A new normal…

The beginning of the new academic year has marked the start of going back to a new kind of normal. Before the summer holidays, schools were still in bubbles, social distancing and face coverings were enforced and hand gel was used more times a day than ever before.

I imagine there were mixed emotions when everyone returned in September, some no doubt couldn’t wait to get rid of all the rules whilst others may have felt more anxious.

For me, I was disappointed about bubbles no longer existing because I was dreading doing the school run particularly knowing everyone would be fighting for a space to park! However, as with many things in life, I have soon adapted to the new routine. It is nice not to have to wear a face mask for the school run and of course it has allowed my daughter to start school as we all know it, it’s lovely to hear children singing in assemblies and see them playing with their friends.

However, case numbers are still high here so it does feel a little uneasy, but we just have to do what we can.

Up until recently I was wearing face masks whenever I was indoors but then I have been to a few indoor gatherings lately where nobody else has been wearing them and so neither have I. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to be the odd sheep but at the same time, if this is how life is going to be for the foreseeable future, then I feel there are times when not wearing a mask could be ok.

I have certainly noticed that more people are choosing not to wear a mask and I guess that could be down to being sick of wearing them or the fact that it’s not mandatory anymore, yet whether out of habit or still feeling a little unsure of things, I still automatically put my mask on every time I go inside a shop.

I guess part of me feels a sense of responsibility for others as I wouldn’t want to pass on Covid to my Mum, those I care about or any of the clients that I work with.

The best part of life returning to some sort of normality is being able to attend events, spend time with others, being able to make plans and of course, hugs!

I am aware that there may be another wave but it would appear that the UK government has no intention of doing an awful lot about it other than make masks compulsory again. In which case, fingers crossed Christmas can go ahead this year. Last Christmas I managed to take my girls to see Santa, but it was a socially distanced visit where they could only wave at him from a distance whilst stood outside. Hopefully this year they may actually get to see him up close and maybe even get a photo with him!

We didn’t get to go to Hull fair last year as it was cancelled but this year it is going ahead. However, I have decided that we won’t be going as despite it being the biggest fair that is happening this year (as Goose Fair has been cancelled) there won’t be any real safety measures in place and I know how crowded it normally is, therefore it doesn’t make me feel easy.  

I am definitely looking forward to living life again, I’m excited about what the future brings, and I feel that the summer gave me a chance to start dipping my toes in the water! I certainly can’t imagine going into another lockdown, I think I would find it too hard. I realise that I need that social contact (says the woman who is not a social animal!) and I have a thirst for life…for meeting people, going out and trying new things.

I guess I feel like I have found my wings and I am ready to fly!

This made me giggle as it’s true!

End of restrictions…

Well, we all knew that it was coming, and it has been a long time coming. For some of us it cannot come soon enough and for others we are more hesitant, particularly given how many cases there are in the UK at the moment.

To be honest I did think that good old Boris would decide that life should go back to normal on the 19th July as I imagine he needs to keep people happy (e.g., businesses and other MP’s) however once again it feels as though he is passing the buck to society by telling us to use common sense as we move forward. Is he completely ignorant of how selfish and ignorant a large proportion of society is?! Give them an inch and they will take a mile! I have already seen people blatantly not wearing face masks on buses and refusing to wear them in shops despite what the rules are and security guards reminding them of this. I only imagine that now he has made the announcement that social distancing rules and face masks being compulsory are going out the window on 19th July that people will think they do not need to bother anymore.

I understand that we are going to have to learn to live with Covid and that will involve an element of risks and unknown factors, however I do not understand why Boris has said that masks will no longer be compulsory. Given that cases are increasing, hospital admissions are on the rise again and not everyone has had both vaccines, yet I would have thought that face masks would have been the one thing to have stayed at least until things improved or until all over 18’s had been offered both vaccines. (Or at least in schools, on public transport, hospitals, large gatherings etc.)

I wonder how businesses feel now that they have implemented all the one-way systems, screens, signs, hand gel etc about taking it all away? Will they be jumping for joy to be able to remove them all or will they want to be able to keep some of these things in place? Personally, I hope that hand gel will remain a part of life, after all, it has been noted how general illnesses have plummeted during covid and hand gel is bound to have played a part in this (as well as face masks).

I have enjoyed booking for events and knowing that numbers are limited so now I am not sure how I will feel about going out particularly in indoor venues such as a cinema.

