Sunday, 30 September 2012


I saw the little girl first.  The pink unmissable sign on her back read 'I am running Race For Life For ... My Mummy'.

I was participating in the local Cancer Research Race for Life.  It should have been held in July, but the monsoon like rain that heralded for most of that month meant that the park was completely flooded, thus the race was postponed until Sunday 30 September.

I have been involved in the run, at this particular venue a few times before.  I knew that if I didn't want to get caught up behind a lot of walkers I needed to be brave and get myself in the runners group at the front.  The announcement was quite clear - if you can do this course in around 30 minutes, please follow the blue runner sign.  Walkers and Joggers please stay where you are and you will be called shortly.

As everyone was assembled it was great seeing the array of pink outfits being donned by happy, jovial ladies.  The race started and the pace went off quite quickly but soon settled after the first bend.  That is when a group of three girls, who clearly should not have been in the runners section clipped the back of my heels leaving me stumbling as they then went around me and a second of the third cut me up.  Tutting loudly, one turned around and apologised.  30 seconds later they were all walking and panting, holding up the section.

"This happens every year," I grumbled to myself "I don't think I will do it again."  Then the little 'good angel' popped on my shoulder 'This is supposed to be a fun run." she reminded me.  Soon anyone not running was overtaken and a pretty clear run was to be had for the first lap.  And that was just when I saw the little girl, with those words scrawled in her little handwriting 'My Mummy' - the sign didn't say whether Mummy was a survivor - or not.
I couldn't see who she was with, she seemed to be running on her own but I knew that wasn't possible due to the rules of the race.  A few minutes after I over took her, we turned a corner where she shot past me again "Mummmmeeeeeeeeeee!" she yelled "Wait for me!"  A lady a few runners up jogged on the spot and held out her hand.  It was a magical moment to see and the biggest inspiration for running.
Shortly after, a second incident occurred.  On lap two I started lapping the walkers.  A little boy sat on a small bank of grass "I am not moving!" he snapped "I don't care if I am last - it's not like I am going to WIN is it!" he yelled at the women and other children who had stopped to move him along.  The women put her hands on her hips and bent down to him "You will get up and walk this race and you will do it with a smile.  Your sister will NEVER be able to do this because SHE is not with us anymore!"  The little boy stood up and starting walking, hanging his head in shame, that I think will live with him forever. 
There was the two ends of the spectrum.  Before my very own eyes.  A survivor of cancer and the remaining family members of a victim of cancer.  All at the very same place.  Walking and running the same route.  For the same thing.  To raise money for cancer research.
And that was all I needed to see to know - I will be taking part next year.
Maybe you should too.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Puppy Power

If, at the beginning of the week, someone had said to me 'By the end of this week you will be a dog owner' - I would have asked what sort of medication they should have taken that they had clearly forgotten.

Dogs, have never held a huge fascination for me.  I went through a stage when I was about 18, and working in an office that happened to be situated on a Game Farm that had lots of working dogs, whereby I thought I wanted one.  The labradors had puppies and I was offered one of the adorable little bundles.  However, still living at home at the time, the ultimate decision laid with my parents and it was a resounding 'No' that came from that corner.

I sulked for a day and moved on.  Probably about the same amount of time as when I wanted a pony when I was about eight.  I wrote my parents a letter saying  we should go to a rescue sanctury.  We could get one, turn our shed into a stable and let her graze in our back yard.

You can gather my fads for pets / animals were generally short lived and I would say that honestly, pets have never particularly bothered me.  I understand that other people love to have them, but as far as I was concerned 'pets' equalled 'bind'.  Anytime you want to go away for a weekend or on holiday you have to coax someone into dealing with them or fork out for a kennel stay.  If you are out, you are clock watching to get back and make sure your little 'dog / doggette' isn't going cross eyed and cross legged.  Vets bills - always to be avoided if you ask me.

When I met my Husband he left me in no uncertain terms that he wanted a dog at some point in the near future.  When I realised that there was less than zero chance of him fulfilling some of my 'wants '(the things that all women want - putting the toilet seat down, putting the rubbish / recycling out, taking his turn with the ironing) I informed him there was about as much chance of him actually getting a dog into our home.

This was the state of play up to two days ago.  What happened two days ago?  Some cheeky sod attempted to break into our house.  Broad daylight on a cold Wednesday morning.  By some stroke of luck, my husband was home and myself and the children were out (school / nursery / spa) - this is quite rare - but he disturbed the scum-bo that thought about helping himself to our things and he legged it off up the road.

With renewed emphasise on ensuring all windows and doors are fully locked at all times, we promptedly booked an appointment with an intruder alarm company.  Many concerned friends said that we should get a dog.  A dog barking would also 'help' put off a would-be thief.  A dog barking would also put me off of my aim of one day having a Zen like nature I replied.  But the reply now had a little tremor in it.

My answer was still no.

But, now there was a chink in my armour.

And my Husband saw it.

Fast forward 24 hours and he 'suddenly' has someone that needs to give a puppy a new home.  Smooth. 

"It's a little girl, you could have a pink collar and lead"

"Can I call her Tinkerbell?"


"Can I call her Tink?"

"No - I like Belle?"


