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


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. 


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. 


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!


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


Sunday, 27 December 2020

Seven For Small!

Zac. Already seven for a month and a day.  But as ever his birthday merges into the beginning of the Christmas season and reminding myself to write his birthday update gets lost in amongst the Christmas Chaos.  Less chaos this year, many many less engagements in the non-existent diary but chaos of sorts still the same. 

What a year he has had! Turbulent to say the least in parts - because whose life hasn't been coloured by Covid this year?! But boy did he take it hard. The foundations of his world and his oh so important need to know what to expect swept from beneath his feet. Those first few days of lockdown were a novelty, no school, almost like a school holiday. And then when the normal pattern of school holidays and back to school didn't materialise?! Wow. If we hadn't been concerned about some of his "Zac'isms" before, we certainly were then.  

Our lovely boy, completely floored by lockdown and unsettled to say the least. His behaviour was challenging, all his senses were on high alert. He wore his ear defenders more regularly than he had ever worn them, he frequently stripped down to his pants and wouldn't tolerate clothes, barely ate anything that wasn't complete rubbish, more demand avoidant than ever before, even more sensitive to interactions with others, had many a meltdown if we went for a walk and didn't want to leave the house. We had a week or two where we couldn't persuade him to even go into the garden without a fight; and if we did get him out he would be back in again within minutes. Home-school was on the light 'jobs without challenge' side. 

Lots of April and May were hard. So I pulled on all my experience and resources. And with the implementation on 'Now and Next' and a 'Visual Schedule' - that he clearly didn't need for the symbols. But definitely for the concrete representation of what was going to happen each day and what demands he could expect to come up. That, combined with maybe just getting used to what was now the new normal, he settled down.  Not without spikes at all, but a little boy whose anxiety levels mellowed significantly. 

Last years said referral got lost in the system, and so has recently been expediated again; and at least this time he has got through the first hurdle and panel and we now just await an appointment to explore all his sensory and otherwise concerns. We expect it to continue to be months or more. 


Zachary Stephen. This was the year you had a growth and weight spurt. Your diet remains as terrible and basic as ever but for what nutritious food you refused over that first lockdown period, you made up for in crisps and biscuits which I can only imagine accounts for the 2kg you finally put on and your few cm of growth!  You now wear a 5-6 wardrobe for the most part with a small mix of 4-5 still left in. 

A week after turning six you lost your first wobbly tooth. You had found the whole wobbly tooth thing quite difficult, constantly complained it hurt or that it was bothering you, and then on Christmas Eve you lost your second wobbly tooth. Fancy sending the tooth fairy as well as Santa to our house on the same night! Since then we've had no wobbly teeth at all and you've still got your cute face full of baby teeth and haven't lost your young child looks yet! 

One of your favourite colours to wear at the moment is pink. Over the summer your favourite outfit was "all pink" shorts and tshirts and you were thrilled when I managed to find you plain pink joggers and hoody for the colder season. Although to be fair we go hardly anywhere to wear such clothes at the moment and Autumn and Winter life has so far, once again, been mostly a lockdown!   We all seem to live mostly in our house clothes or pyjamas. 

You continue to fit your own mold, for sure! 

Your absolute loves are still Disney Princesses and especially Frozen. You adore all the Princess Lego sets and have quite the collection of castles now.  You are getting a little bit better at keeping your Lego sets intact and your bedroom is a Princess castle treasure trove, but even when you take them apart and all the pieces drive us to distraction when they litter the floor - no sooner do you just seem to remember how to put them back together without instruction or just create your own pretty spectacular version instead.   If it is princess castle sets are you persuading Daddy to search for the long retired Palace Pets sets for you to buy as well! 

You other interests this year have also been Trolls following the release of the Trolls World Tour film, and I think we've probably watched or listened to the soundtracks of Frozen 2 and Trolls World Tour at least a million times!    Otherwise this year we've realised your love of soft toys. What an epic collection now resides in your bed; with your own unique system of putting them into a specific teddy tower each bedtime to the side of your pillow! 

You have found lots of this year unsettling and challenging. Whoever thought you would live through a worldwide pandemic at the tender age of six?  We had months of wobbles and difficult behaviour as your tried to navigate the floor and your routine falling from beneath you. To be honest Zac, there were many adults who struggled to figure out the same; anxiety was as high for you as it was for me.  But we eventually figured out a visual schedule strategy that worked to make you feel safer and more in control of what to expect each day. A strategy we've fallen back on a few times since as well! 

