I have already written about my parents and what they mean to me, so now it is the turn of the other person who has known me all of my life : my big sister. My sister was 2.5 years old when I was born and apparently she was very possessive of her new baby sister and she was reluctant to let anyone else near me when I came home from hospital; her first memory is of a temper tantrum that she threw when somebody else dared to feed me a baby rusk. We did not really play together as children, as my sister only wanted to play schools,where she was teacher and I was the pupil, whereas I was much happier floating around the garden wearing fancy dress, but we were always companionable and talked a lot together. But as we have grown older, I would say that we have become much closer :
- We are in contact everyday; we may not speak to each other daily, but we send each other messages throughout the day. In times of family crisis, such as now when our Mum is in hospital, we are in more regular contact and we have been phoning each other too. We share and keep secrets with each other and we have always got plenty to say to each other, but are both good listeners and advisers when needed. Mum is fortunate enough to have three sisters and I have seen how they have rallied around her while she is unwell too, their family unit is similar to ours, except there are more of them.
- We are fiercely protective of one another; so if somebody hurts my sister’s feelings or upsets, her, I am ready to protect her and fight her corner. I will always take her side, and I know she will be the same, and perhaps ask questions later. It is true that blood is really thicker than water, and this applies not only to my sister but our offspring too, so we are also protective Aunts too. My sister adores Joshua and I feel the same way about my niece, and we have both appeared at hospitals for them when we have been needed, no questions asked.
- Although we are very different in personalities, my sister and I share our parents and their principles in common.. So we would almost definitely approach problems in a different way – I am always more bolshy and spontaneous than my sister – but we will always be moving in the same direction. Of course there is room for both approaches, neither of us feel that we are inevitably right. Physically, I am very similar to our Mum , while my sister resembles our Dad more, so we do not look like sisters.
- We enjoy each other’s company, so we have often shared holidays and spa days together and those are always fun times. We are going on a spa day in two weekends time and we will laugh and talk all day long I expect. In the year that my sister was 50 and my niece was 21, we 5 went to Florida for a fortnight together and had such a fun holiday. I was anxious before hand that we might wind each other up as my sister loves a plan , whereas on holiday, much of the joy is waking up each day, without a plan and being spontaneous about what we might do with the fresh day. In fact it was this fundemental difference in our approach to holidays, that had made me hesitate when she first suggested the idea. I only agreed on the basis that my sister and niece tried not to plan too much. But we had the best time, that we have enjoyed other holidays together since – long weekends in Center Parcs and a week in Majorca for my 50th. So it is a real bonus that we like as well as love each other. For the first time last Autumn, we went away with Mum and had a fabulous ” Girls” weekend in Harrogate and we had such fun, that we are hoping to make that an annual event as all three of us laughed a lot.
So thank you to my sister for everything that you do for me, we are lucky to have each other and you are a critical part of my support system. You not only support and protect me, your little sister, but you have embraced my husband and son too and welcomed them both into our family unit with your generous, open arms.
For the first time that I can remember for years, I am home alone, with only the dogs for company. Joshua is still at respite until later today and my husband has set off on an overseas business trip, just for the week. So last night I was able to please myself and so I had a long, lazy bath as soon as my husband set off, then I had something to eat and settled down to watch ‘Call the Midwife’. Once I had enjoyed my weekly weep at the drama, I called to see how Joshua had been. I always call around 9pm so that I can speak to the afternoon staff who have worked with him and so that he will be tucked up in bed – in theory.
I could hear him awake in the background of my call saying ‘I like you!’ and as he was still up, they tried putting him on the phone to talk to me, but as ever he did not speak but held the receiver to his hear to listen . When they wrestled the telephone back from him, I heard how he had taken himself to bed around 8pm but had recently reappeared and he did not sound in the least bit tired to me.He had enjoyed a good day and he too had gone to the seaside, where we were the day before, and he had run on the beach then eaten sausage and chips. There were a few incidents of ankle-kicking, but a much better day in terms of behaviour, and they were combined with stories of a bear hug and gently patting his short keyworker on the head, with affection.
So I was able to report better news to my husband and then to enjoy an early night and sweet dreams. Hearing Joshua’s happy voice on the telephone, made me miss him more and I am really looking forward to him breaking my peace when he gets home from school, tonight. One night home alone is plenty , thank you very much.
