Six months ago, when I wrote my first ever blog post, I was so nervous.
I didn’t think for one minute, anyone would be interested in anything I had to say and so I decided to approach it with the view that it was to record memories for the boys to look back on when they are older; to remember all the fun times we had and the places we went. And if a few people were interested in our little lives along the way then so be it!
Today, I woke up to 1,000 followers on Instagram and I can’t quite believe it!
In just 6 months, blogging has brought me so many opportunities and allowed me to “virtually meet” so many people.
I have befriended the most gorgeous little girl Katie and her mum Sonja from Melbourne, Australia and I look forward to seeing her beautiful pictures and reading her posts. She inspires me with her positivity and writes so eloquently for a 9 year old girl.
I have received support from other mums in the middle of the night when I have been battling to keep Fin’s levels up, making me realise that I am not alone in all this and there are plenty of others out there fighting the same battle; day in, day out.
I have picked up tips on the latest gluten free foods released in stores and found delicious gluten free recipes to try.
By others sharing how they administer different percentage splits of insulin doses, I have managed, through trial and error, to prevent huge blood sugar spikes after “problem” foods. (Shout out to dougiesdishes – you are doing an amazing job!)
I have spoken to people who are newly diagnosed and given them advice on carbohydrate counting and had mums of newly diagnosed children message me privately for support after the shock of a diagnosis.
I have been asked to be the parent representative in the All Wales Diabetes group by the Local Health board and have been speaking to Dexcom’s representatives for Wales to discuss the promotion of the G6 and to work with them to improve the postcode lottery of NHS funding for the CGM sensors.
Fin has been asked if he would like to be “the first Welsh mini ambassador” for Dexcom and we are looking forward to collaborating with them on some local events in the new year.
And on days, where I feel like a rubbish mum who is doing a rubbish job, people I have never met are there, with encouraging comments and a reminder that tomorrow is a new day!
It’s been a mad, crazy journey so far but I have loved every minute and I would never have dreamt of being in touch with so many different people all over the world in such a short space of time.
Out of all of these people there are 2 messages that I have received which have stuck with me and made me feel grateful that I took the plunge and started this blog.
The first was a message from a mother of a Type 1 child who after watching the video of Fin inserting his own sensor, sent me the following:
“I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. My 11 year old son has always needed numbing cream for G5 changes and has never been able to do a sensor insertion himself. We received our first G6 kit this week, and tonight, after watching this, he did his own sensor with no numbing cream. Your T1 hero inspired my T1 hero to become more independent in his care and I am ever so grateful.”
The second was from a lady who has a daughter with a number of health conditions, including Type 1, who sent me this:
“I have been working with a counsellor who has done lots of work with families of children with chronic illnesses when she was training. She told me that there are 3 types of parents who deal with a diagnosis.
Some who bury their head in the sand and do nothing.
Some that feel it’s the end of the world and find it hard to see past the illness (that’s me)
Some who show their children that whilst they may have this illness, it doesn’t need to stop them doing anything and they can still achieve amazing things (I believe that’s you).
At the moment whilst, I am the 2nd parent, I want to be like you, the 3rd, and I am getting better at it.”
Both of these messages made me incredibly emotional because once upon a time, I was the 2nd parent who couldn’t see past the illness and I had a little boy who was so terrified of needles, that I had to do cannula changes by commando crawling into a bunk bed with a head torch in the middle of the night.
And so, to think that we have come so far, that other people are looking to us for inspiration is totally overwhelming and makes me extremely proud of us both.
I always said that if this blog helped one person on their journey, then it would make all the hours I plough into it worthwhile. In 6 months, it has exceeded my expectations massively and I am so glad that I took the plunge and pressed that very first Publish button.
Everyone had a lie in today and no one woke before 8.30 am.
We left about 9.45 and arrived at Busch Gardens, which is located in Tampa Bay just before 11am.
It was empty there and we didn’t wait more than 5 minutes for any ride. First of all, we watched a Cheetah training exercise.
Then, we did Cheetah Hunt, Kumba, Montu and Cobra’s Curse.
