Silent Sunday

 

 


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My Weekend: Part One – labels, baby clothes and sentimental thoughts

I took the plunge last week and registered to sell at the next NCT Nearly New Sale. I haven’t given myself much time to get organised as it is next weekend (details here) and I have plenty of items to price up and label. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ll get rid of half my stuff. Not because it’s difficult to sell things at these sales, but because I have SO MUCH of it! I have already taken two bin bags full of clothes to the charity shop and this is what I am left with. I’m sure there is more stuff hiding away too.

I am ready to get rid of the baby clothes. There probably won’t be another baby in this family and if there is, I figure I’ll just go back to another nearly new sale and re-stock.

Inevitably, there are lots of memories bound up in baby clothes.

There are some items that I am NOT ready to part with. Each of the children has one outfit that really reminds me of their birth or the time just after it. It isn’t necessarily the first outfit they wore; that is the case only for the Middle Miss. Son Number One was dressed by the midwives as I was in no fit state. They went to his wardrobe and picked something they thought was suitable. It was a nice outfit but it wasn’t my choice and it was a bit too big. I never really liked that outfit. The thing I really associate with his early baby days was a pale blue, velour dungaree and cardigan set. My Mum bought it and it was perfect. A good fit, a sweet colour and soft as soft.

Middle Miss had a white all in one jersey outfit with a little bit of trim in taupe and red. It was one of the few things she had without feet in it. Ideal, I think for a newborn, everyone loves to inspect their tiny fingers and toes. I can still remember going with Son Number One and my Mum to buy it. I think he may have pointed it out for his new baby, who was still mysteriously inside Mummy.

I don’t think I bought anything for my little Babykins. I didn’t know what sex he was going to be and I found it really hard to find the kind of neutral, newborn clothes that I wanted. Most of the white things were extremely basic or had Whinny the Pooh on, which I’m not keen on as a decorative feature. After he was born, my Mum brought me just what I was looking for. It was another little dungaree set, this time in a soft white velour. I probably wouldn’t have bought it because I couldn’t justify the price (it was from Mammas and Pappas) but I really loved it. He spent a lot of time in that little outfit and it’s matching snow suit.

The other things I am going to keep are a few hand made items. I have let quite a few knitted things go because they just weren’t in good enough condition. However, there is one little set that was knitted by my Mum in a mixture of green and yellow. The pattern in the yarn is not particularly fashionable but I always liked how it looked on my babies. I also remember the glove having lipstick on it for ages from where Grandma had been kissing Middle Miss. That’s a strangely odd and sweet memory.

The other two things that I kept were dresses. The first, made by my cousin. This dress was beautifully made and the colour suited Middle Miss, who was all blonde hair and blue eyes, so much. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of an item made with love and care by a family member who has been like a sister to me at times. I’d love it if I could pass it on to any children Middle Miss might have. Probably wishful thinking but I can dream.

First birthday with my late dad.

The second one was made by my Mum. I don’t think she ever liked the result but I did. I thought it was vibrant and fun (the print is of frogs and lily pads). I have a small boys shirt and waistcoat in this fabric too. They will be making an appearance again in about six months I think.

After all that sorting I had a few sentimental moments as I sat in the sun with my coffee…..

enjoying seeing the buds growing on the lilac tree

and the camellia in full bloom

*sigh*

Still lots of sorting to do though and this blogging lark isn’t helping me get it done. So if it’s all quiet for a while, don’t worry, I’m just stuck under a pile of baby clothes. I’ll fight my way out by next weekend.

I’ll leave you with a nice cheery picture of my latest tub of narcissus, picked out for me by Son Number One whilst he was on a shopping trip with Grandma. The boy is learning how to please Mummy, flowers are always good.

Half Term Holidays: Sheep, Birds, Castles and Gardens.

Half term seems to have been very full this year. We seem to have crammed plenty into nine days off (school was closed yesterday for teacher training).

First of all we had a visit to the in-laws in Cumbria. Son Number One always looks forward to this because he adores going to visit his cousins on their farm. They had a lot of fun together, going right up onto the fells to feed the sheep.

I think he would be quite happy if we suggested that his Aunt and Uncle adopt him. Not only do they let him do farming activities, they nearly always feed him his favourite meal: sausage and mash.

While we were away, the Husband and I had our first Night Out Alone since……well, neither of us could clearly remember the last time. We had a lovely steak dinner and were still home by about 9.30. We must need more practise.

