Today’s post is a little self indulgent as I look over the year 2016. The year started a little crazy and I needed to remind myself of how life has changed for me and look at all the things I have done.

January 1st 2016. I woke up with pins and needles which wouldn’t go away. As the day wore on they got worse and spread to other parts of my body. By the end of the day I was in a hospital bed paralysed from the neck down. This was the start of my journey with Transverse Myelitis.

In February I came fighting back with positivity. Despite losing my mobility and then losing my car I was determined that I was going to face everything full on. I was unable to get around much but we had a fun day at home when we played Popcorn Olympics.

By March it was apparent that I wasn’t getting out much, I posted on my blog a lot more than I would usually have time for. I also started coming to terms with my disability. I think up until this point I’d been sure that my recovery was going to be quick. Now, it was time to think about how I was going to cope in the future.

In April I realised I’d become a little obsessed with the trees at the bottom of my garden. I was watching them to catch the changes between winter and spring. I guess not being very mobile meant I spent more time looking at these trees during the first months of this year than I had done in the previous 2 years of living here.

Also in April I was watching a weekly drama, The A Word. As a parent of two autistic children I was intrigued by the drama and how it portrayed a family dealing with autism for the first time. I wrote several posts about the drama and compared it to my experiences. 
May was a busy month. It was also the month that I first ventured out on my own when I went to Blog Camp Birmingham 2016. I also looked at why I blogged, it’s always good to do this, especially if you have been doing it for a while and are not sure where you are going. It’s also a good thing to do when you are just starting out so you can look back and see if you are still doing what you set out to do or if you have taken a different turn. My blog has gone around in circles but my Blog Manifesto that I wrote in May is still how I feel about it all. 

I also found out in May that I’d become a finalist in the MAD blog awards of 2016. I really have no idea how I’ve made it to the finals three times, I must have some really lovely readers who vote for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

One of my favourite posts of may was when I decided that I was going to add a lot more kindness in my life. Paying back acts of kindness, or even paying it forward, it’s always such an rewarding thing to do. I also started a twelve and a half week course on personal development, or more accurately personal values development. I really enjoyed The Activation Game and would highly recommend it to anyone,

In June we managed to go on holiday to Blackpool. I’d booked a holiday at a Haven holiday camp in Devon last year before I got sick. I knew that I wouldn’t make it so I rang them and they suggested that rather than cancel I could book another campsite that was easier to get to and was  relatively flat for my wheelchair. So we chose Blackpool. It was a great break but a very different experience. Looking back I don’t know how we did it, but we did and we had a lovely break away. We also got to see Blackpool Circus at the Tower which is a great bonus, and they are wheelchair friendly.

Of course June was also the time of the referendum when we voted on whether our Country should stay or leave the European Union. We were a country divided on the whole debate and many friends and family argued over their opinions. The decision was made and a new word, Brexit, was added to the dictionary.

Then July comes along and the weather brightens up, well apart from school sports day when it’s almost guaranteed to rain..well it has done for us for the past three years. This year the end of school for the summer was a little more special for us as it was Star’s last year in primary school.
At then end of July it’s Boo’s birthday and this year she was nine. I normally do wonderfully executed parties with every little detail thought of, but this year it was different as I was disabled. I had no idea how I would cope with a lot of young excited children running around. I decided to keep it small and let Boo invite just a few friends to do some arts and crafts and enjoy the food and cake. It went really well and more importantly, Boo had a fantastic day.

Summer time, and in July we did, well, not a lot. I was still immobile and finding it difficult to come to terms with it. We had no transport of our own and public transport was a nightmare. We did have a fabulous day out at Hatton Adventure Farm though, to test out their new Water World feature.   Also, in August we have both The Little Man and Stars birthday’s. The Little Man had a Minecraft Birthday party. Being the youngest I knew that his guests would be accompanied by a parent so I didn’t mind inviting a few more as I wouldn’t be in sole charge of them. I managed a few Minecraft themed activities. The photo booth was a big success as was his Sword in the Cake. I think he enjoyed his birthday.

Star doesn’t like birthday parties so we did the same thing we do every year and take her to Pizza Hut and Build a Bear. She also spent some time at her new secondary school which she loved and she was so excited about attending in September.