I never thought that I would feel comfortable wearing a face mask, but they have become part of the norm and personally I will continue to wear one in supermarkets and crowded venues even though I have been double jabbed.

I hope more than anything that people will be kind to one another as we take the next step into life that will be as close to pre-Covid as possible. I hope we will not judge one another whether we decide to wear face masks or not, whether we jump at the first chance to go to a nightclub or whether we are more hesitant about going out once restrictions are removed. After all, it has been more than 16 months since we were able to go out and about without face masks and without keeping our distance from one another. My youngest daughter certainly cannot remember a time before Covid and one of her first words was hand gel.

However, you feel about restrictions lifting I hope you will remember to be kind to yourself and others and treasure the memories made during lockdown. Although it has been bizarre and at times incredibly challenging, I have made lots of wonderful memories and have made a photo album for both lockdowns to remind ourselves of these treasured times. I mean, when else would I be having a birthday tea party whilst playing musical chairs in my 30’s rather than going away?! I got to spend so much quality time with my children and mum and I am incredibly grateful for those times.

Ration Challenge … Day 3!

Day 3 of the Ration Challenge is complete! I am now nearly ½ way through which is helping to keep me going. It is tough going, and today I don’t feel as though I have much energy and have felt as though my brain has gone to mush – maybe today wasn’t the best day to write and submit an assignment??? At least it kept me distracted from the hunger, distraction seems to be key, almost ignoring those pangs of hunger.

This morning started as usual with congee blitzed with a splash or milk and cinnamon, lunch was a portion of fried rice which was a lot tastier for being able to add some fried onion thanks to everyone who has sponsored me! Then I had hummus and flatbreads for tea which is still my favourite meal so far. I cannot imagine I will be reaching for rice anytime soon after this challenge!

There has been a lot less cooking today as I have been cooking in bulk, when possible, which has made a pleasant change. It certainly takes some planning and organising as the meals do not really lend themselves to being things you can grab and take with you as you dash about.

My 2-year-old told me that my stomach was growling and that means that I am hungry! I think I have stopped listening to my stomach as it is growling most of the time at the minute. This may explain why the ‘hangryness’ has set in! My patience levels are not as high as normal, and I feel as though I may not react as calmly as usual. I take my hat off to those doing the challenge who are working full-time as I do not know how they do it without being sacked!!

I received an email from Concern Worldwide today saying that thanks to a group of extremely generous Ration Challenge partners, every donation received in the next 24 hours (until 12pm 27th May, or until the funds run out) will be matched, pound for pound!   

It is lovely to know that there are extremely generous organisations out there who are making this possible.

Last time I checked I could not believe my eyes when I saw that I have now raised £345! Wow! Thank you again to everyone who has been generous enough to sponsor me, I cannot tell you how much it means to me!

The money I have raised can provide Covid-19 kits for 10 refugees – containing essential hygiene items to help protect their families against the spread of Covid, including face masks, soap, and hand sanitiser.

I was very touched when I saw a post on social media from Concern Worldwide…

When you think back to your childhood, what did you want to be when you grew up?

For young refugees living in camps, the future is filled with so much uncertainty and challenges many of us will never see in our lifetimes. Access to education is often hard to come by and the future is unknown.

Through it all though, they are optimistic about their futures – and it is thanks to your support that we are able to keep their dreams alive. Thank you!

L.O.S.T Mum • Ration Challenge UK 2021

Lockdown part 3….Week 12

This week has seen a lot of anticipation for tomorrow which marks when we can meet people outside including in people’s gardens and the stay-at-home rule is ending (although the government are still urging people to stay local which is confusing) and outdoor sport facilities are reopening. I’ve noticed that a lot of tourist attractions with gardens and outdoor spaces are also reopening from tomorrow. I must admit that it will be lovely to be able to drive further than 5 miles and to go to the beach or to outdoor attractions.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown, and it was funny how the weather really reminded me of how the first lockdown felt. It has been the first time this year when I have been able to leave the door open to the garden and we have spent a lot of time in the garden where upon my girls have been playing with the sand, singing, dancing, chalking, gardening etc. It makes such a change…seeing the blue sky, the sun shining, spring flowers starting to bloom and hearing the birds tweeting is definitely good for the soul!

