An Unexpected Christmas Day

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As I write this post, I’m simply trying to make sense of all that has happened in the past 24 hours.  My Christmas day has been very different to how I had planned (and I am a meticulous planner so I knew exactly how it was going to look)  It has been a very scary time but what has shone through is the adaptability of children, kindness of people and our amazing NHS.

Last evening, Mr S, myself and my Father in law who was staying with us for Christmas were all settled on the sofa waiting for the children to fall asleep.  The men were drifting off to sleep in front of the tv and it all felt very cosy and a typical Christmas eve.  I’m not really sure what happened next as one minute we were sitting on the sofa and the next I was aware that my Father in law was struggling for breath making terrible noises, then that he had stopped breathing and didn’t appear conscious and then after a terrifying amount of time and some shaking he was violently sick which seemed to restart his breathing. We called 999 and then had an agonising 50 minute wait.  We live rurally and this is the response time on some nights from the closest ambulance station, as not all are 24 hours. We followed the excellent advice of the 999 operator and one of us stayed with him whilst the other collected his medication etc..  Little Miss also got up at this point as she had been alerted by the commotion, so we needed to reassure her and try to get her back to bed (on Christmas eve, of all nights)  The paramedics were amazing and quickly did a load of tests on my Father in Law and gave him oxygen.  Again despite our attempts to get her to bed Little Miss reappeared and found the oxygen the most frightening as Granddad was wearing a mask and clearly struggling to breathe.  It was decided that my father in law needed to go hospital, another 45 minute drive and Mr S quickly followed in his car to give us some transport for his return.  It was now when our neighbours alerted by the ambulance texted us and on learning it was my Father in law offered to come and stay on Christmas eve so we could both get to the hospital, even though they knew we were likely to be gone most of the night.  Whilst we decided I should stay for the children, my neighbour said to call at any time of the night and she would come over, her kindness has continued throughout the day today.  When Mr S and his dad left, I think the enormity of what had happened hit me.  Little Miss was still awake, she was upset and needed a lot of comfort and of course being a child she asked the question outright is Grandad going to die and it was a question at that time that I really couldn’t answer.  We talked about all the specially trained people who would be helping Grandad and that it was a good time to say a little prayer too.  It was at this point that I was so proud of her as she said Christmas didn’t matter and all she just wanted was for Grandad to be better.  After half an hour of comforting and cuddles, she finally fell asleep and then I had to call Mr S’ sister to tell her what had happened.  It was another of those conversations you don’t wish to make and you try to sound reassuring and confident when in fact you’re wobbling yourself.  After the difficult conversations and cleaning up, it was around midnight and I was left with a dilemma about Christmas presents.  Our two still believe in Santa and had left out mince pies and stockings, however the last thing I wanted to think about was the morning, I was living by the minute, desperate for updates from Mr S. However I also didn’t want to create more bad memories from this incident, so hesitantly got the presents together and put them in the front room.  Normally I make such a fuss of this, its a real highlight but I did it very simply.  I also do a stocking for everyone in our house for Christmas and made sure Grandad’s was there in the middle of the pile.  I spoke to Mr S again who said that his dad was still in A&E and on oxygen and that he would stay with him for as long as he was able to but for me to try and get some sleep and to try and carry on as normal for the children.  Needless to say I slept poorly, worried about my lovely Father in law and thinking on how to deal with Christmas morning.  At around 5.30am, Mr S returned as his dad was now on a ward and in a more comfortable state, he managed an hour’s sleep before Little Man who had slept through this all woke us up all excited for Christmas.  The first thing we had to tell him was about Grandad, amazingly he had slept through the whole thing despite the ambulance and the flashing blue lights being outside his window, however he is convinced he woke up and saw Rudolph and Santa’s sleigh last night!

