac's family day at school. 


March 

2nd - Eisteddfod Day although slightly sad Xander now thinks he is too grown up for traditional dress.

4th - Zac's nomination assembly. Lucas nominated Zac for reading him bedtime stories. 

5th - World Book Day in my school and dressing up as the Snow Queen. One of the best school days ever and we had so much fun in class. 

6th - Boys World Book Day. Xander dressing up as Harry Potter, Zac as the Snow Queen and Lucas as Gaddabout the Great.

6th - Jon's 39th Birthday

7th - My 35th Birthday

9th - Bex 30! Drago Lounge breakfast, Luc's first time bowling, Demerio's in Cardiff Bay for family meal tea. Rhys meeting the family. 

14th - Spa Day and awesome eye rejuvenating treatment. Would be perfect post migraine! 

16th - a sunny sunny day and lots of outdoor play after Nursery. 

20th - not a joy, but one of the key important dates this year. The day the education system shut down because of the increasingly threatening Covid infection. Broken hearted about all the missed milestones of this year going forward. But the boys painted rainbows of happiness and hope today and we had a big family pillow fight! 

21st - visiting Belle, watching the boys play "Whats The Time Mr Wolf" in her garden. 

23rd - sunny days and tuff spots. A good start to home school life. 

25th - so lucky to have such good weather and garden play days. All home together and enjoying a slower pace of life.

27th - Google 3D animal fun.

28th - video conferencing with Babyclub friends!


April 

3rd -  Jon managed to buy Easter eggs (we were worried we wouldn't be allowed), so pleased we can still do Easter.

3rd - mindfulness colouring with Xander.

7th - den building.

9th - first shorts and tshirt of the year - so unseasonably warm!

10th - first paddling pool of the year - earliest ever?!

12th - Easter egg hunt.

13th - appreciating eating around the table together more often.

14th - Xander eight and a half day. 

18th - making a Lockdown handprint canvas keepsake. 

19th - finishing Villars Rainbow Week. 

24th - 14 years together today.

25th - the Babyclub purple day family photo.

26th - being brave and venturing a bit further to go to the Nature Reserve. 

27th - Xander writing an awesome story. It took him four hours but he really tried hard and persevered. 

30th - Orchard Games delivery from Nana and Bampi. 


May 

1st - Zac seeing a butterfly in a pepper and carrot when vegetable printing. Such a creative mind. 

2nd - visiting the Nature Reserve again. 

4th - Xander having a go at mowing a bit of the lawn. Made him feel really grown up. 

6th - Van Gogh style paintings - beautiful work by the boys. 

7th - BIG outdoor wall art. Lush! 

8th - VE Day. Joining in 75th anniversary celebrations by learning about rationing, cooking a wartime cake recipe and enjoying a party in the garden altogether. Red White Blue family photo. 

12th - New Lego furniture for the playroom. 

14th - Lucas can order numbers to 20! He has come so far from not being able to recognise number 1-5 let alone order them at the start of lockdown! 

16th - Another Nature Reserve visit. 

17th - The boys xboxing together playing 'Rush'. 

18th - Litlle hot chocolate and cake delivery to my door from Baarista mobile cafe from Sorreya!

20th - more paddling pool. 

22nd - the boys being the best of brothers all day.

25th - "Half Term" week and doing out own Lockdown Rainbow week for just Us. 

26th - Zac is six and a half.  His joy getting a Princess Anna soft dolly. 

26th - Xander's lockdown haircut success!

27th - Tuff spot splash pads and water fight!

28th - Green day photo of the boys on the grass.

28th - Evening walk around Henllys. 

29th - Our very own Lockdown Doorstep portrait. 

29th - evening walk to the Nature Reserve. Super family selfie.  

30th - Zac and Lucas lockdown haircuts - um... semi success! Haha!

30th - First time in the car in over two months for the boys. 


June 

1st - washing the car

2nd - Distantly improperly reunited, Garden picnic tea with Mum Dad and Bex. 

4th - Xander and Luc playing racing cars in the kitchen.

5th - Luc "Mummy can I have a phone for my birthday?"

5th - Rainbow Baby Day photo of the boys. 

7th - Scalectrix fun.

9th - adding our rocks to the school snake. 

