MacMillan Coffee Morning

Macmillan Cancer Support is a great cause as so many of our lives are touched by cancer. I remember when my boss and mentor was dying of cancer, he told me that the Macmillan nurse was the best person to help him, with more experience and understanding than the doctors and consultants that he saw. He died after a brave fight, the day after his 70th birthday,  six years ago. A few days after he died I saw an advertisement for the Macmillan Coffee Morning and I asked the Board – his family – if I could host a coffee morning at work at the end of September. Of course they agreed, so friends and colleagues baked and bought and we raised a substantial amount of money for this worthy cause.

I have continued to support Macmillan since then, I ran another coffee morning ,even though it always coincides with my birthday weekend, and I ran a ‘Big Night In’ fundraiser which is a less well known event. The last two years, I have contributed to and helped at school’s Macmillan Coffee Morning, then brought any leftover cake back to my office one year and my Hairdresser’s another year, to further boost the coffers. It is a genius idea as most people love cake and so, to raise money by baking, eating and getting together does not feel like a big hardship.

I will be overseas tomorrow when the coffee morning at school is due to take place, so I have baked a coffee cake and some chocolate brownies to send into school today with Joshua as my contribution, as well as sending him with some cash to be able to buy cake tomorrow morning, so I am happy that I have still done my bit. I understand that classes will be getting involved by baking and selling their produce, as well as making tablecloths and bunting to decorate the dining area. The parents from other local Special Schools are also invited along, so it should be a success in more ways than one. These fund raising, school-wide coffee mornings tend to attract many more parents than my monthly ones do – perhaps because the children are involved or maybe they are attracted by the fund-raising element.  I will be thinking of them all tomorrow at school and hoping that everyone has fun and enjoys some delicious treats, while raising a huge amount of cash for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Bake and Share

Today will be the first parent coffee morning at school of the new academic year. I am hoping that it will be a morning to see old friends, but also hopefully some new faces will join us, some parents perhaps who’s children have just joined the school or some who’s situation has changed and now they find themselves free on a Friday. I am delighted that some of the core attendees have told me how much they have missed it over the summer, as we last met on the last day of term in July which seems forever ago. It is an opportunity for us to gather together and to let off steam and to share tales of the summer holidays, amongst an audience who understands the stresses of that long summer break with a child with special needs.

The cakes is a treat and is a talking point, but it is not really what it is all about : it is more about sharing and supporting. listening and talking and just being there for each other. The parent coffee morning will hopefully be a legacy that I will leave behind when Joshua leaves school next year and I have been talking about succession planning for a while now, as I really want it to continue once we are no longer around. So far there have not been any baking volunteers, but as I say, it is not really about the cake and biscuits, it simply needs the will to continue to meet and some nudging of school. I plan to visit sometimes in the future, to catch up with  friends and see how everyone is doing, but it cannot be my party any longer. But we still have until July – another ten coffee mornings – to hand over the baton to somebody else, who may do things differently to the way I have done and perhaps it is ready for a shake up, to attract more parents.

There is another coffee morning in 2 weeks time, but this is a whole school event and not our usual parent one. It is tied in with the Macmillan fund raising national coffee morning and the whole school will get involved, with classes baking and donations will be sought. Other parents from other special schools within our Trust will be invited too, so that will be a much more significant affair. Again that is not my party and although I plan to donate a cake and will send Joshua to school with some cash to donate,  I will be away for a long weekend for my birthday. Baking makes people smile and happy, and this well promoted national fund raiser is for a great cause too, so everybody wins if it brings people together too.

Right must dash, I have some cheese straws to make!

Food Glorious Food

I know that I am a feeder – it makes me happy to bake and create food that others enjoy. That is partly why I started the school coffee mornings I think, because I could see that many parents at Joshua’s school, needed to be cheered up with some sweetness in their life and a shoulder to cry on, or at least some willing ears to listen and empathise. I have always used my baking to thank people who are important to me, whether that is family, colleagues, teachers, school nurses , respite or friends. I have made shortbread this week to cheer somebody up who was having a rough time, leaving it as a surprise on her doorstep. I also use it more sneakliy perhaps to make my client or school meetings more memorable and more pleasant. I find baking a  relaxing activity as it is so absorbing that it makes me forget other worries and so it benefits me too, as I rarely eat what I create.

Given that I use homemade food in this way for a variety of purposes, it always makes me sad when Joshua does not want to eat what I have made for him. It has made me very happy over the summer holidays that he has eaten so well, both eating out -when it was invariably scampi and chips! – but also at home. When we have had spells when he will not eat – due to tonsillitis, painful teeth or seizure activity for instance – I become very anxious about him and it makes me sad. I try hard to tempt him with all his favourite treats and somehow, the harder I try at these times, the more reluctant he becomes to even try anything , Joshua is a slim, tall young man so he has not got many reserves to fall back on when he refuses food, and he soon looks skinny and gaunt.

One of the things we tried for seizure control back in 2010 was the ketogenic diet and that was a horrendous 6 months for both Joshua and me : it is like a very extreme form of the Atkins diet , which removes carbohydrate and so his food was very high fat and protein only – we even had to change to a bicarbonate of soda toothpaste as there is sugar in standard mint toothpastes! Everything had to be carefully measured and homemade, with no snacks. Towards the end, Joshua’s face would drop as I produced yet another greasy omelette for his breakfast, so it made us both sad. It might have been worth it if he made ketones which helped with seizure control, but he never got ketotic and so there was no benefit at all. I realised then how important food was to my parenting and after 6 months of torture, I admitted defeat. I would have been willing to continue if it had had the miraculous impact that some children have enjoyed , it has allowed them to come off the anti -epileptic drugs, but sadly it did not help Joshua in this way.

Given that Joshua had been so easy to please with his meals in the holidays – he gobbled everything up – I thought that I would try him back on school dinners rather than a packed lunch. But he refused to entertain the hot meal he was offered on Wednesday, so I gave up and reverted to a pack up yesterday, which he enjoyed. I hated school dinners when I was at school and used to get upset when it was dreaded liver and onions on the menu, so I would never force my son to persist with meals that he did not like or want, even if it is the routine that he is objecting to. We might try again when the weather turns colder but, as a self-confessed feeder , it is most important that his food makes him happy, as it is one of the real pleasures of life.

The 28th of September has always been a significant date in my life, as it is my birthday! So I turn 52 today and I am left wondering, how did that happen? It sounds like a big number but I don’t feel that old – well apart from my sore achilles that is. It doe s not seem that long ago that I was spoilt rotten by my newly acquired flatmates as they felt sorry for me to be starting university and away from home ,so soon on my birthday, these were friends that I had just met, so it was a bonding experience and I am still friends today with two of them . I can remember missing my own birthday party at home when I was a little girl, as I made myself sick during the preparations – I wanted to help blow the balloons up with a pump and I was not strong enough, so I pushed it against my tummy and made myself ill. My 21st birthday was special and I was spoilt and surrounded by my precious family. I chose grown up dinner parties in special restaurants for both my 40th and my 50th, surrounded by the important people in my life….

This morning I am going to be surrounded by cake, some of which I have been baking this week and some of which has kindly been donated by friends and family, and some which will be donated by both pupils and parents alike!  I am devoting my birthday morning to hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning at Joshua’s school and I hope to raise lots of money, as well as having plenty of fun. So I am sure that this will be a memorable birthday too, lets hope that it is for all the right reasons!