We then went to look at the lions, hippos and crocodiles and then caught the cable cars up to Stanleyville where we did Sheikra and then made our way over to Pantopia for lunch.
We went to the Dragon Fire Grill where they made us two bake in the bag Gluten Free Cheese pizzas which were delicious.
Next, we went on Scorpion and Falcon’s Fury. This is a new ride which drops you 300ft at 60 miles per hour after your seat tilts 90 degrees so you are facing the ground! It was amazing but one of the scariest rides I have ever been on! Once we recovered, we rode Sandserpent and then Andrew and Fin went back on Scorpion while me and Cian went on the Phoenix which is an upside down pirate ship. I absolutely hate this ride as it hangs you upside down for ages but Cian really wanted to do it and it was every bit as bad as I remembered!!
After this we went back to Stanleyville and went on the Stanley Falls Flume. It was a bit lame but we got soaked. Cian was desperate to go back on Sheikra and wait for the front row but for some reason it was closed and then as we were about to give up and go back to the front of the park, it re-opened and we walked straight on and got to sit at the front.
We caught the Skyride back to Edge of Africa and talked my mother into coming on Cheetah Hunt with us. It was one of the funniest experiences I have ever had. She screamed and howled all the way around with her eyes shut and kept asking ‘Have we been upside down yet?’
We then went back on Cheetah Hunt for one last time before getting ice creams and heading home.
Nobody could be bothered to get ready to go back out so we stopped in Applebees on the way home and then had a couple of Coronas in the villa while the boys played pool.
None of us woke up until 8:45am and so didn’t get to Aquatica until 10:15am but it was empty and so we parked right by the entrance.
We had such a lovely relaxing day. We bought the dining package which was $25 for adults and $15 for kids for an entrée, dessert, snack and all day refillable drinks in a souvenir cup which we definitely maximised the use of, as the weather was scorching.
The boys spent the majority of the day either riding the slides or just having fun in the pool.
The gluten free options for lunch were probably the worst we have come across. They were able to do hot dogs but no fries and I had a burger in between two pieces of hard gluten free bread.
We managed to do all the slides and I even braved the one in a cylinder where the floor disappears form under you. I was terrified but it was actually not as bad as I expected. I made the boys go on first to suss it out obviously!
We left the park at 5pm and then the boys spent a couple of hours in the pool back in the villa before we went for food at Outback.
I love Outback and it’s probably one of my favourite restaurants in Orlando and as an added bonus, they have a extensive gluten free menu!
I had a rib eye steak with a loaded jacket potato and Fin had bbq ribs and a jacket potato. Randomly, as I didn’t want my second side, they brought me two loaded jackets.
The food was delicious, as always and everyone agreed it was our best meal yet.
A very long day awaited us in Magic Kingdom the next day and so we headed back as soon as we had paid our bill.
As Sea World didn’t open until 10am, we had a later start and arrived as the park opened.
It was relatively quiet so we decided to try and do all the big rollercoasters first on the basis that the queues would be smaller than later in the day. There are currently 3 rollercoasters in Sea World, Kraken, Manta and Mako. Fin was a few inches too short for all 3 of them so he also wanted us to “get them over with” as he was gutted that he couldn’t ride.
We loved all three of them. Mako was a new addition since we were there in 2012 and the VR headset had been added to the Kraken ride which was out of this world!
We watched the sea lion show and then headed for lunch where we visited the Spice Mill restaurant. As there was nothing specifically gluten free on the menu, I asked one of the servers if they could cater for us and they immediately called the chef.
He offered to make us bacon cheeseburgers on gluten free buns with fries and despite there being huge queues, he told us to sit at a table and he would bring them over. It was absolutely delicious and one of the best Quick Service meals of the whole holiday.
After lunch we managed to fit in the dolphin show and the main Shamu show along with at least 3 rides on Journey to Atlantis where we got soaked and one last ride on Manta which is my favourite.