It was the last session of my counselling course before we broke up for Easter and I found the session very interesting and have reflected a lot on the topics covered. We have been learning about and discussing mental health. So much was brought up by everybody and it really highlighted how many people are struggling with their mental wellbeing. Someone talked about their experience of CAMHS and how the children using their services are just being filtered through in a very robotic way which is making the statistics look good in terms of how many children are ‘accessing mental health support’ but in fact the majority of these children are not finding the support offered of any use. They come away saying that they have been given a worksheet to do but they don’t really understand it and the adults working with them within their school see how disheartened they are.

It made me wonder if some children are struggling or have certain barriers when it comes to talking about their mental health because they are seeing the ‘support’ available and unfortunately are not seeing any benefits for those who are being referred to CAMHS. Therefore, come children may already have the attitude of ‘what’s the point?’ or feel that they are not really being heard. I find this frustrating and makes me want to do something drastic to shake up the system within the UK. However, as usual one of the main hurdles is money and budgets – if me or anyone else was to offer a service to schools they are likely to say that they don’t have the budget available or that they can refer children to CAMHS therefore they wouldn’t be interested.

I feel strongly that mental wellbeing needs to become compulsory within all schools and having a ‘mental health week’ simply is not good enough. I appreciate how much pressure schools are being put under, however, ½ of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, 48.5% of 5–19-year-olds with a mental health disorder have more contact with teachers than any other professional service and 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder (these figures don’t take into account the impact of Covid-19). Children’s mental health problems can affect their attainment and behaviour which I picture as a car needing fuel to function – we harp on about needing food in order to function but actually there is so much more we need than just food. We all know that we need to sleep, exercise, keep hydrated etc but how much emphasis is put on the need for self-care or mental wellbeing, particularly with children and young people?

I believe that if children are given tools to support their mental wellbeing from a young age that this will have a massive positive impact on their life, now and in the future and that these tools could be used throughout their life. I believe by teaching children about mental wellbeing properly, (meaning not just a one-off session) that they will be in a better position to tackle whatever life throws at them. I feel that this could prevent mental health problems or at least the severity of how children are impacted by possible mental health problems rather than trying to treat or ‘cure’ them once they are diagnosed. The other problem with treating mental health problems is that most often particularly through the NHS and CAMHS, the waiting lists are long, and support can be very limited, therefore in some cases people may be worse before they access support or may not get the support they need.

Another reason I feel passionate about children being taught about mental wellbeing is that most people (no matter what age) that have committed suicide have not shown any signs that they were suicidal and quite often these people aren’t diagnosed with mental health problems. Therefore, if GP’s or schools are only trying to tackle the mental health of those who are ‘flagged up’ then children will devastating continue to slip through the net. Those who appear to be fine or do not have a diagnosis will continue to be offered very little or no support for their mental health which is feel is so wrong. As adults, each, and every one of us has been impacted by Covid-19 and a lot of people’s mental health has suffered, therefore who’s to say that children also haven’t been impacted?

I loved reading an article in The Guardian about a primary school that put catch-up on hold and instead spent a week focusing on children’s wellbeing. The headteacher was fully aware of the importance of this and felt that unless children are in the right place to learn mentally, that things just do not go in and I couldn’t agree more.

Lockdown part 3….Week 11

This week has whizzed by and has felt a bit strange. I get the impression that people some people are feeling in limbo due to lockdown. Some people have expressed how liberated they feel now they are back at work and the commute which they used to begrudge they now love because they have a valid reason to be driving somewhere! Others have commented on how nice it is to see people for real rather than virtually.

However, we are still very limited with what we can and cannot do…in 8 days’ time on 29th March we will see easing on social contact restrictions, so in time for most schools breaking up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings, including those in private gardens, can go ahead of either six people or two households. Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming pools can also reopen.

This date also makes the end of the ‘stay at home’ order, though many restrictions will remain in place.

I know that the past few months have been hard on people who aren’t able to see any friends or family and have only been able to meet up with one other person outside for a walk or more recently to sit on a bench with a drink however that’s not as pleasant when its cold and rainy which has predominantly been the case recently. So, to be able to know that in just over a weeks’ time we can sit in someone’s garden will make a pleasant change and with the weather starting to improve this will no doubt be something many of us will look forward to.