September was really busy so brace yourself… First up I got my new car and had to learn how to drive using my hands rather than my feet. It was pretty terrifying at first but I soon got used to it. September was also Transverse Myelitis Awareness Month so I was giving a lot of thought to my condition and how it was affecting me and my family. At one point I became worried that my being disabled now would ruin my kid’s childhood so I gave it some thought and came up with Ten Steps to Giving Your Kids a Happy Childhood. There are many ways you can make childhood happy and it’s the simple things that they remember most.

Although it started in August, September was the Great British Bake Off week, and I have to admit I’m totally addicted and have to bake along with the show every week. This is my bread week effort which I was really pleased with. 

Also in September it was the MAD blog awards in which I was a finalist…thank you again.
I was concerned because I knew I couldn’t make it to London and the awards by myself so I asked my partner to come with me, and he was then invited to join in the celebrations too. I was so grateful for this because although it looks like I’m managing to cope, I’m a very good actress and would probably fall apart if it wasn’t for my partner’s support. Anyway, we made it, the awards were fantastic and I got to meet Helen Lederer, who was lovely. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but I never expect to, there are far too many excellent blogs out there. It’s a fabulous experience though. 

So September was a full and exciting month. Along with all the ups I did get down thinking about how my life had changed because of my condition. If you are interested in reading more you can find all my posts under the Transverse Myelitis tab at the top of this page.

October was busy on Raisie Bay because I took part in Blogtober where you were asked to write a blog post each day on a pre-chosen category. I didn’t manage every single day but I do have 34 posts for October! If you want to check out one of my Blogtober posts how about this one…One Thing I Can’t Live Without.

At half term we had a fantastic day out at Brick Live. We got to meet up with some lovely bloggers while there and also had the premier viewing of the Lego Scooby Doo Haunted Hollywood movie.

Onto November and first up we were having some problems with Star at her new school. She was being bullied by some boys in her year. They hadn’t hurt her but where threatening to do so and she was really scared. We managed to talk to the school and eventually the problem was solved. Within just a few weeks she was really happy again and enjoying school. 
I also got to review the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies cookbooks which I loved, my favourite recipe was the Night Terror Torte which was absolutely delicious. I also made these adorable Toe Nail Dusted Sweet Cakes.

Then at the end of November it’s my birthday and although I did receive a few really nice presents and cards the day was overshadowed a bit by a bigger event..I got married! It was the most amazing day and I hadn’t felt so happy in such a long time. I even walked down the aisle with the help of my brother. 
Then along came December and suddenly the year felt as though it had flown by. I’d had so much to get used to this year and as the anniversary of my illness approaches I’ve started to feel very low. At first I thought it would take weeks to get better, then I resigned myself to months. Now, I’ve had to accept that it’s going to take years, one year has passed already. To stop myself from feeling low I look back at all the things I’ve achieved this year and that’s what this post has been about. My blog is my tool for recording my life and although it doesn’t contain every little detail, it does give me a perspective on what I’ve done and where I’ve been. To me it seems like I’ve climbed mountains, and I can hold on to that and hope that one day I’ll be able to do even more. 
Thank you for reading this far and for sharing my year with me. I’d like to leave you with one more post, our Christmas day out visiting Hatton’s Winter Wonderland. We had such a lovely day and we also had a lovely Christmas.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year. Life always has it’s ups and downs but you only get one chance at it so be the very best you can. Smile as much as possible and offer your kindness to others, be happy. xxx 
I’m desperate for just a few more subsrcibers on my You Tube channel to make it up to 100, I’d love to have you on board. 

As it’s Christmas I’ve been looking back and choosing some Christmas photos from my collections.
To start off, here is one from this year and our visit to Father Christmas at Hatton Adventure World.

I realise that my babies are growing up and it won’t be long before visits with Father Christmas are a thing of the past. I do hope the girls keep the magic up a bit longer for the Little Man though, he’s only six.

Going back a year to 2015, here is another photo with Father Christmas.

This one was taken at a Breakfast with Santa event, so it was still morning time. The girls were still quite believers too, and that was only a year ago.

Back a bit further to 2014 and this was the Little Man’s first Nativity play in Reception Class.