But amongst all of that chaos you have blossomed some more. You transitioned from your far too small for you PJ masks bike onto the bigger bike. You experimented with some balance biking late in the summer despite your reservations and then, days before your 7th birthday you did it... you learnt to ride your bike without stabilisers. I cannot tell you just how proud of you I am for persevering even when you were feeling exceptionally nervous and fearful of it all. What an achievement and milestone! 

We're also proud of how you have settled back into school. Missing half of year one was less than ideal for sure and then having to return to a new year group, new teacher in a new classroom had you experiencing all the nerves. But you did it, and did it amazingly. Instantly gelling with your new teacher and decided he was in fact nice and not mean! Haha! It has been a relief quite frankly and we're so pleased that he really seems to get you; putting little adjustments in place that have made all the difference to our after school experience at home. Going on the yard appears to be on your terms and you are able to use that time instead having quiet time if you want it and decompressing. Between that time during the school day and your new self-implemented strategy of going upstairs and hiding under the covers with an ipad straight after school for quiet time when you want to, we've had far less after school meltdowns in Year 2 than we've had for the whole of school so far. 

And now you are seven! Which I can't quite believe!   We were lucky that you're birthday fell between Firebreak Lockdown and what is now the Alert Level 4 Lockdown - which meant were able to venture out a bit further to enjoy a proper day out and treat as long as we stayed in Wales. So we popped half hour up the road to Raglan Farm Park. You were absolutely buzzing with all of the soft play on offer and I don't think any of you could believe you were allowed to enjoy soft play after over eight months since your last soft play visit. To be honest, not much notice was taken of the animals but you had a marvellous day enjoying the indoor and outdoor play equipment. We loved the joy on your face. 

And all the more joy on your actual birthday. After very limited contact since the 27th September with the various lockdowns, Nana Bampi and Auntie Bex came to your Frozen themed tea party where we (within the rules) re-extended our household just for your birthday. You had a lovely time celebrating and your beamed all of your day! Which is just as well, because you gave me and Nana a challenge with your Elsa dolly cake and we were ever so please we managed to pull it off! 

We were supposed to weekend in Tenby for your birthday in a caravan but it got cancelled so in salvaged 2020 style, we finished our celebrations with a rare overnight away in a 'sleepy moon place' spending some time with your Godmother and exploring the great outdoors at Pembrey Country Park.  Whoever thought what a luxury just one night away would turn out to be!  The change of scenery was just what we all needed and I'm even more pleased we managed to go now we're living the life of Lockdown. Again. 

So now you're seven and we're at the end of another calendar year!

We cannot promise anything for 2021 and have no idea what adventures we tentatively plan will come to fruition. But we do know that you'll remain our dazzling, bubbly, bright and wonderful boy whatever the next 12 months throw at us. Being you is the very best you to be. 

We love you all the world and more, our Zachy Small. 

Mummy and Daddy xXx 

Monday, 9 November 2020

Big is Halfway to Eighteen!

Xander has been NINE for nearly a month and I still can't get over it. 

What a giant he feels these days and a shining example of young man he is becoming.  It is shocking how tall he feels up against me. Standing just shy of my chin. Tall, slender and increasingly long limbed.  Growing out of clothes yet again.  I wonder how many years now before he is as tall, and taller than me... it can't be many.  He seems to have grown up overnight. In height, looks and maturity.  The strops that I described last year are all but gone. That isn't to say he is never stroppy or that he never speaks to us with a total attitude; but this year of 2020 has seen him mature so much, reacting like a young man and becoming more helpful in a way that he wasn't before. Maybe forced to mature, because the world became such a crazy place to be this year. 

Mostly I'm shocked that this birthday marks the half way point of childhood, in official terms at least.  Half way through his life as a child. Not that boys really grow up at the age of eighteen of course, we all know that! 

Xander, it always astonishes me how quickly a year goes by and that I'm emailing you the snapshot of your year again. Eight was definitely the year of maturing. Reacting and behaving more responsibly. Taking it on the chin and accepting the consequences when you don't behave appropriately. Becoming ever more helpful around the house (even if sometimes it is for the bribe of some pocket money!); getting ever better at tidying up, entertaining your little brother (even when you don't want to!), helping make breakfast for you brothers or taking the recycling out to the bins.  

