Saturday, 30 June 2012

Special Saturday : Special Needs in my Life

Special Saturday is a great hashtag. It encourages everyone with whom Special Needs features in their lives, to write about it, status check it, tweet about it and link up in order to try and raise awareness of living with Special Needs. As you know I am always interested in any ways and means of raising awareness for this very reason (hence why I started The Disability Diaries) so I will be joining in this fantastic movement.

This week the wonderful Special Saturday prompt was to start your thoughts with

'Sharing my life with a person with Special Needs has...'

These are my thoughts:

Sharing my life with a person with Special Needs has rocked my world.  In a multitude of ways.

Firstly it rocked my world by oblitarating life as I knew it.  Kind of in the way that Superman hurls his enemies into space to float around in a timeless, impossible void.   I couldn't grasp the concept that my baby had suffered brain damage.  But there it was.  Quite literally in black and white on the scan.  A mark the size and shape of a thumb print on the left hand side of the brain.

Then my world was rocked back to shape by seeing the amazing miracles and achievements that my little boy was making everyday.  Will he walk?  No.  Will he sit?  No.  But he can tuck away a three course meal with pleasure and enjoyment and that is sadly something so many of the other wonderful Special Needs children we know can not do.  I learnt to be thankful for all the things he could do rather than resent all the things he couldn't.

Sometimes my world gets rocked and crushes me down.  Like today.  Whilst having a stretch out on his bed, from which he can see into the garden he said to me 'I can hear my brother, what is he doing?'  To which I replied 'He is on the trampoline.'.  He sighed and said 'I can hear him laughing.  He is having fun and giggling.  I can't do that.'  C.R.U.S.H.E.D.

Then there are days when my world rocks me into action.  I get up and think today I am going to get somewhere with XYZ equipment issue / person to chase / quote to get / charity to approach / school meeting.  I call and pester.  I email and leave messages.  I write letters and research things, until I feel I have made some small step forward. No matter how small it is.

There are also the days to recount when I have met some of the most wonderful people ever.  People who I really do not think I would have met had it not been for my son with Special Needs being in our life.  They are warm, loving, enthusiatic, friendly, open minded, strong and inspiring.  They are the teachers, teaching assistants, volunteers, helpers, carers, who help to look after my son when I am not there.  They are a special breed of human.  A wonderful one.  Their kindness rocks my world.

Sharing my life with someone with Special Needs has, I think made me a better person.  I used to be scared of and ignorant to disability.  I had never had any experiences with anyone who had disabilities or serious illness.  Now I understand that you smile and say hello and chat to that person in a wheelchair, or using crutches and the person standing by their side supporting them.  You chat to them as you would absolutely anyone else.  You don't look past them and make them invisible.  You ask about their disability and take an interest in that person. 

My sons Special Needs are great and varied.  They have caused issues to arise that I never would have dreamt would be something we would deal with under the umbrella of Cerebral Palsy.  But on the other side of the coin, his Special Needs have made our family closer, united, stronger.  Typically I would say we are a family who would usually take a backseat.  Just go with the flow.  Take what is said as what is right. 

You can not take that type of stand for your child with Special Needs.  You have to be strong.  You have to question.  You have to argue for what you think is right for your child and not just take the word of a professional, because chances are they will have only spent mere minutes (sometimes seconds) reviewing your child.  You know every inch of them.  You have to get your child the voice they can not yell with.

Sometimes I think I do a wonderful job, as a Special Needs mum.  Sometimes I think I do not fight hard enough for him.  We do not have every piece of equipment he probably needs.  We do not have some of the luxury items he could have to help enhance his life.  Sometimes it is hard, to get through everyday and on top of that find all the energy needed to do that extra fighting.  Other days it isn't hard.  Other days it is wonderful and I realise that sharing my life with a person with Special Needs has opened my eyes.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

The return of an abcess has taken the wind out of my sails a little today.  In addition to this I think the muggy night sent the option of a comfortable sleep for J2 into space, so we are running a little under fuelled. 

So, what better time than to think about all the positive things from the week, and boy it has been a busy and active week!  So without further ado, these are my multitude of reasons to be Cheerful this week.

1. BritMums Live 2012 was everything that it hyped itself up to be.  Two intense but laughter filled days were spent at a beautiful venue in the heart of London.  I came away with new friendships, lots of information, a tonne of goody bags and a photograph of myself with Ruby Wax.

2. My wonderful and generous husband booked me into a very swish hotel, The Montcalm, next door to the venue as a surprise.  It was so nice to know that I did not have to trot around London getting back to the hotel.  The very nice receptionist also upgraded me to a Club Suite so I felt even more spoilt.  If we could have taken a time machine to extend the length of the evening it would have been lovely if the Hubby could have indulged with me.

