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Just a phase
Susannah, baby
Six weeks ago I gave birth to our second child. A beautiful baby girl, Susannah Catherine weighing in at 7lb6. She is healthy, putting on weight well and I'm glad to say, still very cuddly.
The problem is she is growing. Already she is nearing 10lb. She has already outgrown several items of clothing. It seems she is changing daily. She has been smiling now for a couple of weeks and that is lovely but soon that will turn to laughter, that will evolve to talking and before I know it she will be driven by hormones and winning arguments against me.
Don't get me wrong I'm not wishing time away, the very opposite in fact. I remember all too well how quickly these early weeks and months seem to pass. (See previous post: http://ed-85.livejournal.com/935.html ) I still find that Samuel is growing at a faster pace than I can keep up with. The problem is that whilst I'm trying desperately to cherish each and every moment and mile stone other people have already started the 'it's just a phase' kind of reassurance. They mean well, people always do, and I'm probably just as guilty of doing it but if I wish away the tougher times then I wish away the good times too.
Just as a side note here the tough times aren't really anything to write home about yet but I'm sure they will come!
Anyway this reminded me of when Samuel was only two or three months old and starting to be bothered with early signs of teething. Subsequently we had had a terrible night's sleep and the following morning at church someone said to me 'don't worry it's just a phase; he'll grow out of it, it won't last forever.' I found this reassurance led to some very conflicting emotions. Yes I wanted to get some more sleep but I didn't want to miss out on all the moments, big and small, in the months it would take that to happen.
So I wrote a poem. I didn't really share it with many people at the time in case people thought it was cheesy. People may still think it is cheesy but I care less this time because now I'm experiencing the same conflicting emotions again I know it wasn't just a one-off with Samuel. If I can feel like this once and then twice, maybe there's some other parents out there who feel the same.

The Trials of Parenthood
Eleanor Dawkins 2010

It doesn't last long
It's just a phase
It will pass
This stage won't last forever

The sleepless nights
The endless crying
It doesn't last long
You'll get through it

The growth spurts
The constant hunger
It's just a phase
All will settle down soon

The agonising teething
Unfixable pain
It will pass
Normality will return soon

Potty training is messy
Weeks of wet-wipes and carpet cleaner
This stage won't be forever
Then goodbye to nappies and puddles

Chicken pox, colds and nits
Scratching, sniffing, scratching
It doesn't last long
Builds up their immune system

Sticky fingers over everything
There's always glue and paint and jam
It's just a phase
Your home will be clean again

Tears and worry over bullies
Names and violence beyond your control
It will pass
Strengthens them in the long run

Battles over homework, housework, any work
Tantrums- it's the 'terrible twos' all over again
This stage won't be forever
They will mature eventually

Those little hands gripping
The joy of those first smiles
It doesn't last long
Babies are so easy to protect

Those sleepy cuddles
First steps, first words are only first once
It's just a phase
Unconditional, unquestionable love

You know all their friends and all their secrets
You are the one they turn to
It will pass
Grazed knees are so easy to fix

You are their constant in a changing world
Their independence is bitter sweet
This stage won't be forever
They'll have flown the nest before you know it

It doesn't last long
It's just a phase
It will pass
This stage won't be forever
They grow up too fast

By the way Samuel is 3 now. That's just ridiculous.

I'm a hoarder. I blame my father. He blames his parents. Clearly it's genetic.

I am also pregnant. This past week I have been struck with the odd and often comical pregnancy symptom that is 'nesting'. I have had the almost uncontrollable urge to sort through all the stuff in our house.

Being a hoarder whilst at the same time having nesting urges are two very conflicting traits! Even though I had been agreeing with other people when they called it this it was a few days before I could admit to myself that I was indeed nesting and not just sorting a few bits out.

In our study we have two shelves that run the length of the room. From when we moved in until last Monday both these shelves were filled with folders and paperwork and other random things that shelves are very good at accumulating. I would like to point out that not all of this stuff was mine; a lot of it was Matthew's. I think he, too, is a hoarder but most of the things he hoards are old car parts and Lego sets which all get kept in the garage which I don't tend to notice. This is mainly because I try to avoid going in the garage alone because of the large number of spiders that take residence there. We do not hoard spiders deliberately but you'd be forgiven for thinking that we do if you saw the garage or the shed.

Anyway on Monday my logic went something like this: We have recently taken over overall leadership of the Christian Ventures Camp we go on, this new role came complete with 7 new folders. We had no room left on our shelves for all these folders so they had been piled up on the desk and bed. When we need the spare bed we move the piles of folders (and all the other stuff that spare beds are very good at accumulating) into our room and dump them on our floor. When we get fed up of not being able to get to the wardrobes we move them back again. When the baby is born (at some point in January all being well) there will not be room for piles of stuff on our bedroom floor as there will be a massive Moses basket in the way. So logically the thing that needed doing was to sort through all the folders on the shelves with the aim to reduce them enough to be able to put the camp folders on the shelves too. The other stuff will just need putting away. This is easier said than done as being hoarders we very quickly run out of 'away' space to put things.

See all very logical and nothing to do with any random pregnancy urge at all.

There was a lot of paperwork to go through. For my folders (Matthew did his own folders the following evening) this comprised of 3 years of university work, countless drama productions, various church things, 'memories' (things like old letters, photos, tickets etc) and current course work. Between us we threw away 15 empty folders, 7 bags of paper for recycling and a whole bin bag of rubbish. Not bad for one little study and we haven't quite finished yet. Now all the camp folders fit on the shelves and there is still some space left over. I also sorted mot of the stuff on the bed. It's not completely clear but where else am I meant to store, the new baby bouncer and already-wrapped Christmas presents for 3 months?

Next I started on the bookcases. It was a logical step to make as some of the things I had turfed out of the study were books which there was no room for in either bookcase as both were already overflowing. So I sorted out all the books. For a hoarder I was really ruthless. In the end we had a whole charity bag full of books to go out; I'm surprised they managed to lift it into the van.

See this is all still perfectly normal and I'm not nesting at all.

Now that one half of the landing looks great the other half is bugging me so it's natural that I have asked Matthew to wipe my old laptop so we can pass it and all it's accessories including scanner, printer and games on to someone who will make better use of them than as dust collectors. I have also measured up the huge crate of theatre programmes that is on the landing and know that they will fit under our bed. So the next step is sorting through the stuff under our bed to make room for that. To be able to do that I need space in the bedroom to actually get to under the bed so obviously I need to sort through all the stuff on the floor first.

Still not nesting - I'm simply having a bit of a sort out. Honest.

On Thursday and Friday I had the urge to do more, I was making such great progress I might as well keep going. I couldn't really do our room during the day with Samuel 'helping' (For those of you following; Samuel is now 2 and 3/4. That's nearly 3. He starts Pre-school in November. I'm in denial). So instead the obvious thing to do was to start on the kitchen. My reasoning for this is because there are various baby type things that all need to be collected back together again ready for baby number 2. A lot of them we won't need straight away but it would be good to have them all together so that at least we start out on the right foot. So naturally I emptied each cupboard in turn. I cleaned all the cupboards, sorted through the contents, threw away old/broken/never used/out of date things and moved stuff around as necessary. Samuel was a great help in all this. Mostly because I can't actually reach the top 2 shelves of our cupboards without a chair so I got him to pass stuff up to me and put things in the bin for me to save me keep having to get up and down. By Friday lunchtime I only had one cupboard left out of 12.