There was even a time this year where you washed up for us because the dishwasher broke down.  I reminded you that a dish washer was still a luxury item to have in a house and that a good deal of people still didn't have one in their kitchen like we have.  "Well how do people wash their dishes then?" you asked.... in a sink with water and soap Xander... "That's weird" you said!     You didn't find it so weird when it earnt you £5 for doing it though! Haha! 

You continue to be your brothers hero. They endlessly look up to you, want your attention or to play with you. Zac loves it when you join in his games and plays pretend in the way he wants to , and I know he absolutely loves that he can play Minecraft with you too now and be big. I also know it feels like Lucas doesn't leave you alone, that even when you're there quietly trying to play a game on the iPad of Xbox, or watching something on the TV that he constantly jumps on you, pesters or whines at you. I know it can be completely annoying to be the biggest, I was the biggest too. But they just simply love you, because you're always being such a good big brother to them.

One of the first thing you did when you were eight was take a tumble on the yard that sliced a flap off your knee and filled it with gravel. For a minor injury, I must be honest, I found it pretty stomach churning. Doctors having to lift it and wash out all the gravel (and you experiencing your first experience of gas and air!). But surprisingly no stitches. Stuck back together with steristrips, a double check with the A&E doctor again the next day and then about three weeks worth of visits to the practice nurse for dressing changes. It was pretty gooey and now you've been left with a scar that you'll probably have forever! 

Then you had a lovely couple of months. Whizzing through a short block of Speech and Language to resolve those sh, ch and j sounds following on from your time when you had your hearing loss. Loving your new hobby karate, thrilled with the Gi you had had for your birthday and earning yourself your red with white stripe belt before we had even got to Christmas. Enjoying Daddy and you days out to the Avengers Station and a Morgan and West Science Show, and a Mummy and you day out to the cinema. You had joined choir in school and were really enjoying singing and feeling especially grown up when we agreed you could on the choir trip to Birmingham to sing with the Young Voices choir event 2020. 

The big one. Your first overnight trip from home that wasn't sleeping at Nana and Bampi's. Sleeping in a youth hostel overnight with your teachers and choir friends after a performance in the World Resorts Arena. We were able to go up and watch the performance and it was such a buzz and joy to see you sing in such an epic event, with 6000 other children and famous singers and dancers too. What a wonderful experience for you, even if it did feel very strange that we were not bringing you home with us at the end of the show. You haven't stopped talking about it all year and have often asked if you can go again when Coronavirus goes away. 

At eight your favourite things have been Harry Potter, Karate, Minecraft, Lego (of course!), chess, xBoxing and Warhammer. You've liked to watch Teen Titans, Dragon Riders and Minecraft stories on the TV and a lot of Warhammer games on Youtube.  You still love Maths and Science, riding your bike and scooter, and a good old run around wild a park. 

Warhammer has, quite frankly, become life! Daddy couldn't be happier he has a little playmate now and the two of you are constantly, painting, playing or planning your next game. It isn't my favourite thing in the world and I kind of feel like the game is a bit too grown up for an eight / nine year old, but you certainly feel differently. You have a real passion, have saved up pocket money to buy your own first kit and spend most days after school delicately painting models and improving all of the time! So of course, at the moment, what you want to be when you grow up is a Warhammer Youtuber! 

You have loved every moment of being treated more like a grown up this year, from drinking cups of tea (oh how British!), to watching the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films that had a 12A rating! You love nothing more than a big boy night; having a late night to watch a film that we wouldn't allow your little brothers to watch, or snuggling with Daddy reading another chapter of Harry Potter to you or of course having a Warhammer game.    This is definitely the year you have become Daddy's boy. 

Yes, a lot of being eight wasn't how you would've expected it to be. 

At such a tender age you have had to face a world pandemic, live in lockdown, barely leave the house for weeks and months on end, no swimming, no karate, not even to go to school.  A time in your life where I'm in no doubt you are old enough to remember if for the rest of your life. The six months you couldn't go to school and I home-schooled you instead. You've been so resilient and matured massively during these months at home; but I do not underestimate how hard it was for you too without your friends and family. Not seeing your grandparents for the best part of three months and being so aware of news reports and adult chatter about virus and death. You were aware. You still are aware as we've lived through local lockdown and just coming out of another firebreak lockdown again now. It is still hard. You've said more than once you want to kick Coronaviruses butt.   