3. As another surprise The Hubby came and picked me up from the event on Saturday night from the doors of the venue.  This was much appreciated as I could barely carry all the bags of freebies accumulated over the course of two days and I am not sure I would have made it to the station without the assistance of a taxi.  It was such a heartwarming moment, although feeling sad at leaving some amazing women and a plethora of memories made, to walk out and see them smiling faces of the Hubby and Children.

4. Having a short break away is and was fantastic, but there is nothing like some time away from home and your family to make you want to get back to them.  I do love (and require) some 'alone' time every now and then but chaos of everyday SAHM life does keep me fit and young at heart.

5. The last two months have been extremely hectic, busy and social.  So it is with a small 'Oh my word' that I find myself with only a week to get packed for our holiday.  However, I like it when good things creep up on you because we now have a week of excitement before we depart, which will fly for me as I descend into a frenzied week of washing, ironing, lists, purchasing and packing.

6. We confirmed that we have managed to get a 'Wheelchair Bike' for our holiday for J1.  I will never forget the excitement in his voice when he said 'Daddy and Bob-Bob [Uncle] will ride with me!'

7. We confirmed that we have got places booked on the High Wire Challenge (post will come out of that I am sure).

8. I have got my first 5K race on Friday night.  I am running well into 5K comfortably now so I am really looking forward to it.  It will be good to log a time so that over the next few weeks, when I have got various 5K races signed up I can see if I can beat it.

9. A very dear friend, that sadly suffered a miscarriage earlier this year confided that she is 14 weeks pregnant.  I am thrilled beyond belief for her and her husband.

10.  J2 and I found a fantastic 'J2 age appropriate' park, just a five minute walk from our house.  Anything that burns of some of J2's copious amounts of energy is always a positive thing.  Let's hope that the Summer might decide to make a more permanent appearance soon.

For other mood lifting posts fly over to Michelle at Mummy From The Heart.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Lost Virginity

Before any of you wonder, no this isn't some '50 Shades of Grey-esque' type of smutty post - sure I have now lost 90 percent of readers who came to view but...  I am referring to my 'Blogging Conference' / 'Cyberspace Writing' / 'BritMums Live' virginity.

Yes, I have been de-flowered.  Two intense days of hard and fast workshops, networking, learning, laughing, talking, eating, drinking, goody-bag receiving and I am almost as exhausted as when I ran the Marathon!

It would be much easier if I could say that the £49.99 was not worth every penny, but alas I can not do that.  First point to note, I think I possible ate and drank that much on it's own.  I am not sure I have even been to a wedding that has been so well and generously catered for.

The venue was well chosen, beautiful character with a modern twist - much like most of the wonderful attendees.  I was amazed at the tireless efforts of The Brewery staff to get rooms clean, tidy and re-assembled in the matter of minutes. 

The atmosphere, created by the organisers, the keynote speakers, the sponsors in The Hub and the attending bloggers was highly charged, fun and emotional.  Workshops I attended ranged from 'lecture style' to 'open floor discussions' and it was good to have the range.

For me personally, I found The Path to Getting Published and How to Create Your Own E-Book workshops extremely useful.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the frank and open forum created by Ellen, Kate and Annie in 'Sod The Stats - Blogging for Happiness' Discussion Den.

In the space of 48 hours there were tears at 'from the heart' open discussions, laughter, sore feet, and hangovers a plenty.  I got to meet lovely celebs Ruby Wax, Sarah Brown, Judy Murray and Katy Hill. 

But the thing that I will take away with the most happiness, is the wonderful opportunity I got to meet the most amazing, inspiring, strong, funny, confident and unique women writers.  They really all were as fabulous as their writing.

So, to Jen, Susanne and all the staff and volunteers that made this Brit Mums Live 2012 possible (and boy, I can not begin to imagine the hours, blood, sweat and tears it took to co-ordinate) I Thank You - it was a blast and I can't wait for 2013!

For other accounts of the Brit Mums Live conference visit the Brit Mums Blog

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Garden Plan - How is it progressing part 2

With the return of the sun for, an albeit, brief period I have been able to get out in the Garden and continue on with some of the 'The Garden Project'.

Tidying Up The Front of the House

I was beginning to worry that the rain would never stop and I would not get this planted up.  Plus the plants were all starting to flag in their little temporary plastic homes.  But luckily last Wednesday I was 'sans J2' and thus could safely spend some time out in the front of the house.  I wasn't sure what I was going to produce, but was pleased with the end product. 

This photograph doesn't really do it justice, especially as now a week later the bedding plants have all started to come into bloom, so there is a lovely variety of blue, pink and white now.  But this does show it has been cleared and planted up.  One more item to tick off of the to do list.

The Greenhouse

I was pleased with the progress in the Greenhouse on the last update and I am pleased to say I have now completed what I wanted to in there.  The extra vegetables (courgette, cucumbers, purple sprouting broccoli and yellow tomatoes) have now been planted up so the soil side is quite packed. (This photo shows when they were just planted, they have grown an awful lot in the last week).

