Monday, 31 December 2012

Best Post of 2012

The last day ever...ever of this year...

2012, for us, has been a good one.  In the UK we have celebrated some momentus occcasions and overall I think we have felt proud to be British.

I am looking forward to 2013.  I want to enter it with gusto and keep that drive going throughout the year.  I hope that my summary post of 2013 will be as positive and packed as the one for 2012.

I have been pleased with how many posts I have written this year, given the limited time I have to sit and write.  But which has been my best one?  This was quite easy for me to choose.  It is the post that people often mention to me, and when I think of my blog, I immediately think of this particular post.

So, with drum roll and drama... MY BEST POST OF 2012 IS...

Channel 4, the official broadcasters of the 2012 Paralympic Games, are running an advert at the moment. It asks three gentleman, all in wheelchairs what they dream about. One says he always walks again in his dream. I think the other says he never dreams of walking. The third laughs and says he doesn't know what they are dreaming about but in his dream he is just surrounded by wonderful women and doesn't take any notice if he can walk or not.

This really made me smile. Then it made me think. I have been doing that a lot lately. I have been in that sort of philosophical mood, which doesn't always make me seem very happy. But it isn't that I am not happy. It just means that I am thinking. About everything. About nothing. About stuff. Sometimes my mind just needs to do that. Maybe that is the writer in me.

It made me wonder about what J1 dreams about. I can ask J2 and he always answers the same thing - 'Lion ROOOOOAAAARRRRRR'. If that is true it may account for his truly erratic sleep behaviour! But whenever I ask J1 he pauses, says 'Errrrrrrrr', pauses again and then sets to his default question -'Where is Daddy's car?' This means you are not going to get an answer to your question.

So I am left wondering. I am left wondering if he dreams of walking and running. Does he dream of running around the playground, or competing able bodied in sports day? Does he bounce on the trampoline until he feels sick and sweaty? Does he run along the sea front running up and down the steps to the beach until we tell him not to do it anymore? Does he run up the steps to the cafe to buy his ice-cream?

I have a recurring dream. Not everyday but always the same. J1 walks into my bedroom and asks if he can wear his football shirt for school. As wonderful as that is, when I wake up I get the crashing reality of life. And that is painful. Like when people say after they have lost someone, for that first few seconds of the day when you wake up, everything is perfect. Then your memory comes to life and reminds you of days and events past.

No matter how many years fly by, and how much I come to terms with / adapt to life as we now know it, the actual reality of knowing my son has brain damage is still a bastard. It makes my heart ache with the longing to be able to change it. It must be the biggest frustration in life that you will ever encounter - someone you love suffering with something, be it a condition or illness, and no matter what you do to help, aid, alleviate you know that you can't change it or stop it.

Maybe that explains my overwhelming need to keep in control of all other aspects of my life and my complete annoyance when I feel that is not the case. My developing attitude that you must absolutely do what you want to do, if it is something that you have any control over being able to achieve. Some people call that positive thinking. I call it trying to make up for what I can't change or control. A defiance that fate won't fox me into thinking I 'can't' control what happens.

Can someone that has never walked a single step dream what it is like to do so? I like to think so - after all I dream of flying and I certainly can't do that.

So, run little boy. Run and laugh.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Top Pick of Our 2012 Year

2012 has been a good year in many aspects for Britain in general this year, with huge events such as The Jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics.  In yet another year of economic recession, it was nice to have a lighter period.  A spell of not looking at what was wrong with our tiny little island, but actually getting behind those representing us - in a good way.  To watch and be a part of days and nights that will go down in history all around the world.
An example of this is 04.08.2012.  This was the night when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all brought home those longed for Gold Medals for themselves and their country.  As London shook with the screams of encouragement from the lucky thousands in the stadium that night, I would hazard a guess that every street shook from those screaming at the TVs in their house. 
Whenever I see highlights from that night I will know that I sat with my two children, one either side of me, holding a hand each chanting 'Go Mo!' followed by three claps until he crossed that finish line when we whooped and cheered. 
2012 was a good year for our family in general.  We enjoyed participating in some old fashioned patriotism, but for us, one event makes 2012 a hugely memorable year.  My pick, for our best bit of the year must go to that wonderful day in may, when a Judge in our English Court of Law, banged her hammer signifying The Hubby had officially adopted J1.
We started the adoption process in October 2011, at our initial meeting we were told that an adoption case is an unknown quantity when it comes time frame.  We had read that it could take months, even years, depending on the complexity of the case.  What we hoped would go in our favour would be that it was a very straight-forward situation.
Of course we understood that what we believed to be clear cut, may not be to the professionals involved, but after our second meeting with our wonderful case worker, we breathed a sigh of relief when she said she agreed with us.  We were thrilled when in January 2012 we were informed we could make our application to the court.
We steeled ourselves for a long wait for the court date, but after a few more meetings we were given a first hearing in May.  A few weeks before this we were informed that it would be the only hearing required.  Our first court appearance would be our formal hearing and our celebration hearing.
We had a lovely day.  The court was happy to be carrying out a rare positive hearing and we were even allowed to take some photographs with the judge.  J1 officially took our family surname and we concluded our day doing J1's favourite thing - having a meal.
Fast forward a few months on and we now have the official paperwork.  J1 has always had a Daddy in The Hubby, day to day life hasn't changed, but now it is official, legal and binding.  J1 is The Hubby's son.  Fact.
There couldn't be any other event that would top that.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Very Special Needs Christmas Show

My admiration for J1's school is great at the best of times, but none more so than whenever they do the same as every other school and put on displays, activities and shows.
Within this fantastic special needs school they are already dealing with a whole host of extra 'pupil needs'.  So where they find the time to organise, practise and execute Easter events, Summers Fairs, Christmas Fairs, Christmas shows to name but a few, is just inspiring to me.
Every day I am in awe of the dedication staff, assistants and volunteers have to help our children.  But at this time of the year, when they ensure that those children experience what every other child in every other school in the country are doing I am blown away.
Our annual invitation to the School Christmas Show came last week.  We asked J1 what he was doing in the school play and his response 'It's a secret, I not telling.'  All we knew is that we had to send in a funky hat, scarf and gloves for him.
Wonderfully the school hall was packed out with happy, expectant and 'already bursting with pride' parents.  The theme of the show was Christmas Movies.  With everything ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Elf, the individual classes performed dances, songs, little skits and gave us some unplanned comedy.
Watching the children, adorned in outfits, including some fantastic wheelchair incorporated ones (believe me - I was open mouthed at how wonderful The Tin Man looked in his chair and mentally made a note for next years Halloween costume) was both heartwarming and tear-jerking.
The great thing this year, J1 did not have a meltdown at the door of the hall resulting in him being whisked back to class.  He coped with all the noise and unfamiliarity and actually performed!  I will never watch The Snowman without thinking of his class performance again.
As the audience clapped and cheered and encouraged I was reminded of how lucky we are, that J1 is at school and involved.  That we can attend all of these wonderful activities like we will for J2 when he starts school.  Too many of my mummy friends are not in this position, and at this time of the year we should think about them, and how they are feeling.  We should think about all of the amazing children that are going to be spending Christmas in hospitals.
We should really appreciate what we have.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Once Upon a Time : The Scare #GRACE

The year 2012 has opened up some wonderful opportunities to do things I have never done before.  One of those things has been to volunteer some time for the good of a charity.  It is this last one that has led me to writing this, very personal, post. 