You've had to face the disappointment of your birthday not being how you would've normally celebrated it; without a party with your friends, or a day trip. Because although lockdown lifted over the summertime, and we had the brief respite of enjoying life for a little while... by your ninth birthday, we were in a local lockdown again and unable to go on the weekend away we had planned for you.   After months of accepting the situation, it was the first time I heard you say "I knew Covid was going to ruin in anyway" - and oh my boy, we all feel the same. Mummy feels how relentless it is too. I wish you hadn't lost these months to Covid but mostly I hope you will remember the fun we had at home, even the home-schooling, the endless play in the garden, new games, new lego kits, adventure walks in the local area. I hope you felt safe even when the world felt crazy. 

You have loved returning to school since September and it has been just lovely to see how happy it has made you. You've thrown yourself into Year 4 with a bang and your new teacher, Mrs Gallan, is forever commenting how hard you work and the effort you put into learning. You just continue to thrive at school.  You continue to make a good impression wherever you go and I hope the lovely nature you have about you now never leaves you. 

And now you are nine. Nine and able to tie your own shoe laces, more or less reliably brush your own teeth, having showers and independently washing your own hair more often than you have a bath, almost too big for me to pick you up at all and now wearing glasses too - which make you look even more grown up and like a total brains! 

Ok so we didn't get to Butlins for your birthday (we'll try again for your next half birthday), but we think you had a pretty special week anyway. Big Boy film night with pizza delivery watching Fantastic Beasts, a science kit fun day growing your own germs, a overnight living room camping party with your brothers, an off track explore around Pontypool Park to find the Grotto, a pancake parlour tea (and this is all before your actual birthday), and then on the actual day ;presents, Kaspas Takeaway pudding party and of course a birthday Warhammer game and ridiculous late night with Daddy. I think you lived your best birthday life really! 

And now, much like I felt after Belle's ninth birthday, I find myself already looking ahead to your tenth.  Ten feels like such an important milestone and we already have plans afoot to do something a bit different to celebrate our biggest boy turning ten! 

Enjoy this last year in single figures my boy Big and keep making the best of what is being thrown at us. We are so proud of how you've coped with this year of uncertainty and so proud of the shining example of a young man you are becoming. You are exactly who you need to be with all the kind, generous and thoughtful qualities that will take you far in life

The world needs more kind. 

We love you enormously, kid.

Making our world happier just because you're in it. 

Keep being you and you won't go far wrong. 

Mummy and Daddy xXx 


Wednesday, 9 September 2020

My Last Baby Goes To Big School

A few days ago I grieved the loss of one important milestone. Today we celebrate another important milestone. In a different life I would've had one baby in the last year of Primary school and another starting the very first year of Primary school! 

Today I gave my last baby to school. Sob.  From here on in, school will get the most of him, probably the best of him for the foreseeable weeks as he inevitably gets increasingly tired from his full days!  I know I've been lucky; to have been able to work part time and enjoy so many one on one adventures with him, lucky that we haven't had to use full-time external childcare because Grandparents are so on board, meaning the boys have been able to predominantly spend their pre-school years at home. 

I've babied him. Obviously. He is my last little one. 

But today, when I took his Reception 'front door' photo and compared it to his Nursery 'front door' photo, it was undeniable how much he has grown up; up the door (massive growth spurt in a year!) and in himself. His face has changed and matured. Shockingly much less baby when you compare the two photos side by side! 

So much of this last year has been robbed from him. Barely any Nursery time at all, no Nursery graduation in the way it should've been. A world full of uncertainty and already an unsettled start to this new school year too. I was anxious when his brothers started school of course, but not like this. This whole starting / going to school during a Pandemic is a whole new level of anxiety of sending children to school. Thursday I still felt bravely optimistic sending them. Today I felt tearful dropping him off, dropping Lucas and Zachary off. 

We've had a stressful few days; a dodgy night of croup with Zac, back to school colds, a very poorly Xander with a very high (40.2) temperature. Which then meant obviously household COVID (negative) tests because of it. Covid testing coming before antibiotics and Xander having to suffer a prolonged deterioration with a nasty ear infection. But here we are. The all clear, for COVID at least. So today it was the big day for school.

My Little Lucas. Today you started Big School. Two days later than you should've done. You couldn't start Monday with all of your friends because we were a household having our first taste of COVID testing and quarantine. You couldn't go Tuesday because we were waiting on results.  So today was your first day. 