It does not seem long at all since we were putting the Christmas decorations up but now it is close to time to pack them all away again. I know that some people are eager to take them down and get the house back to normal, but I am not one of those tidy people. I will miss the cards, tree and most of all, the pretty lights on our trees outside as we approach the house that never fail to make me smile. I am not convinced that Joshua has even been aware of the decorations , he did not react at all when I showed him our twinkling Christmas tree. I doubt that he is observant enough to appreciate the outside lights when he has come home in the dark.
For Joshua , I think the highlight of Christmas is seeing all of his extended family in a condensed period. This year he spent time with both Grannies, with all three of his Aunts and two of his Uncles and with all but one of his six cousins. He saw them all within three days of each other so it is an intense extended family experience for him and he certainly enjoyed it. When he was at home, he made the most of his ‘Den’, which has been really cosy these last few days with a real fire in there. It has meant that he had somewhere of his own to retreat to when he had had enough company. He would typically spend time with everyone , sitting at the dining table perhaps, but after eating the soup starter or once all of the crackers were pulled, he would take himself off to his den where he had the familarity of one of his DVDs on his own television. Once he was topped up, he would reappear and join the crowd, so that worked well and gave him some freedom about where he preferred to be.
He returns to school next Tuesday. Previous Christmases I have had to try to get him back into the habit of early nights ready for the school routine, but this year he has continued to be asleep between 9pm and 10pm , so that will not be a struggle. He has been enjoying some longer lie ins since new year, he did not wake until 9.30 yesterday, so the earlier starts might pose more of a problem. While he has enjoyed his time at home with us, I am sure that by next week he will enjoy seeing all his classmates and the staff again and will be ready to begin his Spring term and to have some more varied attention and activities. By next week then, with returning to school and all of the decorations packed away and the Christmas chocolate hardly dented, business as usual will resume, it started with my return to work yesterday, as though all of the Christmas preparations , then festivities, were all a distant dream.
New Year’s Day represents a new start, a clean sheet and an opportunity to change from how we were last year. Every year I plan to get fitter and slimmer- and this year is no exception – and most years I end up heavier than when I started – so lets hope that this year can be an exception! But I did make significant strides towards fitness in 2018, with regular swimming. But in 2019, I also want to protect my mental health and maintain it. I plan to do that by surrounding myself with people who are good for my mental health and by doing activities that I enjoy, that make me happy. Hopefully that will be enough, coupled with healthy eating and sufficient sleep, to see me through. I plan to fill a jar of ‘good things that happen’, to review at the end of 2019 and I think that it will soon fill up, as my standards are not unrealistically high : I am delighted by small gestures like letters from friends or by Joshua attaining a new skill.
Speaking of which he did that just yesterday but it is going in the 2019 jar : he has three favourite films stored on my iPad and he constantly brings it to me to be turned on ,so that he can watch one of them. Yesterday I showed him the three film icons and asked him to point at the one that he wanted – as I usually select for him the film that he has not watched most recently. Using his index finger, he very clearly tapped the screen in the movie that he fancied watching. Why had I not thought of that before? such a simple thing, but I had never asked him to tap before, I had often asked him verbally which film he would prefer but I rarely got a response. Joshua is going to be given more free choices during this year and let’s see how that goes. But in the meantime, this new skill is going in that happy jar, so we are off to a great start.
So Joshua and I are all set with our new Year’s Resolutions, how about yours? Happy New Year, lets make it a good one, without any tears.
I laughed a lot yesterday and we had another great day. The main things that made me laugh were :
- We played a game of ‘Pass the Brussel Sprout’ at the dining table after our lunch and everyone joined in. As we peeled off the layers of tissue paper when the music stopped, there were sometimes surprises like you would find in a cracker, but forfeits on other layers. My brother in law had to shout out Christmas words throughout the game and my niece’s boyfriend did an excellent impression of a melting snowman. I had to go outside and sing ‘Jingle Bells’ to the neighbours. Joshua joined in and threw the sprout, rather than passing it, but he enjoyed the merriment.
- Granny had brought another festive game where we threw soft sponge Christmas puddings at our guests in a velcro covered cap, until they had them stuck to their head. They looked hilarious too. Again it was a game that Joshua could join in, he loves to throw a ball, even though he was not clear over who was the target.
- Joshua alternated between wanting to be with us and taking himself away for some quiet time alone. But when he did join us, he wanted to be in the thick of the party. He frequently jammed himself onto a settee where there was not really space for him, virtually sitting on knees. He played to the crowd : waving, high 5ing and there were a few attempts to flash his tummy, but they were discouraged.