This week I have moved onto the bedroom floor and the craft box. That was another bin bag full of rubbish. I managed to get the crate under the bed, or rather Matthew did as it is rather heavy, but I made the space for it. I also re-organised the airing cupboard so all the new baby's bedding will fit in and Samuel's toy cupboard ready for a double whammy of birthday and Christmas in the same month. I also cleared out the cupboard at the end of the bath so that I can move all the cleaning stuff into it so that when Samuel starts using the toilet in the night unsupervised he doesn't suddenly get the urge to open lots of dangerous bottles (he's potty trained during the day now in case you missed that bit; it all happened very quickly and if you asked me how to potty train a child I still wouldn't be able to tell you because I don't know what I or he did that made it so easy). This one caused great amusement for Matthew as we were bathing Samuel at the time and he says that it seemed such a compulsive thing that I was driven to do to suddenly sort out the bathroom whilst we were there.

See it's all quite necessary, logical...okay yes the more I think about this the more I have to admit that I am nesting. This sort of sorting does not happen with me. Occasionally I run out of room to the extent that I will do a small amount of sorting in order to get one particular room clear (usually the spare room when someone is coming to stay) but that's as far as it goes. To have done half the house with no sign of slowing down yet is very out of character. As is the amount that has actually left the property as opposed to being shoved and squeezed into an already over-flowing cupboard or bookcase. The hoarder in me is having a nervous breakdown and I live in fear that any day now I'm going to snap out of this pregnancy induced madness and want all my stuff back. The nesting side of me is thinking how productive this has all been already and doesn't the house look great. The realist in me is wondering how long this great new look will last and will it still be looking this great by the time we next have someone to stay for them to appreciate my efforts and for me to show to my Mum that I can be tidy if I really try hard, even if it means getting pregnant first...

Grandma's kitchen
Samuel, jam
Matthew, Samuel and I took a spontaneous trip to Bristol to see Matthew's Grandparents, parents and youngest brother. We had not planned to join them all and were in fact chatting on Skype when his Grandma jokingly suggested that we could visit now. We looked at each other a few times wondering whether this was an offer we could take seriously. It was soon decided that of course we could it was his Grandparents. Grandparents never refuse a visit from grandchildren. Especially when those grandchildren come complete with a cute 20 month old great-grandson. Yes Samuel is 20 months old. That's over a year and a half. Shhh.

So we said yes. We bid a quick farewell, grabbed some toys, plastic crockery and some pyjamas for Samuel and got in the car. Meanwhile Grandma went to put some more veg on.

One hour later we were letting ourselves in. Samuel was very excited. Partly because the computer had come to life again and he got to give everyone a real kiss instead of just blowing them and partly because at Grandma and Grandpa's house you go upstairs as soon as you get in. Samuel likes stairs. A lot.

And so we spent a very pleasant 4 hours in the company of Matthew's family. This of course included the promised meal. There is a well-known event from the Bible where Jesus feeds a crowd of 5000+ people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. Well I think Grandma could give him a run for his money! There was plenty to go round despite having to unexpectedly feed three extra guests. We had roast beef with all the trimmings including home-grown runner beans. Then for pudding there was a delicious apple pie with custard, oh and the apples were home-grown too. We all ate much and laughed lots.

I had just finished clearing the debris from around Samuel's face and hands when Grandma walked back into the room. She was carrying a huge, iced sponge cake. Everyone fell about laughing. She had made it so we were going to eat it. Despite the full stomachs everyone gladly took a piece. This of course included Samuel who thought it was great to be given cake as well as pudding and promptly ate all of his before Grandma had finished serving everyone else. This of course lead to the jokes that we were clearly starving him!

After much more talking and playing with Samuel we had to leave. We got Samuel ready for bed so that he could fall asleep in the car. When we left we were presented with a huge bag of cooking apples along with some eating apples thrown in for good measure. Not only had our visit been a spur of the moment, we had been fed a three course meal and come away with a bag of food.

This is not a trait unique to Matthew's grandma. My Nan used to be exactly the same. As is my Grandma. Although she is now very frail and
currently in hospital it was always the family joke that if you went to see her she would offer you food, usually cake even if you had just had a meal. If you refused then she would send you away with some instead. She always used to have 2 or 3 tins of home-made cakes ready for such occasions. In fact if you turned up unexpectedly and she didn't have any made she would offer you chocolate bars instead with profound apologies that she didn't have anything else to offer you. My Grandma is also very lacking in self-confidence so inevitably anything she had made would also come with apologies that it wasn't very nice as xyz had gone wrong when she had made it. I have yet to eat a non-delicious cake in her house. Another trait she has is that no matter how much you take first time round she will always tell you that it wasn't enough and that you should have more.

It just goes to show that the saying 'Grandma's kitchen kids eat free' is one of the truest sayings ever said! And it seems there is no age limit on what qualifies you as a kid either.

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I am now missing another part of my body.


"When I stand before thee at the day's end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing."  Rabindranath Tagore

This could be another long one, but hopefully not as long as my last blog post!


To fill you in. For the last 3 months I have been waiting for an operation to remove my gall bladder as I had got gall stones which were causing a lot of pain. I have been on a very low fat diet during that time in an attempt to minimise the amount of pain.


My operation was booked in fro Friday 1st July. We had to leave for Yeovil at 6.30am so it was an early start all round. When we got there Matthew and I chatted for a bit and said a prayer. I said goodbye to him and Samuel as they weren't allowed to wait with me before hand due to a very small waiting area. When I found the right part of the hospital the nurses were very glad to see me as I was the first there and was also first on the list for my surgeon and they always found it helpful when people arrived in order. I had some general checks done- blood pressure, temperature, weight etc. I waited a little longer and then the anaesthetist came to ask some more questions and tell me how things would progress. He also warned me that I may have a sore throat afterwards as they put a tube down it. He said that the operation would last anything from 1 hour to 3 depending on how complicated my body was. I was quite surprised by that and felt sorry for anyone who was after me in the queue if it did end up being a long one.

After a few more minutes the surgeon came to ask more questions, the most over-riding question asked by absolutely everyone who spoke to me was to check that I wasn't allergic to anything. If you have been following the story from my last hospital visit this was the surgeon who didn't have very good bed-side manners. He didn't remember me until he realised that it was he who had written all my notes. I made a point of saying that it had been a very long time since we last met. I don't want to come across as rude but he had told me when I was first told that I would need this operation that it would be a 4 to 6 week wait. It wasn't. I had waited 12 weeks and that was, according to the booking help desk the shortest time I would have had to have waited it could have been as much as 18! Anyway he was pleasant enough although he still didn't look me in the eye at any point. Apparently he deals with people better when they are unconscious!

When he had spoken to me I went and sat back down and he called in his next patient. As soon as I had sat down a nurse called me to take me down to theatre. I thought this was rather odd as my surgeon was clearly not ready for surgery as he was with another patient but maybe he has secret tunnels to get to theatre before the patients. I had already put on the lovely hospital gown with my dressing gown and slippers. The nurse took me down to a little cubicle area where I got onto a bed and she took my bag away and said it would be waiting for me on the ward after my operation. Another anaesthetist lady double checked that I was still the right person and still wasn't allergic to anything. Then she wheeled me through to the pre-theatre bit where I was met by another couple of anaesthetists, there seemed to be a lot of these. They were all really friendly and came with a good sense of humour. They put a cannula in my hand and gave me some oxygen. They also asked if it was okay if a paramedic put the tube down my throat once I was asleep as he needed to learn how to do it. I said that was fine, although I now regret that agreement. They gave me a sedative whilst telling me that that wasn't the anaesthetic but they would give me that soon and I remember saying another quick prayer.

