Monday, 28 January 2019

2018's Best Bits & My Goals For 2019

Happy New Year!

As much of a cliche as I know it is, I love the feeling of optimism and renewed zest for life that comes with a brand new year.

January is otherwise such a dull and dreary month, one which I've come to live in fear of in recent years since SAD kicked in, but the first week or so - with its fresh unblemished diary full of 365 blank spaces, each one an opportunity for fun, growth, learning and self care - is different.

It's a time I genuinely enjoy as I spend it reflecting on the year that's passed...thinking back over all we did in 2018 and how I'd like to spend our 2019.

So, as I do every year, I wanted to take the chance to look back over our 2018 and share some of my well as my goals, hopes and plans for the coming year.


2018 will, I think, be affectionately recalled in our family as The Year Of Disney!

We bought annual passes to Disneyland Paris early in the year and we made use of them by taking 3 trips there over the course of the year. Our first visit was in February, to tie in with Sailor's 2nd birthday which we celebrated with a character dinner at Inventions and a special birthday cake delivered by Mickey Mouse himself.

The trip was certainly our most eventful and stressful to date as it coincided with a huge unexpected snowfall. The whole of Disneyland was white and the snow came down heavily for most of our time there, which at the time was a bit of a nightmare - it was much too cold to be able to enjoy being out and about most of the time, the parades and fireworks were cancelled or reduced most days, and we had our fair share of slips on the ice too. Our car also died in the UK before we travelled which meant last minute plane tickets to get us there, and lots of re-arranging of transport!

The trip was chaotic, stressful and ended up being very expensive - but looking back, it also had its magic.

Disneyland is absolutely beautiful in the snow, and the boys - having never experienced snow before - were delighted and mesmerized by it. They didn't care that the parades were cancelled, all they wanted to do was have snowball fights! And on the plus side - the cold did mean that the parks were super quiet and we could walk right on to all of the rides with no queues at all, which is pretty much unheard of!

It's become one of my favourite travel memories of all, and the photos are magical to look back at - I wouldn't have thought so at the time, but I'm glad we got to experience it.

In April we had a break close to home at Ladram Bay holiday park right here in Devon, about an hour from where we live.

I wasn't sure how much we'd enjoy a trip so close to home but it was so lovely to just relax and enjoy each others company for the week without feeling the need to head out and explore as much as usual on a holiday. The holiday park was beautiful with everything we needed for a thoroughly refreshing break, and it became one of our favourite family holidays ever.

In May, we returned for our second trip of the year to Disneyland Paris - this time the weather was beautiful, with sunshine every day!

We were there for the Princess & Pirate Festival which was one of our best Disney experiences of all time, we got to meet lots of characters we'd never met before and we had such a wonderful time.

As well as Disneyland, I also managed to squeeze in a mini break with my sister in May as we sailed away on the Independence Of the Seas cruise ship for a 2 night girls break - it was so lovely to have the chance for some me time!

As summer came around, we enjoyed a lovely weekend break on the Devon/Dorset border which became one of my favourite memories of the year - we spent days at the beach and exploring Dorset which was so relaxing, and the boys had such a great time.

In July, we headed off for a weeks holiday to Bluestone resort in Wales - it was our second trip there and we all had such a great time. We spent our days at the pool, toasting marshmallows over the fire, and taking in the gorgeous views over the Welsh countryside - it was so lovely.

We also had a little mini break to Hampshire in August too, where to managed to visit Paultons Park and the Winchester Science Museum as well as a quick visit to Highclere Castle which was a highlight of my year!
I always really enjoy exploring different parts of the UK, there was so much to do in Hampshire and we were fortunate that the weather was really kind to us!

In October we returned for our final Disney trip of the year - this time for their Halloween season, which is without a doubt the favourite Disney season for all of us!

We had an absolutely amazing time, probably my favourite Disney trip to date in fact, and I even had a go at Disneybounding for the first time which was so much fun!

October was quite a busy month as, shortly after our Disney trip, Jon & I headed on a mini cruise with Tyne on board the Independence Of The Seas - it was so lovely to get to spend some quality one on one time with Tyne, and there was some great educational opportunities for him too.

All in all, we managed to fit quite a lot of travel adventures to our year - with 3 Disney trips, 2 mini cruises, 2 UK holidays, and 2 UK mini breaks - it was a year full of fun and magical memories!

Family Life:

This year, our boys celebrated their 2nd, 3rd and 5th birthdays - each of them celebrating with a birthday party. The start of the year is always a bit hectic with all 3 of the boys birthdays within 6 weeks of each other, but although it's chaotic and expensive - I do quite like having their birthdays close together.

The biggest change to our family life this year was the decision to remove Tyne from school and choose home education instead.