Last night you were not very impressed about it. You told me you only wanted to go to Baby School. But this morning, we arrived at your classroom door and you didn't miss a beat! You didn't hesitate. Your teacher greeted you and you opened with telling her about your new Thomas bags for school and proudly holding them up in the air to show her. Then in you went without looking back. Without a fuss. So confident. I'm so proud of you! 

Much more confident than Mummy. 

It wasn't the moment in the way I wanted it. Imagined it. It felt rushed handing you over. It felt entirely wrong that Daddy and I couldn't take you together. Like we had done for both of your brothers. But there is a one-parent-only policy at the school at the moment. Because you've guessed it, Covid. 

I felt under pressure to rush back to the car and get myself to work and to my own classroom children. I was so lucky that I had been told I could go to work late so that I wouldn't miss your first day. But I wish I had taken an extra moment to watch you in your classroom, watch you go and hang up your bag and settle yourself in.   If it had been Monday I could've soaked up this milestone a bit more. Your first, but my last. My last 'first day' of school.  I feel the enormity of it was robbed from us. By circumstance. By it not being Monday. 2020, the gift that keeps on giving.  

But my boy, I will watch you on the next Monday. I will watch you and then I might not know what to do to myself when I get home; with my six hours at home by myself. With no little one to look after. It was strange when I started having those two hours while you were at Nursery, but a whole day? I might actually have to do some cleaning or something to fill my time! Haha! 

I know you are going to be oh so very tired. I know you're going to find the long days and never being able to have a nap really hard as the weeks pass. You might be a summer born baby, still so young in your ways and one of the youngest in your class; but my boy you are school ready in so many other ways. Your bright little brain is ready for all the learning your teacher can throw at you!

My Little love, today was a Big Day for you. A new chapter. An end of one era and the start of another. 

I've had to share you more today to watch you and allow you to become a bigger boy. I know you're going to have the best time. It made my heart a little bit sad, this whole starting school business, but what a privilege it is to be allowed to watch you grow up!


One more step along the world you go. 

We love you enormously, Lucas. 

Mummy and Daddy xXx 

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Missed Milestones

Thursday morning it dawned on me, while I was taking the annual front door photos; that if Belle was here to take her back to school new year group picture, that it would have been a pretty significant one. As the front door pictures go. That next year will be the same.   

This year she would have been going into Year Six, the last year of primary school, with all the lasts of primary that would include. The residential trips, the grown up trips, the multitude of events across the year Year Six do marking their final days in primary school.   I wondered which of the Year Six teachers would have been hers. 

Then the prom leavers party that has become the custom in the boys school. The prom that for the last few years we have been tasked as official photographer for and loving the buzz of the kids excitement. This year it will be her cohort. The friends she might have had.  The special dress and shoes we won't be buying. 

The application to high school we won't be making. 

A significant year of missed milestones.

I've realised that next year, in September and early October, as we attend some high school open days, (open to Years 5 and 6 for a look around prior to the application process), with Xander, that she would've been starting at the high school we would've already have picked for our family.   Another September to come with another very significant missed milestone. 

And I'm ok. I've marked this should've been week in my thoughts. I haven't gone to pieces. Part of me cannot believe I'm old enough to have a child going into their last year of Primary School! I'm flabbergasted enough Xander has gone into Year Four! 

But today I tried to visualise how far up the front door she might have been for her photo this year. Taking my best guess that she would probably tower over Xander. And as he is now somewhere over the first 'line' on the door she would probably have hit the second.   Her 'I'm in Year Six' moment without her in it. 

Missed milestones. 

A lifetime of missed milestones and stolen moments. 

Friday, 21 August 2020

Little is FOUR!

On another damp and blustery day, Lucas is busy building train tracks and the older boys are busy watching Netflix. I'm feeling somewhat grumpy that the final two weeks of home before "back to school are looking pretty dismal for the weather... but I'm taking today's opportunity to sit quietly in the corner on my laptop; updating Lucas and his fourth birthday and then might move onto loosely completely some more planning ready for the new school term. 

It is hard to believe that our youngest baby is becoming a school aged boy! If I'm honest, I'm kind of struggling with the notion of no baby bringing up the rear as Lucas gets older. Not for a minute do I really believe we have the energy or the capacity for another as I hit my mid-late thirties and Jon on the cusp of forty. And I definitely have no desire for a return to the perpetual sleepless nights or the early days feeding demands of a newborn.  Its all inconsequential anyway when it would be something short of a miracle to be pregnant again now. But the pangs of broodiness are yet to disappear completely. I think its mostly these last weeks and months of the infancy chapter of our lives.... just the (very occasionally used) buggy in the boot left to vacate! 