The children were excited about their presents but I think their thoughts were very much with Grandad too, he was missing and he is normally with us for Christmas day if we’re at home.  Little Miss had to be persuaded to open her presents from Grandad as she wanted to wait for him.  After the presents, the children got a bonus visit from their auntie who came in to go back to the hospital with Mr S, she lives 2 hours away and had to be stopped from driving through in the middle of the night.  Christmas day then became a bit of a waiting game, I stayed with the children whilst Mr S and his sister were at the hospital waiting for news.  We’ve spent the day playing with the new toys, watching a bit of Christmas television and having our neighbours popping in to see the children  too.  I swapped our Christmas dinner and tea around (minus the leftover turkey which hadn’t been cooked) but then the later it got in the day I swapped Boxing day lunch (always cold meat, salad and chips) for Christmas day, the children couldn’t believe that they were allowed to have chips on Christmas day!  Mr S returned home around 4pm having survived on one hour’s sleep since Sunday morning, he  played with the children, had something to eat and then exhausted went to bed.  At present, Mr S’ sister is with her dad who is feeling much better in hospital and has been seen by a consultant who has diagnosed a serious chest infection.  The last update is that he is awaiting some drugs and then may be able to go home.  As home is far from both his children, its been agreed that Mr S’ sister will look after him at her home as it is in a big city with easy access to medical facilities if needed. We are due to go on a Butlins break on Wednesday but at present we’re simply taking each day at a time.

Its been a strange old day, worrying but also trying hard to keep everything as it should be for Christmas.  Its also made me reflect on what’s important, not once today have the children complained about Christmas day being a bit rubbish, they are more interested in Grandad.  The people we have encountered in the past 24 hours have all been brilliant, the paramedics, NHS staff, nurses, doctors were superb.  Our neighbours rallied round to help too.  Perhaps this year we didn’t get the Christmas we had imagined but perhaps it showed us all what Christmas is really about, acts of kindness and looking after each other.

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Sometimes your heart breaks when you’re a mum …..

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Artwork by Little Man

This is a different post to my normal entries. Writing has also been a release so today I’m writing how I feel about our amazing little boy. Sadly I had one of my most heart breaking moments with him this morning and I’m still trying to make sense of it.

Our little man has always loved school, learning, playing and just being with his friends. Today, for the first time ever he cried and said he didn’t want to go to school, however not only did he say he didn’t want to go to school he also took his school uniform off. After much comforting and cuddles our little man explained that he didn’t want to go to school because for some of his learning he is separated from his friends and has to do other work. He wants to sit at the big table and not his little table, play on the interactive whiteboard and not his iPad and get to do 3 digit numbers and not 2 digit numbers. In Year 3 we are beginning to see what we have always been worried about the widening academic gap between him and his peers.

From the moment we adopted him, we knew Little Man’s future could be uncertain. He was a one year old but could barely crawl and was developmentally delayed in many areas. However with hard work and perseverance from little Man and lots of professionals he has made amazing progress and physically and socially is on a level with his peers. I think this is the difficulty for him he loves his friends and wants to be able to do his work with them rather than his 1:1 TA. However his learning difficulties mean he needs the extra support and help, particularly in maths and literacy.

I’m being irrational today, so angry with his BM for drinking heavily and how much it affects our little boy, one of his diagnoses is probable FASD. I’m also raging against an education system where academic work is so strong for 7 and 8 year olds, he’s said he’s missing his play this year and he learnt so much through play in KS1, why stop a successful strategy? I’m just so sad too that I can’t protect him from the reality of his world where he will always be judged on the things he can’t do not what he can. I know how brilliant he is at making his Lego models, solving jigsaws, remembering details about his school topics, how well he can kick a ball or hit a ball in cricket, my little boy is amazing but there’s no academic levels for these achievements.

The school is outstanding in its support. Little Man has had 1:1 support from his first day and his TA is superb with him, he has made so much progress with her hard work. We went into school today to hand over our morning and speak to her and I think she was as upset as us that our bright, sociable and fun boy was feeling so sad about going to school. We’ve agreed some quick fixes so he gets to sit on the big table and try some simple 3 digit numbers but I think we all know this is simply the beginning and we need to work together closely to make school an inclusive experience for him. I’m also going back in to see the class teacher today and discuss more strategies with her.

Sometimes it’s heart breaking being a mum and trying to protect your children. Little Man has been in my thoughts all day today and I really need to see him and just hug him. Tomorrow is their ‘fun’ day with their favourite teacher in the morning and then forest school in the afternoon. Fortunately the forest school is somewhere he will thrive and not be the special needs child so that will get me through tomorrow. I think this is going to be a tough year but I just hope Little Man is secure and confident that he has family and a school team all rooting for him.