Then I woke up.

It was very odd. When I was 8 I had my adenoids taken out and I remember being told to count down from 5 and I remember saying 5 and 4. Apparently at that time I got down to 3 before I was out so I was only missing one second from my memory. This time I seemed to be missing more which feels very strange and I wonder what else happened in that time. I know the first thing that I asked when I woke up was 'what is the time?' I was vaguely aware of a nurse nearby who was talking to me. She told me it was 10.30. I had gone down to surgery about 9am. With my confused memory of not actually going to sleep I thought that maybe I hadn't had the operation yet. So I asked her if I had. She said yes and that it had taken one hour and I had come out of theatre 30 minutes ago and it had all been fine. I asked for water which in retrospect seems very clichéd but obviously its clichéd for a reason. Then I realised that there was another line in my arm. I told her it hadn't been there when I went to sleep and she assured me that it was standard for them to put a second one in once the patient was asleep. She gave me a drink at which point I told her my throat really hurt and felt swollen. She told me that was because of the tube and this was also to be expected.

I was surprised how little pain I could feel in my stomach considering there was meant to be 4 holes in it. The only pain was that in my mouth. The nurse sat me up slightly then said they were going to take me to a ward now. I asked for my bag and she said that it was probably already on the ward. I have misty memories of being taken to the ward, the staff were explaining to me why it was such a long way as it was the women's hospital as that was the only place with beds. Out of politeness I was trying really hard to listen and not to go back off to sleep but I'm not sure if I succeeded. When I got there a nurse from the ward came to check I was okay and to make sure my wounds weren't bleeding. So I saw my holes for the first time. They were smaller than I thought. One in the centre up in the point of my ribs, 2 over to my right hand side and one slightly larger one on my tummy button where the camera went. I also looked rather pregnant. This is because they blow your tummy up with gas so that they can see better. It is hard to get all this gas back out again and so it can cause swelling and pains in the neck and shoulders for a couple of days whilst the body dissolves it. Also it was swollen as part of the healing process and this will also take a few days to calm down. I asked this nurse about my bag and she had a look round my bed and said it wasn't there and it might still be in the theatre ward. She would chase it up. Clearly I was still a bit out of it as when she asked me what it looked like I told her it was a grey parachute. This does make sense, sort of. It is one of those that folds into itself to become a very small bag that you carry around so that you always have a carrier bag on you. It's made from parachute material for strength and compact-ability. In my drugged state it seems I felt this was the most important piece of information to give her. Apparently nurses are quite used to patients saying such odd things as she didn't bat an eyelid and said it would be found. In the meantime I asked her to let Matthew know that I had had my operation. I was going to text him myself but obviously I couldn't do that without a phone!

She came back shortly to say that Matthew had been told and my bag was still near theatre and would be brought over very soon. In fact it came on the bed of the next patient out of theatre. Hospitals seems to manage lost luggage much better than airports.

The rest of the morning passed in a bit of a daze. They kept trying to get me to eat but I said I couldn't as my throat hurt too much and even water was burning it. They kept telling me this was normal but that I had to eat before I could go home so I should try as soon as I could. I also told them that I was feeling sick and they said they would get me some anti-sickness drug. I had a quick chat with Matthew to let him know that all was well. I think time was passing slower for him at home with Samuel than it was for me. An hour later when they offered me some orange juice I took one mouthful and promptly brought it back up. Then they got me the anti-sickness drug. This backwards way of doing things seemed familiar from my last stay. I had a quick chat with Matthew to let him know that all was well. I tried some toast later on but struggled to swallow it. I was yet to make any saliva since waking up and my swollen throat seemed to be blocking anything other than liquid from getting down. I was sick again. My hopes of being able to go home that afternoon started slipping away. This was made even worse when the lady who had come in from theatre after me went home mid afternoon. She had had an operation on her ankle and had ticked the four boxes (drink, food, walking and toilet) quicker than me.

I was determined to eat something as I didn't feel ill any more so asked if there was something other than toast as it was too hard to swallow. They offered me bread instead. This was a little better and I managed to eat about 3 mouthfuls and keep it down although it was agony on my throat but at least it ticked that box. At about 4pm I attempted a trip to the toilet. I had tried earlier on the commode (seat which is brought to the bed side with a hole in it and a cardboard bed pan thingum). I think I failed with this as it was visiting time so there were 3 other patients each with a visitor just a curtain away. Mind over matter and all that. Anyway walking was okay, easier than I was expecting partly because the local anaesthetic hadn't worn off yet. The toilet was a success. The most important part of this trip, other than ticking my last 2 boxes to be able to go home, was that I could look at my mouth in a mirror. I knew something had been wrong. The uvula (dangley bit between your tonsils) was swollen to 4 times its normal size and was black! Now they can't keep telling me THAT was normal. I showed the nurse who had escorted me to the toilet. She got another nurse to come and look who promptly declared she was going to phone the surgeon. One of his entourage came to have a look. She went to check my notes to see if anything had been mentioned during surgery. She came back with another one of the entourage. He was the friendly one from last time and he did remember me which was a nice touch. He said that the tube had clearly irritated my mouth quite badly but there wasn't anything they could do. It would go down over the next couple of days but in the meantime I should try to eat as much as I could as that would encourage it into healing quicker. He also said I could now go home.

I let Matthew know, who was currently feeding Samuel his dinner, and the nurse started to get all my papers etc. together ready for me to discharged. About 6.30pm Matthew and Samuel arrived to pick me up. It was a bit of an effort to get down to the car but I made it. Samuel fell asleep on the way home and went straight to bed when we got in. We were welcomed home by Matthew's Dad who had come down for the night ready to take Samuel back with him the next day. I didn't manage to eat anything for dinner but I did sleep better during the night that I was expecting.

It was very strange to say goodbye to Samuel the next day knowing that this departure would make for a very quite house for a whole week but still very grateful that I wouldn't have to worry about him or find myself doing too much too quickly. And of course he is spending the week with Grandparents and an uncle and other various family members; he's going to have a fantastic week!

So now the operation has been done, which I am very glad about and I now have a lot of healing to do.  Thanks to all of you who have offered support and are helping with childcare over the next few weeks!

Also I intend to catch up on all the things I haven't been able to eat over the last few months, starting with chocolate, cheese and ice cream! Mmmmm.


“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.


I warn you now this is long. Very long. If you want the shortened version here it is: I went to hospital and had to stay in for 4 days because I was jaundiced. I will have an operation in a few weeks to remove my gall bladder.


And now for all the details:


Shortly after breakfast on Monday morning I started getting a pain below my ribs. I had had this problem a few times over the last three weeks. My doctor had diagnosed a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics. He was right that I had an infection but that was not what was causing the terrible pain. It was a tightening in the centre which meant every breath came with a sharp stab. Previously it had been enough to slow me down but not to stop me completely. It had been enough to keep me awake for a couple of hours at a time but I had not had any pain since the antibiotics so I presumed the doctor had been right and it was simply an odd side effect of the chest infection. This time however it was bad enough that I could no longer stand up, nor talk for lack of breath. Matthew phoned NHS Direct for advice, they asked lots of questions during which I was starting to feel very faint and was getting pins and needles in my hands. The first aider in me got me to lie down on the sofa with my feet up on the arm rest. NHS Direct put Matthew through to the emergency services. The paramedic was here before Matthew had a chance to get to the front door with Samuel to help them find the house. This was a car that was very quickly followed by an ambulance and two more paramedics. The pain was starting to ease but they did lots of breathing related tests including a full ECG which involves lots of wires being stuck to your chest and legs to get a full reading of your heart which draws a line across their screen. Apparently mine couldn't have been better if they had drawn it themselves. This was encouraging but didn't answer the question as to what was wrong with me. My blood pressure was very low despite being led down which normally makes it go up. After some discussion they advised a trip to hospital as they didn't want a repeat occurrence on their conscience especially as I was looking after Samuel. Matthew let his work know what was happening and after a shaky walk to the ambulance off we set with Matthew following in the car with Samuel and a rather hastily packed changing bag. I also had the good sense to grab my book as I left.

