Looking back at 2017 wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was probably the hardest year of my life and I still don’t feel like I have found the right words for everything that happened, but I thought this was a good way to put a line underneath it all and make a fresh start. Of course, everything that happened will affect us for the rest of our lives but I am hoping to start the New Year with some of my optimism back.
At the start of 2017, I was determined to make this our year. I had a list of goals and resolutions for 2017. I wanted to share more personal posts, I wanted to kick my Coke habit – Coca-Cola that is and I wanted to get a driving license. I made a good start, regularly joining in with Little Loves and Living Arrows but January ended up being a bit of a pain.
Amy suffered from an ongoing ear infection that really affected her hearing and we were basically administering ear drops, nose spray and using a nebuliser 24/7.
February wasn’t much better in terms of health. In fact, just before my weekend trip to Berlin, Amy’s ear infection came back with a bang and we had to head down to the ENT emergency room. She was incredibly brave and insisted that I should go to Berlin with my sister while her Oma and Opa looked after her. And although we had a great time, I hated not being with my poorly monkey who during my absence had turned into what we now jokingly call a mini-version of something out of Aliens vs. Predators. Amy’s eyes had completely swollen up and were leaking so much mucus that she could barely open them. It looked absolutely horrifying and I kept her home from kindergarten for almost two weeks.
Towards the end of the month, she felt much better. So she went back for a very special event – Fasching – dressed up as the snow queen and visited me at work during the 23rd FINA Diving Grand Prix where I was looking after the event’s social media accounts and translating.
March was a pretty relaxed and uneventful month for us. We spent lots of quality time together and were enjoying one of the last winter days at the beach. We also celebrated my Dad’s birthday with a delicious meal at a tiny little Italian restaurant that I hadn’t been to before and Amy was in her absolute element. March was also much better healthwise, so I didn’t feel bad when I headed off to Iceland with my sister.
I came back from Iceland at the beginning of the month feeling like I could conquer the world. I had had the most amazing time traveling the island of fire and ice and we had so much to look forward to as we had made heaps of plans for the month. We headed to the Easter market and ate our way through the food stalls before having so many rides on the carousels that we couldn’t walk straight anymore. We celebrated Easter and Amy’s 6th birthday and headed off for a 4-generation holiday with my sister, parents and grandparents on Germany’s Baltic Sea island Usedom. It was also Amy and my first time in Poland which is literally just a stone-throw away and was the perfect break to recharge our batteries for the coming months. Little did we know how much we’d need it.
As we prepared for Amy’s 800m run on the last evening of April, I got a phone call that turned our world upside down. It was my brother-in-law calling to let me know that Amy’s daddy had been found dead. I don’t know if I went into complete shock or what happened to me at that moment but I didn’t believe him at all. I told him to stop joking but it was no joke, Amy had lost her daddy and I had lost the person who I once thought I’d spend the rest of my life with.
I called my parents and sister to let them know what had happened and made sure to phone Ben’s best friend Neal. They all were short phone calls because I just couldn’t face talking to anyone but knowing that it would break Amy’s heart to find out that her daddy had passed away, I vowed to not tell her anything until after her 800m race and surgery.
The next couple of weeks were incredibly difficult. I had to put on a brave face and smile for Amy while she ran and won her 800m race. I had to sit through her pre-op appointment and pretend that her daddy was more than fine with her having her surgery when he’d never have a say in things like that again. I had to walk back into the consultation room choking on my tears and confessing that I had lied during the appointment to protect my daughter and I had to see her being wheeled into the theatre completely beside herself because the sedative scared her to death.
Luckily, being the little trooper she is, Amy was back to her happy self only a couple of hours after coming out of surgery but I still had to tell her that her daddy had died. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life and my heart kept breaking for her when I saw her world fall apart right before my eyes. Amy didn’t sleep well. She was very cuddly and if you look at photos from the month of May, you can see that she had lost the cheeky twinkle in her eyes.
My baby group friends sent us the most beautiful surprise to show their support, though. A gorgeous bouquet of flowers and a beautiful wooden memory box for Amy that she uses to store bits and pieces that remind her of her daddy as well as letters that family and friends have sent her with their favourite memories of her daddy.
