A New Start

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.

Family Christmas 2018 Part III

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.

 

Family Christmas 2018 part 1

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!

Together again

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.

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!

Family Fun

Joshua had a great day yesterday and kept on saying ‘Thanks you’ most of the evening, I think indicating that he had had fun : when he woke up and came downstairs, he found his two young cosuins already in the snug playing with Kevin the puppy and so he joined in, sitting on the floor throwing the ball or a squaeky pig for him. After breakast we went out into town, Joshua and I went to the supermarket for forgotten bits and pieces, while his cousins went to the swings in the park with his Aunt. There was an autumnal nip in the air so we all needed warming up in a cafe, where the youngsters all tucked into something chocolately in a comfy booth, which delighted Joshua.

When we got home, a bit later than planned, he found his two Grannies had arrived too and his face lit up again. We had some sandwiches for lunch and then set off, in two cars, for a half hour drive to the theatre. There were eight of us and we met up with six friends at the theatre. Joshua was already surrounded by 7 family members, so he was pretty contented, but his face lit up even more, with pure joy, when he saw some good friends arrive too. He high-5’d everyone and beamed, looking from familiar face to familiar face, this was a treat and a half!

I had booked seats to see ‘Madagascar the Musical’ which is one of the three films that he enjoys watching most days – we even saw it twice at the cinema in 2005 when it was released! So when the show began, with his familiar music and characters, his eyes and mouth were both wide open in disbelief, this was amazing and turning into quite a day. Joshua alternated between loving it and having a nap as it was too hard to focus so long I think, but he sat still throughout the performance. He refused interval ice cream but he loved looking around the familiar faces surrounding him.

We walked back along the seafront back to the car park and squeezed back into the car. We finished off the exciting day with a family visit to a favourite fish & chip cafe for tea, where Joshua enjoyed his meal, while stroking his cousin’s long hair next to him. He could not have been happier, although she was not so keen!

This was, by anyone’s standards, a day of treats and a day when Joshua’s face and expressions regularly showed how happy he was. This outing was one of my plans that worked out even better than I had hoped, and that does not always happen, but I dont think anyone can have enjoyed it more than Joshua.

9/11

September 11th has always been a significant date in our family as it is my Mum’s birthday and as it child, it always marked the countdown to my own birthday at the end of the month. But in 2001, when I was still at home with baby Joshua on maternity leave, this date took on a new meaning : I was sitting on the settee with my baby in my arms, feeding him, as the full horror of the Twin Towers attacks unfolded on the television in front of me. I was transfixed and could not move as disbelief changed to a horrified understanding of what was going on. I clung to my 6 month old baby and I sobbed. I cried for all the children who would never see their parents again and for those innocents caught in the fire, forced to leap to their deaths rather than burn alive. It was like a horror movie unfolding before me.

We had been in the World Trade Center, on the top floor, in June the year before , when I was newly pregnant and had not yet told anyone. My husband had bought a New York yellow cab tie from the gift shop there as a memento and he was wearing that same jolly yellow tie to work on the day that the World Trade Center was attacked.

As I sat at home, safe with my baby, it was a stark reminder to me never to take life for granted : you never know as you kiss your husband goodbye as he goes to work, if you will actually see him again that night. Of course our lives get busy again and we carry on as we did before the 9/11 attack, but it is always worth sparing a few moments on this day thinking of the families whose lives were shattered on this date in 2001 and for being grateful for what you have.

We are Family

We all fulfill many roles in our lives : I am a mother,  wife,  employee, friend,  Director,  school governor and  a dog-owner, amongst other things. But this weekend, I am a daughter and a sister primarily. For a treat, I have come away with my Mum and my sister and we have stayed away overnight, leaving my husband in charge of Joshua .It has been a real break to mooch around a stunning town, without worrying about wheelchair access and where the nearest disabled toilets are and to not have anyone grabbing the sunglasses off my face regularly, but to think about myself and what I want to do more than usual.

We met around midday yesterday and we have laughed a lot since then. Having checked into our apartment, which is both modern and luxurious, we headed up the hill to a famous tearoom for our pre-booked afternoon tea. It was held in a beautiful bright room and we were seated in prime position by an open window overlooking parkland and a pianist played, as we absorbed the special atmosphere. We giggled, took photographs and enjoyed the most delicious food and drank endless cups of tea from bone china. It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon together and our two hours in there, just flew by and we swore that we would never need to eat again!