A day in my life …

When we were doing our adoption home study, one of the activities was to write a day in our lives. I think the aim was for us to think about how our daily lives would change with a child in our house. There were quite a few activities like this during the home study and our patience was tested a little, however it became another activity to complete to satisfy our social worker that we were ready to welcome a child. I was thinking about this activity a few days ago and whilst my original isn’t to hand to compare with, I decided to blog a day in my life to look back on in the years to come. I chose yesterday, Saturday, it was a very ordinary but typically busy day in the Sparkles’ family.

6.30 am, I am woken by Little Man stirring at 6.30am, no matter what time he goes to bed he is always up, bright as a button at 6.30am. He’s really good, he pops to the toilet and then plays with his toys in his bedroom. When Mr S gets up 10 minutes later to make a cup of tea to bring back to bed, Little Man potters down with him and I can hear them chat away in the kitchen.

6.45am, Tea in bed, courtesy of Mr S and the three of us awake talk about the day’s plans.

7.00am, Up and dressed for a run. I’ve tried to run at different times of day, but this works best for me. 7 – 8am is my hour on Saturdays and Sundays and I run off road through the local country park, it’s one of my favourite times of the week, great views, great music and just me.

7.15am – As I leave for my run, Little Miss wakes up and asks if she can join me. I agree to run past the house at 8am and if she’s ready she can do the last mile or so with me.

8am – Little Miss is dressed and keen to run with me so we head off for the last part of the run together. She’s a good running partner and we chat away whilst running.

8.30am – Back home and Mr S is making breakfast. We all sit down together to eat.

9am – Shower, dress and apply some simple make up.

9.30 -10.30am – Household jobs, laundry, tidying etc.. I try not to do much housework on a Saturday but this hour gives me time to do the daily jobs and keep on top of things.

10.30 – 11.30am – Little Miss and Mr S pop out to visit a friend and Little Man and I walk into town for our normal Saturday routine, the children return and choose books in the library, we go to the bakers for fresh bread for lunch and WHSmith for the Times, (I buy it for the excellent column by Caitlin Moran, Nadiyah Hussain’s bakes and the weddings page!) We might pop into a café, but today Mr S phones to say they are now at the festival field and we go to meet them and pick up a takeaway coffee here. In our town there are festivals and fairs most weekends in the summer, but this is the last and a really popular one for locals, our good bye to the season.

11.30am – We meet up with Mr S and Little Miss and there’s a great atmosphere in the field, we bump into lots of friends and acquaintances and its lovely to catch up and potter around the stalls. There’s also live music and story telling for the children in the late morning sun.

1pm – Back home and lunch is a little later today than normal after our trip out. In the autumn and winter its always fresh soup and bread for lunch at weekends. My lovely Father-in-law bought me a fantastic soup maker so 25 minutes later we sit down for lunch.

1.45pm – I have a cup of tea and read Caitlin Moran’s column and Nadiyah’s recipe in the Times magazine.

2pm – Normally I wouldn’t do homework on Saturday but the weather forecast for tomorrow is awful and we need to do a nature walk to collect examples of seeds and fruits in our local environment. I did a little reccie on my run this morning, so I return to the country park and the children enjoy finding the seeds and berries and burn off a bit more energy running around and climbing trees.

3.00pm – There’s a craft fayre in town today, again the last of the season, so Little Miss and I head down to look around, whilst the boys stay at home to do some Lego. The fayre is excellent, definitely the best of the season and I buy a necklace and some greeting cards. We may have sampled the fresh fudge too!

4.00pm – Back home and I’m preparing dinner in the kitchen. I love my kitchen and Saturday is the day to try new recipes or make more special dinners. I have Zoe Ball on the radio and it’s another of my happy times and places. After a busy day, it’s a simple tea, I’m making a potato gratin, with fresh veg and gammon steaks. Normally I have a helper but both children are busy playing a new game on Wii U.

4.30 – 5pm – Tea prepped I’m watching the football scores come through with Mr S as the children continue to play. There’s a late winner for Bristol City so I’m happy with the day’s results.