On Thursday, the Husband went back to work (booo) and I had a lovely day out with the oldest two (hooray) while my Mum looked after Babykins. We met up with one of my old antenatal class pals and her two boys at Salthome, our local RSPB reserve. They were running a ‘dissect an owl pellet’ activity for the children. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, me or them. I was amazed that in one pellet, there were at least three small rodent skulls. It was possible to identify quite a few different bones, such as the vertebrae, ribs and thigh bones. Who knew that owl ‘sick’ could be so interesting. I’d love to go to the next session they are running, which is aimed at adults. You can find the information about it here.

I must confess this is an old photo of a different activity. I just wanted to put it in to show the lovely murals in the classroom. I wish I had taken some more photos because they really capture the environment. There are even paintings on the ceiling. One depicting what it would be like to look up through a pond and see tadpoles and other water creatures swimming by and one showing the sky with birds in flight, as if someone has removed the roof.

The children took full advantage of the play area (I might just have joined in too). There were lots of good places for a game of hide and seek.

Son Number One is quite keen on bird spotting and managed to identify the coots and moorhens correctly when the hide guide checked his knowledge. I was very proud.

It was a real treat to just enjoy just the two of them. I must try to do it more often.

As the week went on, I kept thinking that we should take advantage of our extra day of holiday and go away for a long weekend. My Mum was thinking the same thing too. We decided to phone up Flowery Dell lodges, just outside Richmond.

Luckily for us the ‘Juniper‘ was available. It was the perfect space for us, being on one level (no stairs for Babykins to climb) and with three bedrooms, a single, a twin and a double.

The weather on Saturday was stunning: clear, sunny and crisp. We explored the site with my brother and his wife, who had come to visit. First, the little play area, where there was a lot of fun to be had climbing….

trying to climb (but getting stuck)….

and balancing…

When they fell off, their Uncle ordered them back to the start and off they ran, giggling.

Babykins seemed amazed by the chance to explore such a wide open space. He is often tethered to a push chair while we are out but not this time. He practically did a double take as he trotted past this little water feature. Thankfully it was well designed and he couldn’t actually get wet.

The light was so beautiful. It lit up the bright white bark of these birch trees.

and shone through dried up leaves of the beech saplings.

It made super-dooper tall shadows.

Suddenly, there was a change in the weather. Cloud came in and unbelievably, snow started to fall. There was quite a blizzard and my brother and his wife decided to make a run for it, just in case.

It only lasted about 15 minutes and then there was full sunshine again. Very unusual.

The night was very cold and frosty but we were cosy in our little lodge.

Of course, the great thing about frosty nights is the clear, blue-sky days that often follow them. Sunday was a stunner so we went off to explore Richmond. First of all the castle, with it’s virtually intact keep.

We climbed to the very top. I can’t think why I didn’t take a photo of the view. We looked out for dragons, knights and damsels in distress, but there were none to be seen.

After all that climbing we needed refreshments.

How about that for afternoon tea? I’m very fussy about tea shop teas. Any that have proper, non-drip teapots and milk in a little jug score highly with me. Those scones were whoppers. I couldn’t eat any dinner until after 8pm.

Our last day of the holiday was spent at Thorpe Perrow Arboretum. I’ve often wondered about visiting this place but somehow never got around to it. Turns out that Monday was a great day to go. We met some friends there and apart from our party, there was only one other little, young family there. We had the whole of the grounds virtually to ourselves.

It was almost worth the entrance fee for the pleasure the children had getting close to the robins. Son Number One tried very patiently to tempt one to eat from his hand. I think if his sister hadn’t been jumping around quite so much he might have managed it.

Even she got close though.

And how about this? I did use the zoom function, of course.

I really enjoyed walking through the grounds. There were plenty of snowdrops in bloom and the mixture of trees meant that it was still interesting, despite the season.

Babykins got to stretch his legs again. Thank goodness for reins. He would have been swimming with the ducks otherwise.

At this time of year, you have to enjoy the detail of plants.

The main attractions as far as the children were concerned were the animals and birds of prey. In fact, it couldn’t have suited Son Number One more. It was a near as he is going to get to ‘Deadly 60‘, one of his favourite TV programmes. Because there were so few people there, we all got to stroke a corn snake and hold a buzzard and a barn owl.

The meerkats were very cute too.