I was asked, not long ago, by a very dear friend if I could help manage the social media for a charity that is very close to her heart.  GRACE (Gynae-oncology Research and Clinical Excellence) provides support, to women and families in the locale of  Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire living with gynaecological cancers.
Many people will know I write about living with disability and Cerebral Palsy on my blog. So many may wonder why I would want to find the time to get involved with a charity not related to that. The reason is simple; I had my own cervical cancer scare.

Helping women and their families local to them is only part of what GRACE do.  They are constantly striving to fund vital research into the causes and treatments of gynaecological cancers.  This work benefits every women in the world, we all know - cancer isn't picky about who it chooses.  Every tiny step forward to discovering more knowledge about these cancers is crucial.  Therefore if I can help - in anyway - to help those afflicted by these diseases, or do anything to try and help a charity find ways to combat them, I will.

I was 18 when my parents decided to move out of the area we had resided in all of my life.  I followed my parents to our new home a few months after they relocated, when I secured a new job.  My mum had enrolled me into the local doctors and I was far from thrilled when she told me I had to book in for a medical.
I had been registered under the same Doctors all of my life so I had never had a general health check, as required when you join a new surgery.  It was all the usual elements, answering questions, height, weight, blood pressure.  My previous Doctor had prescribed me the contraceptive pill, to try and regulate my menstrual cycle as it was particularly erratic, and the new Doctors were quite shocked when I informed them that I had not been called for a 'smear' test since being issued with the medication.
I was told that I must book in for one and left with an appointment with the nurse for the following week and a glum face.  I petulantly declared that "I did not want one!" to my mum who made it clear in no uncertain terms that I would be going to have it done.  She did what most people do, informed me that although unpleasant and uncomfortable it didn't hurt.
I dutifully attended the appointment and relief flooded my body when it was all over.  Little did I know that a 'smear' test would become the least of my worries.  I really did not give it a second thought after I got home, happy in the knowledge that I wouldn't have to go for it again for at least three years.
So, when I returned home from work for lunch a few days later I was surprised to see a note left for me stating that the Doctors had called.  I still did not relate it to the recent test.  The nurse was quite gentle as she told me that my results had not come back clear and I had been referred to the hospital for further investigation.  I asked her if I should wait for an appointment to be sent through but she informed me that one had already been issued and I was to go the following day.
It was the speed of it all that raised alarms for me, and my mum.  It had not even been a week since I had the initial procedure.  I was called in to see the Specialist first.  He was blunt.  He told me I was a lucky girl to have had the 'smear' test carried out when I did.  He informed me that cells change on a spectrum of low to high.  Mine were in the high sections and he couldn't be sure at this stage if any had fully changed. 
That was a huge piece of information for an 18 year old to take in.  I am not sure I did.  I was then taken through to a surgical room by a kind nurse.  I was told that the first procedure was to cover my cervix in some different liquids that would help show up the pre-cancerous cells.  Again, the Specialist did not sugar coat anything.  He let me see the screen and pointed out that over seventy percent was affected.  In short I was smothered. 
He told me that I would need to have a biopsy taken and that he would carry out a 'Loop Exision'.  I asked if I would come back for that - in the hope I could run as fast as I could away from the hospital and lock myself away to try and process the situation.  He almost laughed and declared that I would not be leaving until it was all done.  Thank goodness I was laying down, otherwise I would have passed out.
As they prepared for it all the nurse explained what I was going to experience.  It was just as she said.  As they insisted on doing it there and then I could only have a local anaesthetic, but looking back that was probably better for me, as afterwards I was allowed to go straight home.  I was told that the results of the biopsy would not take very long but if there was no news it was good news.
The first couple of days after I had it done were long and slow.  Every time the phone rang I believed it was going to be the hospital with dreaded words.  I couldn't get my mind around the fact that I was carrying around pre-cancerous cells and had absolutely no clue.  My mind kept drifting to the scenario whereby I hadn't moved, hadn't been called for a health check due to the new Doctors, hadn't had the test in the first place.
I swung from feeling very sorry for myself, to feeling very lucky.  It had been discovered and I was now under the care of the right department.  Then as the days turned into weeks with no news I started to relax.  I finally got a letter from the hospital noting that no further treatment was required at this stage but I was to return for another smear test in six months - the appointment already given.
Returning to the hospital I felt hopeful.  They had done quite an extensive 'Loop Excision' removal and if I could deal with that a 'smear' test was nothing.  The same Specialist carried it out and as usual said I would receive notification as and when.  My hopefulness was short lived when I was swiftly called back for another appointment.  I again under went another set of biopsy and 'Loop Excision'. 
Another round of 'no news is good news' ensued but this time my hopeful outlook did not return.  I was again asked to go for a 'smear' test in six months.  It seemed like a long time and my close family and friends tried to keep me positive, noting that they would have worked extra hard to make sure they got it all the second time, it was probably just a little bit that got left behind because there had been so much the first.
The 'smear' test appointment came and went and I was recalled for a third time.  This time when I was called into to see the Specialist I was also asked if I minded a Student being present.  Why the hell not, I was past caring to be honest.  I was quite surprised when I walked in that it was a different Specialist.  He had a much more empathetic patient approach, but that didn't change the fact that I was going to have to undergo the same procedures again. 
I remember the Specialist turning to the student and saying "This lady is just about to have this done for a third time.  She has very new and sensitive scar tissue that we have to work with.  We do not want her to have to go through this again.  We MUST get ALL of it."  That made me feel, actually, very safe.  It was the determination in his voice I think.  He asked to see me afterwards, which I hadn't had to do before. 
He said he was very sorry that I was here again and went through what I already knew about waiting to hear (or not being the case I wanted).  Then he spoke to me about the effect of the treatment, that no one had gone through with me before.  He said I had to imagine my cervix as the skin on my arm, if that was burnt, it would heal a little differently and be more sensitive.  And weaker.  The more it was burnt the weaker it would be.  I still didn't follow.  So he spelt it out for me.  The three procedures could potentially have made my cervix too weak to be able to carry a child.
This was a blast I was not expecting.  But at 18, with no interest in reproducing, I was too young to fully understand the implications of it.  It wasn't until I unexpectedly fell pregnant with my first child that this came back to worry me.
I left the hospital that day, feeling more upbeat than the previous.  Thankfully that hopefulness was realised when after the six month 'smear' I was finally given the all clear.  I was then monitored by 'smears' every six months until being given approval to return to the Doctors for the tests annually. 
It is only this year that I have been given the all clear to go every three years.  The magical three year call that I was waiting for when I was 18.  I am now 33.  This experience certainly changed me.  It made me stronger, it made a typical 18 year old, thinking life was long - appreciate life can be short, you never know. 
It made me weaker in some ways.  Those areas I am still working on remedying.  It made me feel like shouting 'Why Me?'.  Then it made me feel lucky that I only ever experience those preventative procedures and not combative ones.  Lucky that I was then watched like a hawk.  That I now have the foresight never to miss a 'smear' test as so many women do through fear.
If things had not been positive for me, I would have needed a charity like GRACE.  A charity to help me and my family through a traumatic, life-changing time.  An unknown time.  I would have wanted my friends and family to have had a source of information to give them comfort and solid information and fact. 
I support any charity that looks to save other women from Gynaecological Cancers, being it Cervical or Ovarian.  They need your support too.
You may wonder why I have written this post?  I wanted to write it so those that read my blog could relate to what could be 'just another charity'.  The support I am asking for doesn't cost anything.  I am just trying to help a charity gather support on Facebook and Twitter - so that YOU if you ever need the information can access it.
Please like the GRACE Facebook Page by click here GRACE FACEBOOK.  And follow us on Twitter by find us @grace_women.
You can find out more about the amazing work GRACE do by checking out their website here -GRACE WEBSITE.  If you ever have questions you can always contact them.    
Linking this post up to the wonderful Older Mum in a Muddle : Once Upon a Time.   