The seeds and trugs are also doing well.  The lettuce has already been harvested and eaten and now I am hoping it grows as quickly again so we can enjoy some more. 

The strawberries are nicely laden with new little growing strawberries.

Pots and Hanging Baskets

Are all coming nicely into bloom now and have really filled out from when originally planted.  We have decided that my four roses that I purchased with Wedding Gift money are looking rather unhealthy and I think they need bigger pots and some love and attention (feeding).  I would love to get them planted up but there is just no space so bigger pots I am hoping will do the job.

To Do...

There is still much tidying to be done and a fair bit of weeding in the front and back.  But I do think I have finished all of the planting now.  Of course as I write this the rain and gale force wind has set back in so we wait and hope for the sun and 'summer' to return. 

I am also reluctant to spend money on the childrens patio set if we are constantly going to be running out to pack it up and get it in the shed.  Also no sun, means no BBQ's which kind of defeats the object.

But, since I started 'The Garden Project' I have my beady eye on a very special swing for the Garden... that will take a wheelchair...

For other 'home-maker' updates and inspriation visit 'Making it As Mummy' feature Making it Home.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Shake Up

Lynsey The Mother Duck will be a year old in August.  I am very proud of it.  I knew I loved writing but being a mum to a child with severe disabilities, a riotous toddler and Hubby who was working away most weeks, I wasn't sure how much time and energy I would feasibly have to dedicate to it.

Some weeks it gets more love than others; largely dependent on how willing to entertain himself J2 is at any one time during the day.  I have managed to attract a slow but sure growing audience and The Mother Duck also now has its own Facebook page and Twitter account. 

I have found some incredible and inspiring blogs, some funny, laugh out loud blogs, some deep and meaningful blogs, some creative blogs.  I have met 'virtually' some amazing people who's insights and supportive words have gone a long way. 

I have received heartwarming comments from some who say reading the Disability Diaries posts have opened their eyes; made them realise they are not alone in feeling the way they do; given them inspiration.

Overall I have to say the first (almost) year with Lynsey The Mother Duck blog has been an extremely positive one and I am looking forward with excitement about what the next 12 months might bring.  Particularly as after Easter 2013 J2 will be off to Nursery for 'standard issue' hours and this should mean I get some good solid time to develop it further and my writing ambitions in general.

But as good as everything is, all blogs are a work in progress.  I always think it is beneficial to stand and take stock every few months.  To question what is working and what is not.  If it is does it need improving and if not why not.  This is certainly applicable to Lynsey The Mother Duck. 

I personally feel that the best blogs I read are the ones that have a theme, or purpose.  Generally I have sought them out for being specific and relatable to what I want to know / read / find out about.  It is great to read comments on the networking sites talking about 'Whatever Blog' that really tackles the subject of 'XYZ'.  These seem to be the ones that make it to 'the next level'.

My biggest issue with The Mother Duck is that exact thing.  I feel it's content is somewhat scattered.  Then again, it is a family life blog, and what is family life if not an array of scattered and random events and incidents that inspired us to write about them.  I have considered if I should make it all about The Disability Diaries but we strive to not make life all about J1's disabilities, so do not feel this would be fair.  I also get a lot out of posting about personal challenges and / or hopes and do not want to exclude being able to do this.  Then of course there is a creative side to the Mother Duck which has paddled it's way to the surface in recent months.

It is a difficult one.  I tried setting a 'post schedule' once before to try and get some organisation to the blog, but I felt I had 'failed' if I missed one.  As all bloggers with small children will understand, there are many variable factors that affect how much time can be dedicated to writing / blogging in any one week.

Maybe I need to sit down and really think about what I would like the blog to achieve and what I would like to achieve myself.  What do you as my audience think of posts?  Do you feel the blog could do with more direction?  Is it too adhoc?  I think that I could certainly make use of the 'Pages' feature, and perhaps run themes through these, like I have done for The Disability Diaries.

Let's hope that the 'BritMums Live 2012!' conference this week helps me to find some clarity!

Monday, 11 June 2012

The 2012 Plan - A six month review

At the beginning of the year I set out some 'Hope and Aims' that I would like to achieve, both personally and as a family in the post 'The 2012 Plan'.  I thought it was best to break the - quite extensive - list into bite size pieces by choosing a few to focus on each month.  Progress of these were outlined in posts 'The Plan - January', etc.  I paused this quest during April as we had our move date approaching as a rapid rate.  May saw us unpacking and settling into our new home and I am pleased to say a newer, healthier living lifestyle.

So with us now well into June I thought it was high time for a mid-year review and an action plan for achieving those aims not yet fulfilled. 


Continue to encourage J1 to try new activities and adventures to help with his fine and gross motor skills and his speech :
Ongoing.  We have been trying out all the sensory rooms at our local special needs activity centre and continue to try and get extra swim sessions whenever possible.  We have also managed to secure a special 'Duet' bike for our holiday.  As mentioned in last weeks 'Special Saturday' post J1's speech is developing amazingly well.