We walked around a park on the way back to our flat, which was also stunning and the weather helped as it was a balmy evening, so we felt like we might be abroad, rather than less than two hours from home. We collapsed on the leather settee, compared photographs and Mum wrote her postcards from her holiday. After resting and digesting, we  were renewed and we changed and headed out again for drinks on the terrace of the large hotel opposite. We observed and speculated about a black-tie function that was being held there and we planned our next jaunt next year! We decided that we could fit in some more food after all and at 9pm we sourced a very tasty sharing platter to keep us going.

We were back at the apartment for 10.30pm after our big night out, then it was bath and bed. We have another big day of family fun today, before we each head back to our respective homes and lives. But this has been a wonderful mini-break  : a holiday with the only two ladies who have known me all of my life and a real break from some of my daily responsibilities. So I am feeling  very fortunate and grateful this morning.

We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more working for a week or two….

I have had a stressful month at work but now I can forget all that as I am not due back there until 20 August, which is an amazing break. We are going away on a family holiday – a staycation with our two dogs. It is not just that I am looking forward to a break from work, but I am really looking forward to spending some leisure time with my two boys! Apart from weekends, I have not yet shared Joshua’s school holidays with him, he has been at Respite, with Dad or mostly, with Yorkshire Grandma. So now it is my turn…

Joshua is great company at the moment : he is much more interactive than he once was and more communicative too. He is able to request what he wants more than he once could. And with his new found voice, he is able to express his wicked sense of humour much more so he really makes me laugh. He enjoys stealing glasses off your face or sunglasses off the top of your head, laughing and shouting ” No Glasses!” at the same time, for example.

I really enjoy some early morning time to myself, before either boy wakes up. I will take the dogs on the beach for walks at sunrise , have an early swim, read a trashy novel or go for a bike ride. Whatever I do, it will be my choice and my time for me, as I don’t get too much of that.

Hopefully we will be able to put the dentist trauma and the heat-induced seizures behind us, so that we can have lots of family fun together. My sister/Joshua’s aunt is hoping to join us too for a few days, it will be great to see her and to share our holiday home and favourite haunts with her. She may also offer to take care of Joshua for us, while I go for a bike ride with my husband or maybe a drink one night, so that is a bonus too.

See you on the other side, happy summer.

Good things come in threes

We had a really good day yesterday for several reasons :

  • I had a phone call in the morning, and after 7 months wait, Joshua now has an appointment on Monday to be sedated so that the dentist can fill his filling and have a good look at his teeth, while he cannot object. So the dentist that I complained to on wednesday, must have been able to pull some strings to get him seen. She first referred him to this specialist service last December on the last day of term before Christmas, so that is how long it has taken. Hopefully he will know nothing about it , it will not hurt at all and he will be in no more pain with his mouth.
  • We had made an appointment to go and look at an off-road wheelchair for us to buy for Joshua, so that he can comfortably come dog walks with us. We left home at 11am and we arrived in Cheshire after 3pm, so it was a long drive. But it was well worth it : such an amazing piece of design and equipment . Joshua seemed to sense what we were doing there as he sat beautifully in the comfortable seat as we wheeled him around the carpark, across various surfaces such as gravel – which it glided over like  a smooth surface – and long grass. I had expected him to be troublesome after so long sitting still in the car but he cooperated beautifully. We placed an order we were so impressed, although sadly it will take 10-12 weeks to build by hand, so we will not have access to it for the summer holidays, but it might be ready for October half term.
  • As the factory was in the county where both of our mums live, we drove an hour from there, to Granny’s house! Joshua was very excited to see her and even more so when she invited us to stay for tea. While we were sitting at the table Joshua invented a new ‘follow my leader’ game which made him roar with laughter. He would point at one of us around the table, indicating that it was our turn, then he would tap himself on the head or cheek, inviting us to copy him. Granny was really good at this game, while Mum and Dad were more keen on eating our salad after a long day in the car. After washing up, we went down the road to my Mother in  law’s house , where Joshua tried to engage Nanna in the same game, with less success. So he sat on the settee next to me, high-5ing me, trying to steal my glasses off my face and then finally snuggling down. We did not leave until after 9.30pm, which meant getting home just before midnight – for the second time for me this week! Joshua flopped into his bed without objection and hopefully he will enjoy a lie in too. My husband and I enjoyed a well-earned cup of tea then were not far behind him in our beds!