- Last year I bought my husband some red velvet boxer shorts, with a white trim, as his Christmas pants and he dug them out again this year. With very little encouragement, he would reveal his Christmas pants to our guests!
- I love the face that Joshua pulls when he is pulling crackers : he closes his eyes and grins, but it is also a grimace with the effort and concentration of tugging the cracker. We had more crackers yesterday, as they are a great way to keep him at the table but once he had eaten his soup again and seen there were no more crackers, he retreated to his Den.
- I was amused to see just how much my niece loved Kevin on her long-awaited first meeting of our jack russell puppy. she said that she had high expectations, but even then, he exceeded them so that is a real recommendation! He was well cuddled and admired and of course, he loved the attention. I had to check her bags when they were about to leave, to check that she had not packed him to take home with her.
All in all, it was a very happy day and we were very lucky to be able to share it.
Yesterday was the first of our family Christmas gatherings as my in-laws family met up to celebrate at my sister-in-law’s house for lunch and a family party. It was a very wet, almost two hours drive to get there and we were last to arrive. Joshua was greeted by two aunts, four cousins, one uncle and Nanna. He took it all in his stride and wandered around at first to acclimatise and then he sat on the settee waving and pointing and then trying to trip up whoever walked past him., which is a joke that he never tires of. It became a game with his youngest cousin who jumped over his outstretched leg, like she was horse-jumping and both of them found that to be hilarious.
When the food was ready, I collected him a plate of lasagne from a well-laden buffet table but he refused it and would only eat endless Pringles, followed by a creamy trifle. After lunch, his cousins all did a range of crafts around the table, building then decorating gingerbread houses, decorating baubles for the tree and bunting too. Joshua hovered around the table to see what was so interesting but he declined to join in and he returned to the settee where he played with his Nanna by stroking her hair, trying to remove her glasses and by lifting her jumper at the back, then finally he snuggled into her tummy for a nap while she twiddled with his hair.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Joshua became more restless so I found the iPad so that he could sit quietly watching Shrek II. What I did not expect was that his youngest two cousins would enjoy the film too, so one of my favourite moments of the day was when all three of them sat together in a huddle on the floor to watch the film. Joshua joined in more than in previous years, even if he did not know what the games were : he too threw inflatable hoops, although he was not aiming at the inflatable antlers on his cousins’ heads. He giggled and watched as his cousins crawled along the floor towards my husband who was the sleeping bear guarding the keys, trying not to be detected. Even the activities that he could not access, Joshua enjoyed watching others having fun.
It was a fun day and it started the family celebrations off well. Little did Joshua know that Granny was waiting at home for him when he got back, so that was the icing on the already tasty cake!
It seeemed a long time since I had seen Joshua, as I had packed him off to school on Friday morning, with his respite bag, and so I was looking forward to seeing him yesterday afternoon after school. I had a meeting there at 1pm so I had asked if I could travel home with Joshua in his taxi, as my husband dropped me off at school on the way home from our weekend away, so I was car-less. So when Joshua first saw me, waiting in reception for him, he beamed, gave me a hug and pointed at me and he must have assumed that I would be driving him home. So he looked rather startled and confused when I followed him to his taxi and helped him in, in the rain, then climbed in next to him. He kept grinning and pointing alternately at me and the taxi driver, trying to work out what was going on.
However, within two minutes of leaving school, Joshua began to have seizures , sitting next to me. I held his hand and reassured him, as they came one after the other, and his face took on a familiar pale, drawn appearance. They continued for several minutes and I began to reach for the rescue medication, sad that I was going to have to administer it so soon after being reunited. Thankfully, the seizures slowed then stopped on their own and so I cuddled my subdued son for the rest of the 30 minute journey home, while chatting to the taxi driver.
I recalled that he had suffered seizures when I had last seen him on friday morning too, so it occurred to me that I was the common factor here. Could seeing me be just too exciting? As excitement is a familiar trigger for epilepsy, or perhaps he was just so exhuasted from a busy weekend at respite and so finally when he had relaxed, the seizures had crept up on him. It is useless to speculate as we will never know the cause I suspect, so I should just be grateful that they stopped on their own.
Once home again, Joshua whizzed straight upstairs to his bedroom, where he wanted his boots removed and he requested ‘Shrek’ on the ipad, while I prepared his evening meal. He seemed to be delighted to be home again, amongst familar surroundings and with the two people who he loves most. I really hope that he understands why he goes away from us one weekend in four and that the break in routine does him as much good as it does us, as we love it.