12th - Xander and Daddy starting Harry Potter Book 2. 

13th - We ventured out for a scoot down the river.

15th - Explored Blaen Bran for the first time. 

20th - Had a 'Space Day' at home, making a rocket cake and doing some rocket experiments. Trying astronaut food. 

21st - Belle's mermaid 10th birthday party in the garden - after all the windy weather chaos today.

24th - New paddling pool - even I got in! 

25th - The 'baby' fell asleep on me after a bedtime meltdown. 

27th - Another episode of being thankful for the NHS. I had a minor and brief heart attack (even if it didn't feel very minor and was really scary at the time!), thankful for no lasting damage discovered. 

30th - home from hospital. 


July 

3rd - Xander introduces me to Theme Hospital on the xbox (well now known by its new name Two Point Hospital) 

4th - New rainbow jumper off the Babyclub girls. 

8th - Zac saves enough money for a new Lego Trolls set. 

10th - awesome school reports day.

12th - ROAST DINNER BACK TOGETHER at Mum and Dads day! 

14th - boys new car seats.

15th - Jon got the job day and is now ICT Infrastructure Manager. 

18th - We went on a proper day trip! So it wasn't Thomasland that was planned, but we did go to Perrygrove Railway for Lucas's 4th birthday little trip.

19th - Lucas if FOUR!  Lush 'nursery graduation' party and photos, lovely smart outfit and lots of fun in the garden for his birthday party.

21st  - lovely evening at Pontypool Park. Discovering different paths and some ponds. 

23rd - Xander looking handsome in his new glasses.

24th - New washing machine and dishwasher day - comes to something when you're excited about new household appliances! 

25th - Back to the Boating Lake for the first time in months. 

26th - Porthkerry Country Park for the first time with Sorreya and co. 

 28th - A lovely trip to Build-a-Bear to treat the boys. 

29th - Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail

30th - Beechenhurt - fascinated with bright purple and black beetles, although it was a bit of a grumpy and tired day overall.  We still love Beechenhurst. 

31st - Henllys Nature Reserve for a teddy bears picnic and playing boules. 


August 

1st - Wye Valley Treasure Trail and 11 years married. 

5th - A walk down to the flower gardens with the boys. 

6th - Walnut Tree Farm with Jo Harri and Ethan.

7th - A visit from Hannah, Jack, Katie and George.  8pm in the paddling pool fun! 

8th - SIX REUNITED! We had a trip to Plymouth.

9th - Porthkerry Country Park with Babyclub.

11th - Duffryn Gardens with Mum and Dad. The boys had a sleepover and we had an evening out.

12th - Date day - Vale of Glamorgan driving treasure trail.

14th - Cardiff City treasure trail.

16th - Puddle jumping trip to the boating lake. 

18th - An evening out at Rest Bay. Lovely evening seaside photos. 

22nd - Windy Barry Beach day. All enjoying icecream in Cadwaladers. 

24th - An evening in Penarth. Drink outdoors, walking along the seafront and play in the park. 

26th - Cwmcarn Forest Drive with Babyclub. 

29th - Beechenhurst holiday gatecrashing with cousins!

30th - Mummy and Xander bike ride. 

31st - Cardiff Bay treasure trail and a lovely lovely day out with the boys to finish summer. 


September 

3rd - Back to school for the first time in 169 days! 

5th - A scoot around the flower gardens.

9th - The baby finally starting Reception after Xander / family negative Covid tests (he was very poorly with a ear infection though). 

22nd - Cardiff date day birthday shopping and a meal out while the boys were at school.

28th - Another not a joy, but important date... local lockdown. Lockdown experience two (which rolled straight into lockdown experience three). 

October - 8th - Zac's gorgeous castle drawing from school.

9th - Starting Xander's birthday celebrations with pizza and film night.

10th - Having a living room camping party with a new tent. 

11th - A walk to the Grotto in Pontypool Park today and a pancake parlour tea. 

14th - Xander is NINE! Warhammer fun and a Kaspas pudding party tea.

22nd - Xander voted in as class rep for school council. 

23rd - the rolling into firebreak lockdown. 

25th - very muddy splashing in the Nature Reserve - Lucas and Xander having lots of fun! 