Thus is the story of how a little eight week old ball of fluff called 'Belle (Diva) Summers' entered our lives.  I didn't realise it would be possible to become attached to something in 24 hours.  Especially something called a 'Shih Tzu' (when J1 says it - yes it is hilarious) . But we have.  Despite her persistent 'toodling' on the floor (I am constantly cleaning up after J2 at the moment anyway so it hasn't actually made too much difference, but that is a whole other blog post) I am smitten.
So the point of this post?  Well to announce the new addition of baby girl Belle to the family.  And, to give hope.  Hope you ask?  Well if I could change my mind about this, I now hold out hope that The Hubby will one day put the toilet seat down, take out the rubbish / recycling and take turns with the ironing.  See - 'Hope' - for all stubborn wives out there.
(Where is the photograph you ask?  Well I have taken many and not one has been good enough to publish yet - she moves more than J2 when the sonographer was trying to get his second scan picture.  When I get one I will update this post with it.)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week

The week has, again, rapidly passed by in the blur of an eye and it is that time of the week to look back and pick out the positives with
It has been a strange old week weather wise.  Summer seems to have turned directly into early winter, with beautiful Autumn being passed by completely.  I hope this isn't the case.  I love the bright blue cloudless skies and that crisp and fresh air that normally becomes late September and October. 
With the 'adios' to Summer, comes a new routine and things like experimenting with meals and baking comes back into the fray in this household.  For starters today J2 and I made Chocolate Rice Krispie treats, as a surprise for J1 (his favourite).  Tomorrow we are making Fairy Cakes from Jo Wheatleys (last years 'Great British Bake Off' winner) 'A Passion for Baking' book.
So without further delay these are my 'Reasons to be Cheerful' this week :
* J1 is continuing to get absolutely glowing daily reports from school.  I was also extremely pleased that finally his new 'wedge' has arrived and he can re-start his 'interactive floor' sessions, as he thoroughly enjoys these.
* I finally took the plunge and used my J2 free Wednesday to go to the local Spa.  I took four hours to read, eat cake, lay in the sauna, cool down in the Jacuzzi and lunch.  I had set myself a goal of doing this once every three months this year.  This is the first one to date but I hope to fit one in at the end of October after my 'Great South Run' race. 
* As mentioned earlier with the cooler months developing the baking equipment is back out and I hope to be brave enough to test lots of new recipes from the books I have gathered up since the last time I got into 'baking' mode.
* I was thrilled to finish my 10K race at the weekend in a time of 1.06, much better than I had been anticipating.  I have got my re-arranged 5K Race for Life to look forward to this Sunday.
* Now the children are 'back to school' swimming can resume with J2 - first session is tomorrow.  I am hoping to get some 'lengths' in at the end of the toddler session as my mum is coming to get J2 dried and dressed for me.
* Lynsey The Mother Duck has received a new record number of page views for the month already.  This is amazing and the best inspiration to work even harder for the blog.
For other positives posts check out the blog hop with Michelle at Mummy from the Heart.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Disability Diaries (The Life of J1) : The Operation Part One

This particular 'Disability Diaries' post has sat in my drafts folder for some time.  This, I know, is going to be one of the hardest posts I have to cast my mind back over to write.  But it needs to be written.  I daresay I am going to have to write this in portions, in order to cope with reliving this period as it was one of the most traumatic of both mine and J1's life to date.

The first indication that something was happening with J1's leg, was that whilst laying flat his left leg would 'scissor' across the right one.  We would constantly uncross it, but it would fly back almost immediately.  The next happened whilst undertaking our physiotherapy regime.  When it came to exercises on his left hip we would hear a very distinctive 'click'.  After a little while J1 started to wince.  When this happened I knew we had to report it.

We were referred to Orthoapedic department for further investigations when J1 was three.  The Doctor did a thorough examination and requested some x-rays.  I was told that J1 would require surgery and that an appointment would come through to us.  Fast forward about a year and we were still waiting for an appointment.  Not being thrilled at the idea of him having to undergo surgery I had not pursued it, but as the discomfort for J1 because clearly more painful I knew I needed to take action.

After numerous phone calls it was established that J1 had 'slipped through the net' and that he would be put at the top of the list.  An appointment promptly came through for while we were on holiday.  After more phone calls a date of 4 July 2007 was confirmed.  I sailed along to this date, trying not to think about things too much.  I had no idea of what J1 was about to face.  J1 had no idea of what he was about to face.  In this case ignorance was bliss.

We arrived at the hospital early and I was told that J1 was first on the list so would be going down to theatre around 9am.  It had been difficult to ignore J1's indications for food and drink, so I was glad that he would be going fairly quickly.  If only that had been the biggest difficultly, we would have been laughing. 

J1 was only four years old.  His only words were 'Mumma' and 'Hello' so communication was mostly guess work.  He had no clue about what was going on.  The Doctor came to see us and noted that since the X-Rays were over a year old he really had no idea what he would be facing until he started the operation.  Firstly, he said that the 'scissor' effect was being caused by the muscle on the inside of the thigh tightening and shortening.  He would need to open the thigh and cut the muscle to try and release it.  Secondly the hip, because it wasn't being used for walking, was growing in the wrong way.  The bone was forming out of shape.  Therefore he was going to have to break the hip, put in a metal plate and reset it.  The third thing that may have occurred, I was informed, was disintegration of the ball socket. If this was the case he would have to try and rebuild it.