The park closed at 6pm and we had more than covered everything that we wanted to. My main reason for visiting Sea World is for the rollercoasters rather than the shows and in reality, I don’t feel there is enough there to fill a whole day.
At some point this year, their new ride Infinity Falls is due to open which is a high speed family rapids ride. This was being built when we were there and looks like it will be great fun.
Once we left the park, we headed to the Disney Wilderness Lodge resort where we had a reservation at the Whispering Canyon Café. The restaurant is based on the ground floor of the Wilderness Lodge hotel and the entrance hall / reception is stunning.
I had read about the restaurant before we travelled, hence the reservation, but nothing can prepare you for how totally random it is.
If someone asks for ketchup, the server screams “Ketchup” and every single table in the restaurant ends up bringing their bottles of ketchup to your table!!
In the middle of the meal, the servers will just randomly shout instructions such as everyone stand and sing / dance to a song of the waiter’s choice or all children ride around the restaurant on a hobby horse. It was one of the noisiest, least relaxing meals I have ever had but Fin, especially, thought it was hysterical.
The plus point was that the food was delicious. We had the “All you care to enjoy skillet” which consisted of Family-style Mixed Greens Dressed with Apple Vinaigrette, Fresh-baked Cornbread, Slow-smoked Pork Ribs, Barbecued Pulled Pork, Oak-smoked Beef Brisket, Herb-roasted Chicken, Western-style Sausage, Mashed Yukon Potatoes, Buttered Corn, Seasonal Farm-fresh Vegetables, and Cowboy-style Baked Beans. As an added bonus, it was all gluten free.
We also had a gorgeous gluten free chocolate cake with marshmallows, chocolate chips and ice cream for dessert.
While the food was lovely and the kids really enjoyed the atmosphere, I don’t think the meal justified the $230 price tag for 5 people. This was by far the most expensive meal of the whole fortnight but I suppose you pay for the location and the entertainment. Again, all this would be covered if you are on a Disney or Deluxe Dining plan which is amazing value.
Animal Kingdom tomorrow – my favourite Disney park!
We agreed to leave at 8:45am and so I had set my mother’s alarm for 8am the night before. I was awake off and on from 5am and eventually got up at 7:45am and started breakfast.
My mother was in the master bedroom on the ground floor and by 8:25am, I realised I hadn’t heard her moving around. I sent Cian to knock on her door and she ran out looking like the guy from the Prodigy’s Firestarter video. Apparently, her phone had turned itself back an hour and so she thought it was only 7:25am.
Despite this, we were out of the villa and on the road by 8:40 (without me having to use my whistle) and we arrived at EPCOT by 9:15am.
The bag search took slightly longer as I need to show them the medical note for all of Fin’s medication and gluten free snacks but we were in the park and heading for our breakfast reservation by 9:30am.
We had booked a character breakfast at the Garden Grill which is a revolving restaurant in the Future World West area of the park. I had come across the restaurant after reading several gluten free blogs and everyone raved about the GF Mickey waffles and they were not wrong.
The food was amazing!
We had cinnamon muffins, the all important Mickey Waffles, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and hash brown barrels as well as a massive bowl of fresh fruit and juices. You could order as much as you wanted but we found that the first serving was more than enough for us all.
During the meal, Chip n Dale, Mickey and Pluto stopped alongside our table to sign autographs and pose for numerous photos much to Andrew’s delight. I have literally never seen a grown man get so excited to have pictures with Disney characters in my life!
All in all, it was fab start to our day and whilst it wasn’t cheap at $156 for 5 of us, it was worth every cent. For those people on a Disney Dining Plan or a Deluxe Dining Plan, this would be fully inclusive. You can read more about all the different types of Dining plans here.
We then queued to have our pictures taken with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy as you can’t go to Disney and not get a photo with the REAL Mickey!
After this we used our fast pass for Soarin’ where we spent the whole ride laughing at my mother who kept squealing and wiping imaginary mud from her face.