We walked over the board walk through the bog garden a few times. Each time I looked as carefully as I could at this stunning toadstool. I couldn’t work out if it was real or not. I took a few photos, zooming in as closely as I could. See what you think….

Now look more closely….

I should have realised when I saw the fairies in their tree stump.

We had a great time but I’d love to go back there, just me and the Husband and explore the grounds. Maybe in another 15 years or so….

The Promise of Spring

We called into our allotment yesterday. It has been somewhat neglected in the last few months. This is not good. In the next few weeks we should start planting the seeds for the new season. There is a LOT of work to do before we can begin.

At least the children showed plenty of enthusiasm for digging their patch over.

There was all the usual excitement over the first worm to be dug up (poor worm).

Wallace was let out of the shed to do his duty as the door stop. If only he could actually provide tea.

We have had quite a good sprout harvest. Sadly, we should probably have picked a lot more of them by now.

I planted a whole row of cabbage seeds way back last spring. I didn’t do a very good job of marking where they were though. When they started to germinate, I couldn’t work out what was cabbage and what was weed. I didn’t have this problem with any of my other seeds so I assumed none  had grown. So I got a surprise when I spotted this:

Just goes to show how long it has been since I was gardening.

Our purple kale has been standing for well over a year. It looked like it had some new shoots on it so we nibbled a few raw leaves. It’s surprisingly tasty that way. The biggest surprise of all is that Son Number One declared both the raw and cooked versions to be ‘yummy’. I don’t think this photo  really does justice to the colour.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find some shoots on the purple sprouting broccoli. There will be MUCH more of this in the next few weeks. These seeds really took off. I foolishly planted three whole rows last summer. The Husband got the job of separating them out from the original clumps of seedlings. He took great delight in telling me I had overdone it by about 40 too many plants. It will make a change from a courgette glut.

Guess what was on the menu for our supper last night. It was a veritable feast of brassicas (and toad in the hole).

There are plenty of reminders around that we are only just leaving winter behind……

For example, this is what remains of last summer’s runner beans.

But spring is certainly on the way.

I can’t wait to eat our first rhubarb of the season. Maybe next year we should try to ‘force’ some, buying forced rhubarb is very expensive. We’ve got the right variety ‘Timperly Early‘. Again, I don’t think this photo does justice to the beautiful colour and texture of the unfurling leaves. There is so much spring promise in them.


How do you cope when a child is diagnosed with cancer?

I was trawling through blogland last week and I found an invitation to help promote CLICSargent, the charity that supports families dealing with childhood cancer. You can read the piece that prompted me to get involved by clicking here.

It didn’t take much to persuade me because I have personal experience of CLICSargent and the work that they do.

My son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, on the 17th of July 2008. You don’t forget the date your child is diagnosed. It goes into your consciousness, along with birthdays and other anniversaries. It is the start of a different phase of your life.

Everyone thinks that diagnosis is a terrible shock, something that you must have to spend ages coming to terms with. It wasn’t like that for me. I felt that diagnosis was a relief. I knew there was something amiss with Son Number One, I’d taken him to the doctors with a few different complaints and I was starting to feel that I needed some answers. In hindsight, he must have been feeling ropey for quite a while, poor child.

Falling asleep in his dinner was one of many signs that Son Number One was not on top form

The only time that I felt emotionally out of control was the first time I walked the length of the children’s oncology (cancer) ward. There were some very sick looking children there, several of them were hooked up to drips, most had lost their hair. It’s an image I can still conjure up. I realised that my son would soon look the same. He was going to be a cancer patient.

I remember speaking to my Mum just after that. “He’s going to loose his hair” I wailed down the phone. “That’s ok”, she said, “It’ll grow back”. She was probably more devastated than me at the time but her common sense shook me out of my emotional state.

About three months after diagnosis when the first intensification drugs started to kick in and make him really sick

We spent about a week in hospital after the initial diagnosis. The Husband and I shared a single bed for a few nights until I was able to get a bed in Crawford House, a ‘home from home’ run by The Sick Children’s Trust on the RVI site.

Despite what it means to us, I still love the old RVI building

We were very lucky that there were Grandparents on hand to hold the fort at home. The Middle Miss was 11 months old and we probably hadn’t spent a night away from her at that point. Not only did our parents look after her, they cooked for us (parents aren’t provided with food on the children’s wards in the Newcastle RVI) and visited us. That sounds like anything a normal family would do but it involved a round trip of 70 miles and negotiating the traffic of an unfamiliar city.