I think he makes a really good sheperd, don’t you? Nativity plays are also fast becoming a thing of the past. In fact the little man was just singing this year and didn’t actually take part in the nativity, that was for the younger children.

Now, back to 2013, and it was rather a strange Christmas with Star being in hospital just before and then having her first operation and the halo fitted for the first time. We had a very special Christmas Angel that year. I have a collage of pics from that Christmas to share.

It was also the first Christmas that we spent in our new house. So, a very mixed up year for us, especially as I’d lived in the old house for 24 years. 
Back to 2012 and we are at the German Christmas Markets in the City Centre.
I’ve not taken the kids back there for a while, it’s way too crowded, too cold and the kids don’t really enjoy walking around market stalls. If it was full of rides like this I think they would be interested, but for the last few years they have only had the carousel, the big wheel and the ice skating rink. It doesn’t help either that it’s all separated now after they close down a walk through area and you have to walk all the way around to get to the other attractions. I have been there myself though, up until this year I have met up with friends for a bit of browsing and a cup of Gluehwine. Unfortunately, I would not feel comfortable in those crowds in my wheelchair. 
Next it’s back to 2011 and we are back in the old house.
A very excited Boo was showing the Little Man how his toy worked. I don’t think he looks too impressed does he? He got his own back later by trying out his brand new skill of walking with Boo’s new pushchair. 
Six Christmas’ ago and back in 2010 it was The Little Man’s very first Christmas.
He was our very special Christmas Pudding, look he’s even pointing to his name 😉 I know, he doesn’t look too happy, would you if everyone was joking about eating you up?
Before The Little Man there were the two girls. 
Way back in 2009 amongst a sea of gifts and wrapping paper. 
I could keep going back, but for now I’m going to leave you with an even older photo. This one is back in 1983. 
Christmas is a time for memories and I’ve been indulging myself with this post. Way back in 1983 I had these two very special people in my life, my Mum and my Nan. They were messing around in this photo as they very rarely drank and the cork was still in the bottle! They knew how to make Christmas special though, it was always a real event with lots of food, fun and family…so much family, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, grandchildren…all day long people would come in and out of our house, bringing presents and good wishes. I lost my Nan in 1996 and my Mum died Christmas Day 2008. I miss them both so very much, especially at this time of year. I only hope that my children will grow up with as many happy memories as me. 

This week we have been out quite lot which is why it’s my word of the week.

It’s been really quite an exciting week and not just because it’s nearly Christmas.
We’ll start on Monday. My husband had an important driving lesson that he really didn’t want to miss, but the younger kids were still at school and had a family afternoon where parents could join them for a Christmas decoration making session. I really didn’t want to let them down but I can’t go out without Graham, so I had a dilemma.
I solved it by getting Graham to get me to the school before his lesson. Then I managed to spend the afternoon with the kids. Afterwards we had half hour left before the end of Graham’s lesson so he could fetch us so I decided that we would do it by ourselves. With the help of the Little Man we managed to get my wheelchair to the car. Then with the help of Boo, I managed to get the wheelchair in the boot of the car and we went home! I felt so independent. I know I had the help of the kids but it still felt like a huge achievement for me. I’d not been out without an adult’s help before.
Then on Tuesday morning, bright and early at 8am (Well not so bright but you know what I mean) Graham had his driving test. He’d managed to get a cancellation and told him to go ahead and book it as the kids would have broken up from school by then. Wrong! The kids didn’t break up until Tuesday afternoon so I had to get them to school, on my own!! I got them up, dressed and ready for school and then packed them in the car. Now, it may have been easy getting the wheelchair in the boot the day before but getting it out is another story. Not only that, I would have been alone getting back to the car and wouldn’t have been able to get the wheelchair back in the boot by myself. So, plan B. I parked as close to the school as possible. Then when Joseph’s little friend tapped on the car window to say hello I opened the window and asked his mum to take Joseph down with her. Of course she agreed. Every single morning I see them go past the car so I knew this would work, but back up would have been to get Boo to take him down, which would have meant her being late, but it would have been her first time late since September. The problem is, the Little Man’s school entrance is not visible from the road, no matter where you park. For Boo it was easier as her school entrance was in plain view, so I could just watch her go in from the car. Another accomplishment for me. The first time this year I’d taken the kids to school by myself. It was also the last time this year!
Now, let’s get on to the exciting bit! As I said, Graham had abandoned me and the kids in favour of a driving test! Well, it was okay, because he PASSED! So now he can drive us around instead. This is such good news because we are often unable to get anywhere because I’m not well enough to drive. Also, I can only drive for short periods because of the pain it causes me. Also, it frees me up to take my full dosage of medication which I don’t at the moment as it would prevent me from driving. 
So, for the rest of the week Graham has been going out every day getting used to the car and, well, just because he can. Today we are off visiting family, dropping off cards and presents and Graham will be driving us. He can also go  and pick the Turkey hamper up so I don’t have to. It’s going to make such a difference having someone else driving other than me. 
As always I’m linking up to Jocelyn’s Word of the Week linky and would like to wish all my readers and anyone from the #wotw linky, a very merry Christmas!
The Reading Residence