We removed him in January, just two weeks into the new year, and although it was a scary decision - I'm so glad we took the path we did. Tyne has been a much happier and more confident little boy since leaving school behind, and the home ed lifestyle suits all of us so much more than the rigidity of a school routine.

Tyne has made really great progress with his learning, and - more importantly to me - has thrived socially, making new friends in the home ed community and feeling happy and settled.

2018 was also the year that our biggest boy lost his very first tooth! This was a huge deal for him and caused him quite a bit of anxiety but he was so proud when it finally came out, and has been waiting patiently for his new one to grow in since!

Tyne also started going to Tae Kwon Do classes in 2018, which he has really enjoyed - and just before the year was out he did his first grading, earning his purple belt which he was super proud of.

Personal Growth & Achievements:

2018 was, without a doubt, the year of self discovery for me.

You often hear people talk about wanting to "find themselves" and I've never really known what that means - it sounds like such a cliche, but I really feel like I never fully understand who I was before last year.

There's always been some part of me who was existing to please other people - who was doing what she thought she was supposed to, towing the line, being the person she thought people wanted her to be - regurgitating the opinions of people around her, doing what she'd always done and never really looking beyond what she was used to.

But in 2018, I started to challenge things. I started to expose myself to things outside of my usual circles - to read more, to discover more, to learn more - and to figure out what really mattered to me, what my real passions are and what I think is important in life.

And it surprised me to learn that a lot of it was a far cry from the life I thought I wanted to have and the person I thought I wanted to be.

In 2018, I learned to truly be myself and not feel the need to apologise for it. To become comfortable in my own skin. And I finally realised that you'll never find happiness if you're living to please other people.

In 2018, after a lifetime of being drawn to it but always feeling encouraged to step away or ridiculed by those around me for my interest in it and my beliefs, I finally embraced spiritualism.

I took a spiritual awareness course which helped me to grow in confidence and self belief, where I made connections with other people that I would never otherwise have met - and following on from that I became a regular attendee of a spiritual development group which I go to every week to learn more about spirituality. It's helped me to feel calmer, more grounded and it's opened up my social circle as well as helped to grow my confidence and give me something - away from motherhood and home life - that is just purely mine.  I love going there, and look forward to that bit of me time every week. And I'm so happy that I finally myself the chance to pursue this lifelong interest without fear of ridicule.

2018 was also, without doubt, the year of body positivity and improved self confidence.

After a life time of never feeling good enough, always loathing my appearance and forever battling with my weight - I finally started to learn to accept myself exactly as I am, to understand that my body is not a problem but rather the society it lives in is, and to take steps to learn how to love my body without feeling the need to change it.

It is without doubt the most empowering thing that's ever happened to me, and the confidence and peace it's brought me within myself has been far greater than any diet has ever come close to giving me.

Of all the things I've ever done, making the decision to stop dieting and start learning how love and accept myself as I am is without doubt the one that's had the biggest positive impact on my mental health.

In 2018, I felt comfortable and confident enough to start to widen my social circles and make new and valuable with people.

I've always been open about finding friendships hard to make and even harder to keep, but this year - through my social media channels, my blog and through becoming part of the local home education community - I've made new connections with people who I have things in common with, which have blossomed into new friendships.

I learned this year that small talk exhausts me and that I long to have friendships which enable me to have deep and meaningful conversations, and allow me to make real connections with people - and I'm really happy that I feel as though I've found a handful of new friends that I connect with properly.

For most of 2018 I felt as though things had become a little stagnant with my blog and my working life, but looking back over my highlights of the year I can see that actually - this really isn't true at all.

I did achieve some incredible things over the course of the year which I need to allow myself to celebrate and be proud of without fear of seeming "Braggy" - I won my first ever blogging award, something which I honestly never thought would ever happen.  I've never been popular or the kind of person likely to win anything, particularly anything based on votes from others, and so I honestly never thought I'd win something like this - infact it still doesn't quite feel real.

But I did win it, and I'm so grateful and honoured by the presence of this little piece of glass that sits proudly on the new bedroom shelves which I bought especially for it.

And finally, 2018 was also the year that I achieved a long term goal of mine - which was to be on the radio!

I'd ticked off the TV and Print boxes a couple of years ago, but radio was my last "to do" so I was delighted to get the chance to speak on BBC Devon alongside some of my blogging friends after winning the BIB award.

Favourite Days:

There were so many family days that I want to remember from 2018, so I've included some photos from them below to remind myself of the fun we had - my highlights included the first proper snowfall in the UK in my boys lifetimes when The Beast From The East hit, our summer festival experience at Glas-denbury, our day at the local Pirate festival, our annual trips to the Strawberry field as well as to see the Sunflowers at the same place, our day out in Bournemouth and my flying visit to Downton Abbey!