This Tuesday (23rd) is National Day of Reflection…looking back over the past year it has certainly been a year nobody will forget, and one people will talk about for generations to come. I remember thinking when I first read about Covid in China thinking that it would never come to the UK, then when it did, and we went into our first national lockdown I thought that it would have all disappeared by the end of that lockdown. Never in a million years did imagine that I would have to wear a face mask to go out and about doing everyday things or that hand gel would be come part of our everyday lives.

For someone who suffers with health anxiety I am impressed that I have coped so well and that I don’t feel panicky leaving the house. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel particularly comfortable going to supermarkets or being in crowded places at the moment and therefore I do avoid them, however, this is more to do with the fact that I want to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Hopefully in time things will improve but for now Covid has taken the edge off perusing around a shop and instead I go round quickly and move on if there are people hovering around. I certainly won’t be queuing up to go into the shops when they hopefully open in April.

I hope that people can reflect on this past year and realise how well they have coped and adapted to a situation we have never experienced before and that we have got through this. This is a massive achievement. The past year has proved challenging for most people in one way or another and will no doubt have caused added stress, anxiety, or depression. I hope that you can find ways to be kind to yourself, no matter how that may be.

I also want to remind people to check in on friends, family and loved ones as you never know how they are coping or feeling. I have found in my experience that people tend to assume people are busy and therefore don’t want to disturb them but it’s always worth dropping someone a message just to say hi or that you are thinking of them.

When people ask me how I am, I have a tendency to always say that I am fine – I rarely answer differently unless I say I am ok…regardless of how I am feeling. I think this is because I have the impression that there isn’t necessarily meaning in the question and that it is just something that is said in passing…’hi, how are you?’ and most people respond with a short answer such as, ‘I’m good thanks’ and then that ends the conversation. I am also quite a private person and don’t like to burden people so I wouldn’t want to say if I wasn’t ok.

Someone shared with me an acronym for ‘fine’ which I found hilarious but true…I have added a picture of the acronym at the end of the blog!

…..

I was given a gift of a beautiful, framed poem this week called ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. I had never heard that poem or of Maya Angelou before, but the poem is beautiful and empowering. I was told that the poem made them think of everything that I have been through and how strong I am. I watched a clip of Maya reciting the poem and it made me smile with her use of facial expressions and actions. What a powerful, wise, and incredibly inspiring woman she was! I feel inspired by her and wonder if there is a small part of me that feels I could be a little bit like her.

Education Overhaul?

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about the effects on children’s education, how many hours schooling they have lost and how this can be resolved. The government is throwing ideas around which have been covered by the news. I feel this was a huge mistake for a variety of reasons. Is the government giving false impressions, false hopes, false promises again? I feel they should make some definitive decisions with things in place before sharing anything with the public. All these suggestions come at a huge cost – where is that money going to come from?!

The latest ideas that are being thrown about include….

1. Summer schools run by qualified teachers which they claim children can make up to four months of academic progress. It’s suggested that these summer schools would need a strong academic element.

2. 1:1 weekly tutoring sessions, which the government is claiming would make up for 3-6 months of academic progress.

3. Repeating the school year, which The Education Policy Institute think tank has suggested could help those whose education has fallen behind (I imagine this could include a huge % of pupils!).

4. Extending school days.

5. Increased well-being support, which in this report suggests that extra funding for mental-health support for school children to help ease their return to the classroom and improve their chances of catching up. They say that this can be provided by teaching staff and in-school counselling sessions. (Yet as mentioned in previous posts, the government is yet to fund counselling in schools, and I can’t imagine that schools have enough funding or staff to be able to provide enough support for pupil’s well-being especially given that it is inevitable that there will be a huge increase in demand for such support once all pupils return to school).

I think that apart from increasing well-being support for pupils, the rest of the ideas pose problems and don’t solve the issues faced by children and young people.

Parents may love the idea of summer schools or extended school hours but has anyone thought about children’s wellbeing? School can be tiring as it is without being there even longer, especially after being off for so long. I fear they will find it hard enough going back as it is without more pressure. By all means, offer more extra-curricular activities, this would benefit children in terms of socialising and being able to participate in activities that they’ve missed out on for so long. 1:1 tutoring sessions particularly if funded for those who may benefit aren’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it doesn’t cause burnout for children.

Although teachers do their job because they are passionate about children’s education, they also have a life and have had an incredibly tough time since the pandemic began. With teachers having to quickly learn how to teach remotely, change how they teach, still teach children who can attend school at the same time, ring parents, still complete the ridiculous amount of paperwork etc, yet there’s no mention of consulting with them about these proposals.