But it was all an unknown quantity as to how 'bad' all three of these issues had developed.  I curse myself to this day for being a coward and not chasing the operation date sooner.  Of course at the time I nodded and agreed with the Doctor pretending I fully understood everything he was saying.  The only thing I really understood was that it sounded horrendous.

As is standard procedure for operations I had to sign a consent form.  The Doctor rattled off all the things that could go wrong, reactions; infections.  Words swarmed around my ears as a pen was pushed my way.  I looked at the signature spot.  I had no option but to sign it, but felt I was signing to say 'Yes, do these awful things to my baby.'  I asked the question of 'What if we didn't have it done?' and was told that the hip would continue to deform to the point where even sitting would be extremely painful let alone any type of other movement.

As I signed I realised the true enormity of being a parent.  I had to see my child through this.  I had to be strong and let them take him down to theatre, happy and smiling clutching his 'Brown Bear'.  To hold him while they tried to get a line into the tiny veins in his hand to administer the 'magic sleeping milk'.  To be strong enough to let him be whisked off of my lap and ushered out of the door the minute his eyes closed.

I was told to expect to wait about two hours.  I would then be informed when he had been taken into the recovery room.  As I sat on a plastic chair where his bed would reside on the ward, with my mum for company I felt the sensation I had only felt once before.  One of complete and utter helplessness.  I had to entrust his life in those of the Doctors hands, just like when he had decided to enter this world eight weeks early.  There was absolutely nothing I could do but wait, and hope.

As time approached the three hour marker a nurse finally poked her head in to me.  I was expecting her to tell me that I would be taken along to the recovery room but instead she informed me that he was still in theatre as the operation was taking much longer than expected.  I was told he was doing well and they would keep me updated.

As the clock slowly proceeded on a further 60 minutes, I was again updated that although still in theatre they didn't expect things to take too much longer, but because he had been under anaesthetic for a long time he may take longer to wake up in recovery.  A painfully long four and a half hours after they started, I got the green flag that he was out of theatre.  I was asked to go straight along to recovery because unusually he had woken up very abruptly - just ten minutes after arriving - and was in extreme distress and very disorientated.

I was not prepared for what a sorry state he would be in.  As I walked in the door I had a sharp intake of breath.  Both of his legs were in hip to ankle plaster casts.  A pole was attached into the cast across his knees, so his legs looked like an 'A'.  Tubes and wires seemed to be coming out from everywhere with various bags of clear liquid hanging from the IV stand. 
The nurse got me straight to his bed asking me to let him hear my voice in the hope he would become less distressed.  It didn't seem to make any difference.  He should have still been coming out of the anaesthetic, it was like he was doing so but in a conscious state.  His cry was like nothing I had ever heard him emit before.  Pure pain.  Pure distress.  Pure horror for me as his Mother.
We were in the recovery room for almost two hours before his stats settled enough for us to be released back to the ward.  I had been informed, by a visit from the Doctor who had undertaken the surgery that things had been very bad.  He had performed the surgery to the muscle on the thigh (incision / scar one).  He had broken and reset the hip with a metal plate (incision / scar two) and unfortunately massive disintegration of the ball socket had taken place, much worse than anticipated.  Bone graphs had to be taken thus needing a further incision.  The Doctor told me that Bone graphs are extremely painful and this would cause J1 probably the most pain in the first few days.  Because of this the Pain Relief team had prescribed an anaesthetic drip to be delivered straight into his back for 24 hours.
By the time we reached the ward it was quite late in the afternoon.  J1 was still very upset (understandably).  I can't begin to imagine the pain and, more over, confusion he was in as I had not been able to explain to prepare him for what he was experiencing.  The same could be said for how I was feeling but that was not important at the time.  I knew it was going to be a long, slow recovery.  J1 could not really talk, he would not be able to tell me where it hurt or how he felt.  All he would have was tears and I would have to hope my Mothers intuition would know what to do to help him.
As shots of morphine were administered every 15 minutes, he would doze for about five minutes.  I prayed that in his drug induced sleep, at the very least, he would get some relief from the hell he was in.  In those few minutes of quiet my thoughts ran wild.  I wondered if being under anaesthetic for that length of time could have caused him more brain damage?  I wondered if the powerful drugs they were pumping into him would cause damage anywhere else, he was still so small?  I wondered how we would change his nappy without causing him excruciating pain?  I wondered how he would ever forgive me?  I wondered what I had ever done in our lives, that was so bad, that he deserved this?
I wondered those thoughts every time those quiet five minutes happened, for the duration we were in the hospital.  In a zombie, sleep deprived state, J1 and I suffered through what seemed like the longest days and nights I have ever known.  The make shift bed was never slept in.  Most nights I would pass out hunched over the bed stroking J1's hair because it seemed to be the only thing that calmed him.
Recovery had only just begun.  

Monday, 24 September 2012


If someone had told me, as I valiantly attempted to worm my way out of the obligatory P.E lesson at school for another week, that I would one day voluntarily run 10,000m I would have fallen over laughing.

However, this is what I did yesterday.  As mentioned in other posts, this isn't my first phase of running.  I completed the London Marathon in 2006, raising money for Scope, after my baby was diagnosed with Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy.  But since then it is only the last four months that I have re-introduced running backing into - an already hectic - schedule.