Originally, I had a further two fast passes booked for 2:45pm and 5:30pm but during the day, upon checking the app on my phone (all the parks have fantastic free WIFI), I found fast passes for Living with the Land and The Seas with Nemo at earlier times and booked these instead. This meant I used my 3 fast passes by 2pm and I could then make further selections for the rest of the day.
Tip: Whilst you can only make 3 fast pass reservations in advance, once you have used these on the day, you are free to make more, one at a time, for the rest of the day. There is a whole web page dedicated to getting the most out of your fast passes here. And whilst it is quite a complicated read, bear in mind that most non fast pass queues are in excess of 45 minutes, which means planning your day in advance will save you a LOT of time.
Living with the Land is THE most boring ride in the world and Nemo was a little young for the boys but we did them anyway and by 3pm, we had used all our fast passes and ended up getting 2 more for Pixar Movies and Spaceship Earth which meant we had utilised five in 6 hours.
In between, we also managed to fit in Frozen Ever After, Mission Space and the Donald Duck ride in Mexico before leaving the park at 6pm so all in all, a pretty successful day.
We then headed to Applebees near the villa for a cheap and cheerful evening meal. They have quite a good choice of gluten free items as you can see below.
After our meal, we went back to the villa where the boys played in the pool for an hour before we all headed to bed in preparation for the following day at Sea World.
When Cian joined the Comprehensive last year, he was really looking forward to Home Economics and making gluten free treats for Fin.
It turns out that in Year 7, you are not able to take in your own ingredients and you are simply expected to take in 50p per lesson in order for the teacher to provide you with the necessary ingredients.
After bringing home Tupperware containers of what can only be described as “gluten filled slop” all year, last year, Cian was excited to announce that in Year 8, he could take in gluten free alternatives to the ingredients list they were provided with in the lesson.
This week they were making flapjacks and the ingredients were quite straight forward.
150g Porridge Oats
75g Caster Sugar
A tablespoon of honey
Prior to sending in the sponge cake tin that was requested, I weighed it and recorded the weight as 208g. The reason for this will become clear later on.
This afternoon, Cian came home with his flapjack and before we could tuck in, we had to calculate the carbohydrates to be able to decide how much insulin Fin would need for his portion.
Fin wanted to help and so armed with a pen, paper and calculator he was ready!
The ingredients and their nutritional information were as follows:
There are 59g of carbohydrates in 100g of porridge oats. There was 150g of porridge oats in the recipe and so the carbohydrates are worked out as follows:
59g carbs / 100g x 150g = 88.5g of carbs rounded to 89g
There are 100g of carbohydrates in 100g of caster sugar.
There was 75g of sugar in the recipe and so the carbohydrates value is also 75g.
(100g carbs / 100g x 75g = 75g of carbs)
There are 84g of carbohydrates in 100g of honey.
There was 15g of honey in the recipe and so the carbohydrates are worked out as follows:
87g carbs / 100g x 15g = 13.05g of carbs rounded down to 13g
The carbohydrates in the butter were 0.6g per 100g so did not need to be included.
We then totalled all elements to obtain the total value of carbohydrates for the whole flapjack.
Honey – 13g
Oats – 89g
Sugar – 75g
Total amount of carbohydrates for the whole flapjack totalled 177g.
We then needed to find out the weight of the flapjack.
We weighed it in the tin and found it to be 400g in weight.
We then took off the weight of the empty tin (208g) which I had weighed the day before.
This made the weight of the total flapjack, excluding the tin, 192g.
We then weighed a slice out for Fin……
….. and worked out the carbohydrates for his portion.
177g of carbohydrates in the total flapjack divided by the total weight of the flapjack (192g) x portion size of 21g.
177g / 192g x 21g = 19.35g of carbohydrates (rounded down to 19g)
So that’s it, easy!!
It would be much easier to have gone to the shop and bought ready made flapjacks with the carbohydrates on the back but where’s the fun in that!
And in any case, now I have one kid who thinks he is the next Gordon Ramsey and one who thinks he has a future career on Countdown!
In October 2017, after counting down the days for over a year, we set off on our holiday of lifetime to Orlando.