Children’s cancer is rare, so the units that treat it are often far from the home of the patient. That was one of the shocks to me; I had assumed his treatment would be in our local hospital. I am still thankful that I wasn’t living in West Cumbria. Children living there also travel to Newcastle for treatment. Their trip is 95 miles in one direction.

CLIC Sargent know all this. That is why they aim to visit all newly diagnosed families as soon as possible. We were visited by one of their staff during our first stay in hospital. She immediately offered us a grant of £200 to help towards travelling expenses. We spent that very quickly. Our fees for the hospital car park were about £35 for that first week! We were allocated to a CLIC Sargent social worker who helped us to apply for any benefits we were entitled to. She also listened to our questions and worries about how we would cope with Son Number One’s treatment.

This is what five weeks on high dose steroids will do to you

Finally, we were told that CLIC Sargent provide holidays for families in our situation. At the time we just thought “That’s nice, there are some perks to your child having cancer!” Later we realised that you can’t really risk booking any other kind of holiday because your child could be admitted to hospital at the drop of a hat. I suspect most travel insurance is unlikely to cover that kind of eventuality. For some families, the holidays that CLIC Sargent provide are about more than this practical solution to an expensive problem. For some families, these holidays are a way of creating lasting, precious memories.

Happy days on the beach, not long after diagnosis, courtesy of CLIC Sargent

So, how have we coped as a family? There’s no doubt that having extended family nearby has been a complete blessing. We have been able to drop everything and take Son Number One to Newcastle whenever we have needed to. Occasionally Grandma has been the one resident in hospital with him. Even Grandma who lives further away in Cumbria tried to come and visit each time Son Number One was admitted. Grandparents can be so invaluable. One of the other mothers we met on the ward told us that her parents had temporarily moved closer to them in order to help out.

The Husband’s employer was extremely understanding. He was given five weeks compassionate leave at the time of initial diagnosis, provided with the means to work from home and had the terms of his ‘flexi-time’ made even more flexible. They even treated Son Number One’s numerous clinic appointments as if they were the Husbands, allowing him time off for them, no questions asked.

The single rooms in the old RVI ward. The TV’s were at a rubbish angle!

I have often felt very guilty at the amount of time the Husband has had to take off work. I really wanted to be the one in hospital with Son Number One. Experience showed us that this was something I frequently did not cope with. This upset me a great deal. I felt that as a stay-at-home mum I was really letting the side down by not being the one doing the hospital visits. However, when I did go I regularly developed a massive migraine and often came home sicker than the boy. Well, vomiting more anyway. I was tempted, occasionally, to snaffle a bit of his anti-sickness medication.

The Middle Miss has grown up knowing nothing other than having a big brother who got a lot of our time and attention. She is fairly adaptable and seems to cope when she has to stay behind while Son Number One gets whisked off to hospital. In the early days when he was very sick, she tried to cheer him up in her babyish way (she was only just a year old) by bringing him toys. Whenever he was tucked up on the sofa she would want to get up with him. Unluckily for her, he was having none of it! I sometimes wonder how their relationship has been affected by his illness. He was really sick just at the time when they should have been forming a strong bond by playing together. I suppose time will tell.

Our friends promised to help us if they could, and when we’ve needed to lean on them they haven’t let us down. One of my lovely friends happened to visit us one day when I was in the throes of one of my migraine attacks. Despite having two children of her own at home, she stayed with us and made sure we were ok. Another friend, who lived closer to Newcastle than us, brought Son Number One porridge sachets one cold winter night when the city centre supermarkets were shut and it was all he wanted to eat. Local friends and neighbours have babysat for the Middle Miss without hesitation. One dear friend used to drop by unexpectedly with delicious, home made casseroles for our freezer. I feel like an Oscar recipient now (sniffles) “I’d like to thank anyone I’ve missed out – I love you all”.

When things were at their most difficult, I asked for some help from Rainbow Trust. Our CLICSargent social worker referred us and it was one of the best things we did. Once a week one of Rainbow Trust’s support workers would come to visit. She was a big hit with both the children from the start. She took Middle Miss out to local soft play areas so that I could completely focus on Son Number One’s needs. When he was feeling better she took them both and gave me a few hours alone. There was one occasion when she came and the Husband was at home too. I felt quite guilty that we had taken her time up  unnecessarily but she said we should just enjoy having someone else around caring for the children and relax. If you ever get the chance to support Rainbow Trust, please do. They look after families with seriously sick children, whatever the illness.