This is where the waiting started.

We live in the country; in the middle of Somerset. Our nearest hospital, Yeovil, is 40 minutes drive away. I was no longer having trouble breathing so we didn't need to rush there. When we did get there the paramedic remarked how busy A&E seemed. This is never a good start to a hospital visit. Hospitals are never unbusy but for someone who sees them every day to be surprised by the volume of people it has to mean something and that something means lots of waiting. After 10 minutes they managed to find out from reception which bay to put me in. Then they had to wait another 10 minutes to flag down the right nurse for that bay so they could hand me over to them. The nurses repeated all the tests the paramedics had done, they were still all fine and my blood pressure was now completely normal.

Then I had to wait for a doctor to see me. In the meantime Matthew and Samuel had arrived, said a quick hello then gone to play in the children's area of the waiting room as Samuel seemed insistent that he needed to pull off all the wires and things monitoring me. He also wanted to open all the bins which is never a good thing to do in a hospital.

I waited.

The doctor came but she was also a bit confused by my symptoms and so said I would need a chest x-ray and some blood tests. The nurses were so busy that she decided it would be quicker to do the bloods herself. People never like taking blood from me as my veins never show up in the right place. Every time I give blood the nurses worry whether they will find a good enough vein to get enough out. In the end though it's always fine. They stick a needle into my inner elbow near all the little marks from previous times and out the blood flows. I told the doctor this but she wasn't convinced so after prodding both my arms she decided to try the back of my hand. The first attempt yielded nothing. The second got some but seeing as it wasn't enough for even one quarter of one of the four tubes she needed she gave up and went off to get another needle.

I waited.

She came back and said she was going to try my method. It worked. Too well. Blood went everywhere before she could get the tubes full. I then started feeling sick. I then was sick. No idea why as I have never had a problem with blood before but maybe it was just one thing too many. She gave me a bowl and said she'd get a nurse to give me something to stop the nausea.

I waited.

After 15 minutes of holding the bowl of sick I pressed my buzzer.

I waited.

A nurse came in asked if I was all right. I asked for a tissue and some water to wash my mouth out. She took the bowl and handed me a paper towel. She said she would have to check with the doctor as to whether I was allowed to drink or not.

I waited.

An hour after being sick a nurse came in to give me a drip of anti-sickness stuff. I no longer felt ill and in fact hadn't felt ill since I was sick. It had taken that long. I told you they were busy.

I waited.

The doctor came back to tell me she was sending me for a chest x-ray. I asked for a drink she said I could only have a mouthful to swill out the taste. By now it was lunch time so I got Matthew to come and say goodbye and sent him off to have lunch and go home to meet my Dad who was due that afternoon for a visit. I said I would send for one of them when I needed collecting.

I waited.

I buzzed for a nurse as I needed the loo. One came, she switched off my drip and said to buzz when I came back for someone to switch it back on for me. As soon as I came back two nurses came to take me to x-ray. On the way there my drip came out. The nurses asked if I was still feeling sick and I told them I had stopped feeling sick an hour before they gave it to me. One laughed and said 'yes it has been rather busy in here this morning.' I had my x-ray which apparently looked fine and I was taken back to my bay. I was glad that my drip had come out as it had been thoroughly annoying me as had the other things attached to me and the angle of my bed. Basically I was uncomfortable and still in pain and I just wanted to go home. I had, at this point, convinced myself that there was in fact nothing wrong with me and that we were all wasting each other's time. I had been reading my book on and off but couldn't really concentrate on it.

I waited.

The doctor returned to say that because everything was fine this was a gastro- something or other. Basically it wasn't a chest problem but a stomach one and that a surgeon from 'upstairs' would come and see me.

I waited.

A couple of nurses turned up and said that I was being moved to an observation ward as they needed these bays. So I got moved. I now had a different bed which was laid flat so much more comfortable and I was able to rest a bit. This side ward was a lot calmer and emptier. It seemed everyone else here was waiting too.

I waited.

The surgeon from 'upstairs' came to see me. He was very friendly and had expert listening skills. He said that it sounded rather like gall stones and that he would send me for an ultra-scan. He wasn't sure whether this would be done this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If it had to wait then I would have to stay in. The nurse said she would let me know as soon as she did as to which day it would be so that I could sort out childcare for Tuesday if necessary. I was given some paracetamol to help to ease the remaining tenderness. The amount of water I swallowed these with was strictly monitored. I was so hungry and thirsty by now I was tempted to down the lot before she could stop me.

I waited.

I was asked to do a urine sample, which I did.

I waited.

At 4.30pm the nurse recommended that I sort out childcare as they stopped doing scans at 5pm and she would have heard by now if I was going to be done today. So I let Matthew know. Then 5 minutes later I was collected by a porter and taken up for a scan. The scan revealed that yes there were several small stones in my gall bladder. The sonographer said that they would probably remove my gall bladder. The nurse from my ward met me outside the scan as she was taking me to another ward as it was no longer necessary for me to be in A&E. I was handed over to the nurses there and told that the surgeon would be coming to see me to talk about the scan and then I would probably be able to go home.

I waited.

I asked a nurse if the doctor was still coming. She told me they were very busy downstairs but that she would call to remind them. Now if you have been following closely you will realise that this doesn't make any sense. When I was downstairs I waited for the doctor from upstairs. Now I was upstairs I was apparently waiting for the same doctor to come from downstairs which was A&E and so was very busy. With this in mind I asked Matthew to get my Dad to bring an overnight bag for me as he was coming to Yeovil that night anyway for work the next day. Also I told him who to contact to see if they could look after Samuel on Tuesday. I had been hopeful but not unrealistic with my expectations of getting home that night and so was prepared with a list of things to go in my bag which I relayed to Matthew.

I waited.

Dad arrived with my bag which I was very grateful for as it meant I wouldn't have to spend the night in the hospital gown and my jeans which is what I had been wearing all day. I also had another book and my Nintendo DS to while away all the hours of waiting I was anticipating.

I waited.

It had got to about 9pm. I went and asked the nurse in all honesty if there was still any chance the doctor was going to come and see me tonight and even if he did would they actually operate tonight and if not please could I have something to eat? She relented and agreed that no, no-one would come to see me tonight and that yes she would get me a snack box. She also informed me that as soon as a porter was free I was being moved wards again. No idea why.

I waited.

