Wednesday, 22 January 2020

2019 Reflections

Whenever a new year rolls around, one of my favourite things to do is look back over the year that's passed and remember all of my favourite moments from it.

Of course there are less-than-perfect moments throughout every year, sometimes lots of them, but there's something about looking through the photos we took and picking out my favourite ones that I find really soothing and inspiring - remembering the little moments that turned in to memories, feeling gratitude for how many lovely experiences we got to have together and looking forward to the prospect of a brand new year with excitement and hope.


For me, January is always a tricky month. It's the time of year when my low mood and anxiety disorder combine and make things particularly difficult for me to manage. I've realised over the last few years that I do suffer with SAD and although I've picked up some different coping mechanisms over the years, I find myself absolutely dreading January every year because I know how low I'm likely to feel.

It can be really difficult to pull myself out of the mood that descends upon me in January, and so a couple of years ago - we decided that having something fun to look forward to and plan for might be just the tonic.

And so we started to book a holiday each January. For the last two years, that holiday has been to Disneyland Paris and it was the perfect remedy - I spent the first weeks of January planning for our trip which kept my mind occupied and focused on something exciting, and then we'd finish the month there - enjoying ourselves and getting lost in the Disney magic.

It worked a treat! Unfortunately we haven't been able to do this in 2020 due to our holiday plans later in the year, but looking back over last January's photos has lifted my mood a bit in itself.

The great thing about visiting Disneyland Paris in January is that it's the cheapest time of year to go, and also the quietest so there are hardly any crowds or queues for anything!

Last January our trip coincided with the heaviest snowfall that France had seen in years, which did unfortunately mean there were some closures but it also meant we got to walk on to the rides and ride them over and over again without getting off - and it meant the kids got to have snowball fights in front of the castle, and when you're 6 years old - how magical is that?!


February is the start of 6 weeks of birthday madness in our house - kicking off with Sailor's birthday on February 12th.

For his 3rd birthday last year, my little Jack Sparrow fanatic decided he wanted to have a pirate themed party to celebrate - and so that's exactly what we did!

The start of all of the birthday prep helps to pull me out of that January funk a bit too, and is always the start of better mental health days for me.


The birthday madness continues in March for us, with Tyne's birthday on the 26th and Noah's just 4 days later on the 31st.

You'd think this would mean a nice easy joint birthday celebration, right?! But nope - because typically these two could not be more different in their interests! And so - two birthday celebrations it is!

This year Tyne chose a Minecraft themed  party for his 6th birthday, and Noah chose a Frozen themed tea party at home - I love getting stuck in to the themes and trying my hand at the themed food I see on Pinterest, even though they usually end up as total fails! It's fun to try anyway...kind of!

March was also the month that I managed to overcome one of my biggest fears - one that I'd struggled with for years. Public speaking!

I was invited to speak about the Body Positivity Movement at an event for International Womens Day at a local cafe, and it was such a fantastic experience. I was delighted that I managed to overcome my nerves to do it - and to my surprise delight doing that talk led to two amazing things - a lovely new friendship and the offer of doing regular paid talks at a local support group for new mothers.

I did those talks several times throughout the year and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one...infact doing them led me to realise that I want to do more of this sort of work, and has made me decide to look at re-qualifying as a counsellor.


April was quite a quiet month, which was much needed after such a busy start to the year - but we did still enjoy some lovely family days out, including a long overdue trip to Longleat safari park which we all really enjoyed.


After first bringing up the subject with us toward the end of 2018, and starting to use female clothing and pronouns full time in April after a gradual start in January - May was the month that we decided to let more people know about Noah's gender identity and was the month that we had our first family holiday since these changes came about.

I remember feeling quite nervous about it all, worrying about whether other parents would notice and whether they'd say anything - it felt so different from being in the company of friends and people we trust, to be around strangers. But we needn't have worried - we had no issues and infact our week at Bluestone was exactly what we all needed after a worrying few months. It was the perfect relaxing family break! I honestly can't recommend Bluestone enough for family holidays when you just want to get away from it all and relax - it is perfect!

Later in the month we also headed to Cornwall for a week, having a great time in Newquay - we try to have a Cornwall holiday every year as it's so close to us that it makes it super low-effort and we always have an amazing time!