Amy’s best moment during the month of May was losing her very first tooth and getting a visit from the tooth fairy.
June was the month of Ben’s funeral. I flew to Bristol for a week to spend time with Ben’s family and help with the final preparations for his service. And although it was an incredibly difficult time emotionally, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I stayed with my sister-in-law and it was so nice to have someone to cry and laugh with until the early hours of the morning.
The service itself was perfect. Ben’s best friend Neal held a beautiful eulogy speech that made me both laugh and cry and I read Margarete Mead’s poem ‘Remember Me’ which I love so so much. Later that month, it was my grandad’s 87th and my sister’s 27th birthday which we celebrated with all the family.
July was the perfect summer month. We spent lots of time at the beach and splashing around in my parents’ garden and Amy graduated from kindergarten with her first residential trip, which was a very big deal for her and all her little friends. They spent three days on a donkey farm where they did lots of activities such as donkey riding, making herbal oil and vinegar or visiting an animal sanctuary. Amy loved every second of it.
At the end of the trip, the kids put on a show with lots of songs and poems before we all spent the afternoon together – us adults chatting about our plans for the summer and the kids running around the farm and playing in the hay.
In August, we took a spontaneous trip to Legoland Germany with my sister and her boyfriend. It’s literally on the other side of Germany, so we spent most of the trip in the car but it was totally worth it. We had such an amazing time that we regretted not going for longer. We got absolutely soaking wet on Captain Nick’s Splash Battle and the Jungle X-pedition, ate waffles on a stick and ended up covered in chocolate from top to bottom.
It was absolutely perfect and a real highlight of our summer which we otherwise spent at the beach, preparing for a big milestone or enjoying BBQs with my parents.
September was a month that Amy had anticipated for literally the entire year. It was the month that saw her starting school and reaching yet another milestone in her life. Her first day at school ceremony was a really beautiful start to an exciting new chapter for her and September kept getting better and better. Amy settled into school life without any problems and couldn’t wait to show her Auntie Charlotte around when she popped over for her first visit in Germany.
We had a whale of a time showing her all our favourite places, eating lots of yummy food and enjoying each other’s company. Amy even gave her her very own German lessons and what can I say: Auntie Charlotte is an absolute expert when it comes to colours and numbers.
October was another special month for us. Amy and I spent our first half-term in Bristol and for Amy, it was the first time back in the UK in almost 3 years. We stayed with Ben’s sister Charlotte and her kids and it was so so nice to see Amy with her cousins and our English family.
We spent lots of quality time with her Grampy Dave and visited her Uncle Will, girlfriend Carly and new baby cousin Joshua. We met up with Lisa and her kids, went to Birmingham for Disney on Ice, explored the M-Shed with our friends Neal and Becky and headed to the Wild Place Project for a big family day out. Oh and I also celebrated my 33rd birthday in Bristol.
November was quite uneventful. In fact, I can’t think of a single exciting or important thing that happened during the eleventh month of the year apart from the fact that Amy had her school photos taken. She was a little under the weather when the photographer came in but I still think they turned out quite well. Most importantly, they made lovely presents for grandparents and great-grandparents. And luckily, it all happened before Amy knocked her tooth out when she slipped in our hallway and sailed straight into the living room. There was blood everywhere and at first, I was sure she’d lost at least 5 teeth. So scary!
While November was almost boring, December was quite an action-packed month. I helped out at school a couple of times, went to the theatre with Amy’s class and visited her school’s annual Christmas concert as well as their pre-holiday Christmas singing. We celebrated advent at school, had a class Christmas party and visited the Christmas Market in Rostock – the biggest Christmas market in the Baltic Sea region.
One of the most exciting things that happened in December was having my grandparents move to our little town and giving up their home of over 50 years to be closer to us. We’re so thrilled to have them here with us. After all the moving stress and unpacking boxes, it was so nice to celebrate Christmas with them – actual Christmas Eve when all the magic happens here in Germany and not just Christmas Day – despite another ear infection for Amy, but luckily she shifted that quickly with the help of some antibiotics.
How did 2017 treat you? What were your highs and lows and what are your goals for 2018?