A porter and my snack box came at the same time and I was taken upstairs again to another ward. This ward, I was told, was an operations ward and so was a clean ward. Now to me the ward I had come from looked pretty clean but apparently this was different. It meant that because my swabs for the MRSA virus hadn't come back yet I had to be kept in isolation in a side room. This suited me fine at the time as it meant that I didn't have much to disturb me from sleeping and eating and generally doing as I pleased. I phoned Matthew for a quick update. Wendi from church had generously offered to have Samuel all day tomorrow so that was one less thing to worry about. Then I settled down to a much overdue meal and drink. I was delighted to see that the sandwich was a plain cheese one as I was worried I would have to pick out the filling. After eating one and a half sandwiches I felt a bit odd. I put it down to the fact that I had been ill and then not eaten all day and my stomach was complaining at the sudden onslaught of food so late at night. So I left my food there knowing I could always eat my crisps and biscuits during the night if I wanted. I also had my tiny, tiny carton of apple juice which instead of having a straw I had been given a spoon to drink it with. Who knows what logic had gone into that one. I then went to bed.


As soon as I laid down, however, the pain got worse again. This wasn't the 'I can't breath pain' but simply the 'I can't sleep pain.' After tossing and turning and trying several different angles of the bed (one of those cool electronically controlled ones) and pacing round the room a bit I gave in and pressed my call button. I always felt guilty pressing this button especially in this room. Due to the isolation sign on my door every time someone wanted to come in they had to wash their hands (with that antibacterial gel you get all over hospitals) put on an apron and a pair of gloves. Before leaving my room (no matter how short a time they had been in there) they had to remove their gloves and apron put them in my bin, wash their hands with water and soap, leave and then gel them again once they had gone out. So every time I called a nurse in I felt that I was not only adding to my carbon footprint but also getting the NHS more and more into debt. Anyway a nurse came in and I asked for some pain relief. She told me the other nurse was on her way doing the drugs round and would be with me in a minute.

I waited.

Half an hour later she came and offered me some paracetamol. I took it and tried to go sleep. After 2 hours of pain where I would sleep for about 15 minutes and then wake again. I decided enough was enough and buzzed again. Another tree wasted and another debt for our health service was needed for the nurse to tell me that they were still waiting for a doctor to come and see me and until they did she could not give me anything more as it had not yet been prescribed. She left. I cried. I read for a bit. I was sick although I didn't buzz the nurse as I felt fine again and so didn't feel it was worth killing more trees and creating more debt. I read for a bit more and then at about 4pm I finally managed to get to sleep.


At 6.30am I was woken up by the nurse to have my blood pressure checked. I was also given more paracetamol with limited water as I was once again being starved until the doctor saw me. I was told they did their rounds at 8am.

I waited.

At 9.30 the doctor came, a different one from the previous afternoon. Along with 4 other men. He introduced neither himself nor his entourage. He asked how I was feeling and said they were waiting for the scan results to see if there were any stones. I was not happy. I already knew there were stones so why didn't he? I asked how long it would be and he seemed very insulted at my impatience. Apparently he was not aware that I had been waiting 17 hours in pain for him to see me to only be told less than I had already been told. Emotions and hormones (they always chose the worst possible time don't they ladies?) hit hard and I started to cry. He asked why I was upset and I tried to explain that I had been waiting so long and I wanted to know when I could go home. He didn't understand and simply said there was nothing to cry about; if there were stones they would remove my gall bladder. With no further explanation, empathy, sympathy or communication he took off his gloves and apron, washed his hands and left. As did his team. I was left confused, annoyed and crying on my bed. Thankfully one of the nurses came in soon after they left to offer the bedside manner that had been forgotten by the doctor. She got me tissues and explained a bit more and reassured me that the scan would be back very shortly.

I waited.

About 11.30 the first doctor I had met in A&E the previous day came to see me. This visit completely undermined all the hard work the nurses and other doctors had been doing to keep me isolated as she just walked in without the planet killing, NHS bankrupting, ritual cleaning and donning of apron and gloves. Maybe she doesn't have to obey all the rules like everyone else... Anyway she said that, yes, there were gall stones and that I would have to have my gall bladder removed. So now I was back to the same stage as 5pm yesterday just with stronger pain killers. In the meantime she wanted to get some more bloods done and if they were fine then I would be able to go home that afternoon. Thankfully the bloods weren't going to be taken by her this time but by a nurse who would come shortly. She also said I could eat and drink again but I had to have a no-fat diet. This is because when you eat fat your gall bladder (if you still have one) contracts to pass bile into the stomach to aid the digestion of the fatty foods. This contracting was what had been causing me pain. If there is no fat to digest then the gall bladder won't contract and there will be no pain. She left and I asked the nurse for some food, she assured me that lunch would be here in 30 minutes but if I didn't want to wait until then she could find me some cereal. By this time I was fully wise to the hospital's idea of time and asked for something now. She brought me a bowl of cornflakes with semi-skimmed milk which is low enough in fat that I could have.

I waited.

A nurse came and took some blood.

I waited.

At 12.45 some lunch arrived. For those of who have been fortunate enough not to experience the hospital style of menu ordering it goes something like this. Each afternoon you get given a menu for the following day's lunch and dinner and the day after that's breakfast. This has your name and bed on it. So if, like me, you had not been in that particular bed long enough to have ordered your food you have to wait until everyone else on the ward has been served then a nurse will come to you with what they still have to offer and try their best to get your choice of meal. If you happen to want exactly what the previous occupant had ordered then that's even better. The menu was listed with a key so that you could tell what was vegetarian, gluten free, low in sugar, low in fat etc. So my choices were always rather limited. On top of that I'm already a fussy eater. Also I had just had cereal and my stomach wasn't up to much more after the sickness from the day before. I ordered a low fat meal and ate what I could.

I waited.

At some point mid afternoon one of the entourage of the doctor who had no bedside manner came back. Thankfully this man, who still didn't introduce himself, was much friendlier and it was with much regret that he told me my blood results were not good. I had a stone that had been pushed out of my gall bladder and had become stuck further down. This was causing a blockage meaning that everything my liver was trying to get rid of was just becoming a backlog. This had made me jaundice. He said they would have to keep me in until at least Thursday and repeat the blood test a couple of times. This would mean they could keep a close eye on me and if I didn't improve then they would put a camera down, find the stone and snip it out. If by Thursday my blood was back to normal then I would be able to go home and come back for the operation as planned.

I cried some more at the thought of staying in for another 2 days at least. I was really missing my baby and my husband and my freedom. The nurse returned to make sure I was okay and said that my MRSA results were back and I wasn't contagious so I was allowed out to have a shower. This was gratefully received! I also filled in my menu for the following day. Thankfully my Mum was able to get short notice holiday for the Wednesday and Thursday which was a great relief for me as it meant I no longer had to worry about sorting out childcare. We had had many generous offers of help but knowing that there would be someone at home all the time to look after both Samuel and Matthew was a weight off my mind as Matthew has only just got over his own set of operations so to look after Samuel and go to work and still be able to feed himself and visit me was all going to be a lot of work for him. I updated all the people who had been asking for news. It was a good job I had free texts and internet at the time as I got through about 200 texts during my stay.

I waited.

Then dinner was brought round. Again I had to wait until last and then take my pick from the low fat options. Sadly not long after eating it I was sick again. Lunch had been fine but apparently this meal just wasn't what my stomach wanted. After dinner Matthew came with Samuel. Visitors to the ward were allowed to enter without any MRSA tests so I have no idea how that fits in with the policies. Even if they hadn't been allowed on the ward I was prepared to go to another part of the hospital to be able to see them. We caught up with each other's day whilst Samuel played with the bed and the wheelable table. Matthew looked shattered so I sent them both home to bed with the promise that my Mum would be there before Matthew had to go to work the next morning and would look after everything. Mums are great at doing that sort of thing.