- Be more vigilant with J1's home physiotherapy, even though he complains :
Also ongoing.  J1's new (bigger) standing frame has now arrived and been fitted so that is all positive.  We have also ordered some new 'swim aids' in anticipation of muchos swimming on holiday.  Hmm this might be the first the Hubby is hearing of this...

- Help J1 school fundraising group :
Not done too much with this so far apart from donating items for raffle and tombola for the school fete next month and volunteering The Hubby and my Dads services in helping set up the tables. 

- Try and find new and suitable activities for the whole family to participate in at weekends :
We were making reasonable progress with this at the start of the year but the move and home making has taken up most weekends of late.  I am sure we will get back to it with full force when the summer weather arrives.  Always assuming it IS going to arrive (sighs whilst looking at the driving wind and rain outside of the window...)

- Potty train J2 :
This was always an aim for the 'summer' months (easier drying abilities!).  Up to this point we encourage J2 to go on the potty (or on the trainer seat) first thing in the morning and before and after his bath.  This was going well.  Then we went through a 'stubborn' phase (read - wouldn't look at the potty let alone sit on it) but now we seem to have come full circle and he is undertaking it with gusto again.  In actual fact as I sit here typing, J2 is sitting next to me for his 'experimental' hours in 'big boy pants' and so far no accidents but two successful potty visits.  Hoorah.

- Start weekly swim sessions with J2 again :
This has taken some time to get going but I am pleased to say we are now back to the 'Under 5's' swim session.  This has actually been two fold in achievement.  Not only are we getting J2 back in the pool but if my mum comes along I get to have a half hour swim afterwards.  This is great as my 'non impact' exercise session on my running training plan.

- Cook 'real' meals at least 4 times a week and re-start my favourite recipes folder :
This has been achieved for the most part and with my new running regime is coming into effect a 'healthier eating' menu.  Not sure this is going to go down that well with the Hubby and Kids... I also might start linking up with the 'Monday Meal Planning' linky over at At Home with Mrs M.  It'll be good encouragement to set out a menu for the week so I know exactly what groceries to buy.

- Bake something new with the boys at least once a month :
This was progressing really well, with baking taking place almost weekly.  Since the move all the baking stuff was boxed up and remained that way.   However with the imminent approach of our Jubilee Party I had to set to, unpack it all  and set up a 'baking area' in the utility room. I christened the 'baking area' with a traditional Victoria Sponge for the Bank Holiday.

- Start some basic learning plans for J2 for towards the end of the year :
To do.

- Do house filing once a month and keep on top of it all :
Not touched, nada, nothing, nowt.  It's all been thrown in a box somewhere and is probably lurking beneath other untouched boxes in the garage...

- Start saving for a big family holiday :
Although saving hasn't technically started yet, discussions, action planning and researching has.  For the big holiday plans we would like to undertake it is going to take some serious logistical organisation and research to ensure everything will be possible and as 'problem free' as it can with regard to J1 and his needs.  All steps in the right direction for that dream vacation.

- Child - proof new garden for the kids to use in spring :
We didn't end up needing to child-proof - instead we moved!  This garden is child-friendly and much has been blogged about already (see The Garden Project 2012 and The Garden Project Progress for more information on this one).


- Try and find a bit more personal time to do the following :

- Make at least 3 blog posts per week
Achieved!  I am so pleased with the slow but sure development of the blog.  It is still finding it's way, but with the Disability Diaries getting such a good response I am certainly going to continue focusing some posts on raising awareness of living with special needs / disabilities in our lives.

- Write first draft of my series of childrens books
On going.  Notes are now all computerised.

- Read at least 1 book a month
Yes, achieved (just finished the first in the series of Alexander McCall Smiths '44 Scotland Street') and with the Kindle I received for my birthday I can download books almost at the speed of light.  Am currently reading a great book called 'Saul : Between Two Eternities' by Rosemary Kay.  It follows the story of a premature baby - but here is the fantastic bit - from the eyes of the premature baby.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G writing.

- Start taking more photographs and learn how to edit them
Making a big effort to take more photographs but do not get the time to edit them at the moment.

- Try and run twice a week, establish some safe routes
I am most proud of this one in the last three weeks.  I have really focused and put my mind to it and have been getting out for at least three runs and also doing one non-impact training session.  Moving has been a key factor in this as I can now run along the seafront which is both interesting and relatively safe (busy).  I have found a great website called which allows you to plot specific routes and logs all your information to build a portfolio of your training.  I am loving getting home and logging my run details in, it gives you a real sense of achievement. 

I have caught up with some running magazine reading for inspiration and training plans and have booked myself into numerous races with the 'goal' being the BUPA Great South Run at the end of October (10 miles).  Of course the big question is 'To Marathon or Not to Marathon' in 2013.  Watch this space.