On September 15th last year we celebrated Son Number One taking his last dose chemotherapy. That’s another date etched into my memory. We celebrated by taking him and his friends for a ‘Happy Meal’. Who was I to argue with such simple request when he’s put up with so much.

In a couple of weeks Son Number One should have his portacath (the device that sits under his skin and allows powerful drugs to be delivered, literally, to the heart of his circulatory system) accessed for the last time. This is a pretty uncomfortable procedure that he has learnt to tolerate over the last three and a half years. When he wakes up it will have been removed and another stage in recovery will begin. He has already changed so much since the chemo stopped. He has slimmed down, increased his energy levels and developed a massive appetite.

He will always have a few scars from his treatment, mainly physical I think. Hopefully, the pain and discomfort will soon be a fading memory. We will always wonder about the possibility of a relapse. It is very unlikely, but it could happen. Some families don’t get to the recovery stage. I’ve known two mothers who’ve lost their children to cancer. I can’t imagine how they coped.

If you would like to support CLIC Sargent by hosting a Yummy Mummy event, please go to the website here. If you use social media like Facebook and Twitter (er, I have no idea how twitter works so forgive me if I’m talking rubbish) you could support the cause by simply sharing a link to this blog post. The more people who know about CLIC Sargent, the better. Thanks for reading this far.

Babykins’ first Snow

I love snow. I still get excited by it. I still anticipate it, hardly daring to hope that it will arrive.

I watched the weather forecast on Friday night and saw the enormous band of snow that was due to cross the country the next afternoon.

Almost bang on time, flakes started to fall at two o’clock, as I took my boys out to visit our friends. I don’t think Babykins was very impressed by the cold wind blowing into his face. His cruel mother wanted him to experience snow so didn’t put the rain cover on the pushchair.

By the time I went back out again at three o’clock to collect the Middle Miss from her dancing lesson, there was a covering of snow. She skipped along with me all the way back to our friends house. She didn’t care about the gusty wind, she just kept saying “I can’t believe this snow is here”. Thank goodness I had had the foresight to send her off to class with her warm clothes and snow boots. By now the snow was falling so fast that it really would have been cruel to expose poor little Babykins to it.

As forecast, the snow fell almost continuously until about nine p.m. I took these photos around midnight, just before I went to bed after a rare night out with my girl friends.

Can you see the little foot prints to the right of the photo? I’ve got a suspicion there’s a resident mouse in the garden, swiping the seed and dried fruit from the bird food dishes (where the faint trace of circles are).

Taking pictures of snow at night time is a technical challenge that I have not yet conquered.

Of course this morning, the fun really started. Son Number One and the Middle Miss had a great time pulling each other and the sledge up and down the street. They shovelled the snow off the drive into a huge pile  castle.

Babykins seemed to really enjoy his first snowy experience. I wish I could post the video of him being pulled along in the sledge. He showed his babyish signs of appreciation: a big smile and kicking legs. Fortunately, because he is baby three, we had welly boots at the ready and he made his debut walk through the snow.

He coped extremely well but by ten-thirty he was ready for a nap. So was I if the truth be told but you don’t get the chance to go sledging every day. Moreover, you don’t get the chance to do it with some of your oldest, out-of-town friends and their children.

Who had the most fun do you think?

Edited to add: Babykins does own mittens, he just keeps pulling them off. Can anyone tell me if my use of the apostrophe is correct in the title?

Wild Weather

These pictures were taken last Friday, the 30th of December over at my Sister and Brother in-law’s farm in Cumbria. As you can see, it was rather damp. Not damp enough to deter Son Number One who is farm obsessed.

It had been so wet in earlier weeks that their little valley had been flooded.  The evidence of that event was still lying all over the fields. Several dry stone walls have been knocked down and spread around. The space under the bridge was so blocked up with debris that the stream was teaming over the top. I suspect that after the wind and rain we’ve had this week the fields will be in a worse state.

Thankfully there are always cosy indoor activities: as much wooden train track as you can fit into the lounge and a friendly Jack Russell to get acquainted with.

If you want to get an idea of how lovely it normally is in this neck of the woods, take a look at this and this. Don’t forget, if you want to see my pictures in a bit more detail you can click on them and they will open up in a separate window (still as a mosaic though).