How do you think teachers would feel about extended school days or working over the summer holidays (which they do anyway – there’s always planning and preparation to do even when teachers aren’t physically in school)?  

Teachers are paid a salary, like nurses, doctors etc but teachers don’t get paid overtime unlike nurses and doctors. I imagine most teachers in the past year have worked a ridiculous number of hours in very stressful and bizarre circumstances.

I tried to find out how teachers’ performance related pay has been impacted during the pandemic but I couldn’t find anything. I’m not sure how or if teachers have been able to achieve their yearly performance related pay increase as it’s based on pupil’s academic progress. Now I imagine that on average pupils have not made the same progress as they may have done if they had been in school full time, therefore, despite the best efforts of teachers does this mean that they have had to also forgo their yearly pay rise on top of everything else?

When I read any articles relating to pupil’s education and how it’s been impacted by the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder why nobody has taken a step back and gone…ok yes, children may not have made the same progress, yes, some children may have fallen behind, however, maybe we need to change the goalposts, maybe we need to rethink expectations or even rethink the National Curriculum.

What benefit does it have on children to keep the same goalposts given the current situation? Surely, it’s just going to cause more anxiety and more pressure on pupils and teachers. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t provide children with every opportunity to flourish, I’m not saying we shouldn’t encourage, positively push or challenge them but why are we expecting them to tick the same boxes as they would if the pandemic never happened? To what end?

I’m not a fan of SATs as it is…but are you telling me that when pupils do eventually go back that they won’t be pushed beyond belief to still try and achieve the results anticipated or wanted? I am aware they aren’t going ahead this year but no doubt they will next year. I know that most Year 6 pupils spend the entire academic year preparing for these tests as it is, but after missing more than a year of school it’s bound to have an impact. I’ve always felt that SATs are purely for league tables and aren’t of any benefit to pupils.

Teachers have plenty of ways of doing assessments without it having to be these tests. For those pupils who will be taking GCSE’s in a few years’ time, maybe schools could start directing lessons towards them earlier? Could they be done in modules or with more coursework spread over a longer period?

I am concerned that there will be a lot of pressure for pupils and teachers when pupils return to school. Surely given what we have all been through we cannot expect everything to go back to normal as soon as lockdown ends in terms of expectations?

In fact, I worry this may be harmful.

I don’t know how schools will approach this and maybe they will do things differently. It’s more the pressure from above i.e., the government that’s the problem.

I hope that time will be given for pupils to readjust to school life – they will have had different routines, different rules/expectations, gone through a bizarre time, may have lost people due to Covid, been stuck in the house for most of the time. Some children may thrive and be excited to go back to school whilst some may be very anxious and fearful of going back. Children may struggle to adjust to real life lessons again.

We don’t know what life in schools will look like post lockdown…. will children still be in bubbles? Will they be able to play with their friends? Will Christmas plays be a thing of the past? Will assemblies be non-existent or virtual? Will children be able to take their favourite teddy in for show and tell?

Given that so many children have not been able to socialise for many many months it would be nice to think that schools would be able to provide them with this opportunity and to focus on their emotional well-being on their return to school rather than focusing on a regimented intense series of lessons aimed at children catching up on a year’s education in the space of a a few weeks/months.

We might be surprised at how much children have learnt during the pandemic. I imagine most children’s IT skills will have vastly improved!! It would be interesting for children to share what they have learnt and experienced in this time with one another.

So what if children have forgotten what fronted adverbials or grapheme-phoneme correspondences are?

What if children have learnt how to ride their bide, learnt how to read scales, read a vast variety of books, learnt about artists when they went on a virtual tour of an art gallery, how to follow recipes, budgeting, letter writing, first aid, life skills? The list goes on!

I believe this is a prime time for the government to have a complete overhaul of the education system, but I will be very surprised if this happens.

Lockdown part 3….Week 5

And just like that another week of lockdown is complete…I make it sound like a prison sentence! Maybe it feels like that to some people. I know I generally don’t know what day it is let along what date. We’re already in February which brings Valentine’s day, pancake day and half term. I’ll definitely be making pancakes for my girls. Half term won’t be any different for us….it may not feel different for most families but at least it won’t mean remembering passwords and trying to log on to live classes whilst trying to persuade little ones to get dressed!