- Continue to learn about gardening and possibly go to The Chelsea Flower Show :
When I mentioned the Chelsea Flower Show on here back in January, it was a mere pipe dream.  Then after disclosing to my mum that I would love to go she booked it for my birthday.  So off I went for my first CFS on a baking hot Friday in May.  It was a fabulous day out, made even more fabulous by the glorious weather.  Inspired I set about my own Garden Project as mentioned earlier and am enjoying seeing my efforts starting to come into bloom now.  Just wish there was some more sunshine to carry on the tasks.

- Continue to try and make an effort with my appearance as it is making me feel better
I make an effort when I know I am going out generally and did treat myself to a shopping splurge at Next a few weeks ago.

- Enjoy any available one to one time with Hubby and take opportunities to go out
We are trying to do this and had a very welcome and unexpected evening together last week.  It was wonderful and we both felt a lot closer for it.  We have a few events in the pipeline that is 'just us two' that we are very much looking forward to.

- Treat self to a spa afternoon once every 3 months
Although this hasn't happened yet this year I am banking them up, so I have four afternoons to look forward to in the second half of the year.  Also I got a fantastic birthday card from my best friend, who unfortunately lives faaaaaaaaaarrr away (well Cardiff) gifting me a Spa Day for my birthday.  Spa Day and catching up with the fabulous Ms.L, good times.

- Plan one weekend away a year, just Hubby and Me :
I think I have mentioned before we are hoping to get the same weekend away as last year for a black tie charity ball in Cardiff towards the end of the year.  We did have an overnight stay booked for May but a stomach bug the day before (for me, of course) put paid to that.

- Try and stop being so Gung-Ho with 'No' to new ideas and suggestions (although I do normally come round to them eventually)
I am probably not the right person to be updating this one.  I am not sure that I have been 'gung-ho No' to everything but I tend to be a bit more practical about things which sometimes seems boring.  One thing I am not going to relent about however is getting a dog.  This is not a 'gung-ho No' - that is a thought about - can not think of one single good reason No.  No.

- Try and be more positive on believing in what I can achieve :
Without sounding corny The Hubby has so much belief in me - all the time - that he has really helped with this one.  He believes in my ability to write a novel more than I do.  He gives me the lifestyle opportunity that will give me the best chance at writing it once J2 goes off to school, or maybe even nursery.  Anything I mention I might like to try he says 'Try it.' 
My mum also introduced me to a programme called 'Losing it with Jillian'.  From this I have bought a couple of Jillian Michaels books.  They are not all about weight - loss (I am not trying to lose weight) but they are about positive lifestyles (using exercise, good diet and positive mental attitudes).  This is all good for me, given that sometimes I am prone to get down about J1 disadvantages in life - which is no help to him. 

So I do not believe that is bad going for the half way point in the year.  All but three have had some action taken, not too shabby at all.  Apologies if this got slightly long and boring.  Needed to write it to get some clarity for the mind.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Photo Sunday - My garden work starting to bloom

 Purple Sensation Allium - slowly opening

Blue Convolvulus Springing to Life

Hot Pink Geranium in Bloom

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Special Saturday : Latest Achievement

Special Saturday is a great hashtag.  It encourages everyone with whom Special Needs features in their lives, to write about it, status check it, tweet about it and link up in order to try and raise awareness of living with Special Needs.  As you know I am always interested in any ways and means of raising awareness for this very reason (hence why I started The Disability Diaries) so I will be joining in this fantastic movement.

This weeks Special Saturday theme is 'Latest Achievement'.  I mention frequently that I am amazed and astounded at what J1 achieves on a daily basis, be it an attempt at rolling, or getting him to do just one extra movement during physio, reaching and pincer holding something or counting to 5.  He does so much that fills me with pride, that it is difficult to think of one thing to highlight.

However, I have got to say that this week, with it being half term, and obviously getting much more one to one time with him, he has opened my eyes to how much more he is comprehending.  A fabulous example to give of this is the 'Days of the Week'.  For some time now, thanks to his wonderful school and teachers, he has been able to recite the days of the week.  It has been in a parrot like fashion and this on its own has been pleasing. 

But, in the last few days we have had very clear and concise (again another improvement that I could only have dreamt about a few years ago) conversations about what is happening on particular days of the week.  In addition to this he has quoted the correct days when asked questions; that is - what was yesterday; what is today; what day will it be tomorrow. 

This extra ability to demonstrate real comprehension of such things is something, I have to admit, I did not think would ever happen.  He is starting to show real development in his mental capabilities that is just stunning to me.  Some of those things that I grieved he might never be able to do are now becoming a reality and other realms of possibility are starting to open up and become reachable.

I guess the moral of this story is, never underestimate what your child can do.


Friday, 8 June 2012

The Disability Diaries (The Life of J1) : Dark Days - The Big Day : Marathon 2006

Final part in a series of 'Dark Days' posts for Disability Diaries Feature. 