27th - a week making creative photos for our new 'Boys Calender' for 2021. 


November 

5th - Firework Drive, the boys loving spotting fireworks in the sky. 

7th - Walk and scoot around Cwmbran - exploring everywhere, a big loop from Henllys to Coedeva, Hollybush, Two Locks, St Dials, Fairwater and back up to home. 

10th - Back to swimming lessons (briefly!) 

15th - Lucas's super letter writing to Father Christmas. 

21st - Zac and Lucas learning to ride their bikes without stablisers!  

22nd - Raglan Farm Park little day out for Zac's 7th birthday. 

26th - Zac is SEVEN. Family reunited for his birthday tea (we didn't re-establish our extended household so hadn't spent proper time together indoors since 27th September), Frozen themed tea party and snow machine fun. 

28th - a real treat of an overnight stay in a 'sleepy moon' place (aka Premier Inn) in Llanelli and visiting Plantasia with Sorreya, Keith and boys. 

29th - Pembrey Country Park and tabogganing. Such a lovely day out. 

30th - Here come the elves with a brand new enormous Christmas tree. 


December 

1st - visit to Festive.

4th - Elf day (combined with Isolation for me and Zac day!) 

6th - the boys loving the Christmas light projector on our house. 

8th - pulling the boys from school pre-Christmas as everything is going bonkers and so I don't completely implode with anxiety. 

10th - home smelling lesson with Lucas (Dwi'n hoffi / Ddim yn hoffi) and all the faces he pulled when he didn't like a smell! 

13th - Freedom from isolation day. Celebrating with a drive thru Mcdonalds for dinner. 

15th - Boys play Twister. 

18th - We're all home for Christmas and end of term / switch off from school for a bit! 

20th - oh another date to note. Lockdown the Fourth (new name, Alert Level 4) 

21st - Christmas card making and craft. 

22nd - Making gingerbread biscuits. 

23rd - The boys hilarity and joy watching EllieVToys on Youtube together. 

24th - a dry day after many wet ones to go and visit Belle for Christmas. Family selfie. 

25th - a good Christmas Day at home. All of us spoilt and lovely presents, no TV all day, just play the day away and slowly opening presents. Boys really took their time. Really enjoyed playing Battleships with Xander. 

26th - another day at home. playing with presents and a 2nd Christmas dinner. 

27th - all of us playing Guess Who together. 

28th - My new "Fly" boots with my Christmas money.

30th - Mammoth walk around Cwmbran. Henllys down to Coedeva, Hollybush, Two Locks, Old Cwmbran, Greenmeadow, Fairwater and back up to Henllys. 

31st - Another walk. The fresh air and dry weather is doing my good this week. 


So there we have it. If you concentrate on only the joy, I suppose it wasn't such a terrible year. 176 recorded joy moments, and there is always the ones I forget to note as I go.   


Let's finish with the glimpse of this years 'Top Nine' on Instagram. I always find it a bit fascinating as often I'm surprised which photos have ended up in there compared to the ones I would've chosen for myself.   This year features Zac turning 7, Xander turning 9, Jon's promotion, Christmas Eve with Belle, Xander's day out, My discharge from hospital in June, Back to School Day, First summer wear this year in April and St David's Eisteddfod Day.    I see a year with my family - their happy faces being central to it all - like it always has been and always will be. 




Twenty Twenty ends in a few hours, I'll be eating a takeaway treat and then going to bed. But I'm grateful we're well for the most even if feeling a bit mentally battered just now, that we've survived heart issues and blood clots (and recent Shingles for Jon too) relatively unscathed this year, that so far we've escaped symptomatic Covid (if the heart and blood issues we both experienced at the same time in June were some otherwise asymptomatic Covid we'll never know!), and that we have each other for all those moments of joy in amongst it all.


So it isn't Happy New Year this year, it doesn't feel right or appropriate. It is maybe wishing a Hopeful or Healthy New Year instead.   Light at the end of the tunnel. 


We'll see. 

 

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Caz
After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows. I'm Caz, Mummy to beautiful angel Belle and my wonderful rainbow boys, Xander, Zachy and Luc. Wife to Jon. Twitter @cazem Instagram @cazzyem
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