This week may have brought moments of sadness or reflection and of course I have to acknowledge the lives of all those that have been lost to Covid-19. This weeks news and media coverage focused on the passing of Captain Tom Moore, however, I feel we should also remember everyone else who have sadly died. Thousands of parents, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends and colleagues. I would hate for all these lives lost to just become statistics.

We decided to sign up to more Tot Bop online classes (https://totbop.co.uk) as we have all been enjoying it so much. The girls have definitely got into the swing of it and are starting to learn some of the routines. This week we through ourselves into being cowgirls and dancing to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’. The girls love it when we do peekaboo as part of the cool down and they know that Mummy’s favourite part is painting the rainbow at the end. I recorded the girls dancing this week as my eldest wanted me to send it into Rachel who runs the classes. She was very excited when I told her that Rachel had replied to my email saying that she had watched the video!

I felt like a bit of a rebel this week (please no judgement) when on the one sunny day we drove to the nearby open pastures with my mum and her dogs. We all had a great time and it made a nice change as we haven’t driven anywhere other than to the shops for a long time. We went into the woods on a Gruffalo hunt, exploring the dens, listening to the birds, crunching the leaves, spotting a ‘castle’ (it’s what my girls call the an old mill) and most importantly squelching in icy muddy puddles! Of course I had to join in and instead of walking around the puddles we went through them! It was too cold to have a picnic outside so instead we sat in the car and enjoyed it. It was a lovely day.

As always we have been busy getting creative…we had a finger painting session and this time I decided to join in. Me and my eldest daughter painted rainbow trees, I found it very therapeutic.

I’ve started Joe Wicks February Abs challenge this week in an aim to reduce my waist measurements! I have to say I quite enjoy abs exercises and challenged myself to hold a full plank for 90 seconds.

I also challenged myself to try and allow myself to do some things for me before the girls go to bed which I rarely do. Don’t get me wrong they are very good at entertaining themselves and playing on their own but I suppose part of it is feeling that I need to give my all to them or that as soon as I start doing something they will want me for something. So whilst they were both happily watching the 2nd Nanny McPhee film I managed to do some work. Small steps but I am going to try and do this a bit more so that not everything is left until they are in bed.

This week posed another challenge when it came to my counselling course. We have been working in groups of 3 since September last year in order to practice our counselling skills but this week marked the start of our case study which mean that we had been put into new groups. I get incredibly nervous with new situations so this was something I was anxious about, not only in terms of being the counsellor but also being the client. In our practice sessions we have to use real material about ourselves so we are exposing ourselves to strangers. Of course it’s confidential but as I fear being judged this can make me feel uncomfortable. However, the people I am with appear to be lovely and supportive. We only had time for 2 of us to be in the role of counsellor on this occasion and normally I would do everything possible to avoid being the counsellor but for once I voiced this to my group and I decided to challenge myself as I knew I would spend the rest of the week getting myself worked up about it. I felt so much better for doing it and they gave positive but constructive feedback which has boosted by confidence and belief in myself.

I also knew I had an essay I needed to complete this weekend so didn’t want to add to my ‘to do list’. I am surprised at my own determination and motivation this week, as I sit here writing this post I have also completed my essay so I am rewarding myself with a sneaky glass of wine!

I want to share a poem I came across this week which I think it incredibly clever….

Lockdown part 3….Week 2

Congratulations! We made it! It may seem bizarre to celebrate getting through a week, but I think we should. Whatever you may feel you have or have not achieved; you’ve made it through another week of this weird time. So, reward yourself – be it with a sticker, a bath, a high five, some flowers, chocolate, a treat…you deserve it!

This week was the return of PE with Joe which I completed, all be it mainly on my own but with my eldest daughter keeping me in check with what exercises I should be doing if I wandered off during the 25 second rest period to do household jobs (bearing in mind she’s only 3!) and my youngest daughter clapped after each exercise and said, ‘Well done mummy!’ which was very sweet.

It has been nice to have some more structure to the week otherwise I think I’d struggle to know what day of the week it was (not that it particularly matters at the minute!).