 2019 Goals, Hopes & Plans

Travel Goals For 2019:

I'm a bit unsure of what our travel plans for 2019 will be if I'm honest, as at the start of a new year I'm always full of optimism and lots of big (and unrealistic) goals and dreams of places I'd love to visit.

I have so many dream destinations and places I'd love to go to with the boys, but money (or lack of it!) means those things just aren't going to happen.

As it stands, we don't have any trips booked for the year so it all feels very wide open and there's always the very real possibility that we might not go anywhere at all this year.

But I am trying to squeeze in one last trip to Disneyland Paris before our annual passes expire (they expire in 3 weeks so this is very last minute and dependent on lots of things, so may or may not happen!) as I don't plan on renewing them.

The annual passes have been great to have but this year we'd need to buy four of them now that Noah is older, and I don't think the price would be worthwhile for the number of times we'd visit.

My biggest hope is to be able to save enough money to get us to Disney World Florida - I've never been and have always wanted to go, and I know the boys would love it too - Tyne is besotted with the USA and would love to go anywhere over there!

But given that we're a family of five and it's going to cost around £8,000 for us to visit I'm not really sure that we'll be able to manage it this year. I think realistically it's more likely to be something we do in 2020 but I'm remaining cautiously optimistic that it MAY happen this never know!

I'm hoping to be able to book a trip to Butlins Minehead around May as we haven't been since March 2017 when Sailor was only 13 months old, I feel like he missed out on getting to enjoy the Just For Tots activities being so little and I know he would absolutely love it - so I really want to try and fit it in this year before he's too old to enjoy it!

As for the rest of the year, it really depends on what happens - if a big holiday (Like Disney Florida!) is definitely looking like its not going to happen by September, then I'd like to have a little break somewhere else cheap, cheerful and warm.

I'd also really love to fit in a visit to the Isle Of Wight again as we really enjoyed it last time, and would love to spend a bit longer there.

There are also plans starting to take shape for a visit to Legoland for the boys birthdays, so I'd love to make this a 2 night visit instead of 1 and tie it in with a trip to Windsor Castle which we've never been to. We went to Buckingham Palace in 2017 and loved it, so it would be great to see Windsor Castle too.

My only other goal is to manage a couples break with Jon - its something we've talked about doing for years but we just never make it happen, my mum guilt always gets in the way. But I think it'd be really good for us to have a break together, and I'd love to go for just a couple of nights to somewhere that it'd be difficult to explore with the kids - Salzburg in Austria is top of my wish list as I've always wanted to go and do the Sound Of Music sightseeing tour there, but Venice (Or any place in Italy really!) would also be amazing.

Family Goals For 2019:

Noah would be due to start school in September of this year, but I put his application letter firmly in the bin as soon as it arrived as our plans to home educate all of the boys have not changed.

In 2019 I'm going to need to learn how best to split my time between home educating two children instead of one, and I'm sure it's going to be a challenge but my goal is just to figure out the best way for us to do this and end the year with happy, settled children just as we did last year.

The boys will be turning 3, 4 and 6 this year and I already have their birthday party plans in place. Other than this, our family goals are to get our house sorted and decluttered a little more, and just enjoy more family time together.

Personal Goals For 2019:

As for my personal goals for the year, I'd love to find more time to read in 2019 - I made a start on this last year but I'm still guilty of putting my own interests and hobbies last on the list of priorities so I want to make more of a conscious effort to do this.

I also want to practise self care more by way of making the effort to light a scented candle of an evening and maybe have a gin - something so simple, that only takes moments, but which I so rarely make the time to do.

I want to make time for myself to get my hair done regularly - I only had it done twice in 2018 and I feel so much better and more confident when my hair is taken care of, I deserve to allow myself to have it done more often.

I want to make time for my own interests and learn more about subjects that get me fired up.

I want to learn to say No more, instead of always feeling obliged to please other people by saying yes to things I'd rather not do.

I want to learn to set firm boundaries and only do things that are right for me, my health and my family rather than agreeing to things that aren't right for us in order to people please or avoid conflict.

I want to learn how to manage my newly diagnosed health condition, and learn how to adjust my life to make things easier on my body.

I want to continue to work on improving my self confidence and self esteem, as well improving my mental health.

I want to help other people to feel more confident in themselves, too by running courses, events or meet ups that promote self love and self confidence for women.

I want to spend more time with my boys and less time working, without compromising on my income or the quality of my work.

I want to make sure that every month I'm taking a positive step to achieve something career wise - whether this be event planning, collaborating with others, or pitching articles. I won't keep resting on my laurels.

And I know that I've said this every year but this time I mean it...I WILL learn to drive in 2019!!!!

So those are my goals for 2019 - I'd love to hear about yours!

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