My motto on Disney holidays is “Go hard or go home!” and our type of holiday may not be for everyone but when it costs in excess of £10k, I want to squeeze out every last drop as who knows when we will be lucky enough to go again.
With that in mind, I spent the preceding 6 months planning! I followed numerous blogs and visited various websites to suss out the gluten free offerings. I looked at the estimated crowds and park opening times to ensure we went to the right parks on the right days and over time, I drew up an itinerary of what park we were going to on what day, what fast passes we were aiming to get, where we would eat lunch and details of all the reservations I had made for our evening meals. I even noted what outfits we would wear each day and yes, I do realise I have issues!
I also joined the “It’s Orlando Time” Facebook group where I found lots of brilliant tips and also loved reading the blogs that people wrote on the group whilst they were out in Orlando.
That’s when I decided to do the same while we were there as despite taking a million photographs, I felt it would be lovely to be able to look back and remember what we did each day.
As it is almost a year to the day since we travelled, I have decided to record the daily blogs that I wrote on here along with the photos from each day so that we can have a complete memory of what we all agreed was our best holiday ever!
As we were travelling with Type 1 and Coeliac, I am also hopeful that some Type 1 Tips and Gluten Free restaurants we found will be helpful to others.
Travel Day and Rest Day – 26/11/2017 & 27/11/2017
After staying in the Premier Inn North Terminal overnight, by 7am, the kids were bouncing off the walls so we all had showers and went down to breakfast where all the staff were dressed up for Halloween.
Every member of staff we encountered at the hotel both during the evening meal the previous evening, check in, breakfast and check out were all extremely friendly and polite and for anyone travelling to Orlando from Gatwick North Terminal, I would highly recommend staying here.
As part of the price, we had onsite parking at the hotel and as an added bonus, the terminal was a mere 5 minute walk away.
After breakfast, we headed straight to the airport to check in which was pretty painless and then headed to security. Due to all the medical paraphernalia I need to take for Fin, I paid £5.00 per adult (no charge for children) to go through the Premium Security as I always find this the most stressful part of travelling. They were amazing with Fin, immediately agreeing that he could bypass all the machines and agreeing to a pat down instead. As an added bonus we walked straight through with no queues and the whole process was over within 5 minutes. Well worth the £5.00!
We all had a drink in the airport (it’s tradition!) and then met a lady who, in her mid thirties, was travelling to Disney for the first time all on her own. She was so excited and asked me to take a picture of her and she then returned the favour and took one of us all in our Disney T shirts (which Andrew initially refused to wear but I knew I would wear him down!)
The flight (Virgin Atlantic – Pretty Woman) was on time and the whole journey went extremely quickly. I watched all 7 episodes of “Big Little Lies” and the boys watched Cars 3, Spiderman and Kong: Skull Island.
We had pre ordered gluten free meals for me and Fin and we were really impressed with them.
For mains, we had chicken in a soy sauce with sweet potato, green beans and peas which was really tasty. We also had a salad bowl, apple crisps and a raspberry jelly.
Mid flight, they handed out “Fab” lollies and then towards the end of the flight, we had chicken salad sandwiches on gluten free bread with crisps and popcorn.
Once we landed, we had to queue in immigration for over an hour which meant that by the time we got to baggage reclaim, all our cases were there waiting for us.
Headed straight to Alamo to pick up our car which again, was painless as I had already checked in online. We had paid for a Dodge Caravan and were told to head out to the parking lot and choose whichever one we wanted. We chose a white one, picked up our sat nav from the exit and were on the road by 7pm after landing at 5:20pm.
Tip: I changed my car rental booking several times before we left. Prices fluctuate hugely from month to month and whilst I initially reserved a car directly with Alamo for approximately £800.00, I eventually got the exact same car through Netflights (as a broker for Alamo) for £200.00 cheaper.
We arrived at our villa around 8pm and it was absolutely beautiful. We booked our villa through Citrus Grove Villas and you can see the full specification and details here.
We paid £1,800 (including pool heat) for 15 nights for 5 of us. However, the villa slept 8 and so for a large party, it would work out at £15.00 pppn which is insane!