The jiggery pokery to fit training sessions in between school runs and entertaining a hyperactive toddler is not easy.  The Hubby does not have set work hours and many occasions when we agree for him to take over with the children it ends up not being possible.  This can get quite frustrating, you build yourself up for it all for nothing and sometimes you think, is it worth it?

Then a race day arrives.  Mine are prepared for with military organisation.  Laying out running kit, charging the Ipod, purchasing the appropriate drinks and food, finding safety pins.  There is a little anxiety about finding the venue and making sure you don't miss the call to the start line.  But at that line, you realise it is all worth it.

I love race days.  I love to be competitive with myself.  I know for certain that the distance is exact on a race day so you are going to get a pretty definitive timing.  They are great for assessing any improvement in your running and make all those training styles worth hauling out for in all weathers.

I have been building up slowly and sensibly with my running.  I have completed a couple of 5K races and was thrilled to crack my nemesis of the 30 minute barrier in the last one participated in.  The next target was the Dedham 10K, 25th Anniversary.

The main fear of a runner (or any sport) is that of injury.  It was frustrating when I picked up some damage to my Patella Tendon.  But after a trip to the physio and dutifully following his instructions I was back up and (pardon the pun) running again.  But felt quite under trained for the 10,000m that loomed.

However, I made it to the race start in the beautiful 'Constable Country' - Dedham.  I knew I would have to try and not carried away with the masses at the start and run too fast.  It is very difficult not to get swept along, but as I was unfamiliar with the route and was aware it held a few, dreaded hills, I managed to pace myself. 

Rules stipulated that due to the route being on roads that would not be traffic free, no audio equipment was allowed.  This was tough for me, I only ever run with music.  But I have to say, I think it was more pleasurable without it.  The rolling, green, leafy, scenic countryside and the friendly banters of other runners was quite inspiring.

I was pleased at how strong I still felt when I passed the 9km marker.  I was even more pleased when the Marshall jovially informed us that it was mostly downhill to the end!  I knew I had managed my pacing well when I could feel myself powering along the last 1000m and was smiling as I reached the big yellow 'FINISH' sign.  With a large group of my wonderful family members at the end to congratulate me it was a great way to spend Sunday.
Even better, I surpassed my expected 1.15 finish time and came in at 1.06.  Now it is on with the training for my 10 mile race in Portsmouth at the end of October.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

FICTION : Camomile Crescent - The Wrights

27 Camomile Crescent - Sarah & Sean

Sarah Wright smiled at the photograph of her daughter Melanie, dressed up as a Cabbage Patch Doll for the school annual Halloween competition.  She was eight if memory served her correctly.  Some of the children didn't understand why she had chosen to be a Cabbage Patch Doll because it wasn't scary.  But to Melanie it was.  They had always been the scariest thing ever created according to her.

That was ten years ago.  Melanie, daughter to Sarah and Sean Wright, was now an outgoing, vibrant and extremely doted upon only child.  She still held a - self-confessed completely irrational - fear of dolls.  Sarah had always felt that because she was only able to have one child she had been blessed with an amazing one.  Melanie was intelligent, pretty but very sensible for a teenager.

She had never brought trouble to their door.  She had maintained good stable friendships, never veering off with 'the wrong crowd'.  Most importantly, had a firm view on how she wanted her life to go.  For Sarah and Sean it was the ideal scenario.  She wanted to finish her A-Levels and go travelling around Europe for three months before embarking on her degree course.  After University Melanie then planned on teacher training and a career as a Physical Education tutor. Sarah secretly hoped that Melanie would be able to get a job at The Academy and would either live at home, or at the very least, close by. 

Sean had suggested that travelling was for the year after graduating University, when she was older. But Melanie had been set on the idea.  Sarah had discussed with Sean how grown up Melanie was for an 18 year old.  She also pointed out that she had given her all to her A-Level courses for the last two years, and probably needed a good break.  They had to encourage hard work, but needed to show reward for it as well - and it was what Melanie desperately wanted.  Sean had pondered this and had to agree. 

Melanie worked every weekend at a fashion shop in the local Shopping Centre.  She took extra shifts every holiday to save additional monies for her trip.  She had planned it meticulously for months with two of her other girlfriends, and had even been agreeable to have the journey and accommodation choices approved by the parents.

Melanie had always had a very grown up outlook on life, which had been a pleasure for Sarah.  She had always believed it was because Melanie had, more often that not, been in the company of adults as she was growing up.  The family had very few children within it.  Of course she had friends at play-groups, but on a general basis life was just Melanie, Sarah and Sean. 
Even at nursery Melanie had been described as 'Mothering' to the other children.  If someone needed a tissue, she would fetch it.  If someone was hurt, she would comfort them.  It was the actions she experienced most herself, so it was no real surprise to Sarah.  As devastated as the couple had been to discover they could not have anymore children, they were grateful for having Melanie.  They decided early on that they must give her every opportunity they possibly could to have the best in life.  For Sarah, everytime Melanie achieved something or started on a new phase of something - even the terrible twos - Sarah embraced and treasured it knowing this was her one and only chance to experience it.