Sunday, 9 December 2012

What makes Christmas 'Christmas' to me?

I am loving the 'Christmas' photographs that are being circulated on Facebook at the moment.  The ones I love most, are the old traditional sort, steeped in memories of a simpler time.  When decorations were done as a family by the fire, in woollen jumpers whilst snow fluttered past the - not so environmentally friendly (ie. drafty) - windows.
I don't know if anyone actually ever did or experienced that in real life, but it is a concept that many even to this day, love.  As much as we would like to say we are going to take our lives back to those traditional times, I think it is now impossible not to get caught up in the convenience of today.  For example, purchasing gifts via the Internet rather than braving the masses at the till points; filling the children's stocking with sweets and Playdoh rather than apples and oranges.
But as an adult we all have our own memories of our childhood Christmases.  If we are lucky, they are happy ones.  And they are the true traditional Christmas to the memory keeper.  I did not appreciate these until I became a Mother myself, and the spirit of Christmas - through my childs eye - became important. 
I took stock of what I loved and cherished as part of my childhood Christmases.  Over the last few years, particularly as 'child' became 'children', I have tried to ensure that we keep some of our longstanding own family traditions within Christmas.  The build up; the day; after.  I have also started to create some of our own.  You never know, as my boys grow and have their own families - if we should be so blessed - they might just do the same thing and I will see my grandchildren enjoy some of the same things I did as a little girl.
So what does make 'Christmas' to me?
Actual Shopping - Yes, although I have purchased some items online, I like at least one allocated 'shopping day' in December, when you queue to park, freeze as you walk, sweat as you browse and sigh as you queue.  Within this is a feeling of nostalgia that makes it all worth while.  After a wicked Hot Chocolate, in a cafe in which there are no spare seats and the windows are streaming with condensation, you struggle back to your car with your numerous heavy shopping bags vowing next year - you are doing it all on line.
Decorating the Tree with a Christmas Movie - This has always been what we have done with our children.  It makes me feel Christmas like and when the children get bored of helping (usually after the first few minutes) they generally sit and watch it nicely.
Wrapping Day - I think I mentioned this in a Christmas post last year, but my mum and I have a long standing tradition - starting back when I was a teenager and able to afford to purchase my own small gifts for people - of having a wrapping afternoon.  We lay everything out, admire our choice of paper, tags and adornments, hit play on a cheesy Christmas CD and devour a Terry's Chocolate Orange.  About half way through we vow that next year we are buying half the amount of stuff.
Garden Centre Lunch - Nowhere makes more of an effort than a Garden Centre at Christmas time and for about the last 12 years, my mum and I, have made a tradition of having a 'child - free' (my children not hers obviously) browse and lunch.  Usually the new 'annual tree ornament' purchase is made here.
Christmas Eve Baking - Even when I worked full time I would always book Christmas Eve off in order to do some baking and get as much cooking as possible done for Christmas.  We always cook our Turkey and Bacon on Christmas Eve.  Mum makes home made sausage rolls.  I make home made shortbread.
Christmas Eve Afternoon Movie - When I was a child it was The Santa Claus with Dudley Moore.  We would watch it in the afternoon when Christmas seemed to near, yet so far.  Now our choice of film seems to be The Polar Express - works for me.
The Christmas Morning Wait - When my brother and I were children we were made to wait on the stairs before we were allowed to go into the living room where the tree was to see if Father Christmas had been.  It wasn't a malicious thing by my parents, they ensured the presents looked great and in position while the anticipation and excitement of getting in that room reached a crescendo and we were always giddy by the time they opened the door with a wry smile.
The Hat Game - After the traditional Christmas dinner we always had our crackers, donned the hats and played The Hat Game (you write a name on a hat and the person wearing it has to guess who they are by asking questions).  We do not do this at the moment because the children are so young and not interested, but I will re-introduce it as they get older.
Snowballs - The drink that is, not the cold icy stuff from the sky.  Even as a child I was allowed a sip of that sweet yellow liquid and I still love it now.  My bottle has been purchased and is ready to enjoy.
No TV Until After 8pm - This was a great rule when I was a child and a great rule now.  I can not stand the tripe that is palmed off as Christmas Day TV viewing and as the TV is generally on every other day of the year in our house, it isn't on 25 December.
Boxing Day Dinner - I think I enjoy our traditional Boxing Day dinner to Christmas Days.  We have a big old chunk of bacon, mash and pickles.  This is also the day that toys and games get full attention.
Now I am feeling super festive and really rather appreciative of the lovely Christmas memories I am lucky enough to hold.
What are your Christmas traditions - do they come from your childhood?  Do you strive to make lots of traditions for your own children?
I am linking up to the BritMums Christmas Blog Hop.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

Things have been very busy over the last few weeks, so posts have been a bit lacking.  However, it is time to think about the week in all it's busy glory and pick out the best bits with Mummy from The Heart and Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC.
So, as Christmas approaches and the end of 2012 heads even closer these are my happy memories of the week :
* The Christmas Tree is up and the decorations are out.  We opted for a fake tree this year, puppy paws and all that, but it was just as much fun to decorate and has made the room look very festive.  Even with the lack of a fireplace this year, I have even found a home for the stockings to be hung.
* The Christmas Films are also out of storage!  J2 is very much enjoying them this year, particularly The Polar Express, which thankfully happens to be my favourite.  I love it when we all snuggle on the sofa under the cosy blankets with mugs of hot chocolate and a big old bowl of popcorn.
* Most of the Christmas shopping is done.  This is pleasing because I now have next Wednesday planned - this consists of going to see J1's school Nativity, followed by the annual tradition of my mum and I wrapping the gifts to Christmas Cd's and eating a Terry's Chocolate Orange.
* Our Christmas plans are formed.  We know who is going where, when and who is doing what.  I am thankful we do not have massive dramas over this, I know some of my friends are struggling to please everyone they need too.
* Something not Christmas related - the puppy has not pooped overnight for nearly three weeks *whoop*
For other cheery souls check out the Reasons to be Cheerful Blog Hop.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

2013 : Striving (#GetGrooving)