Can you believe that this time next week it will be Christmas Day!
We got into the Christmas spirit properly today with a trip to Cadbury World and the photo here is of the Santa Show which the kids loved.

We did the tour and learnt all about the history of chocolate and how the Cadbury brothers set up their factory and housing estate in Bournville, Birmingham. It’s not a new story for us as we live less than two minutes away from Bournville. I did learn something new in the factory tour though, and that was how they fill their chocolates. I might have a go myself one day now I’ve seen it done.

We had a fabulous day at Cadbury World and I spent a fair bit of money in the shop stocking up on Christmas treats for all the family. When we left we spent a little time listening to the Bournville Carrilon which was playing Christmas songs.

We arrived home pretty shattered but after dinner we had another Christmas treat. The local church always put on a Christmas Carol service on the hill, with hot chocolate and brownies. Last year it was freezing cold but this year it was really quite mild, you could definitely tell the difference. I call it a carol service but our local church is anything but ordinary and their band with drums, keyboard and electric guitars were there and they projected the words onto the side of a block of flats, so it wasn’t quite like you would imagine a carol service to be. In fact it’s a real community experience and there were lots of locals there.

So now we approach the final week until it’s Christmas and we will be busy for a few more days while I finish wrapping up presents and organizing the shopping. Then when the two youngest finally break up from school we will be kicking back and chilling out for the rest of the week.

Merry Christmas Everyone x


Sunday Snap

Phew, what a week and it’s not over yet. My calendar has been scribbled on, covering every little space, and I’ve had to keep a time table just to keep track of everything. Why has it been so busy? Well, it’s the first time I’ve had three kids in two different schools at Christmas time.

Star has had two concerts and a school trip as well as Christmas dinner and Christmas jumper day. Boo and the Little Man have had assemblies, Christmas jumper days, school trips, cinema day and they still have workshops with the parents for making decorations and Christmas parties to go. Star finishes school tomorrow at twelve and the other two finish at two, but still have to go in all day next Monday and half day on Tuesday.

At home I’ve been drowning in wrapping paper as I wrap up my Christmas gifts. I’ve braved the stores to finish off my Christmas Shopping, had a very nice breakfast in a trendy cafe, had a brief visit with my niece on her nineteenth birthday, had a visit to the G.P. Surgery and written a six page report for my eldest son. Oh, and I’ve written and posted most of my Christmas cards as well as my Thank You cards for my wedding gifts.

And tomorrow we have a trip to Cadbury World to look forward too!

My head has literally been spinning with it all and I can’t wait for school to finish now and the chance to sit back and relax. Trust me, the latter half of next week will be spent on the sofa with hot chocolate watching Christmas movies all day…with probably a bit of Christmas baking going on when I feel like it.

I do feel a sense of achievement though. I’m still waiting on a couple of parcels but apart from the food my Christmas shopping is done and dusted. I’ve got my turkey hamper ordered for delivery on Christmas Eve and the rest of the food shopping is booked for delivery. I’m hoping to get out one day next week to get some special food and drink treats for us all.

I’m struggling to find it just yet but I think I will be in full Christmas spirit very soon. Then it will be onwards and upwards to 2017, which will hopefully be a better year.

Are you excited for Christmas yet?

The Reading Residence