Sarah had decided on being a stay at home mother and had worked hard at starting Melanies education before she even got to school.  She researched the best play methods, home learning tools and positive reinforcements techniques.  Sarah and Sean had decided to enrol Melanie into the small school at the end of Camomile Crescent.  Despite it's poor reputation Sean fiercely believed that if a child was adept to learning and doing well they could do it anywhere.  When Melanie had started her secondary education Sarah had decided to start volunteering in the local primary school, hoping she could have a positive effect on other children and started off helping with one to one reading in classes. 

Then the major overhaul of Melanies school into 'The Academy' had occurred and Sarah was secretly delighted.  Melanie had been excelling already.  The new environment and teachers, Sarah believed, could only enhance that.  Sarah herself in the meantime, had gleaned an excellent reputation for her penchant to help children to read and write.  Her services had been snapped up by The Academy.  She opted for the Primary School so as not to cause Melanie any embarrassment - afterall who wanted their mother encroaching on their school space.  She didn't want Melanie to feel inhibited in anyway, she understood she had to be free to develop her own world.  But it was pleasing to Sarah that she could subtly keep an eye on her.

She turned the page of the large photo album and was met with various snaps of Melanie holding trophies.  Swimming.  Athletics.  Netball.  All such proud moments.  Now Melanie was fixated with Triathlon.  Sarah wasn't sure where she got her ability for sport.  It certainly wasn't from herself or Sean.  She was pleased though and was sure that Melanies focus on sport had been a huge factor in keeping her away from the urges to try underage drinking and clubbing.  Most weekends she had a competition or training schedule of some sort.  This coupled with her part time work, she didn't have the time or energy to go out.  Sarah had to admit, she had been the envy of many of the parents she knew as they all suffered through many a rebellious phase with their teenagers. 

Melanies biggest vice was shoes.  Sean often commented that with the amount she owned she could open her own shoe store.  They had converted the smallest bedroom of 27 Camomile Crescent, into a walk-in wardrobe for Melanie for her 18th birthday.  The most elaborate and costly part was a fabulous shoe storage unit that Imelda Marcos would have been proud of.  Being forced to choose only a limited number of shoes to take travelling had been a tough ask for Melanie. 

Sarah had omitted to tell Sean that Melanie had called and asked if she could arrange for a trunk of purchases to be shipped home.  She decided if she told him that then she would have to explain about the credit card she had given her.  He believed that the trip should be a learning experience, including budgeting, but Sarah couldn't have slept at night if she wasn't assured Melanie had a financial back up.  When Melanie had arrived in Italy a few days into her trip, she had called Sarah and asked if she could use the card to pick up a few 'soverniers'.  Sarah had been pleased that she had called to seek approval and because of that had agreed.  She had made many phone calls to the courier company to ensure that it was delivered whilst Sean was at work and had unpacked it and disposed of the packaging at the recycling plant before he got home.

Sarah closed the photo album and placed it carefully back in her wardrobe.  She straightened her pristine, white duvet cover free of wrinkles and went across the hall to Melanies room.  She opened the door, as she had done every night since Melanie had been born and breathed in the scent of the room.  There wasn't really a scent as such now as Melanie had not been in there for almost three months.  So, every now and again Sarah  had sprayed one of Melanies perfumes, but it wasn't the same. 

She walked in and plumped the cushion on the bed with 'Mel' embroidered on it.  She moved the photo frame with the picture of Melanie and a group of her friends a centimetre to the left, then back to the right.   Melanie had chosen a bold, hot pink feature wall opposite the bed and she and Sarah had chosen a selection of photographs of special events and achievements to have enlarged, framed and put up.  Sean had been reluctant to put them up, given the cost of the paint that Sarah had insisted upon, but had agreed that it was important to surround Melanie with a positive environment.  What could be more inspiring than being reminded of how well you had done so far in life Sarah had reminded him.

Now however, was the last night that the room would be minus Melanie.  Well, until she went off to University in a week or so.  Sarah was a mixture of excitement, that tomorrow they would be picking their baby up from the airport and sadness that she would only get a week to listen to all the wonderful stories she would have to tell.  Then they would be taking her off for the new era in her life.  She was beyond proud however.  Melanie had achieved her predicted five A-Grades in her A-Levels.  Sarah had been thrilled that Melanie had asked her to go and collect the results from The Academy for her and that she had been the one to deliver the news.  She joked to Sean that the level of screaming could be heard all the way from Spain, she didn't need to hold the phone to her ear. 

In a little over a week Melanie would be starting her Sports Science degree at the top university in the country.  Sarah knew it would open so many doors for Melanie.  She truly felt that she and Sean really had done the very best they could for her and for that she was proud of them all.  She glanced at the corner in the room where she had packed all Melanies things for University neatly in boxes.  Sarah had undertaken the task over the summer so that they could just enjoy a relaxing week as a family on Melanies return, without stressing over what was needed for University.  Melanie had emailed a list over whilst she was travelling through Russia and Sarah had worked tirelessly to get the exact items she had requested.  She had also bought her a new, top of the range hot pink laptop as a surprise.  Sean would be surprised at that too but she would worry about that later.  She hoped he would be so thrilled to have Melanie home he wouldn't care.