5- 5.30pm – Back to the kitchen to cook tea and set the table etc..

5.30 – 6pm – Tea around the table in the kitchen. I am a stickler for all the family around the table for meals. Whilst we have had a healthy menu today, we do have treats too, last night was pizza!

6- 7pm – Whilst Mr S does showers and pyjamas I tidy the kitchen before sitting down with a cup of tea to read. My current read on my Kindle is Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

7pm – Strictly time. I LOVE Strictly Come Dancing and it’s my time that nobody dares to interrupt. Fortunately the children love it (and secretly Mr S too) so its family time around the television. Mr S takes Little Man to bed around 7.30pm for a story and Little Miss and I cuddle up to watch the rest of SCD.

8.40pm – As Little Miss watched Strictly with me she managed to get a later bedtime, it’s a quicker bedtime routine and the promise that she’ll go straight to sleep. She’s really good tonight, but I think she’s hoping that if she’s good this first week, she’ll be able to stay up late in the weeks to come.

9pm – Mr S and I sit down together. I get out my laptop and finish the Little Loves post I’ve been writing since Thursday, it’s been a busy week. There’s nothing much on the tv and we end up watching sport and chatting before bed.

11pm – Bedtime. On my way to bed, I always go into the children to check on them and to tell them I love them, I want the last thing they hear everyday to be something reassuring and loving. When I’m in bed, I rarely read but prefer to listen to music and often play a game of scrabble on my phone before sleeping. I’m lucky in that I never have any problem falling asleep and will sleep straight through to 6.30am

Cornwall 2017

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When we were planning our summer holiday for this year, we decided we wanted to explore our country . We have a beautiful country and need to celebrate and share our culture. (Reading back I should like to stress that I’m still mourning Brexit, you can love our country and the world around us!) We chose Cornwall quite simply because I wanted to go back to the Eden project. I loved it when we visited in 2005 and have wanted to return since, 12 years and two children later, I finally got my wish this summer and it didn’t disappoint. We picked the south of Cornwall as Mr S and I had a lovely holiday in St Ives in 2000 so were keen to be in this area for this holiday, with its beautiful beaches, little shops, art galleries and lovely little restaurants. Of course I was remembering a holiday pre children and I didn’t get much opportunity to mooch around the shops and art galleries this time.  However, I would like to plan a child free weekend to appreciate these things again.

We stayed at a Haven caravan park, Riviere Sands. Its location was ideal, right on the beach and we had a sea view from our caravan.  The beach was beautiful, miles and miles of soft sand.  I ran several mornings and it was wonderful to run on the wet sand for miles and appreciate the views of Caris Bay and St Ives.  The location of the caravan park means its a quiet beach as its quite difficult to get to apart from via the park.  The day we were on the beach at St Ives it was much busier.  The facilities at the caravan park were good, it had an indoor and outdoor pool and outdoor water slide, crazy golf, go karts and a variety of activities, water and land based organised in the leisure hub.  There was also evening entertainment, we tended to stay just for the children’s show and disco but one of the highlights of the holiday was winning music bingo on the first night.  We won so many prizes, a huge toy tiger who took up a seat in the car, hoodies, bubble machines, magic straws, bubble magic, light toys, the children were ecstatic and couldn’t believe their prizes.  I couldn’t believe we won, I don’t think I’ve ever won a game of bingo before! We did a number of activities on site, crazy golf was fun and despite Mr S’ disbelief and checking my adding up, I won.  The children both did some activities in the pool, aqua jets and gliders which they loved, they were £8 and £4 respectively but well worth the money.  The pool was really nice to swim in, heated to a comfortable temperature and well supervised, we swam everyday both inside and out.

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Our caravan was so kitsch, I loved it,  from the lollipop curtains, Twister lolly cushions it just screamed holidays.  Our rooms had bed linen with seaside scenes and all furnishings were colourful and bright.  It had a clean, good sized bathroom and the kitchen had everything we might need.  I really liked our little base, it felt like a holiday and also showed how little you need to have a good time.