My last post considered what 2012 had been like for me and my family.  I was proud of our progress in most aspects of our life.  I, again, have had no time to sit down and write this week until now, but I have been thinking about what I would like to try and achieve in 2013. 
Participating in Kate on Thin Ice's #GetGrooving (Groovy Mums) helped me to focus my 2012 'Hopes and Aims' so I will be doing the same for 2013.  No one can predict the future.  How many of you have had things happen this year that you had no clue would ever occur?  Most I would think.  But a little planning never hurt anyone.  And things won't happen unless YOU make them.
With exception of all the normal things you hope a year will bring; good health; happiness for your friends and family; world peace; a lottery win; this post is all about the things that I can make, or help to make happen.
2013 Hopes and Aims
* Holiday of a Lifetime - To really make it that.  As this is the only time, I believe, we will be able to take J1 on this holiday we need to make it count.  Do absolutely everything we ever dreamt of doing and on coming home, have not one single regret. 
* Bike Rides - With the award of a bike for J1, we will be able to do that very simple pleasure of going for a family bike ride.  I want to ensure we do this regularly.
* Physiotherapy - For J1's physical strengthening to continue to improve through vigilant physiotherapy at home and school.  Great progress has been made with this and it needs to continue as he is growing fast.
* Social - We have started to get out and about much more socially as a family and it has been fun and it will be lovely to keep this going. 
* Swimming - Again this another simple family activity that has been a little difficult for us to achieve.  However, we have found a swimming pool with reasonable disabled facilities and if we enlist extra hands we can do this as a family.  J2 is also scheduled to start swimming lessons in March.  Safety first for our little fearless one.
* Home - Continue to improve our home and garden, including de-cluttering.
Really these all come down to one thing - enjoying our time together as a family.
* Writing - I have a few writing goals for 2013 :
- Continue with Camomile Crescent
- Enter at least two writing competitions
- First draft of my novel (when J2 starts Nursery in April)
- To attend a writing workshop in January (booked) and Britmums in June
- Research the book industry in general
* Blogging
- Continue to blog at least 2-3 times a week
- Raise profile of Lynsey The Mother Duck, via Facebook, Twitter etc
- Get a personalised design for my blog
* Social Media & Charity Work
- Continue to help the Charity GRACE with their Social Media. 
- Set up a GRACE blog
- Learn more about Social Media as a profession
* Running
- Continue to run at least twice a week for general health and fitness and maintain weight
- Join a running club or set up a 'running buddies' scheme
- Try and set up a 5K race whereby all racers jog with someone in a wheelchair
- Enter 5K and 10K races all year
- Complete half marathon in March
There are also two from last year that are important to ensure happen again this coming year :
* A weekend for just The Hubby and I
* One Spa session every three months (only achieved one of those this year - must do better!)
Again this might seem like an exhausting list but I will be focusing on them in small bite size pieces.  Most things can be achieved with good organisation, clever use of time and a bit of determination.
Have a think about what you want from your year - those things that you can have control over.  What can you make happen?  Baby steps of progress can make the world of difference to a mind that is feeling low, and once you start, you never know what you can achieve.
If you need more inspiration take a look at all the posts over at Kate on Thin Ice and see how others are getting on!

Monday, 26 November 2012

2012 : Achievement

I have been intending to join in with Kate on Thin Ice and the fantastic #Get Grooving initiative for a few weeks now.  Time has not been on my side.  However, although I may not have penned my post, it has been formulating and evolving in my mind, so I am not surprised that at my first opportunity to power up the laptop I have felt compelled to get it written.

I first started joining in with the 'Groovy Mums' blog hop at the end of last year and into the beginning of 2012 because it was a way of tracking what I was doing with my life.  I was entering a second year of being a stay-at-home mum.  I was used to not getting up and going out to 'work' and settled into my 24/7 job of raising two children. 

I craved some structure however.  Groovy Mums encourages you to look at ways to improve things in your life, and subsequently the lives of those around you.  To take steps to improve yourself, no matter how small.  To think about what you want out of life and think about how you can get it.

At the beginning of the year I set down a list of Hopes and Aims for 2012.  It was quite an extensive list and incorporated aims for us as a family and for myself personally.  After my initial post I wondered if I had aimed for a little too much in one year, given that I have a severely disabled son and an extremely hot headed Toddler to look after.

Then I slapped myself on the wrist.  That sort of attitude was not going to get me anywhere.  Instead of looking at the lengthy wish list as a whole, I decided I would focus on one or two items each month.  I am not going to go into a long detailed run down of them all, there are various posts already with updates.  The long and short is I achieved them all bar TWO.  And with that I am pretty damn proud.

What I am more proud of is, as I have been thinking about all of this, the realisation of all the extra things that have been achieved this year.  Not just little insignificant things either.  Big things :

* I started publishing some fictional writing.  I have never done this in the past purely due to fear.  I have also started working on a few 'novel' ideas that have been rattling around in my mind.  I have subscribed to a Writing Magazine, which has introduced me to lots of ideas, information and the idea that I might enter work into competitions. 

* I attended my first blogging conference and met some wonderful fellow bloggers.  This was also a nerve-racking step but I am so glad I took it.  Roll on BritMums Live 2013.

* We took the bull by the horns and applied for some specialist equipment for J1.  These were things that we had only ever believed to be 'wish' items, but I am so happy that we persevered.  They are going to make such a huge difference to all of us because they will open up activities for us to all enjoy that we have never been able to before.

* We also took the plunge and booked a family holiday of a lifetime.  We could have always been 'put off' by the amount of research and fact finding it requires but many incidences this year have made me very aware of how grown up J1 is becoming and we became determined that it could be made to happen.

* The Hubby and I have both found an individual hobby each to enjoy.  Mine is running.  I set a goal of participating in The Great South Run in October and am pleased to say I completed it.  My next goal is our local Half Marathon in March.

* I have started doing some volunteer work for a fabulous cancer charity GRACE.

So I think, as we hurtle towards the end of 2012, that if I had to use one word to describe our year it would be 'Achievement'.  This is very pleasing and I would like to think that as a family we can give ourselves a big old pat on the back.

What word would sum up 2012 for you?

If you want to make changes to your life, no matter how big or small, take a look at the inspiring posts from Kate on Thin Ice.  Kate encourages you to always keep going, even if you feel you may be treading water.  When you think about it, usually turns out you are achieving more than you think.  Link your posts to inspire others, or get inspired if you are lacking motivation.

Now I need to start thinking about what we can achieve in 2013 - the possibilities really could be endless...

Friday, 16 November 2012

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

It has been a bit of a mixed bag this week.  Not so much for me, but for those around me.  I really hope that my friends and family who have encountered sadness, loss and change within life find strength within the dark times. 

This has made me even more aware of the importance of finding the positives in your life and with this in mind here are my

* I should have attended Mumsnet Blogfest on Saturday.  I had purchased my ticket, arranged to see blogging friends made at Britmums Live in June and had stocked my blog-card holder.  However, National Rail thought it was acceptable for my already lengthy train journey into London, to be doubled due to multiple 'engineering works'.  I did not find the idea of having to leave my house at 4.45am and not return until approximately 11pm that night appealing and neither did my Husband think it would be safe.  So I had to forfeit my much looked forward to trip. 

What is there to be cheerful about that?  Well of course I do wish I could have found alternate transport, or had the money for a hotel so I could have stayed in the city the night before but my time wasn't wasted.  I started a long overdue 'House De-clutter' project.  So far living room and kitchen are complete.  Quite a lot more to do but I do keep looking around the living room and smiling.