Lucas is FOUR!

Little Lucas Elias. You continue to be absolutely determined NOT to be Little.   We are reminded almost daily that you are a big boy; because you tell us so, and because you are growing at an alarming rate these last few months... standing at 104cm tall already and filling out.   Clothes that Zac is outgrowing are simply being put straight into your drawers because the disparity between you is ever closing!  I'm pretty sure there will be a time where you wear the same size clothes and shoes which will be confusing for the washing I'm sure! 

I can't believe you are already four. It has been an absolutely crazy time of it since your last update. All the Monday and Tuesday afternoon adventures I planned for us while you were still half days never happened. Who would have thought you would ever have lived through a lockdown situation?! To have spent months nearly completely at home; all but a once a week short walk. No Nursery, no seeing grandparents and family, no daytrips, no park or soft play  or the other places you enjoy.  We've been at home and you just took it in your stride; accepting almost instantly that this was the way it had to be but frequently asking me "When Coronavirus goes away can we...." 

And here we are in what we hope is the 'other side' but resolved to the possibility these last few weeks have just been a respite and things might end up back into a lockdown situation. Mostly I hope you get to do Reception properly and not have it pulled from underneath you like Nursery has been. I'm so sad you didn't get the full Nursery experience, and especially sad that Nursery Graduation couldn't happen. A milestone that was so special for your brothers that you couldn't have in the same way.  

So instead we threw you a Graduation Birthday. It wasn't quite the same of course, but we made the best of it; complete with a cap and a sash and the smart little outfit I would've bought if you had had your school day.   

You loved your birthday! You had been so excited about it for such a long time.  No party this year, but at least we had been able at this point to form an extended household and have garden visitors. So Grandparents visited and we had a lovely all day party in the back garden! And the day before we were brave and ventured out for our first day out following the re-opening of places...  not the Thomasland we had originally planned for your big birthday day out but the next best thing for you at Perrygrove Railway.   You couldn't believe it! The first 'real' place you had been since lockdown... "you taken me to a train ride Mummy, really?!"   The three of you were so happy all day, running around the tree houses and going on the trains! 

Your birthday was the lockdown turning point for us and although summer hasn't been quite the same, or as jam-packed or as busy, we've have still been places, seen our friends and started to live again. 

I wonder if you'll remember anything of these months when you are grown-up? 

In many ways this lockdown and home-schooling situation has suited you. You have totally blossomed and flourished; going from unreliably recognising numbers and knowing little to nothing about letters to knowing all the numbers and ordering them to 30+,  reliably adding two numbers within 5 together, beginning to add two numbers between 10 together, counting in 2s, 5s and 10s,  writing numbers, letters and your name, smashing set 1 sounds and being able to blend and read CVC words independently and now beginning to have a go at CVCC words too!   With just a little 1:1 time every day you have become ever so Reception ready.   Even if I still think you're far too little! 

At FOUR you have become a force to be reckoned with! My goodness! Throughout June the threenager emerged and you have become increasingly strong-willed and determined; attempting to be more and more independent with a lot of "No Mummy don't help me" and "No Mummy I do it myself". You are feisty with a little temper emerging, an answer for everything already, demanding, screamy and dramatic. Apparently every time you're told off  you tell us "You broke my heart". Even as a veteran parent I feel like you are currently putting me through my paces!

But my boy are you a little sweetheart too. With all the "I love you's" for us all, cuddles in abundance, a beautiful chuckle and cheeky sense of humour (although verging on annoying little brother for your bigs they might say!) You couldn't look up to your big brothers anymore than you do; you constantly want their attention, have bonded more with Zac throughout lockdown and love it when he plays with you. Then you have Xander totally wrapped around your little finger on all the occasions he drops everything to build you a train track, or takes you around a playground that is slightly too big for you, picking you up and carrying you even!   You are firmly placed as baby of the family and Daddy says I spoil you. He is probably right.  

At FOUR you absolutely adore trains. At the end of Nursery you told me you want to be a train drive when you grow up. I don't think there is a day when your train track isn't emptied out of the box and built all around the living room, or your not thinking of the next Thomas and Friends train to add to your collection.   Thomas is a firm favourite for now; I'm hoping it remains that way for some time to come because I would really love to take you to Thomasland for your fifth birthday now as we failed to get there for your fourth. 

