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Annual letter 2016

Firstly, apologies for the delay in sending this years annual letter.
Life feels such a rush at times, particularly on the run up to
Christmas. I really need to try harder not to be a slave to my never
ending to do list!
Anyway, we welcomed the New Year in with what has become a great
tradition. Four nights away taking over an entire youth hostel with our fantastic buggyfit friends six
families this year at the beautiful Lulworth Cove. Over the past three years we have established a bit of
a routine with how we spend our days beach day with fish and chips (plus slot machines for those who
want to!), National Trust day out with picnic (this year Corfe Castle), girls night in / boys night out, a
walk and pub lunch (this year a relatively short coastal walk in heavy rain) and of course fireworks and
the candle race on New Years Eve. The rest of our time is spent chatting, eating, drinking, more chatting
and playing games this years favourites Bananagram, Quirkle and Uno!
This years Youth Hostel was within walking distance of Lulworth Cove a lovely elevated off road walk.
Whilst there storm Frank hit and Steve and I walked the boys to the beach to enjoy the bracing winds
and impressive waves wonderful! The boys absolutely love these trips spending time with the 12 other
kids. Only a few weeks ago, Charlie asked when are we going on our next big family holiday!
We have been on some great days out again this year making really
good use of our National Trust membership - Cliveden, The Look Out,
Sonning scarecrows, Greys Court, Caversham Court, Marlow, Beale
Park, Lookout, Legoland, Henley, PwC colour run / scootathon and
Waddesdon Manor.
Two days stand out for me in particular. The first was a great day
starting with Go Ape where the boys jumped, balanced and swung
high up in the trees and then slid back down on a zip wire. We then went to Caversham Court to watch an
open air theatre showing of David Walliams Ratburger. It was such a good show with a surprise guest of
David Walliams himself!
The second day
was at the Little
Welly a 3km
obstacle course.
Fantastic wet,
muddy foamy fun
the boys went
In February the boys went away for a few days on a caravan holiday in Weston Super Mare with Grandma
and Grandad. They had a great time staying up late in the clubhouse and playing bingo and the slot
machines! Charlie won so many tokens that he ended up coming home with a huge black panther which still
has pride of place on his bed. The boys must have been relatively well behaved as Grandma and Grandad
said they would love to do it again!

Steve and I took the boys to Woolacombe Sands for a short break
at Easter - such a beautiful area. It was not exactly beach weather
but the boys still managed to spend hours digging in the sand! A
highlight for me was when we went on a long walk with stunning
views definitely a place to go to again.
We did some more major building works to our house this year - this
time knocking through at that back of house to make an open plan
kitchen/ living area. Unlike our loft conversion these works were
very intrusive - we had no kitchen for 3 months! Fortunately this
was over the Summer months and we found you can become quite creative cooking on a gas BBQ with one
hob. Having said that we had definitely had our fill of BBQs by the end! We now have an amazing room
with lantern roof overlooking the garden. Bi-fold doors open out onto a raised patio area it has given us
the family living space we always dreamed of.
In June I organised a community picnic to celebrate the Queens 90th birthday. Unfortunately the
weather wasnt on our side but despite the drizzle we still had a fair few families join us and even got our
photo in the Henley Standard!
We also went camping to Wellington Country Park for a couple of nights in June. Again, the weather could
have been better but we were exceptionally lucky to avoid any heavy downpours! Its always fun watching
the kids go wild, having open fires and enjoying a few glasses of wine under the stars with great friends!
At the start of the Summer holidays we went camping in a beautiful
place called Treyarnon in Cornwall. The boys and I set up camp on
our own and spent the first week exploring the area and finding our
way around. We had a lovely trip to Bethruthun Steps (National
Trust) where there were steep steps down to caves, rocks, fierce
waves and hundreds of jelly fish on the beach! We also went to
Padstow where we saw a pirate boat called Matthew which, of
course, we had to investigate! The weather was very mixed but we
still managed some beach time and great rock climbing. We hired
bikes and went along the Camel trail which is a cycle path that runs along a disused railway line it was
stunning and great for increasing the boys bike riding confidence. We also went on a long coastal walk in
search of a blow hole. This was one of those adventures where the anticipation far outweighed what we
found a huge hole with a decidedly unimpressive blow!!
Steve then joined us for the second week and we moved our attention
to body boarding and crabbing (some amazing spider crabs!). Matthew
and Charlie again loved the excitement of bodyboarding Benjamin is
still more inclined to just play in the shallow water and rock pools.
We spent lots of time on the beach with the boys spending hours
digging, making dams and firing water blasters at the incoming waves!
We also made some great boats in the sand and then waited for the waves to wash them away the boys
were beyond excited and it took me back to the days when my sister and I used to do it with our dad!