View parts one, two, three.

Beating depression is a highly personal thing.  Unless your mind, your brain, your thoughts want to banish it there is nothing anyone else can do, or say to make any difference.  If you are lucky enough to dispatch it out into the great unknown, that does not mean that it is going to stay floating out in space leaving you in peace for the rest of your days. 

For me, having suffered with depression for a short period in my life - in reaction to discovering my baby boy had suffered brain damage, with the consequence being he is afflicted with the condition Cerebral Palsy - I feel relatively safe that I can keep depression at bay.  I think it would take something pretty huge and grandscale, like what happened to J1 to take me back to that stage.

But I am mindful.  I was obviously susceptible to a degree, otherwise I would have made it through that period without anti-depressants.  To that end I respect, more than ever, the power of the mind and the need to keep it healthy, as much as the need to stay physically fit in order to be able to care for J1.

I was helped out of my personal 'black hole' with the help of science, but also with the suggestion of some good old fashioned 'Health and Fitness'.  From this suggestion I fell in love with running for the first time and decided that I needed to face a challenge.  A real challenge that could try and give me some tiny, small insight into what sort of strength J1 would need to have on a day to day basis.

I applied for a Gold Bond place with a charity to run the London Marathon 2006 and was successful.  After months of training, that in my opinion now should have been much more dedicated, we found ourselves at that wonderful weekend in April.  The roads of London were closed off.  The Mall was adorned with Union Jack flags.  Hotels were booked up with crazy Marathon wannabes.

We decided to make a family weekend of it.  My parents booked us a family room at a hotel for three nights and on the Friday morning, packed like loaded donkeys we took J1 on his first train journey to London.  It was exciting from the start.  We had a packed weekend, starting with going to the Expo to register at the Excel centre. 

It was wonderful.  A world of running and adrenaline surrounded me as I went from one stall to another, ate pasta and picked up all of my equipment needed for The Big Day.  A chip for my shoe.  A running number.  A bag for all of my personal belongings with '2006 London Marathon' emblazoned on it. 

On Saturday we were invited to a Pasta Party with the charity.  It was a fantastic boost as I got to meet other runners and hear their own personal stories of what had brought them to this point.  J1 got an amazing reception and many attendees said meeting him reminded them even more it had been worth all the effort of training.  It was a beautiful afternoon so we took J1 for his first ever visit to Hyde Park and enjoyed the City of London.

Out of everything, the thing I was most worried about was making my way to the starting point for the Marathon.  I have zero sense of direction.  I needn't have worried.  As I left the hotel I found myself constantly surrounded by other running attired people and at that time of the morning on a Sunday very few others.  The tubes were opened freely for travel by runners as part of the Marathon and there was a wonderful, excited buzz on the journey. 

Once off of the tube there was a fair walk to the start.  It was a unique sight seeing all the different running vests bobbing along.  By some miracle, both colleagues who I knew were also running I bumped into on the walk and it was nice to see a familiar face.  It helped take some of the pre-start anxiety away. 

I decided to be sensible and use the bathrooms before I joined the masses to get through the start gate.  That is quite a feat in itself.  There are plenty of toilets, but the queues for them are massive.  When I see the overhead shot on the TV now it always makes me smile.  Again, everyone just found it an opportunity to chat to others.  By the time I got through that queue the bulk of people had made their way through the start, so I didn't have to wait long before the big starting arch was in my vision.

With a lurge in my stomach, I checked I had everything where I needed it.  Felt that the chip on my trainer was secure for the millionth time.  Started, stopped and cleared my own stop watch and gamely set off on my Marathon Quest 2006.

It was still super busy at the start so I couldn't get running until about a mile in, and the excitement of it all; the crowds rows and rows deep full of cheer and support; the television cameras; the bunting and advertising meant I was at Cutty Sark before I realised it.  The next marker was Tower Bridge.  Half way.  They register your time here on your chip so all I could hear was 'beep, beep, beep, beep' of the runners times being captured, a memory stored forever.  My next marker was the Charity Cheering point at mile 18.  I was starting to feel it by the time I reached this point and was glad to see my family and J1, wearing his 'Run Mummy Run' T.Shirt. 

I took the opportunity to change my shirt and pick up extra sweets here.  It had rained non stop from the start and I was saturated and chilly.  I don't know if the stop was the trigger to hitting my wall, but at mile 19 I walloped into it with force.  The next four miles were bleak.  It is a pretty dull part of the race with scarce crowd support (it might have been due to the torrential rain which had by now set in of course). I was back to be absolutely soaked to the skin. I was sick of my sweets and Kendal Mint cake.  I had had enough and wanted to give up.  In the darkness of one of the tunnels I stopped.  I wanted to sit down and never run another step again.  I wanted to get a lift to the end. 