Our first summer month was spent enjoying the local beaches and taking things easy, it was a month that I was finding quite a struggle with my fibromyalgia symptoms and so we slowed the pace of life a little and just spent some time doing things that relaxed us and made for nice slow days.


This was the month we spent a really fun week in my home city of Liverpool - but rather than just visiting family like we usually do, we were working with a brand to promote the city and so we got to experience it as tourists!

We had so much fun and it's something we really want to try to do more regularly.


We kicked off August with a lovely family day out in Exeter for Jon's birthday, a low-key day spent at the quayside which ended up becoming one of my favourite days of the year - it was nothing special really but just one of those rare occasions when everyone is in a good mood and everything goes perfectly to plan!

Later in the month, Jon & I got to enjoy a rare childfree night away at our favourite hotel - The Headland in Newquay. We spent hours just sitting outside, looking out over the sea and breathing in deeply - we came away feeling incredibly calm and both agreed it's something we should try to do more often.

We also tied the trip in with a visit to see Kylie Minogue live in concert at The Eden Project - seeing Kylie live had been on my bucket list since I was about 8 years old, so it was AMAZING!


This was definitely my favourite month of the whole year, and that's because it's the month we went on the best family holiday we've ever had!

We spent a week staying at a campsite called Marina Di Venezia in Italy, just a stones throw from Venice - it was honestly incredible! The weather was perfect, there was SO much to do on the site for everybody, the food was amazing, the beach was beautiful, the pools were fantastic and we just had the BEST time ever.

We also managed to fit in a day of sight seeing on the islands of Burano and Venice - it unfortunately rained really heavily on that one day so we didn't get to do a gondola ride, but it gives us a reason to go back right?!

We still had the most amazing time, I've honestly never enjoyed a holiday as much as I enjoyed this one and we all agreed it's been our favourite family holiday destination to date.


I always love October because it's Halloween - my favourite time of the year after Christmas!

October for us always includes visits to the Pumpkin patch as well as lots of Halloween prep and activities, and this year was no different.

We also fit in a little weekend break to the incredible Puy Du Fou historical theme park in France with Tyne - it was such a fantastic little break and he had an incredible time and learnt so much, actually we all did!


I always try to keep November quite low key, to sort of reserve our energy (and money!) for Decembers festivities...but we did end up going on a little overnight to Oxford this November.

It's somewhere we hadn't visited before, and we had a great time. We had a look around the Blenheim Palace gardens enjoying the autumn sunshine, we paid a visit to the weird and wonderful Headland Shark and we managed a trip to Oxford Natural History Museum too - it was a fab 24 hour mini break and something we'd love to do again with other cities and towns this year.


And that brings us to December...which of course had all of the usual visits to Santa, our annual journey on the Polar Express and - of course - Christmas itself!!

I haven't done a separate Christmas post this year but in short - we had a lovely one albeit very different from our usual! My Dad unfortunately took unwell just beforehand and was unable to travel to Devon as planned, so our plans of Christmas Day at home and Boxing Day with them had to change.

Instead we spent Christmas Day at home as planned - it was our first time staying home on Christmas Day since the kids came along and we all really enjoyed it, we spent the day in our pyjamas and had a late relaxed dinner with the kids really making the most of getting stuck in to their new toys from Santa.

On Boxing Day we headed over to my sisters house for a buffet and some games, which was really nice.

Then after a few days at home, we headed to Liverpool for Christmas Part 2 with my Mum and Dad - we stayed for a week, and spent New Year there which meant that Jon & I got to go the cinema and for a meal on New Years Eve which was nice! We came home for a midnight toast and to watch the fireworks in the street, the kids all managed to stay awake for midnight too (Not that I was surprised at that, they never have any trouble staying up late - they all think sleep is for the weak!)

As well as the excitement of Christmas, December was also the month we had our last little trip of the year when we were lucky enough to be taken along on a group press trip to Les Villages Nature Paris. We spent a lovely relaxing long weekend there just before Christmas which was the perfect way to round off the year, and we even got to enjoy a day at Disneyland Paris too - bringing us full circle after we started the year there in January!

Although there were low points and health issues throughout as well as some difficult emotional challenges and very unexpected changes in our family, on the whole 2019 was very kind to us and it's a year I'll look back on with gratitude and a big old smile.

Here's to 2020 - let's see what you have in store for us!

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