Most of all we just enjoyed camping life swing ball, playing games and cooking outside. With the luxury
of electric hook up and a YHA bar just a short walk away it was probably the most relaxing break Ive
had in years!
I finally fulfilled one of my bucket list items this year and did a 10,000ft
tandem skydive in aid of Cancer Research.
I was pretty nervous but ended up loving the plane
ride, loving jumping out of the plane and even
loved the freefall. I then felt decidedly sick once
the parachute opened - apparently motion sickness
can be quite common! I was doing everything I
could not to be actually sick waving my arms and
shaking my head I must have looked a right loony
from the ground! I am so glad Ive done it, its an experience Ill never forget
but I wont be doing it again!
On the positive, very generous donations from lots of friends meant I raised
over 1,400 which is fantastic and for a very good cause! My sister is continuing to do really well and has
just passed two years cancer free!
In August we also had a couple of great long weekends away in youth hostels. The first was in
Okehampton, Devon, with my friend Melissa and her three children. Matthew was really good friends with
Melissas eldest, James, when they lived in Reading and it was lovely to see them re-kindle their
friendship even though they only see each other once or twice a year. We had a great time catching up,
bike riding and our usual annual trip to the River Dart Country Park. The second short break was up to
Alton Towers with Meredith and her family. This time we stayed in a very grand Youth Hostel called Ilam
Hall set in National Trust grounds. We had a great time at Alton Towers once again Meredith and I
braved the Smiler along with all the other usual thrill rides! Benjamin still didnt quite make the 1.2m
height restriction but hopefully next year!
The boys continue to grow rapidly and seem to go to endless clubs and parties! This year they all did
Street Dance and despite the tricky choreography managed to pull off an amazing year end show. Their
bike riding skills have also really improved this year with Benjamin and Charlie no longer needing
stabilisers. We have been on lovely bike rides to Mapledurham and they now go so fast that Ive had to
invest in a new bike! At parents evenings this year the general message
was that Matthew, Benjamin and Charlie are all engaged, work hard and
happy what more could I ask for!
Matthew continues to be lovely and slightly geeky / awkward at times! He
has a great group of friends who seem to be quite likeminded so he is
happy at school and doing well. He was invested in Cubs this year. He still
insists on growing his hair so that he cant see and like many 9 year olds he
is obsessed with minecraft. He could talk endlessly about the different
worlds you can create! Fortunately, he is only allowed an hour a week!