Over the week, as expected for a British holiday, the weather was mixed, with some lovely weather and some cloudy, damp days.  The worst were the day we arrived and the day before we left, on the first day we just went swimming, did the food shopping and entertained ourselves inside the caravan  whilst on the Sunday, we went to a nearby town to watch a film and then did swimming in the afternoon by which time the rain had passed.  We wanted to make the most of our location on the beach so most days were spent on the beach and in the pool, we had two days out in St Ives and the Eden project.

We last went to the Eden project in April 2005 (the week Pope John Paul died, its surprising what you remember!) I loved it, not simply the content, but the philosophy and ethos behind the project, its one of the few millennium projects which has a lasting legacy.  I really wanted the children to experience it and understand the importance of sustainability, conservation and protecting our planet, pretty tough aims for an 8 and 9 year old.  However they loved it and learnt so much from it, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how they have discussed what they saw, especially in the ‘rain jungle’ dome.  There was also a space theme to the project this summer and there was a terrific trip around the solar system in the arena, you got to be on every planet and it was so well done.  There were lots of space activities all over the site which were enjoyed by us all.  I was amazed at how the site has developed over the years, I got the children to pose in the same spot where Mr S and I had photos taken on our original visit and where the bare land is now full of gardens and colour, without the domes the photos would have been incomparable. I cannot wait to return to Eden and as the tickets last a year I’m hoping we may be able to fit in a weekend away in the next 12 months to appreciate it again (and make more use of our £71 ticket!)

Whilst St Ives was as lovely as I remembered, it was busy, busy, busy on the day we went.  We split into girls and boys to do a little shopping trip but the crowds made this a little uncomfortable, you were queuing to get in and out of some shops.  However I did get to visit Poppy Treffy an online gift shop which I love and have bought a number of items from, it was so nice to be in the shop and see everything, I may have bought one or two Christmas presents here, its never too early to start.  We spent most of our time in St Ives on the beach, it was a lovely day and with a sea rescue display from the coastguards and RNLI there was plenty to see.  We also enjoyed some Cornish pasties for lunch, when in Cornwall..

Cornwall was a great holiday destination, the weather was as expected but I loved returning to Eden and enjoying the beautiful, golden beaches.  We made lots of happy, family memories. So that’s Cornwall ticked off our places to visit in Britain, where next?

 

My Valentine Sadness

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When I was younger, Valentine’s Day filled me with dread.  I was a very shy, angst ridden teenager and the only card I ever got was from my Dad. As I got older and found myself in a relationship it was a day to celebrate but generally I felt a bit awkward  about the whole cheesiness of the day.  Mr S and I do occasionally get romantic and celebrate our special anniversaries but not so much Valentine’s Day until 2009, when the significance of the day changed.  Valentines is no longer a romantic festival for us but a day to cherish our family.

Valentine’s Day 2009 was supposed to be the best day of my life.  After years of fertility treatments I was pregnant and the due date was February 14th, as we shared our news, we were all so excited by the date, a Valentines baby, I had it all planned the little heart coming home outfit, announcement cards adorned with hearts.  At last Valentine’s Day was going to be one of my favourite days of the year.  And then tragedy struck during the pregnancy and our darling baby boy died in the womb, it was discovered that he had a condition ‘incompatible with life’  For me now, Valentine’s Day is a very sad reminder of the hope and excitement we once held for the date.

The first Valentine’s Day was horrendous coming so soon after our tragic loss.  I walked up to the beautiful place where we had scattered our baby’s ashes and it did give me some peace.  Mr S had decided that distraction was the best idea and he had booked a Valentine’s dinner in one of the most exclusive restaurants in our county, it should have been amazing but of course we were both grieving too much to appreciate the fine food and stunning venue.  I remember sitting at my dressing table and putting on my make up, it simply felt like a mask and no make up could disguise my sadness.  We both agreeed after that first Valentine’s Day that a quiet Valentine’s Day was the way forward.

Over the years, I am more at peace with Valentine’s Day, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I see my first Valentine’s card of the year and it is always a time of the year when I think more of our son.  However Mr S has started a new family tradition since adopting our children.  We now mark Valentine’s day as a family and often go out for lunch to a nice restaurant, it is no longer a day simply to mourn, but to celebrate the family we have because of the loss of a very special little boy.