You love letters and numbers and the Numberblocks. If I'm honest, I think Numberblocks taught you more through lockdown than I did! Haha!  Your favourite colour is orange. You like Paw Patrol Mighty Pups and a sing-song from the back of the car; current track choice being Trolls World Tour.

You love being outdoors, a play in the garden or a trip to the park, you love your scooter and often ask if we can go out for a scoot. You've cracked it now and have become a total whizz, trying to go faster and faster to keep up with your brothers (and leaving me on pins waiting for you to crash!) We've almost got you there on pedalling your bike but you'll always choose your scooter over it - probably because you can go faster!

My Little, you are much more ready for the next chapter of adventure than I am!

You have blown us away this year Lucas and we couldn't be more proud of you. 

Loved millions and more, our baby one. 

Mummy and Daddy xXx 

Friday, 31 July 2020

Double Figures

I am many blog posts 'behind'.

Belle's milestone tenth birthday, an unthinkable hospital admission, Little's fourth birthday,  Lockdown Life, Week 1 and almost Week 2 of this years Six Weeks of Summer.... 

I can't even really blame lack of time; more so deliberately putting the first blog of the list off. 

Belle was ten. 

I had a vision, an idea of what her tenth birthday would be. 

Then it was nothing like it at all. 

I had an idea, two years ago, that for her tenth birthday I would raise a little more money in her honour for Sands. I wanted to get to Ten Thousand for her tenth birthday (after her first birthday had raised absolutely whopping £9693 - click link).  I had thought about organising an "Anabelle in Wonderland" themed afternoon tea, fun and quirky or even toyed with the idea of running a sponsored10k for her tenth. Which sounds absolutely laughable really when my current fitness levels are probably at their very worst ever!   I had intended to do some training; but could never quite stick at it for one reason or another. So still two years on I continue to play about with C25K - one step forward two steps back constantly - sticking at it really well for a bit and then falling off the running wagon for more weeks, if not months, on end. I think I need my on PT!  I've been on the treadmill on and off in lockdown but at the moment I can barely manage a Week 1 'run' and I haven't been that bad for a very very long time! That is another story really. 

I had ideas. But didn't action any of them.  I held back.  I beat myself up about it. 

But in the end, to be honest it is just as well I did hold back; because you know 2020 happened and all our lives worldwide got derailed! Maybe my subconscious knew for whatever reason it wouldn't happen this year. 

Her tenth birthday was hard. They're always hard. But this year not only was it a milestone birthday, we also had to abandon Plan A.  Travel restriction and bloody Covid meant we had to cancel the beach hut style weekend away we had booked. At the last minute we were instead throwing together a Plan B to have a mermaid themed garden party instead.  On paper it sounded lovely; I spent far too much on decorations (the surplus came in handy for Lucas's birthday too), I put together party bags even, I even ordered in an afternoon tea from up the road which was really beautifully presented. But it still wasn't the day I had imagined.  In the very end it was a nice evening when we finally were able to just sit. The day itself was nothing but calm. 

Plan B went wrong too; the standard panic of 'running out of time', a balloon that escaped the car as we opened the boot in the cemetery and not even the weather really on our side for the first year ever! A day with showers and the most annoying wind that meant everything we planned in the garden had to be gaffer taped down to within an inch of its life!  

Jon, my closest friends, have all said I need to take the pressure off myself to make her birthday perfect. To allow the day to pass without big plans. To realise that it doesn't have to be all singing and dancing.  And after my health scare in the days following her tenth birthday this year, they may well be right. Maybe her birthday needs a change. Low-key. 

Or it could just be a ridiculous coincidence that I had a brief minor heart attack (for no physically found reason) at the age of 35 in June. Because it is always June isn't it?  Stillbirth, miscarriage and now cardiac incident all in June.   

So now I'm on a weekly phonecall with Cardiac Rehab until mid-September (and feeling like I've almost doubled my age overnight!) and have been referred for grief counselling via their services too. I know it is the right thing to do; because even if there is a remote possibility that my heart issue was at all caused by the grief and stress of a never-ending June, then this cannot continue.  Fear of making myself seriously unwell each year cannot be added to the list! 

June. Ten years of reliving June 2010. Ten years of being utterly consumed by grief for the month from start to finish and before. I just don't know how to do it any other way. 

