Last updated Dec 2016
I hope that 2016 has been a good year for you. I am aware that like so many of our friends we are entering a season of great change. It seems not that long ago that everyone was getting married and having babies, settling down and buying their first homes. Now, like many of our friends, we are entering the stage where our children are starting to leave and make lives of their own – the circle of life going round again.
For me the biggest event of the year has been the combined pride and sadness with which we’ve seen Joel leave home to go to University. It’s great that he’s not far away, that the terms are short, and that typing this he is already back home for Christmas, but I am so aware that he will never quite live at home in the same way again now that he is fully an independent adult. And yet there’s a huge delight in that too, as I am so proud of the man he is, as well as of his academic achievements.
Another big change this year for me personally has been taking up more playing in worship in church and other events. This is something that has very much been “on hold” for me for most of the last 14 or so years, and it’s great to come back into something I love doing so much.
As usual, some of the best highlights of the year have been our times away. In April I fulfilled a long-held dream of going to Pompeii to see the Roman ruins. We had a great week staying in a villa just round the coast, and we had the chance to visit Herculaneum and Capri, climb Vesuvius, and spend 3 nights at a local pizza festival, as well as visiting Pompeii itself.
Then in July we went to Ireland – which had somewhat more variable weather than Italy, but was still a fun holiday, including walking, canoeing, cycling, visiting Limerick and Dublin and seeing fascinating historical and geological sites.
As well as other trips (camping with a group from church in May, and
taking Mum away for a week in August) we had a visit to our friends in Scotland, which included a “pit roast” bushcraft session. Basically this involves digging a hole, making a fire in it, putting stones in, then putting in lumps of meat wrapped in pastry and burying the whole thing. A few hours later there was the most amazing cooked meat – delicious and great fun!
As usual the kids have been very much at the centre of my life. During 2016 we settled into only have 2 children still being home educated – which is less taxing (but strangely no less noisy) than when there were all four of them at home.
Kirsten is starting on her GCSEs and adjusting really well to the increased pace and demands of the work, but her heart is out on the local reservoir where she spends hours involved in all sorts of watersports. She is currently hoping to be a watersports coach, and gives up time every week to volunteer at the centre. She has already got a good selection of qualifications – mainly now she just needs to get older so that she can do more, as many of them you need to be 16 before you can qualify.
Her love of the outdoors can get a bit extreme at times – she insisted on going camping for her birthday in March, and at the end of November she went on a 5 day expedition in Scotland that involved canoeing along Loch Awe during the day, and then wild camping (hammocks and tarps, no tents!) over night. Over the course of the 5 days the temperature hardly rose above 0oC during the day, and was down as low as -6oC over night.. She had an amazing time however, and is already thinking about what she’d like to do next.
Elsa (as well as Kirsten) is still being home educated, and we try to have plenty of fun learning. This year we have been continued studying different countries around the world, with an emphasis on cooking meals that are typical of each place. Elsa is a keen cook and baker, and her skills have really developed as we have learned together how to deal with ingredients neither of us had ever used before.
Elsa is also very creative – she spends hours drawing, acted as Ophelia in a Home Education Group version of Hamlet, and even made a cake model of Selfridge’s iconic Birmingham store, with a bit of assistance from Kirsten.
Joel passed his driving test on the same day that he heard he had got a place at Oxford, and for the parts of the year when he is here it is great having another driver. He started at Balliol College in October, studying Physics, and he really seems to have settled in well. It’s lovely having him so close – at just over an hour’s drive away it has been easy to pop down occasionally and take him out for a pub lunch, without it getting in the way of his studies (or social life) too much.
Toby is in the process of applying to universities now, hoping to go in September next year to study Linguistics. He’s excelling in his Sixth Form, and is thoroughly enjoying his subjects, especially Russian which he is taken from complete beginner to A level across just 2 years. He is also learning to drive, and we’re hoping that he will pass his test before he leaves next year.
I must say I totally love having teenagers around. I love their independence (even though at times it breaks my heart not to be needed in the same way any more), I love having another driver when Joel’s around, I love having all four of them able to cook tea if I need someone to do it. But most of all I love the banter and the conversation – from politics to Greek myths to maths to philosophy to watersports. You never know where it is going next, and it is stimulating and exciting to see the children who learned to talk around our dinner table, now able to bat around the most abstract of ideas and come up with things I’d never even thought of!
So life is changing fast, but it feels a very positive sort of change. And whilst sometimes I dreadfully miss having little kids around, with their energy and their cute ways, I love things the way they are now as well – which is all anyone could ask for, and for which I am very grateful.