* Further to Operation De-clutter above I also created a 'writing space'.  We have a fabulous little nook on our landing that is overlooked by the window.  It was screaming out for a desk so I could write, in good light with a lovely view of the farmers fields.  I kept saying I wanted an antique desk and a Tiffany style lamp.  Then it dawned on me, I already have a lovely desk.  Well it is a bureau that the Hubby procured for me when we moved.  It wasn't being utilised for writing where it was, so with some minimal changes it has been re-situated in the nook.  Just got to find a lovely Tiffany lamp to adorn it with now.

* Something happened this week, that although I can not go into details of, made me really appreciate my Husband.

* I got to go Wedding Dress shopping.  Not for me of course (although I would have happily tried on every dress in the shop) but for one of my oldest friends.  Watching her try on dresses brought a tear to my eye and in the end the dress picked her.  She is going to look stunning and I am very much looking forward to hearing about the planning and preparation and trying to help make it the best experience ever for both the Bride and Groom.

* I have taken steps to find my running mojo, which has been lost since my BUPA Great South Run Race.  The cold, dark, lonely nights are not inspiring to go out running in.  Through the web page for the local Half Marathon I am entered into in March, I have found some other people who are also looking for company whilst running and have been advised of a running group that is actually quite local to me.  I get the feeling I will not only find company but inspiration too.

So that is it for my week.  For more positive inspiration head over to Michelle at Mummy from the Heart for the 'Reasons to be Cheerful' #R2BC blog hop and find other cheery souls. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Guest Post : A response to 'that' Liz Jones article

I was supposed to attend Mumsnet Blogfest 2012, but due to unforeseen travel issues I was unable to make it.  I was disappointed.  The tweets being sent out really made it seem as if the lucky attendees were having a fantastic time.

Over the ensuing days I noticed that tweets were frequently mentioning outrage at one of the speakers, Liz Jones.  I did not follow up on what the issue was until a friend of mine, Sara Willcocks, who supports my writing, sent me the link to it.  She noted that she would be responding as it had enraged her so much, rightly so.  I will not do Ms Jones or The Mail the satisfaction of posting a link to their article.

It is one of many replies to the original piece and, I think,a very good one.  All in favour of Mothers everywhere say 'Aye!

Please put a sock in it Ms Jones - A reply by Sara Willcocks

I normally give Liz Jones’s column a very wide berth. But her ‘blogging mums’ headline caught my eye.   Never one to disappoint, it was as judgemental as I have long come to expect.  She might well complain bitterly about being driven from her not so cosy country retreat, but the reason is clearly a bit too close for Liz’s comfort.  Indeed, if she takes a long hard look in the mirror it might all become crystal clear.   After all, there is only so much unpleasantness one can take, and the good people of Somerset must surely have had their fill.

It’s not just her bluntness in proffering her opinion without thought or feeling for others. Or even the self-indulgent complaining that got my goat.  It is more her need to put down others while she’s doing it. Her lack of respect for those women, ‘the mums’, who paid good money to hear her prattle on about her own lucrative writing career, is nothing short of embarrassing.   Lucky Liz has the good fortune of a column in a phenomenally successful national paper.  Good on her.  It’s great that she’s got such a high platform to gloat from. Others are not so fortunate, but that does not mean to say that their own writing, via a blog or otherwise, should be denigrated  

One of my closest friends is a mummy blogger.  She writes about her life bringing up a severely disabled son.   I know for a fact that her writing has had a massively positive impact on other women.  Her blog has given them hope.  It has reinforced what they already knew, but couldn’t quite see through the tears: that being different doesn’t make a child any less perfect.   She is a shoulder to cry on, an ear to lend and a voice to be heard.  How dare Liz Jones, or any other person, trivialise what she, and the many women like her, are doing.   Her less than insightful judgement of women who choose to become mothers, and her reference to the burka and female freedom, was shameful.  Freedom comes in many guises. When a woman chooses motherhood it opens up a whole new world. These ‘duped’ women, who have chosen to skip past the glass ceiling, are no less free than any working woman in the western world. Arguably, they have more freedom than most.  Having the benefit of choice is one of the greatest freedoms of all.

Status Update : Sara is still awaiting any form of response from the Editor of Femail or otherwise - it seems they like to give it but not take it...

#OneWeek - Autumn 12 - New York New York

This is a photograph of me and two of my best friends from 2008.  This is my New York Posse.  The Gals.  My City Colluders.

The lovely lady (ML) in the middle lives in the UK.  We met at work and became firm friends over ten years ago.  She introduced me to the amazing city of New York, which I fell in love with as soon as I arrived, and also to the beautiful lady on the right of the photograph (DC).  ML and DC had been school friends in London but DC moved to New York with her family a few years previously.

DC was a character like no other I had met before, very much like New York, vibrant, loud and ambitious.  We became firm friends and ML and I visited her in New York on a yearly basis after 2008.

I have been to the great city in August (a bit smelly), September (full of sadness due to the atrocities of 9/11), December (Christmas - magical but shame about the company I had on that trip - needless to say it wasn't ML) and twice in November.

It is the November trips that I think we have all enjoyed the most.  I do not know why they were just fabulous.  New York is stunning in the 'fall' - Central Park is adorned with enormous trees glowing russet, amber and red making it feel warm and inviting.  The atmosphere on the street and in the shops was more friendly as the anticipated annual holiday of Thanksgiving came ever closer.

One year we just missed Thanksgiving and ML and I both noted on the flight home that we regretted it, having been there for the build up.  We agreed that our next trip would incorporate it, and it did.  It was wonderful.  The whole city closed early.  We excitedly made our way to Grand Central Station with thousands of others all hurrying home to their friends and family to enjoy a day of celebration.

November for me, always makes me think of those two visits to New York.  Of waking up in DC's apartment and seeing the Chrysler Building peeping through the window as I sipped my strong American coffee.  Of lining up our days worth of shopping bags and assessing whether we would fit it all in our case home.  Of longing for the Pink Stemmed Martini glasses (in the photo) and moving hell and high water not to break them on the journey home (or in various house moves come to think of it...) Of going to City Crab and having spicy shrimp and cocktails.  Of not being able to find 5th Avenue on my own, but finding the small liquor store that DC had given me directions to and purchasing the specific bottle of wine I was sent on the mission for.  Of the mouth-watering Angel Pasta from the cute little Italian minutes away from our home for the week.

Since J2 has been born I haven't been to New York (I was pregnant with him on my last visit).  Time has flown by, the economic climate has taken a serious nose dive and it is just harder for me to be away from the children and The Hubby as I have got older.  Time as a family is limited due to the type of job The Hubby does and so shaving that time down again to do individual activities is harder.

So I recall all of those happy memories I did get to make with two wonderful friends and cherish them.  Particularly at this time of year.

I am linking up with the #oneweek blog hop with Older Mum in a Muddle.  Check out other Autumn inspired posts here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

FICTION - Camomile Crescent - A Chance Encounter

For the previous instalments of Camomile Crescent please go here

Emma stared at the newspaper she had placed on the small kitchen table and tapped her cheek nervously with her finger.  She had been out and purchased it a good hour earlier, and despite having made and drunk her coffee, she still had not opened it.

"This is ridiculous." she said out loud to herself "You are only looking at what jobs are available, it's not like you are waiting to go into the interview."  Even so, her stomach still flipped over.  She had never had a job.  She had gone from school, to college, to University and then had the children.  She had never even had a Saturday job.