My darling Belle, 

Ten doesn't seem real or possible. It is such an important milestone. Double figures! I remembered feeling so grown up when I had my double figures birthday. We would've made such a fuss of you!  I wish that was our reality.  Instead we have had the sort of milestone that we cannot quite fathom. A decade without you; a decade that we've survived in its full range of emotions but never quite coming to terms that you, our only daughter, died before she got a chance at life. 

Once upon a time I imagined how if I survived ten years then I would feel stronger. More accepting. That maybe at this milestone somehow the grief would change and or become easier to bear. That the rawness would pass. Because in those early days ten years felt like an impossibly long time to live. I thought ten years would be a significant turning point. In which direction I yet not know; but it is fair to say ten years passed by far more quickly than I could've imagined and that raw June grief is still only ever just beneath the surface.

It can't have been ten years, can it? 

Each year we try to imagine what we would've been doing, or buying for you for your birthday. We almost torture ourselves googling a "What to buy a ten year old girl?" lists trying to discover what would have been on trend this year.   Would it have been fashion clothes, handbags, an iPod, jewellery or jewellry making kits? Books or stationary? Craft? Maybe even pop concert tickets; although I'm not sure about the influence of the likes of Little Mix or others!   I watch your slightly younger brother who is now all about Lego or Warhammer, building and painting models and marvel at how grown up he is all of a sudden. Maturing. And you are 16 months older again than he is.  Who would you be now?  On the cusp of Year 6, the top of the Juniors and applying for secondary school places.   I wish I could picture it; but mostly all I see is the tiny 4lb 5oz baby girl you are. 

This year we had a mermaid themed party but I'm under no illusion that would've been what you might've picked for yourself! Maybe parties would be out now and grown up meals with your friends would be in. Maybe a girly pampering sleepover complete with take away, films, nail painting, footspas and face masks?  For all the maybes of a reality that will never be, we had originally planned a beach hut themed weekend away; this year I wanted to escape for your birthday, to spend your tenth birthday at the seaside. Something different, something special. But it wasn't meant to be.   I don't think anyone could've imagined the turn this year would've taken. Locked down, travel banned and staying at home for months on end because of a virus. 

So this year there was no 'out for breakfast' that had firmly become our tradition of these last few years.  We had a slow morning at home, afternoon tea was collected ready for the garden party, we waited until dinner (and hoping the morning showers would pass) to go up to your garden. 

When we arrived at the cemetery it was in a shocking mid-lockdown state; everywhere we looked was overgrown and neglected. Grass up to my knees, or more.  I hadn't thought about how the council would not be attending graves at the moment.  I could've cried, just imagining the state we were about to find you in...  But you wouldn't believe it, we drove down the hill and I could see that your grave was all nice and tidy! I don't know who; but someone had recently mowed yours and your neighbour's plots!  I can only assume that your neighbour's family had been tidying up and had noticed the date on your headstone, or simply because you were a baby maybe, decided to tidy you up too. How amazing and thoughtful is that?! We were so grateful to our mystery gardener. 

But then the day got derailed, as it so often does on your birthday.  If there is one hiccup, I've learnt there will be many... on a day when we're not very equipped to cope.  

It was just going to be one of those days. Time started to feel like it was running out, one of the balloons had somehow become detached from the weight and escaped to the sky as the boot was opened (resulting in an hour round trip to get it replaced), and the weather and the wind especially just would not let up!!!  Wind and garden party decorations do not really go together! And the weather certainly wasn't right for the new paddling pool for the boys to pretend to be mermaids in! 

I'll admit I lost it completely at one point. The wind, of all things, totally pushing me over the edge. Not my finest hour by far.   Last year I thought I had finally learnt to breathe on your birthday. This year showed me once again how I still haven't a clue! 

Somehow we pulled it all back together. The garden got decorated with serious amount of gaffer tape, we all enjoyed the afternoon tea and the boys had a lovely play in the garden, albeit in their onesies because it was particularly cold!  We sang happy birthday, we enjoyed the Little Mermaid cake I had decorated the night before. In the end we got there once again.

But it was the hardest of birthdays. The hardest of days.   The way things should've been still hurts this family so much, you're missed beyond what you could ever realise.  The gap in every family photo. The boys missing piece and brothers who so often mention their sister they never knew. Missed by us all. 

I just cannot imagine a day when I will find my peace with your absence. 

We love you endlessly. 

Happy double figures birthday Anabelle Violet! 

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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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