After Matthew and Samuel left I was feeling shattered so at 9pm I went to sleep. It was wonderful sleep, even the plastic hospital bedding seemed comfortable. It was bliss. Until the nurse apologetically woke me up at 10pm to give me more pills and check my blood pressure again. Then more blissful sleep. Until she had to wake me up again at 11pm to move me onto the open ward as someone else was being sent up to them who needed to be isolated. I asked if I had to get up and move all my stuff but she assured me that she would simply move my bed and locker complete with me and all my belongings. After being on the open ward for half an hour I asked her if the lights were going to be switched off at all or whether I should just try to go back to sleep anyway. She said they would go out when everything had calmed down again. At midnight it all went black. Well in the ward it did but in the corridor all the lights were still on. I didn't care I just went to sleep anyway. I was only woken up twice more in the night when the nurse had to check a couple of patients blood pressure and bring a bed pan to my neighbour. At 6.30 I was woken again for another blood pressure check.

The morning passed fairly uneventfully. I showered and had breakfast. I spoke to my Mum and gave her another list of things to bring for me when she came to visit that afternoon. The doctor who lacks bedside manner returned to explain everything to me and seemed a bit put out when I told him that Entourage Doctor had already explained it and seeing as nothing else had happened since then he left again saying that hopefully I would be out tomorrow as they would be needing the bed. Like I would be staying here for no reason! I had another blood test done. I received lots of envious glares every time I went to the toilet as I was, for some unknown reason, on a ward with people who had had hip and knee operations. I was the only person who could go to the toilet without the help of a nurse and a bed pan. Eventually they learnt that I was too nice and useful to be evil to. My presence meant that they no longer had to buzz and wait for a nurse when something was out of their reach as I could grab it for them. I suddenly became their new best friend. Mum was due after lunch.

I waited.

Mum came with Samuel. We chatted whilst Samuel pushed zimmer frames and unused drip stands round the ward and waved at all the other ladies and nurses. Whilst they were there the Entourage Doctor came back to tell me that my bloods were improving well and that they would re-do them tomorrow but it looked like I would be able to go home tomorrow afternoon. This was very encouraging and made all the water I had been drinking to help flush the stone out worth it. The rest of the afternoon went whilst I did lots of reading and sewing and texting. Dinner was somewhat of a disappointment. I had ordered ham salad with sweetcorn. I don't like salad, sadly, but it was the only thing even close to something I would and was allowed to eat. I figured a bit of ham and some sweetcorn followed my fruit for pudding wasn't too far off a meal. The sweetcorn was burnt. Now I know it's stereotypical to complain about NHS food and up until now it had all been quite edible even considering my fussiness, but burnt sweetcorn? I didn't even know it was possible to burn sweetcorn. I put a load of salt on it, something I never do unless it's chips and ate as much as I could. Needless to say it was not the best meal I have ever had. Matthew came to visit in the evening whilst Mum put Samuel to bed. It's amazing how much you can miss a person in two days and how much you can crave the company of those you love.

The evening passed with more reading and chatting to the other ladies. I had a nap for an hour or so until the drugs and blood pressure round and sat reading whilst the nurses sorted everyone out and things quietened down again. Thankfully I was not moved again during the night although I was woken by the wind whistling through the windows and other patients' needs but not nearly as much as previously.


Thursday morning started in much the same way as Wednesday. Although I did make the big mistake of checking my watch at 6am when the nurse was doing someone else's blood pressure. I was quite happy to go back to sleep but when she saw me move she said 'oh good you're awake I'll check yours now as well then.' I get more of a lie-in at home with a 15 month toddler than in hospital. Another visit from the moody doctor who seemed a little more polite today to confirm what his entourage had told me yesterday and to say that they would do another blood test. He was yet to tell me anything that another doctor hadn't previously told me but I guess better twice than not at all.

Part way through the morning a couple of student doctors came to see me. They wanted someone to practise their diagnosis and check ups on. I think I disappointed them as by this time I was no longer yellow and everything felt normal to them. It was a good way to kill some time, however, so I happily let them do all the tests and prodding and poking they wanted and they seemed grateful despite the lack of any actual problems. Their visit did mean, however, I had missed the nurse who comes collecting blood. A nurse on my ward said they would come back later on that afternoon. Alarm bells starting ringing in my head. Bloods take 3 hours to come back then you have to wait for a doctor to come and talk to you about them. Even if they were fine it would take another 2-3 hours for the hospital to discharge you once everyone had signed the right paperwork and prescriptions had been sent from the pharmacy. My Mum had to leave at 7pm if I wasn't back home by then Matthew would have to come and collect me in the evening after getting someone else to babysit. This presuming we could find enough doctors to sign everything and experience had already taught me that unless you were an emergency no doctor would see you after dinner they simply didn't have the time. I was damned if I was going to stay another night and have to sort out childcare for another day just because I had helped out some students. I politely told the nurse this including in there a reminder that they were desperate for my bed as they had several people booked in for hip operations the next day and had no where to put them. She said one of the ward nurses would take my blood as soon as she was back from her break.

I waited.

She returned from her break.

I waited.

I went and nagged them apologetically again reminding them they wanted my bed. At 11.30 she came and took my blood and rushed it off to the right place. At 2.30pm the now slightly politer doctor and a different entourage doctor came to tell me my blood results were back to normal and I could go home just as soon as everything was signed. I was told this could be up to three hours. The other entourage doctor promised he would do it as quickly as he could and just a few minutes later returned to say he had done his bit and it was now in the hands of the pharmacy. At 4pm Mum came again with Samuel. I had packed and was waiting to go. At 4.30pm I went and asked the nurses if they could tell me how much longer it would be as the visiting hours were over and I was aware I had a toddler running round their ward in case they wanted us to go and wait somewhere else. They kindly phoned the pharmacy and got them to make mine the top of their list and told me that one of them would personally go and collect it so that I could go home. In the meantime Mum and Samuel were fine to hang around and wait. At 4.50pm the nurse rushed over to me with my prescription (for pain relief and antibiotics as the chest infection my own GP had originally diagnosed was still hanging around) and discharge papers. I think she was glad to get rid of me before she had to do the drugs round and then dinner.

So we left. I felt like I had escaped from prison and was half expecting another doctor to chase after me saying I had to stay longer. We went home, had dinner and put Samuel to bed. We were all shattered and so Mum headed off home as she would have to be up at 4.30am the next day for work. I was very glad to be back.

Over the next few days and nights I caught up on my sleep and my food, although it is rather limited by the no-fat rules of my diet. On the Friday Wendi came round to keep me company and make sure I didn't tire myself out by trying to do too much. Then that afternoon we went to Matthew's parents for the weekend.

So life is more or less back to normal for the time being.

Now I just have to wait for a date for my operation...


Samuel, jam

“Reality is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.” Unknown

I used that quote in an exam once...can't remember why now maybe just because it's one of my favourites.

I was re-reading Peter Pan the other week. If you haven't read it before I highly recommend it and believe it or not it's rather different to the Disney version! In fact it's different to most versions ever done on stage or screen because even those who are trying to keep to the book don't quite dare to do so completely. There are also some fantastic ideas that would be almost impossible to portray fully by actors. I particularly like the description of how the children already know about Neverland and Peter. It starts off as their imagination and each child's idea of Neverland is slightly different. When the children in the book go there for real it is an amalgamation of the three. When they fly with Peter to the Neverland what was previously just a made-up game becomes real.