He continues to have a real passion for art and design and is really quite
talented. He has made some impressive scenery models, a Big Ben project and
some great drawing. He is also a huge fan of Lego, Knex and Meccano. I hope
he finds a way of channelling this enthusiasm as he gets older.
Benjamin and Charlie decided to have a joint 2Wild party this year. 23 seven
year old boys going wild in the woods with sticks, fire, sausages, more fire,
marshmallows, mud and rain! It was the best party the boys had such an
awesome time getting back to nature! Matthew opted for a house party with
crafts, bonfire and a movie!
Benjamin is now known as Ben at school. He is still a cheeky little
monkey! He is pretty immature for his age which can be quite
frustrating at times! Having said that he is doing well at school
and has shown great improvement in his reading and writing this
year. He also now has a lovely best friend to lead astray, Harley.
Hes still a real day dreamer and happy go lucky and still gets his
infectious fits of giggles! He enjoys Beavers and was promoted to
lodge leader. He also held the flag at this years Remembrance
Day parade an honour he took very seriously. He is continuing to
show an interest in music and played the recorder, sang in the choir and has just started to learn the
violin. Benjamin has been discharged from audiology and speech and language support and now only needs
to go for annual check-ups for his cerebral palsy which is fantastic!
Charlie has really matured this year and is noticeably calmer,
although he does still have his testosterone fuelled outbursts
every now and then! He is still progressing well at school and
continues to receive great support with reading, spelling and
handwriting. He is popular at school and has a group of friends
rather than a best friend. Charlie was selected to be on the
arts council and wears his badge with pride! He seems to have
quite a passion for singing and does so with gusto!
Both Charlie and Benjamin continue to play football with Caversham Trents training on a Friday and
playing matches on Saturdays. Benjamin still very much chases the ball with enthusiasm and hasnt quite
learnt the art of passing or scoring he can sometimes be quite a clown on the pitch! Charlie on the other
hand takes it all very seriously and is quite a mature little player scoring the occasional goal and being a
real team player. Fortunately they do not play in the same team!! We are really lucky to have so many
really dedicated football coaches training the boys. Steve took both boys to Madjeski stadium to watch
Reading v Hull they had a great evening having their photo taken with the mascot and taking goals at
half time!
My work is challenging, rewarding and keeps me busy and I still really enjoy my work / life balance! I am
still the chair of the school PTFA. We have set up a website this year with online ticketing and have also
moved to online banking. I get quite involved in things but couldnt do it without the amazing support, time
and energy from so many other parents! Most events are well established and are run by events
coordinators so input from me is minimal.

I have also managed to cram in a fair few social events this year including parties (40th, 50th, school
disco), meals, Dirty Dancing at the Hexagon, Lost Boys at the outdoor cinema (Caversham Court), bonfire
night and our first very grown up dinner party!
MBC Fencing is doing really well and Steve continues to have his three reliable contractors working for
him. He registered with Check-a-Trade this year and the consistently excellent feedback he receives has
meant a lot more local residential work this year which is great! Its meant that hes managed to spend a
bit more time with the boys this year although he does still enjoy his me time!!
In October half term we all headed off to Cyprus for a bit of winter sun. We had great quality family
time going on water slides, playing in the pool, shuffleboard, hoopla, ping pong, darts and enough cards
and games to sink a battle ship. Oodles of cuddles and chatting too!
On returning from Cyprus and following a few months of undiagnosed pain we received the shocking news
that Tony / Grandad has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer. We are not sure what lays
ahead but after a few weeks in hospital he is now back at home and is currently undergoing chemo. He
has some good and some bad days its now just a case of waiting to see how effective the chemo has
been and then look at the options.
My Dad continues to make some progress although perhaps not as much as we
hoped 18 months post stroke. He gets frustrated that he cant walk faster but
seems happy and enjoys his social life. He still doesnt have any movement in his
right arm and walking is extremely slow but his speech has really improved this
year. Being able to drive would really give him back some independence so I really
hope thats something he manages to do next year.
We sadly lost Treacle this summer. She was 16 and was a lovely
cat who had a happy life. Following the completion of our building
works we decided it was time to look for some new kittens. Since
childhood I have always wanted a silver tabby (like the one in the
Whiskers advert). Following a lot of research we found a breeder
and in November finally brought three beautiful 8 week old boy
kittens home. They are truly gorgeous and are so playful and
affectionate they even seem to enjoy the boys and in fact
actively look for them for cuddles!
We hope 2016 was a good year for you and, like us, you are looking forward to what 2017 may bring!
Lots of love, Catherine, Steve, Matthew, Benjamin and Charlie XXXXX

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