Letting Go

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For me and Mr S this has been a tough weekend, whilst it has ended happily, we have both spent the weekend worried about Little Man.  The reason for our anxiety was that we agreed for him to attend Beavers camp, his first over night stay.  It was a difficult decision to make, he is 7, but because of a tough start in life, he is still trying to meet all the developmental targets of his age and he has 1:1 support at school for his learning needs.  We decided not to send Little Man last year as he didn’t seem confident enough in the setting, but this year he wanted to go.  He plays a full part in his troop and has gone climbing, hiking, kayaking etc.. so camp did seem the next step.

Mr S and I spent lots of time discussing the pros and cons, a local camp, very skilled leaders all of whom we have known for years, 24 hours only, he was familiar with the base camp after his sister did her Brownie camp there and most importantly he wanted to go.  We worried about his ability to get himself properly dressed for the weather, if he woke up and got frightened in an unfamiliar place or if his anxieties manifested in tantrums, crying etc..  We talked to Little Man and the leaders and after a lot of soul searching, decided that we would try the camp.

On Saturday morning, Little Man didn’t glance back at us as he ran into the hall and we left, mobiles clasped in our hands, where they stayed all day.  I am a pretty relaxed person but for 24 hours yesterday I was on high alert, I checked my mobile frequently and against my cardinal rule of no screens at meal times, I even allowed my phone on the table of the Indian restaurant we went out to for dinner, as Little Man hates curry it seemed the ideal opportunity for the 3 of us to enjoy an Indian meal.  I did find it difficult to sleep last night wondering if Little Man was ok in his bed, had he settled, what if he needed the toilet, would the sounds outside scare him? I slept lightly making sure I would hear the phone if it rang. This morning wasn’t too bad, as I knew it was only a short time until we picked him up at 11am and I was so excited to see him, we were at the hall early!

On picking him up, Little Man was of course very relaxed about the whole event, he had a big bag of muddy washing, was missing his socks and vest and I would have preferred an extra top for someone so prone to chest infections but he was happy (until I mentioned going home for a shower!) and was asking to go on the next camp.  It was a tough weekend but one which has shown that we can’t hold on to and protect our children forever, there are times when they need to go off with their friends and we have to let them fly sometimes, it was scary for us all but we had prepared Little Man and ourselves and he has been able to show how more confident and independent he is becoming.  It was a success but I am looking forward to a more relaxed night’s sleep tonight in the knowledge my Little Man is tucked cosily up in his bed and close to us.

Clubs, hobbies and interests

Yes, if like me you’re a child of the 80s here’s the classic line and opening sequence from Why Don’t You shown every holiday week day morning.

In today’s press there has been an article about the cost of children’s clubs, in the article one mother had calculated that she was spending £550 a month on extra curricular activities.  This figure caught my attention, how could anyone spend such an amount on a child’s hobbies?  Curious I decided to work out the costs of the clubs our children do.  We have two children, Little Miss does guitar and choir at school and attends ballet, gymnastics and Brownies in the community, Little Man does football, cricket and Beavers.  That is 8 activities a week.  Whilst all are paid termly, I calculated that we are spending £20 a week in total for these 8 activities, which I think is a reasonable price especially as all clubs take place within a mile radius of our house, so there are no transport costs. In a small town like ours, clubs and societies are our entertainment particularly in the winter and equally as popular for adults as for children.   They are also a vital community activity bringing generations together, at cricket club on Saturday morning (its indoors at present) there were 6 adults supporting the Under 8s and 9s coaching session and most parents watched and chatted on the benches.  So many of our clubs are run by volunteers passionate about their interest and I hope that the children will continue to pursue their hobbies throughout their school years and into adult life,  helping as they have been helped.

I try to avoid being tiger mum and have enrolled the children only in clubs that they have asked to do, I also think that they are doing enough clubs and would not want them to do any more at present.  It is important to preserve some time for us as a family and to keep a school afternoon free for relaxing, playing and having a friend over for tea.

Despite the headlines, I think clubs and hobbies are an important part of a child’s social, physical and emotional development.  An opportunity to enjoy sport and hobbies and meet new friends in a safe and friendly environment.