She backed out of the room giving it one final glance to ensure it was perfect.  As she closed the door to Melanies bedroom she heard the front door open.

"Honey...I'm home!" Sean called jokingly as he always did.  Sarah walked down the stairs and greeted him with a smile.  Sean was tall and had once been lean, but after years of Client entertaining and good home cooked meals was now more of a 'stockier' physique.  Sarah thought that this suited him more.

"How was your day?" she asked, as she always did.  Sarah herself was tall and this helped her carry the little extra weight she found was not shifting since she had hit her forties.  It didn't concern her, she was confident enough to know that was part of getting older.  She was constantly told that she didn't look her age. She tried to ensure that she kept her hair well cut and had been lucky with her fair colouring not to have needed any assistance with it until the last few years.  She tried to keep up to date with fashion, without going over the dreaded 'mutton dressed as lamb' line.

"Good, good." he replied hanging his jacket up and placing his briefcase on the floor "Bet today dragged for you didn't it?" He knew she had been counting down the days to Melanies return.

"I kept myself busy, I did an extra afternoon over at the Library."  She followed him into the kitchen.  She checked on the casserole in the oven, Melanie didn't care for casserole so she thought it would be nice to make it for Sean as a treat while she was away.  The smell that escaped from the oven created a smile on Sean's face.

"Mmmm my favourite." he said peeking in at the bubbly gravy dish "I am a lucky man." He hugged her from behind and kissed her on the cheek "Drink?" he asked heading for the under-counter wine fridge.

"Love one." She replied "Well it won't be on the menu for the rest of the week while Mel's back." She said stirring it and closing the oven door "I was thinking maybe we could take her out to dinner tomorrow night, if she has the energy of course - she might be feeling a bit you know, down, that her trip is over."

"Down?"  Sean said, perusing the wine choice before him "She's just been on a jaunt around Europe for three months and is off to University next week, what has she got to be down about?"  He stood up smiling at the bottle he held in his hand "Perfect." he stated.

"The fact that she is no longer on her travels," Sarah replied.  "I thought if we went to that lovely new Italian on Cross Street it might make her feel she has an extended day of Europe."

"OK."  Sean agreed opening the glass fronted kitchen cabinet, pulling out two wine glasses. "If that's what you want."

"Yes.  I think that will be a lovely first night back together.  Well, if it's what Melanie wants." Sarah corrected herself.
For previous installments of Camomile Crescent please click here.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

In line with my efforts at positive thinking it is time for :
Reasons to be Cheerful with Mummy From The Heart.
So, without further ado here are my reasons to be cheerful this week :
* J1 started back at school without tears or fretting.  This has continued into week number two, much to our delight.  Although he wasn't changing classes this year, the structure of make up of children and teachers / assistants has changed so it was as good as.  But, he seems to be thoroughly enjoying it and is coming home smiling, bubbly and cheeky.
* I have re-started with our healthy eating meal planning / cooking.  This seriously lapsed over the summer, probably due to the change in our daily routine.  Plus with my race approaching in October I need to be eating healthily as well as training so needed all round.  We have even been able to have some home-grown vegetables from the Greenhouse!
* As mentioned in yesterdays post 'The Disability Diaries - Holiday of a Lifetime' we have booked a fabulous vacation to Florida for next year.  This has boosted everybodies spirits and we are looking forward to it and planning with gusto.
* In preparation for the above holiday I have started potty training with J2.  We are having good and bad days but hopefully are heading in the right direction.  Watch this space.
* We recently purchased Annual Gold cards for our local Zoo as they were on a brilliant offer, so have been able to make the most of those in the last few days of warm summer weather.  The Hubby was even able to come this time so extra lovely.
* The boys and I had a wonderful afternoon of messy play in the garden at the weekend.  We did lots of hand and feet painting.  I am so pleased with how they have come out that I am thinking about framing them for the wall.
If you want to read about what has made other people cheerful this week head over to Mummy From The Heart.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Disability Diaries (The Life of J1) : The Holiday of a Lifetime