I’m very lucky that I am able to spend this time with my girls and I really enjoy it but am finding it disappointing (as I’m sure lots of people are) that I can’t do more with them such as go to the farm, visit friends and family, go away, go to the cinema, take them to classes, museums, art galleries etc. I really hope that it won’t be too long before we can do these things again. For me one of the hardest things is the not knowing when this might be. I’ve not got my hopes pined on a time and I’ve decided not to make any plans yet as I know I would feel disappointed if more things got cancelled. I made the decision not to write anything on my calendar this year as most of last year got crossed out!! All that can go on this year’s calendar are things like when the bins are going out (which is a lot more than me!)!!

However, our week has been filed with daily walks which usually includes jumping in muddy puddles and on one occasion my youngest daughter took great pleasure in splashing in the deepest puddle she could find and when I took her wellies off most of the puddle came out of them!! She didn’t give a monkeys though and loved every minute of it. If I’d had my wellies on I would no doubt have joined her! We’ve also done lots of arts and crafts, including making cornflour slime, models, jewellery, aqua beads and we thoroughly enjoyed creating lots of handprints for our latest window display – a heart. The girls also painted lots of hearts to go on a tree of hearts which is also part of our window display. Now that everyone’s Christmas decorations are down and there are no more rainbows, it was suggested in our village that people create displays of hearts but so far, I haven’t seen any others. It certainly made our walks more interesting and the girls enjoyed spotting things in people’s windows.

My mum paid for some online dance classes (https://totbop.co.uk) for the girls to try and I have to say all 3 of us have enjoyed them. The main advantage is that you can do the class whenever you want and have access to it for the entire week. Both my girls love music, so we enjoyed boogying to Meghan Trainor’s, ‘Better when I’m Dancin’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ during this week’s class.

We also got to have a bop in the car (when we went to collect our food shop) to the girls’ favourite songs which of course have to be played on repeat for the entire journey! So, for the past couple of months, we’ve been listening to Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun and Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love!

Despite it only being 2 weeks of lockdown so far, I think more people are struggling this time…I know people have said that this is the time to focus on ourselves, to reinvent ourselves, to start new hobbies etc but that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. It’s great if you’ve been able to, but equally it’s completely understandable if you’re greatest achievement is functioning.

I’ve decided that I need to stop looking at the news and social media so often. I don’t know what I hope or expect to see but it’s never anything positive or upbeat and you certainly can’t avoid things to do with Covid. So, I need to set myself a target of only looking once a day and limiting how much time I allow myself to look. My counselling tutor made a very good point this week when she told the class that it’s best not to look at the news in the evening as it will affect sleep along with anything heavy or serious including a TV programme especially if you’re a thinker (like me!). I think it’s almost like an addition for me now, I don’t even know why I check the news or social media every day? What do I think I’m missing? I like being in my own little bubble (not a Covid bubble!) so why infiltrate it with rubbish I’m bound to read? That’s something for me to think about and try and work out.

Anyway….if you’ve been lucky enough to have snow this week I hope you made time to make a snowman, have a snowball fight and make snow angels….if not, why not?! I would absolutely love to have some snow! My girls have never experienced snow that’s settled enough for any of those things. Fingers crossed some comes our way!

An international treasure…

My living heroine is Jacinda Ardern! If I could invite anyone famous to dinner it would certainly be Jacinda (closely followed by Mary Berry!!). I would absolutely love to meet Jacinda, I think she is an amazing woman and an incredible role model. However, I imagine if I was ever lucky enough to meet her, I wouldn’t know what to say to her!! (I doubt this is something I need to worry about as the likely hood of meeting her is very slim).

I have been lucky enough to visit New Zealand once and loved it, the country and the people. The Kiwis really take care of their country…I toured both islands and never came across any litter on the streets and everyone was very friendly. The scenery is breathtaking and I have to say I felt at home. I would love to live in New Zealand but as this is not on the cards, I definitely hope I can visit again and this time take my girls with me to show them what an incredible country it is.

Since becoming the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda has became a first-time mum, has graciously led New Zealand through its worst ever terrorism attack, a deadly volcanic eruption and most recently, Covid-19. Her leadership throughout these challenges has always been calm and human, whilst having the people of New Zealand at the heart of her decisions.

In relation to the current pandemic, most countries are still living under severe restrictions and have been now for nearly a year. However, New Zealand is currently living life pretty much as normal again. Children are at school, sports stadiums are at full capacity, parties can be had including weddings and social distancing is not required. The main limitation that has stayed in place is that borders remain closed to foreigners.

I remember watching Jacinda’s announcement to New Zealand, telling the country that there were no longer had any active Covid cases and how she did a little dance in celebration! I had tears of happiness in my eyes.