The story progresses much as the film and stage versions portray but with a few more deaths than Disney would ever dare do. The ending of this story, for me, has always been a fascination. JM Barrie has created a story that cannot ever have a happy ending. Different versions often try to fashion one but it always end with someone being unhappy. The book doesn't try to sugar coat it's unhappy, forever-looped ending. It just states what will happen; 'and so it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.' Having re-read this now as a parent I can understand those adjectives being used to describe children. From re-reading it I have been reminded why it is such a great story (if not always a happy one) and has raised some new thoughts for me about children's imaginations...Oh and the crocodile is female.

I have often wondered at what age a child acquires an imagination. Are they born with one? Do they gradually develop one as their language grows enough to enable one? Do they learn their imagination from others? I'm sure there are lots of psychological studies that have been done on this that I'm not privy to, but the general consensus online seems to be that it comes in around 2 years. Although this does coincide with when language tends to be of a high enough standard that us mere adults can understand so I can't help wondering that it is there a lot earlier than that. Maybe they always have one but just don't have the words to express it any earlier. After all imagination is just the denial of the limitations of reality. Well a baby isn't born knowing those limitations it has to learn them so therefore anything is possible. In fact I would argue that as we learn more about reality we lose our imaginations. We don't gain one we lose it as we get older. This is why in Peter Pan once the children grow up they can no longer fly to Neverland and in fact some of them even forget all about it. “In time they could not even fly after their hats. Want of practise, they called it; but what it really meant was that they no longer believed.”

In the film Hook this idea that as you grow up you forget your past imaginings is taken to the extreme as Peter grows up and forgets all about Neverland and how he is the legendary Peter Pan. Can you imagine being someone so famous for so long and yet forgetting all about it? It sounds impossible and yet how much do you really remember from your childhood? Can your memory account for all the years and years you spent in imaginary worlds? Do you even remember that you had those imaginary worlds? I can remember snip-its and certain games but no where near 12+ years of it and I can't help but wonder what I have lost as the years have passed. Maybe I actually went to my version of Neverland but have since dismissed it as impossible and therefore just another game.

Going back to when an imagination develops Samuel took me by surprise the other evening. We had just finished dinner and Matthew was clearing up the mess that inevitably accompanies meal times with a toddler. Samuel has a habit of trying to give you every crumb that has fallen on him or the table and not resting until you take said crumb from him and put it on his plate or in the bin. Often he is trying to pick up such small pieces that in his haste he doesn't actually pick them up at all but as he hasn't realised this he tries to give them to you anyway. The same rules apply here; if he is handing you something you have to take it from him. So when Matthew was cleaning him up Samuel started offering him crumbs and Matthew dutifully took them. Then when Samuel was trying to offer him thin air Matthew still took it and put it in his bowl. Samuel doesn't normally realise that he has handed you nothing but for some reason on this evening he started to notice. He thought it was very funny that Matthew was taking nothing from him and thanking him anyway. This lead to a whole new game where Samuel would deliberately pick up nothing, often without even looking at the table and hand it to Matthew for him to put in the bowl. I wish I had had the video camera there at the time. Here for me was the beginnings of my son's imagination showing through at the very young age of 14 months.

This is what lead me on to thinking that maybe it's always been there and we just didn't realise. He always jabbers away to his toys as he's playing with them; it's utter nonsense but he doesn't know that. He seems to have very definite goals when he is playing that he will not be distracted from. If he wants to line the three bottles up just so on the table then he will do it even if a nappy change interrupts him, he always goes straight back to it. I see it with his friends too. They will pick up a phone (real or toy) and say 'hiya' into it and hand it to you to talk to the person and then expect it back and off they wander jabbering away. Now I know most of this is just copying but how and where do you draw the line between copying and pretending? Even children as young as Samuel and his friends are playing with and testing the boundaries of reality. Now this maybe deliberate but it may just be because they don't know the boundaries are there and so don't realise that they should be adhered to.

“Aerodynamically the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.” Mary Kay Ash

For me science often ruined my fun. I didn't want to know how a rainbow was formed. I wanted it to remain magical. Once I knew it was light being refracted through water like a prism it became harder to continue dreaming about the pot of gold at the end and the unicorns that used to slide down it. Don't get me wrong science poses a lot of questions that lead to fascinating discoveries but basically, for me, it teaches all about the boundaries of reality. I sometimes wish that I could go back to a time where those boundaries didn't exist. Where I could go to Neverland if I wanted to. Where I could tell stories with my toys all day long. Where I could laugh at handing invisible crumbs to someone...Although I guess being a parent does give me the excuse to at least pretend that I can do those things again...And if you haven't got children feel free to come borrow mine for a day as long as you promise to leave the boundaries of reality at home!

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - myth is more potent that history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death.” Robert Fulghum

Learning from the best.
I discovered something rather ordinary the other week.  My Dad's vanilla fudge with nuts and fruit is just vanilla fudge with nuts and fruit.

Okay now that may seem a very obvious statement to be making and hardly one that is blog-worthy but let me explain.  For as long as I can remember on special occasions my Dad has made this most amazingly gorgeous, melt-in-the-mouth, scrumptious fudge.  I have hardly ever seen him make it as it is usually done when I'm not there or once I had gone to bed.  This was probably to stop me eating the whole lot before it was set.  He has often promised me that one day he will show me how to make it and give me the sacred recipe and maybe even a sugar thermometer.  I have been eagerly awaiting this day.  To learn the ancient secrets from the master himself.  To be able to make my own fudge.  Whenever I want.  On my own.  To hold everyone in amazement at this delicious,


delicacy.  To be able to put my talent down to an old family recipe.  To be able to make some fudge for my Dad and for him to declare it better than, or at the very least on par with his...

I think you get the picture.  Anyway going back to a few weeks ago.  I was in a charity shop (such wonderful little Aladdin's caves) and came across an old recipe book.  It was how to make sweets and candies.  It has the lot in there.  Jelly sweets.  Marshmallows.  Toffees.  Macaroons.  Candy.  Truffles.  Marzipan sweets.  And yes a whole chapter devoted to fudge.  Brilliant, I thought.  I could get this book, make lots of cool exciting sweets and other such delights and also practise making fudge.  That way when I did get my promised masterclass from my Dad I would already have a head start  on the basics and wouldn't have to get my chef hat round so much in one go.  I even bought a sugar thermometer off ebay.

I tried making marshmallows.  They turned out like toffee flavoured hard boiled sweets.  Except I didn't even get as far as separating the mixture because it set as one hard lump complete with spoon stuck in the middle.  It stayed that way in a bowl of water for several days until the sugar dissolved enough to get the spoon out.  Apparently I shouldn't have started with something so ambitious.  I then decided to attempt fudge.  I should first explain the difference between the two types of fudge I have come across.  The first is made with icing sugar (usually added after the mixture is taken off the heat.  This creates the type of fudge you buy from a fudge stall at a market or craft fair type place.  It is thick and smooth in texture.  The second is made by adding caster sugar into the mixture and heating it to a very precise temperature.  This creates a more crumbly melt-in-the-mouth texture.  My dad's is the latter.  My dad's fudge is orgasmic, did I mention that?  Anyway back to the fudge making.  I thought it wise to start with a simple, basic vanilla fudge.  I didn't want to get ahead of myself.  So very carefully and with little expectation of the outcome I made my first fudge.  It was like Dad's only without the nuts and fruit.  It actually tasted pretty good too.  I was elated.  I had succeeded.  In fact I had more than succeeded I had learnt how to make Dad's fudge without the masterclass nor the wait of unknown length.