I have indicated in previous posts that things have been getting tough with J1 in ways other than his physical disabilities.  I do not mean for J1, but for me.
J1 is developing a fantastic sense of real awareness which is wonderful in so many ways.  The downside to this is that he is also developing the understanding of frustration.  The understanding of things he can not do, that other children around him can.  Things he would like to do but physically is unable to achieve.
For me, this lead to trying to explain why he can not do things as easily as others may be able too.  To trying to remind him with gusto of all the things he can do.  To desperately try and think of things that we can do, altogether, so that he doesn't have to worry about not being able to join in with his brother or friends.
To J1, I have been a cheerleader of positivity and 'can do'.  In private I have cried, felt frustrated myself and very low.  It kick started that anger only induced by the feeling of extreme unfairness.  The feeling of looking for someone to take responsibility for what happened to J1, only to find that is as productive as trying to climb a mountain made of fine ash.
I went along to my doctor, having seen the signs of a slippery slope approaching, who referred me to a good counsellor.  From this some of the negativity has subsided.  This teamed with the sheer inspiration and opinion defying wonder that was the London 2012 Paralympic Games has propelled my energy back into being more proactive.
We thought about what we could do, as a family that would be amazing.  Something mammoth that would stay with the boys forever.  I knew what I wanted to do.  Have wanted to do for sometime.  Something that would be a big undertaking, requiring a lot of research, a lot of phone calls, a lot working with other people to make it happen.  A lot of saving.
We wanted Florida.  We wanted Disney, Universal, Seaworld, Water parks.  We wanted the holiday of a lifetime.  So we decided it is time to make it happen. 
After weeks of browsing hotels, for those with suitable rooms, amenities, environments we narrowed it down.  After numerous phone calls to the airlines 'special assistance' hotline regarding specialist flight seats, hold capacity (as J1's chair does not collapse), and what we could do with regard to changing J1's pad on the flight - we decided on a date to go.  After contacting many transport companies to find one with a wheelchair adapted vehicle that could also seat five additional passengers, plus luggage we decided on where we wanted our transfer too.
We built our dream holiday. 
We are making it happen.
We are going to take that leap of faith and hope that the people on the other end of the telephone are correct in what they are saying and that in reality we do not find ourselves facing a whole heap of challenges.  The biggest predicament so far has been the flight seat.  The childs flight seat would be ideal for J1, but already at 8 years old he is too big for it.  So we are having to rely on the different adult version.  I hope that the transport company have fully understood that J1 has to go in the car, in the wheelchair and the wheelchair must be fixed as a seat itself.  I hope that the hotel have reserved the 'accessible' room and do not just allocate it 'if it is available' when we arrive as we have read about in some cases before.  We can only hope that we were firm and clear enough in our phone calls.  We can only hope, because if we did anymore than that we would never have made the decision to actually do it. 
So, with sheer excitement welling in our belly, we are going to a place where J1 can get on the rides (well, most suitable ones of course - I don't think The Hulk will be sporting a wheelchair carriage but who cares we'll be in the marvel, magical land of Florida!).  We are going to a place where, for the boys, the characters they watch on TV will be real life.  We are going to a place where we know we will only need shorts and t.shirts and suncream.  
For three weeks we will take a step outside of the reality of life and build memories to stay with us all forever.  Roll on 2013 - watch out Orlando and Clearwater Beach we are on our way.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hopes and Aims - Third Quarter Review


September.  Already.

This means that we are three quarters of the way through the year.  Scary.

It also means it is time that I review and evaluate my 'Hopes and Aims for 2012' - as originated in January as part of the Groovy Mums initiative with the fabulous Kate on Thin Ice.

Deep breath - here goes with updates on the outstanding items since the last quarterly review :
- Continue to encourage J1 to try new activities and adventures to help with his fine and gross motor skills and his speech
We are hoping that J1 will continue to develop his speech and sense of humour with his class at school during this new academic year.  He has already come home and told me a knock knock joke this week so I am hopeful!  We are also encouraging him to go to after school club again (although it didn't take much encouragement - thankfully he was raring to go) and to join in with the schools Boccia programme.  He loves Ten Pin Bowling so think he will really enjoy this.  If he takes to it a Boccia kit might be a good idea to notify Father Christmas with.

- Be more vigilant with J1's home physiotherapy, even though he complains
J1 seems to be having increased tension in his right leg which is a very bad sign, so this has been an absolute must.  We are also ensuring that we are getting clear and positive updates that he is receiving daily physiotherapy, in some form or another, at school.  We have also taken steps to be put into the Government 'Direct Payments' scheme (this isn't payment in finance.  It is 'hours' that you can acquire and use on things best for your child - ultimately it means you have much more control over the professional help you think your child needs as you 'spend' the hours in the right place.)  However, it is a long process of which we are only at the very beginning.
- Potty train J2
This has started and is going quite well.  We are using 'big boy' pants throughout the day and have been doing so for about a week.  Overall we are doing very well, including a whole 'dry' day at Nursery.  It has been handy that the weather has been warm enough to get washing out to dry on the line so any accidents have been easily sorted.  I am a very proud Mummy.

- Start weekly swim sessions with J2 again
This got postponed over the Summer Holidays due to the sheer volume of holiday makers using our local facilities.  This is one of the hazards of living in a seaside town.  However, now school has resumed and the term time schedule is back in place swimming will once again feature in our week.  The good thing is that J2 has been asking to go, so he must really enjoy it.
- Start saving for a big family holiday
I am pleased, excited and elated to report that not only did we start saving for our big family holiday - we have booked it!  It has taken much researching, phone calls and information seeking with regards to accommodating J1's needs, but we took the plunge and went for it.  Next year we will be meeting Mickey and Minne in Florida.  Much list making and planning to commence over the next few months.