She filled her days the children had been at school, so far three weeks, catching up with all the household chores that needed doing.  All those things she wished she had time to do but never did.  Along with keeping on top of the day to day things; washing; ironing; making packed lunches she had been pleasantly busy and felt a real sense of achievement as she focused and completed her tasks.

Now her 'back log list' was coming to an end.  All rooms had been de-cluttered, pulled out and deep cleaned.  Toys had been sorted, fixed and stored in a logical order with labels to help the children maintain the new system.  She had been brutal in what was kept and what was donated to the local play-group and for the first time - in the history of having the children - all toys fitted into the numerous storage solutions that had been purchased over the years.  She had even undertaken a little bit of painting and now the hall and living areas were looking much brighter. 

Now though, she was facing the thing she had longed for, and now feared.  Time to do something other than look after the children.  Most people she had spoken to - albeit briefly she didn't have an abundance of friends - had questioned whether she would try to find a job.  What job she had no idea.  But it would make sense to help the families finances, which were always tight on Luke's Firefighter wage.  Even during the months when his side line of being an Electrician brought in some extra money, it was immediately paid off of the credit card or used for buying the children new essentials. 

The family had never been on more than a long weekend away, usually a caravan in a British seaside town.  They had plenty of fun but it was always over so quickly.  Emma and Luke had dreamt of being able to take the children on a holiday abroad, especially as they were all now potty trained and free from baby paraphernalia.  But try as they might to save, a serious of unfortunate events; a new oven; an exhaust for the car; all the school uniform;  meant any surplus money they acquired was spoken for and as such the 'Holiday Fund' account was still sitting at a rather sundry £90.

Only one person had told her to 'Enjoy herself.' when discussing what to do with her time.  Sarah the lady from number 27.  Emma had only recently discovered her name.  Emma had been walking home from dropping the children at The Academy one morning and Sarah had been out tending to her front garden.  As Emma neared, the women clipping her roses stood back, pondering her next move and had noticed her walking along.  She smiled warmly. 

"Hello!" she had ventured.  Emma returned the smile, quietly replied and nodded.  She was surprised when the lady continued "I don't think I have ever seen you without children?"  Emma laughed.

"Me either.  I have just dropped them all off to school." she verified.

"The Academy?  So lucky to have such a good school so close by.  I am hoping my daughter, Melanie, will teach there one day."  She took off her gloves and walked over to lean on the gate "She is just about to go off to University.  She's going to do Sports Science.  She wants to be a PE Teacher.  She has always excelled at sports, lucky thing.  She's doing some travelling around Europe at the moment, she is due back tomorrow.  That's why I am out here so early, trying to get all those things I would do over the course of the week done so I can spend the next week with Mel, before she leaves for the start of her term."  Emma was taken aback by the barrage of information from a women she had only ever nodded recognition too.

"Oh." Emma responded slightly unsure "Where is she going to University?"  This question prompted a further flurry of information and Emma wondered if she gushed about her own children in the same way as Sarah was about her daughter.  Probably she thought, they were her world, as Melanie obviously was to her parents.

"It's four you have got isn't it?" Sarah asked, tilting her head slightly to one side.  Emma was caught off guard with the sudden change of direction in conversation.

"Er... yes." she said with a lack of confidence.  Sarah laughed.  "Yes!" Emma reiterated shaking her head "Sorry, yes four, two sets of twins."

"Dear little things."  Sarah stated, then added winking "Well, they look like."  This time Emma laughed.

"Ha, sometimes.  No, they have definitely got better as they have got older.  And now they are all at school, they have less energy for fighting in the evening."

"Dream for you isn't it?" Sarah said "To finally have a bit of time for yourself."  Emma pondered this.  Yes it should have been.  But she had been struggling to find a new routine.  She just didn't really know what she should be doing with herself.

"It's..."  Emma paused "Odd."  She wanted to say, in actual fact it was petrifying.  That despite her best efforts at keeping busy she found herself pacing around at 2.30 in the afternoon wondering if it was too early to take the ninety second walk to the school.  Then she felt frustrated with herself.  At the first glimmer of that emotion she found something to clean, again, and pushed it aside.

She had found, however that she was becoming more short with Luke, when he invariably asked her what she had done with her day.  She knew it wasn't his fault that she had decided to stop having any other life outside of him and the children, but she just couldn't help it.  She felt foolish saying that she had spent all day cleaning and tidying and re-arranging.  He had commented how wonderful the home now looked, and she was grateful that he appreciated her full fledged efforts.  That had been a target since the children were born and it was satisfying to be fully on top of that at least.  Why wouldn't it be, she thought, it was all she had. 

Emma realised she had lost focus on what Sarah was saying, re-engaging as she said "A new routine just takes time, but just remember to make some time for yourself."  Emma forced a laugh.

"Oh yes, certainly!" The one thing she wasn't sure how to do, was just that.  Sarah tapped Emma's hand affectionately, which she had absent-mindedly rested on the gate.

"It's been lovely to chat to you.  It's madness I have lived in this road for so many years, yet I don't really know anyone.  Although," she said in a hushed tone "Some people I don't think I will be making an effort with." she nodded towards one of the larger detached properties, directly opposite Emma's modest semi-detached home. 

If memory served Emma correctly, the couple who had bought it had a son and daughter.  They looked like they were in their early teens.  Emma had seen them individually running into the gates of The Academy High School section, late, as she had been returning from dropping her own children several times over the last few weeks. 

Ellen.  That was the women.  She had no real idea who the man of the house was, when they had moved in there had been months of builders arriving and departing and Emma had given up trying to work out who was who.  She had seen a man coming and going daily certainly, but he left extremely early in the morning and usually returned at the time Emma was attempting to settle the children in to bed.  Sarah was right, they didn't seem particularly approachable so she would probably never need to know.  "Well, must get on, I am sure you have got plenty to be doing too."  Sarah concluded and both women had returned to their day.

Emma now drummed her fingers on the newspaper and sighed.  The day she had stood and chatted with Sarah had given her a spring in her step.  One to one adult conversation with another female had been such a change and had given her a buzz she missed and longed for, moreso now than ever.  She had heard some of the mothers at the school deciding to take their animated conversation at the gates to the local coffee shop and Emma had found herself forlornly watching them leave.  She desperately would have loved to have been involved in that sort of peer group but found herself struggling to get involved enough to get an invite.

Frowning at her own lack of self confidence, she pushed the chair back and made her way to the kettle.  One thing Emma loved was coffee.  It had been an essential ingredient for her to make it through the day for years and habits were hard to break.  Reaching for the sugar bowl, she remembered it was empty.  At one point Emma had been partial to three sugars, although she had got it down to one over the last few weeks she still needed it.  Opening the cupboard she scoured the cupboard for a new bag, failing to find one. 

"Grrrrrrr Luke!" she admonished him without him knowing it.  Luke had few bad habits but using the last of something and not telling her was one of them.  "I'll have to go back out now." she grumbled.  Making her way to the hall she pulled on her jacket and felt for her purse and keys.  Opening the front door she realised she did not have her phone with her.  Although she was only walking the short distance to the shop she didn't like to think the school couldn't get hold of her for a second.