It was here I realised the importance of having a strong mind when doing a distance like the Marathon.  I had ignored this element of it and now I was suffering.  I had to go back to my key thoughts of 'I have the ability to do this run or walk, my child does not.' 

I plopped a tear as I realised that I had no clue where I was.  No phone signal to get some moral support and the only thing I could do was carry on.  After this low the rain eased up a little.  Then I saw it, the magical sign for 23 miles.  My final marker before the end.  I had trained my mind to repeat the following mantra on long runs - 'Only three short miles to go.'  As I crept out onto Embankment the support from the crowd lifted again to the heights it had been at the start.  I decided to start jogging again.

Three miles, at 23 miles is not short.  But as the two mile marker came into view I couldn't help feeling a buzz.  I was looking forward to running up the Mall to the Marathon music and to meeting my family at the end.  Just as I was coming into the Mall I heard my name being screamed.  As I looked I saw my family had managed to get to the front. They had lifted J1 out of the warmth and dry of his buggy and was waving his arms around.  He was in hysterics  and loving it and this pushed me to sprint the final 'point two' miles. 

Going over the finish line was immense.  I donned my medal and spotted a photographer and thought 'I have to have this picture'.  Lovely volunteers were wrapping me in foil and giving me drinks and asking how I felt at completing the Marathon?  I didn't know.  I felt exhausted and elated but it hadn't sunk in that I had actually completed that challenge I set myself the October before. 

It didn't sink in for a while either.  Everyone else who had supported me were more excited than I was.  It felt great to get my photos from the race arrive, and to see my name in the list of finishers in the newspaper.  My work did a follow up article about how I did.  Nowadays it is something I look back and think wow, what an amazing experience - how did I do that?

After the Marathon I came off of the anti-depressants.  I went back to my proper work hours and our life had truly started to have routine, that included all the world of disability and we were coping.  As I say, the sadness of it doesn't go away completely.  But I had made my way through the grieving process and had finally got to acceptance.  That had taken longer than 26.2miles and had been far tougher than the Marathon.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

This post is a little later than normal as it has been quite a busy week.  As usual with The Great British weather, I learnt from the reports our run of sunshine was to be short lived, so I decided I had to make the most of it and get outside to have fun with the kids, garden and exercise, thus the blog took a bit of a back seat.

Then of course, the chilly days and rain set in and in amongst trying to get the house a little straighter I have managed to start putting together a few posts to get out this week.  So no better time, with the grey skies putting a bit of a dampener on the (extra) long Diamond Jubilee weekend, to think happy thoughts and sum up 'What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?'

* We got the business accounts done for this quarter, always a weight off of the shoulders and a reminder that we shouldn't leave so much to the last minute.

* What better reason to be cheerful than the fact we had, not only a long weekend, but an 'extra' long weekend with the wonderful, and unique celebration of the Queens Diamond Jubilee.  I was thinking about this earlier, this really was a once in a lifetime celebration.  We had bunting.  We had flags.  We had a 'Very Royal High Tea', including using all our super special Royal Albert China (this is rare because I can't put it in the dish washer...)

* The blog hit another new month view record.  I am so happy that the blog is slowly but surely growing.  Not only that but I am getting more pleasure and satisfaction from writing the longer and more frequently that I am doing it, rather than growing tired of it.

* It is half term - always a reason to smile.  Extra time with J1 to be had with lots of fun planned, including a session in the sensory room that J1 loved on his birthday.

* The Hubby and I had a 'surprise' night to ourselves this week.  It was amazing, we laughed, talked, ate, played pool and really reconnected.  Something we had both said earlier in the week we felt had been a little lacking of late.  We won't leave 'us' time so long next time.

* I have managed to fit some form of exercise in almost everyday for the last week and it has felt amazing.  Mixing runs with non impact exercise, like swimming and cycling has really made me inspired to keep this going and I am now seriously giving the Marathon in 2013 consideration. 

On that high note I urge you to be inspired by others positive thoughts over at Mummy from the Heart :

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Disability Diaries (The Life of J1) : Dark Days - Getting Lighter!

Part three in a series of 'Dark Days' posts in the 'Disability Diaries' Feature.

For part one click here.  For part two click here.

At the end of the last instalment of Dark Days, I had got to a point where I was starting to cope with day to day life.  I still had bad days, plenty of them.  But with the help of the anti-depressants, getting back to work and a change to a more healthier lifestyle I found I was beginning to accept and acknowledge that life for J1 and I was going to be very different from what I had thought it would be.

During my move to a 'healthier lifestyle' I had set my sights on undertaking a Charity 'Challenge'.  I was investigating the possibility of signing up to trek the Inca Trail in Peru, with the aim of raising about £1800.  A good friend also wanted to do it and the first step, before parting with registration money, would be starting to get fit.