- Child - proof new garden for the kids to use in spring
I am exceptionally pleased with the progress made on the garden in our new home over the summer.  I have written specific updates previously regarding this and am planning a new one (with photographs of course) soon - watch this space.
- Read at least 1 book a month
My aim was 12 books in 12 months and so far I am on track.  My current read is Jodi Picoult 'House Rules' which is very good.  I am thinking of doing a round up review at the end of the year on the 12 books I have read over the year.
- Try and run twice a week, establish some safe routes

This aim has manifested itself into a real hobby once again and I am still thoroughly enjoying it.  I am now back out running after a month of being forced to stop due to damaging my Patella Tendon.  I have got a 10K race on Sunday in a very pretty country village and was thrilled to smash my PB for 5K during my last Summer Series race in August.  I have also just had notification that entries are open for our local Half Marathon in March so will be signing up for that.  In the meantime the 'big race' I am preparing for is the BUPA Great South Run in October.
- Treat self to a spa afternoon once every 3 months
This has categorically not been happening.  However I have got a date for a fortnights time pencilled in with a friend so fingers crossed a couple of hours relaxing is on the horizon.
- Plan one weekend away a year, just Hubby and Me
This is happening, in conjunction with the BUPA Great South Run.  My parents have offered babysitting services so that The Hubby and I can travel to Portsmouth on Saturday morning and return on Monday.  Let's hope this fine weather continues until then.
- Try and be more positive on believing in what I can achieve
The Olympics and Paralympics legacies have brought this to light and made me think about it alot of late.  The running certainly helps with this too.  When I think to how I started, to how I have progressed lots more seems possible.  I believe this is also showing in the fact that I have started to not only write but publish some fictional writing.  I keep remembering that time ticks away and you never get that back so make the most of it, with whatever set of circumstances you have facing you.
In general I am just trying to be more proactive.  I have taken steps with regard to several things for J1, for example arranging demonstrations and getting quotes in for a specialist bike (demo was brilliant) and mobile hoist (a necessity).  I have to acknowledge that he is going to need more specialist items as he grows, as hard as that (still) is to accept.  He needs them and I am the one that has to ensure he has everything possible to make his life as easy, full and social as it can be.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

We. Were. There.

I remember where I was when I got a text saying that we had won the bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics (for the record Burger King...).    Cool, I thought.  I did not give it much more consideration than that with it being years away.

However, having been lucky enough to go to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 when they were held in Manchester, I did want to try and purchase tickets when they went on sale.  I have the most fantastic memories of our experience at the Commonwealths.  The atmosphere; the stadium; the communal areas set up with big screens; the friendliness of visitors, staff and volunteers.  Alas, like the majority of the rest of Britain, it seemed, I was not successful in a ticket bid.

As the momentum for the Olympics started to build, I watched more programmes and read more literature on this mammoth event.  The desire to attend grew.  I wanted to be part of 2012.  Then the adverts on Channel 4 started to catch my eye for the Paralympics.  Of course my interest in this was heightened more than ever being a mum to a severely disabled little boy.

I was glued to the TV for the Olympics period, but I wanted to actually be there for the Paralympics.  I was moved and inspired by the adverts alone and knew to attend the live event would be out of this world.  At the same time the whole country had been romanced by the Olympics and had started to open their eyes to the fact that it wasn't all about to come to an end.  A new wave of amazing Athletes were starting their bid to make history.

We managed to secure tickets for Wednesday 5 September 2012.  Our session was for the evening Athletics in the Stadium.  However our tickets allowed us entry into the park all day.  I wanted to make the most of it so set out an action plan for my husband and I.  It was exciting for two reasons; the first it was the Paralympics of course.  The second; it was a rare day out on our own. 

We set off with the weather beautiful and a spring in our step.  First stop was Tower Hill to get a photograph with the Bridge in the background.  We had done this when we spent a day in the London atmosphere whilst the Olympics were going on and the Olympic Rings were hanging off of it - naturally I needed a matching photo!


Next was a visit to Westfield Shopping Centre en-route to the Park entrance.  I have to say it was very enjoyable with a stop for (very reasonably priced) Nail Art

And to the top floor for lunch...

Then we strolled across the walkway, with hundreds of other excited attendees and through the 'airport style' security system.  As had been reported throughout the events all the staff and volunteers, police and armed forces were jovial and friendly.


We were then 'in' and it was a wonderful atmosphere.  We saw all the sites that have now become famous world over...

We also found this which I would love for my back garden if it is going spare...
There was so much to see and do in the Park the time flew by.  Before we knew it the announcements were being made that the gates for Stadium ticket holders were open.  We made our way over early which gave us good opportunity to get lots of cool photos of inside the Athletics Arena.

Our first race was a real treat, both Oscar Pistorious and Jonnie Peacock featured.  This was followed by lots of amazing finals and medal ceremonies, which all brought a tear to the eye.  The Ladies 100m for Visually Impaired athletes was a Brazilian one, two, three and their delight brought a cheer as big as if it was a British trio on the Podium.
We also experienced something very unusual.  The Mens 4 x 100m Relay for Visually Impaired athletes requires that the crowd is completely silent until the baton is handed over to the fourth participant.  They are relying on hearing the correct sound signals to make their race work.  Asking a crowd of 80,000 to contain their excitement for a relay race is a big task.  And it was the most surreal thing to do.  It just felt wrong, even though it was right!  The cheer after the last baton handover blew the roof off of the Stadium and made the wait worth it.
It was truly amazing to be part of London 2012.  The Paralympics in particular lived up to the expectation it teased with beforehand.  We really did see 'Superhumans' in action.  We really did see determination, focus and courage.  We really did see human kindness, peace and harmony.  Even if you are not a fan of sport, if you are a fan of any of those things you would have enjoyed this summer.
For us, as parents of a little boy with severe physical disabilities we saw the unexpected and the amazing.  We saw nothing short of miraculous achievements.  We saw disability slipping away and being replaced with sheer ability.  We saw HOPE.
Thank you London 2012