It was quite an old phone, nothing like the mini-computers mobiles seemed to be these days.  But it made her contactable and she could text, which is about all she required it to do.  She couldn't work Luke's, it didn't  have buttons.  Emma liked the comfort of what she knew.  Advancement scared her, and she wondered if that fear was starting to hold her back in life?

Venturing out, for a second time, she pulled the old front door shut with a bang and set off down the small garden path.  She glanced along the road and saw one of her neighbours also coming out of her house.  As she closed the gate and started along the road she saw her neighbour grip onto her fence, sudden standing still with her head down, her long auburn hair covering her face.  Emma watched her warily, wondering what she was doing.  As Emma drew closer the women slowly started walking again, opening her own gate.  She stepped towards her car as Emma approached, suddenly gasping and pushing her hand against the door as if to help her stay up.  Emma looked around unsure what to do.  No one else was insight.  She could hear the women cursing.

""  Emma started "Are you OK?"  She didn't draw any closer but couldn't just ignore the her when she was visibly in distress.  The women seemed surprised to see her.

"I don't know." she replied her face showing discomfort.  

"Is there anyone, indoors, I can get for you?"  Emma asked glancing towards the house the women had just emerged from.

"I hate hospitals." The women said, more to herself before responding to Emma.  "No." the reply came hastily "No, my partners away on business."  The women seemed to compose herself a little, but Emma wondered if she had been crying, her eyes had the tell tale signs but otherwise she was immaculately turned out in a suit.  "I need to get back to my office."  At that she again started to rub her abdomen "Oh no."  she murmured.

Emma hated to see anyone in pain "I think you better go and get yourself checked out." she said unhelpfully.

"Can you drive?" the women asked her expectantly.  Emma could but rarely did, they only had one car and Luke used it most of the time.  If Emma needed anything requiring a car she usually waited for Luke and he drove her.

"Yes, but," Emma started.

"Great." the women interrupted "I think it would be better if you drive."  Taken aback Emma stood, staring open mouthed.

"But," she started again just as the women pounded her fist on the car door, face contorted in discomfort, cursing.  "OK."  Emma quickly agreed as the women shook the car keys at her.  She glanced at the car, a sporty little red number and with her heart racing she pressed the unlock button.  The women opened the passenger side door and Emma made her way to the other side.  As she stood by the drivers door she took a deep breath and exhaled "You can do this." she commanded herself.  She opened the door and got in, surprised at how small it was inside, she was only used to having to have a car the size of a mini van.

She looked by the steering wheel and then glanced at what she had in her hand.  Where was the key?  She looked the other side and briefly shot a look at the face of her passenger, who had her eyes closed and was rubbing her forehead.  At the lack of engine starting she opened her eyes and looked at Emma, who was looking quite clueless. 

"Oh, you push that button." she said, indicating with a immaculately manicured finger nail.  Emma felt a stab of envy as she noticed her own dry hands.  That was what constant washing up, cleaning and sorting wet laundry did, she thought.  Bemused by the lack of key she didn't speak but checked that everything else in the car was as she remembered it, at least there was a gear stick and clutch. 

Pressing the button as instructed the car roared into life.  She touched the steering wheel, gear stick, clutch several times before actually taking the plunge and pushing the car into first.  Feeling for the indicator as she glanced in the side mirror she tentatively jolted away.  The sharp kangaroo jump led her passenger to open her eyes again.

"Sorry,"  Emma blagged "So used to our people carrier."  She slowly crept up the street letting the engine rev a little too long between gear changes, but soon realised that she could still remember how to drive.  As she reached the end of the road and made to take a right her passenger groaned and sat forward putting her head in her hands.  As she wheel spun out on to the road she thought that at least she would have something different to tell Luke this evening.  It was as she was contemplating if she was going to make it through the lights that her companion spoke.

"I'm Danielle." she took a deep breath and leaned back on the seat.  Emma glanced over at her briefly and realised it was her turn to introduce herself.

"Emma." she responded concentrating fiercely on the road "Have you had this pain before?"

"For a day or so."  She paused and looked away "I'm pregnant."  Emma shot her a look again. "Crossing." Danielle warned Emma. 

Emma slammed on the brakes just in time.

"Sorry.  Again.  How far along..." she began.

"Oh I don't really know.  I'm not," she paused "keeping it."  She turned her head towards the window once more as she said it "It's not in our plans."  She continued "Children I mean.  We agreed, right at the beginning of our relationship."

"Oh," Emma said quietly "Are you going to contact, er,"

"Marc?" Danielle replied "No he is in Ireland at the moment.  I was going to deal with the situation over the next few days."  She groaned again and pulled her knees up a little "Now fate might have taken it out of my hands." 

Emma turned off of the main road and thought back to her own pregnancies.  Nothing could have stopped her having the twins and she would have been devastated if she had found herself in a situation that Danielle was currently in.  Different people she thought.

"Have you had any bleeding?"  Emma questioned.  One thing Emma did feel confident talking about was pregnancy and babies.

"A little, more brown colour than red though.  And then these god damn cramps.  Mind you, they seem to be easing off a little now."  Was that hope Emma heard in Danielle's voice?  Emma still didn't think the prognosis was going to be good, maybe Danielle was right, maybe fate had intervened.  Emma indicated and turned into the hospital grounds.  "Could you drop me by the door and then go and park?" Although it was a question, it was asked in a tone that indicated that was what Emma was to do. 

"Of course."  Emma obliged.  She drew the car to a stop and Danielle opened the door.

"I'll speak to the desk and meet you in there."  She put one leg out of the door and turned back "Thanks." Danielle seemed to be mentally preparing herself for entering the hospital building.  Emma pulled away round to the car park where she inexpertly managed to get the vehicle into a space eventually.  Emma was really quite proud of herself and had only been tooted at twice by other, impatient drivers. 

She assumed the engine was turned off in the same way it was started.  As the car silenced and settled she took stock of the situation.  She was currently sitting in a sports car, that belonged to someone she had never spoken to before and was likely going to have to support that person in one of the most emotional experiences of their lives.  Emma paused, would it be emotional though, when she didn't want the pregnancy in the first place?  Emma yet again realised how naive she was and how much life experience she didn't have.  She could only think of the world through her own eyes.

Checking there was no one around she leaned over and opened the glove box.  She found make up, deodorant, a bottle of perfume and spare tights all neatly packed in.  Emma thought of her own car, strewn with car seats, littered in sweet wrappers, empty juice cartons, toys, drawings and an abundance of crumbs.  Oh what would she do if she had her own little number like this she thought.  She could have Cd's of her choice for a start.    

She suddenly realised she was still sitting pondering in the car, whilst Danielle was waiting for her.  Hastily getting out and locking up she hurried across the car park.  It was then she suddenly became conscious of what she was wearing.  Although today, by luck, she had not thrown on a pair of soft comfort trousers she had at least grabbed jeans, they were her old bell-bottom style ones.  These were accompanied by a knitted jumper that had numerous pulls and had seen better days.  Just from looking at the other mums at the school she knew skinny jeans were now the fashion and for the first time since having the children it bothered her.  She was going to be forced to sit next to Danielle who, even in her pain and discomfort had managed to turn herself out perfectly.