Due to financial constraints I decided to get fit I had to start running.  This was the source of many wry smiles from friends and family, for the main reason that I had always been rather vocal about being anti-running.  I did what I always do when starting something new; purchased some reading literature on it. I bought my first of many Running Magazines and I enjoyed reading it.  I gave me a lot of inspiration.

The most useful article I read was Top Things To Remember with Running.  The key point that stuck with me, and still does when I run today : The first ten minutes are the hardest.  I really clung onto this little pointer on those first few tentative runs.  I stuck to a 'complete beginners' guide, which encouraged building up slowly.  I would run for two minutes and walk for one.  Soon I found I was comfortable enough to run for four minutes and then six and then eight etc.

It was after a Saturday morning jog that I came home to find my mail on the door mat.  On a high from the exercise, I opened a large envelope from the charity I was hoping to do the trek for.  It was a large advertisement for one of their other 'challenges' and it made me smile immediately : The London Marathon 2006.  I knew instantly this was the 'challenge' for me.  I completed the registration form, found my chequebook and walked the application to the post box.

I didn't tell anyone but the friend that had shown an interest in doing the Peru trip.  He was happy that I had found something that had inspired me, and insisted that he still wanted to register for the Inca Trail.  I found some literature on Marathon training programmes and started to train against that.  I would not hear for sure if I had been allocated a place for the Marathon with the Charity until at least October so in the mean time I continued to build on my running and started to brainstorm fundraising ideas so that I was prepared.

I got the good news that I was going to be a London Marathon participant and euphoric told everyone.  I think my parents were happier that I would be staying in the UK than disappearing to Peru.  I had found my mum slowly starting to drop tid-bits of information in like 'Rather large spiders in Peru'.  Although I wouldn't be going abroad I still had to rely heavily on my parents for support for all the training hours I was going to need to put in and for the fundraising target I needed to hit. 

As with everything new all training and motivation started with gusto, but as the dark, cold nights started to draw in, going out for runs became less appealing.  I was also going out more socially, as I was feeling much stronger.  Although this was good in one way, it meant that I was drinking more, which was not conducive to focused Marathon training.  Long runs were missed due to hangovers. Evening runs were abandoned in favour of spending the extra time getting ready to go out.  Or I felt I couldn't ask my parents to have J1 as they had already looked after him so I could go out. 

Then two things happened that made me realise the importance and scale of what I was doing.  I had registered for my first run in the January.  It was a 10 mile race.  I wanted to get used to the etiquette of racing and thought it would be a good starting distance.  The race came around much quicker than I expected and suddenly I was faced with the fear that I was going to be participating in a race that I was just not ready for.  That filled me with dread.  What if I just couldn't finish and then was lost?  What if I came last?  Not only last, but so long behind everyone else that the organisers had packed up and gone home? 

At the same time the University where I was working ran a feature on a both myself and another member of staff running the Marathon in the monthly magazine.  It was a lovely piece and displayed a beautiful photograph of J1.  When this was published I noticed the donations on my 'Just Giving' page went up dramatically and small and large sums of money were being pledged by University staff, most of them I had never met, all with kind and supportive messages.  It came screaming home that what I had signed up to do was real.  It wasn't something I could just decide not to do.  I had committed to it and I needed to pull my finger out and get serious. 

Along with the Just Giving page I also did a few different fundraisers; the main one being 'Party in the Pub' - a childrens party for adults.  This entailed a 'crisp and sweet only' buffet (big hit); giant games (also a big hit) and bouncy castle (biggest hit!).  We held a raffle and did various other 'pay and play' games and this raised a huge chunk of my target.  The support was overwhelming, everyone believed that I could do this and it was time I started to think that way as well.

I am glad to say that I did complete the 10 mile race.  I also found that I loved the whole atmosphere of the event.  Other runners were so friendly, and immediately interested in J1's story and the reason I was undertaking the Marathon.  And it was the first time I really felt like 'A Runner' - and that was a label I liked.

After that I made a lot of effort to enter races, in a variety of distances as these were great motivation for me to get out training.  Looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, I was out training and getting races under my belt but I only within my comfort zone.  I only entered one half marathon and this really wasn't adequate.  My longest run was about 16 miles, not really long enough or frequently enough and in the end I just ran out of time. 

Whilst life almost became all about the Marathon for six months we were also making a lot of progress with J1 too.  We now had the official diagnosis and this made getting the help he needed easier.  I still do not know how those parents that care for children who remain undiagnosed cope. Along with appointments about equipment (always was and I fear always will be the toughest nut to crack), physiotherapy and speech and language therapy we also got access to a weekly hydro-pool session.  This session meant we met other parents of children with disabilities and special needs - a huge support. 

Soon April had arrived.  I was feeling mentally and physically much better than I had for a year.  I was proud that I had reached race weekend without injury and was looking forward to taking J1 to London for the first time.  I was elated that I had not only reached but exceeded my fundraising target.  I was ready to face my physical challenge of a lifetime, but never forgetting the lifetime of challenge that J1 was facing.