My experience of politics in the UK is one of mistrust and scepticism, never believing what politicians say or that they give a shit. A far cry from Jacinda who comes across as a truly warm human being.

Despite minor hiccups along the way, New Zealand spent less than 3 months in a full lockdown and their response to the pandemic has been among the most successful. This has been attributed to the hard and early actions taken (along with other countries including China and Thailand). To date, New Zealand which has a population of approximately 5 million, has only had had 26 deaths compared with the UK which has a population of approximately 66,500 million, but has had in excess of 86,000 deaths and undoubtedly this number will increase.

New Zealand’s approach to the lockdown has been very different to many countries including the UK. Their stance has been ‘to go hard and go early’ and that the lives of New Zealanders were paramount. Compare this with the UK where the governments approach has been supposedly to prioritise both health and economic considerations, leading to Boris Johnson saying in one of his speeches that more people will lose loved ones before their time. I’m not quite sure what front-line health professionals would say about the UK governments so called priority of the peoples health nor what the thousands of people who have lost a loved one would say!

Despite New Zealand now being in a much better position than many other countries across the world, the virus still entered the country in the same way it has done across the world and continues to, by way of returning New Zealanders. Most recently this has included 6 cases of the new highly infectious variants. However, New Zealand’s approach has so far kept the virus at bay because every returning New Zealander heads straight into managed isolation facilities.

I find it interesting how little mention of New Zealand’s success is mentioned in the news and how I’ve not seen anything on social media. Yet on New Years eve when most celebrations across the world were cancelled, New Zealand had their usual firework display and the streets were filled with joyous crowds. You can’t blame them really can you?! I imagine now, more than ever, everyone living in New Zealand feels as though Jacinda has got their back, that she genuinely gives a damn and cares about the well-being of everyone.

What an amazing country to live in!!

Lockdown part 3….Week 1

Congratulations! We have made it through week 1 of lockdown part 3!

I’m not sure how I feel about the 3rd lockdown. I kind of knew it was coming so it wasn’t really a shock. I am lucky that my girls are so young and haven’t truly felt the impact of the restrictions and that I am able to see my mum as much as I want as she lives close by and we are her bubble. I have to admit, I think I would have found it far more challenging if I hadn’t been able to see her.

Both of my girls were due to go back to childcare settings after the Christmas holidays, however, I deliberated over what I should do because of the transmission of the new strain of Covid-19. As a mum, decisions are never easy as I want the best for my girls. I thought the decision had been made for me when Boris announced the closure of schools and didn’t realise that didn’t include early years settings. Since having my girls, I have been a full-time mum, so I couldn’t justify sending them and felt it was too risky right now. As a primary school teacher with a house that looks like a nursery (!), I’m not worried about them missing out and they are lucky to have each other to play with too. So I spent my evenings printing and laminating activities off good old Twinkl! My eldest daughter is actually excited to have me as her teacher (lets see if she’s still excited by the end of the 3rd lockdown (whenever that may be!).

All 3 of us are looking forward to doing P.E with Joe Wicks again…I hadn’t even heard of him before the first lockdown and hesitantly had a go at his PE sessions in order to try and get the girls involved. It wasn’t long before my youngest daughters way of joining in was climbing on me and my eldest daughter always had an excuse not to join in, but Mummy was doing every workout (I didn’t see that coming) and it didn’t take long for me to warm to Joe…I think I like how human he comes across and how he’s not afraid to be daft and act like a big kid. My favourite move has to be the silly billy! Every morning, my girls looked forward to seeing him come on…..I know what you’re thinking…and no, I don’t fancy him….I bat for the other side! (Now, if there was a female version of PE with Joe, it would probably motivate me even more!!!) So, once again, we will be joining in with Joe this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9am, live on YouTube.

I’ll be talking more about lockdown and schools/education but for now, I want to leave you with this thought…

A few things to remember…

1. You don’t have to do everything (be kind to yourself)

2. If the kids do any/some/a little bit of learning then I’d count that as winning

3. Loosen screen time limits

4. Everyone shouts sometimes

5. This is bloody hard but there is a finish line this time – keep looking at it, your friends are waiting for you, holding your favourite drink and they are going to give you the best hug of your life

6. Breathe in

7. Breathe out

8. Let’s do this

9. You’ve got this!