It was located on the Regal Palms complex in the Davenport area. This is approximately a 30 minute drive from the parks but we love the Davenport area and don’t mind a slight drive in the mornings as it gives everyone time to get (even more) excited.
Prior to our arrival, I had arranged for the Villa Management Company to do a shop for us and so we arrived to a fully stocked fridge with all the items we had asked for.
While the boys had a game of pool, me and my mother unpacked and Andrew went to the local pizzeria to pick up pizzas for everyone. The local MIA pizza also catered for gluten free and we had the nicest GF pepperoni pizza ever!
After stuffing our faces, we were all exhausted and headed to bed!
As we were expecting to be a bit jet lagged on the first day, we had the one and only rest day of the next 15 planned for the following day and so everyone could have a lie in.
Day 1 – Pool Day and Disney Springs – 28/11/2017
The kids woke me up approximately 575 times through the night culminating in Cian coming into our bedroom at 4am and demanding to get up as it was “9am back home!”
After me hissing that unless he went back to sleep, we would be on the next flight back home, they finally gave in and I didn’t hear them until 8am when we all got up and had breakfast.
The boys and my mother then played games in the pool while me and Andrew went to Publix to stock up with some more supplies. It’s no wonder most people eat out on holidays out there are the groceries are SO expensive. We spent almost $100 and had very little to show for it.
We picked up a couple more pizzas and ate them around the pool then spent the afternoon sunbathing and listening to music while the boys amused themselves.
We had made a reservation at T-REX for 5pm but as everyone was enjoying spending time at the villa, we rang to cancel. There were no other reservations left for that evening (it was a Saturday night) but we were told that we would just have to queue for one of the walk in tables. I had ordered a Landry card before we went and so knew we wouldn’t have too long a wait.
Tip: Before travelling, apply for a Landry card here. It costs $25 but that credit then sits on the card and if you have a birthday during the period of your holiday, you also get an additional $25 credit added to the card. Nb. They do not check the birthday in any way and so if you should tell a little white lie, then I’m sure you wouldn’t get found out!
We arrived at T-REX in Disney Springs at 7pm and I heard the maître d tell the man in front of me that there was a 105 minute wait. I flashed my Landrys card and we were seated by 7:20pm so they are definitely worth having. They get you priority seating to T-REX, Rainforest Café, Bubba Gumps and Yak and Yeti amongst others.
The food in T-REX was lovely but the portions were HUGE. They had a few gluten free choices but unfortunately the waffle fries weren’t gluten free and so Fin had bbq ribs and skin on mash which he spent the entire evening picking the skin out of much to my annoyance.
He then had an amazing chocolate flourless cake which he demolished.
Back home, both of the boys eat adult meals. In Orlando, there is NO NEED to buy adult meals. The children’s meals are more than ample and so save yourself some dollar!
For 5 main meals, 3 desserts and 5 drinks, the meal came to $136 but with the $25 credit and $25 birthday bonus on the Landry card, we only ended up paying $86 (plus gratuity)which for a meal for 5 people, smack bang in the middle of Disney Springs wasn’t bad at all.
After we had finished our meal, we went to the Disney store to buy our Magic Bands and then headed to Guest Relations to get them linked to “My Disney Experience” which meant we were good to go for the following morning.
Tip: Magic Bands are not essential but I would highly recommend them. They act as your ticket to all the Disney parks meaning you just scan your wrist to enter. They are also linked to all your fast passes meaning you simply swipe at the fast pass queue at each attraction to release the barrier. In addition, they link to your photo pass meaning just one of the family needs to scan their band to ensure any photographs are linked to the family Disney account. All this can be done with tickets but it is so much easier not to have to fuss getting them in and out of your purse and with a gazillion things to fit in each day, every spare minute counts.
They also look quite cool.
Once we had got our bands sorted, we headed home.
EPCOT would be our first Disney park the next day. I planned this first as I am with Homer Simpson in that it is “The most boring place on Earth” and so I wanted to get it over and done with.