By the time she got to the entrance of the hospital she could see Danielle in heated discussion with the lady on the desk and was unsure whether to approach.  She could hear Danielle stating that she categorically could not wait an hour and a half to be seen as she needed to be in a meeting by then.  It was only when Danielle paused, to obviously let a cramp pass that Emma thought she may need some support. 

"Hi!" she beamed at the lady on the desk "Can I speak with you," she discreetly pointed her finger to the side "In private." she mouthed.  The receptionist nodded and Emma encouraged Danielle to take a seat.  The receptionist looked at Emma expectantly, as if it was going to take a miracle to get her to do any favours for the women that was so rude.

"I'm sorry I wasn't sure where I was supposed to take her, I think she is," Emma paused and realised she did not want to say what she was going to have to say "She's er..." she stammered.  The receptionist raised her eyebrows.  Emma took a deep breath "I think she's having a miscarriage."  The receptionists face softened. 

"OK.  Give me a few minutes to speak to the right people."

"Thanks."  Emma said gratefully.  She went over to Danielle "Hopefully we won't have to wait too long."

"Thanks." Danielle said, somewhat defeated.  "I'm not a hoity-toity person you know.  This whole," She waved her hand "Situation - just couldn't have come at a worse time.  I'm flat out at work and," she looked around concern covering her expressions "I have a real issue with anything medical and " she didn't finish the sentence. 

"Is there anyone I can call for you?  Parents?  Sister?"  Emma tried again.  Danielle shook her head.

"No, I really do not want to have to tell my mum about this.  Marc said she would make too much fuss.  I'm an only child."  She looked thoughtful "I've got plenty of friends, but only two really close ones.  Matilda lives in the States now, she was the one who introduced me to Marc."  Danielle added.  Emma noticed that at this point her mouth turned into a small smile, as if remembering an affectionate moment. "And Nancy, she does live nearby but I haven't been able to get hold of her for weeks.  She's trying to get a big promotion at work." Danielle said as if needing to justify this fact to herself.  At that moment a nurse arrived and escorted them out of the waiting room, to the audible tutting of the other patients.

Emma waited on a hard plastic chair in the maternity seating area that she knew so well.  She absent-mindedly rubbed her stomach thinking of the last time she sat here when she was expecting the girls.  She had enjoyed her pregnancies, she loved all the extra attention she got from it, but knew how much hard work babies were once they came into the world.  Danielle had been shown into a private room for a consultation and examination.  Emma had thought Danielle might pass out, but didn't feel it was appropriate to offer to accompany her, given she had known her for about an hour.

Suddenly the door opened and the nurse summoned Emma in.  Emma looked around uncomfortably "Are you sure?" she asked. 

"Yes!" she heard Danielle shout.  Emma gathered her things and walked in.  Danielle was sitting in a chair, tissue in hand.  Emma stood awkwardly.  The nurse cleared her throat.

"I have tried explaining to Miss Marchant, that we need to do a scan, to see what is going on."

"And I have told the Nurse that I do not want a scan, that I am not," she looked from the nurse to Emma and swallowed hard "having it.  A baby I mean."  Emma sensed she had been called into referee, this was something she was proficient at having four, similar age children.

"We still need to know the situation."  The nurse pressed on "Even if you do decide not to go ahead with pregnancy, we would still probably need to do a scan to ascertain how many weeks you are."

"Why?  Why would you need to do that?" Danielle asked desperately looking pleadingly at Emma.  Emma opened her mouth to speak but the nurse beat her to it.

"Well, there are different ways to proceed, depending on how far along in the pregnancy you are."

"Oh." Danielle replied.  Emma was quite shocked that Danielle hadn't found this sort of information out, given that she seemed like a savvy women in all other respects.  Emma sensed Danielle had perhaps buried her head in the sand due to her medical fear.  Danielle suddenly crumpled and Emma felt a rush of empathy for her.

"It doesn't hurt, the ultrasound I mean."  Emma offered.  "I'll go in with you if you like."  Danielle nodded slowly as she tried to regain her composure.

"OK," the nurse said, a note of relief in her voice "Let me go and see if they can squeeze you in."  The nurse left closing the door gently behind her.  Emma looked out of the window, not sure what to say next when she heard Danielle speak quietly.

"Don't let me look at the screen."  Danielle looked up "Please, don't let me look at the screen, I don't want to see..." she didn't finish.

"I don't think they'll show us the screen."  Emma comforted gently.  The nurse returned with some water.

"Drink this for me and I'll take you along."  Danielle took the bottle and nodded.  Emma gathered up her scared companions designer handbag and coat for her as the nurse showed them out and along the corridor.  At the door to the ultra-sound the nurse went in handing over paperwork and speaking in hushed tones.  Danielle paused.

"I think I'm going to be sick."  Emma put down all the stuff she was holding and rubbed Danielle's back.

"Take some deep breaths, I think you're just really nervous."  Danielle closed her eyes and shakily breathed in and out.

"Come in, come in."  The Sonographer called.  They entered the darkened room.  "OK, which of you ladies am I doing?"

"This is Danielle."  Emma answered for them both gently moving Danielle towards the bed. 

"OK my love, I just need you to lift your top, and pull your bottoms down a little."  Danielle hopped onto the bed reluctantly drawing her top up as requested.  The Sonographer tucked paper towels into her clothes. "Just going to squeeze this jelly on - it might feel a bit cold."  Emma didn't think Danielle would notice, she was shaking like a leaf and had fixed her stare on the ceiling.  Emma took the seat next to the bed and suddenly felt compelled to hold Danielle's hand.  Danielle looked over to her and tried to smile but crumpled into tears.  Emma felt Danielle's grip tighten as the Sonographer started pressing around on her exposed flesh.

Emma flicked her eyes around the room.  She felt lucky, she had only ever experienced joy in these rooms.  A little fear, of course, when they said she was having a second set of twins, but the minute she saw the two little beans flying around the screen she had surged with love.  She had been able to share the most magical moment in the world with the man she loved and she suddenly felt guilty for being so grumpy with her husband of late. 

The only noise that could be heard in the room was the clicking of keys on the computer the Sonographer made every now and then.  "Well," the Sonographer said quietly "Everything seems to be fine."

"What?"  Danielle and Emma said in unison.

"What about the bleeding?  The cramps?"  Danielle questioned.  The Sonographer spoke carefully.

"It's not, uncommon, to experience those things.  Sometimes it has no reason, sometimes it can be attributed to the implantation period of the pregnancy..."  Danielle shook her head.

"Where?"  Danielle demanded.

"Where?" The Sonographer repeated confused.

"Where?  On the screen is it.  Show me."

"Danielle," Emma started.

"Let me see." Danielle asked.

"Er..." Emma flustered "I didn't think..."

"Please."  Danielle said almost pleading "Show me."

"If you're sure."

"Yes."  Danielle answered.  The Sonographer turned the monitor.  Emma saw it instantly, she had become very familiar with scans and working out what was what.  She could not stop the smile breaking out on her face.  Danielle on the other hand looked perplexed.  The Sonographer clarified for her.  Emma saw a slow look of wonder cross Danielle's face "Wow."  Danielle mustered. 

Emma knew in that moment a different women was born.  A women that wanted her baby.  And from the squeeze and smile that Danielle now gave Emma as the Sonographer continued to talk she felt a bond, a friendship beginning.  With neither women knowing how much one chance encounter would change their lives.