Despite thoroughly enjoying the fruits of my labour I was also kind of disappointed.  My Dad's vanilla fudge with nuts and fruit is just vanilla fudge with nuts and fruit.  It was a bit like when you learn how a rainbow is made.  Or how ripples in water work.  Or how that amazing card trick was done.  Fine if you want to know those things but when you don't it can be a real let down.  Now I know that I wanted to know how to make Dad's fudge but I wanted to learn from him when he was ready to teach me.  Having found it in a book and made it by mistake almost feels like I've cheated both of us out of the pleasure of that lesson.  I couldn't make this fudge and put my talent down to an old family recipe (I shall continue to call it that despite the fact that I have no idea where Dad got it from).  It would just be a recipe I found in charity shop book and somehow that just doesn't have the same awe-inspiring ring to it.  Nor would I ever be able to present some to Dad as it would seem that I didn't need his expertise and years of experience.  I would feel far too guilty.

It was with mixed feelings that I made a second batch a few days later to take to Matthew's Grandparents' house.  We were staying there before and after his brother, Christopher's wedding to Sarah.  I did exactly the same recipe in exactly the same way.  It was a disater.  Okay that may be exagerating slightly.  It wasn't a marshmallow level disaster but it certainly wasn't delectable vanilla fudge.  I turned it into millionaire's cake instead so at least it wasn't wasted.  But what had gone wrong?  I tried again and the same disapointing results occured.  Clearly the first time was fluke.  Clearly I do need Dad's masterclass after all.  To be honest I'm really rather glad about that.  Strange as it may seem but I'd rather wait and learn the old family recipe from the pro.

I have decided that I don't even mind if it is just a normal recipe for vanilla fudge with nuts and fruit.  I don't even care if it can be found in every recipe book in the country.  It doesn't matter to me if there are no secret ingredients or if it turns out that it has no special method for making it perfect.  You see I have decided to see my Dad's fudge like I always used to as a child.  An impossible phenomenon of cooking.  Our world tries to explain away too much.  I have learnt from my baby Samuel (who is now 8 months old.  That's 2/3 of a year.)  that anything can be fasinating and exciting - and why shouldn't it be?  If he wants to spend half an hour stood at the washing machine watching the clothes spin and get all bubbly then why can't he?  Why can't I for that matter?  The majority of the population may see grass as a very ordinary, every day thing but to Samuel it's enchanting.  Just because we have become desensitised to grass that doens't make it any less of a miracle of God's creation.

So yes my Dad's fudge may be just a normal vanilla fudge recipe with nuts and fruit but that doesn't stop it being the yummiest thing ever.  If you don't find something special that doesn't mean it isn't; it just means you aren't looking at it in the right way.  Besides I can't make Dad's fudge properly, even my fluke attempt wasn't as good as his is.  Dad I still await your masterclass whenever it may come. 

In the meantime if you think you may be able to make fudge better than my Dad feel free to send me some and I shall judge it for you...mmm free fudge...

"Change is the only constant"
Samuel, jam
Samuel is now 6 months old.  That's half a year.  Time is passing and I'm convinced it's passing faster than normal.  This needs to be stopped.  Someone needs to take the batteries out of the world's clock.  I'm sure there are people who would disagree.  I'm sure there are people who love the world's clock to speed up.  I am not one of these people.  Why?  Because Samuel is now 6 months old.  That's half a year.  I know, I'm repeating myself but you need to realise how big a thing this is.  Okay I know that logically he has to be 6 months old at some point and logically that point would come approximately 6 months after he was born.  But somehow it's still a shock.  As my Dad keeps pointing out to me 'that's 1/36th of his way to university.

I don't think the fact that he has existed (on the outside) for 6 months is the real issue here.  I think it's more to do with how much has happened in that time.  How much he has changed.  How much he has learnt to do.  How much he has developed.  In the 6 months since he was born Samuel has learnt how to feed.  Learnt the difference between day and night (a big deal as any parent wil know).  Learnt to hold his head up.  Learnt to smile.  Learnt to pick things up.  Learnt how to roll over.  Learnt how to roll back again.  Learnt to laugh.  Learnt how to eat from a spoon.  Learnt how to drink from a cup.  Learnt how to sleep in his own room.  Learnt how to splash in the bath.  Learnt to go to sleep on his own.  Learnt to eat finger foods.  Learnt to sit unaided.  Learnt how to crawl (just about).  Learnt how to say 'mum' (even though he doesn't know what it means yet).  Learnt how to stand holding on. 
Learnt how to bang on his tray for more food.  Learnt how to bang on his tray just because it makes a loud noise.  So the list goes on.

The fact that he is learning new things all the time is great.  It makes each day exciting as he refines what he can do and develops his skills into new abilities.  The problem is that each day of learning is also a day of changing.  Humans don't like change.  Fact.  It seems to be in our nature to oppose change if only on the grounds of the fact that change means something different.  Even if it is change for the better it still doesn't always come easy.  Samuel growing up is a very clear example of this.  Each week at church and each time we see friends or family someone will inevitably say 'hasn't he grown' or 'gosh he's changed'.  I, in turn, with just as much shock and disbelief in my voice agree.  As a child I used to find this fascination adults had with growing up strange, annoying and repeptitive to say the least.  I vowed I would never do it and yet here I am apparently as shocked as everyone we meet at how much Samuel is growing and changing.  I think it would be a bigger shock if he didn't grow and stayed as a newborn forever but still the natural way of life seems to come as a surprise. 

There are other examples of the natural way of life taking people by surprise each day.  For example each time we get to summer and have a hot day everyone talks about it as if it has never happened before and is completely unexpected repeating to each other phrases like 'I can't believe this heat' and 'it's got to be the hottest day of the year'.  Also if it rains a lot we are just as taken aback and feel the need to express ourselves, often to random strangers, how unseasonal the rain is.  It's England rain is never unseasonal.  Maybe these examples are just the British because our weather is so unpredictable all the time and if you are leaving the house for more than a few minutes you have to prepare for all seasons.  That said, however, we should still be used to the unpredictability of our weather so nothing should be a surprise.  Granted snow on Easter morning like we had a couple of years ago is a little out of the ordinary but that's about it.

The other thing is the amount of daylight we get changing throughout the year.  It happens exactly the same each year in the winter the evenings get darker and in the summer the evenings get lighter.  Same with the mornings.  Every year the same thing.  At the same time.  This has always happened.  Yet each year people will comment 'I can't believe how early it's dark now.  A few weeks ago it was still light at 8pm now it's getting dark by 5.'  Or 'It's 9pm and it's still daylight outside!'  Why do we find these things so shocking?  Even when a change is just the natural order of things and it is a regular change humans still find it hard to cope or feel the need to express their disbelief.

Now I am not criticising, just commenting on the bizarre nature of humans.  I am just as bad as everyone else.  No one is more shocked at the rate that Samuel is growing up than I am.  I may not notice the changes as suddenly as someone who only sees him once a month or even once a week but I do often think things like 'he's sitting up.  When did that happen?  He wasn't sitting up the other day.  My little baby is growing up!'  Of course he is.  He's a baby; it's what they do.  In fact it's what humans do it's just more noticeable in babies.  As Benjamin Franklin once said "When you're finished changing, you're finished."  I also like the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson "We change, whether we like it or not."

I'm not really sure where this is going.  I just wanted to share my inexplicable shock and disbelief at the fact that Samuel is growing up so fast already and my thoughts on how funny humans are when it comes to things changing.  Even if they're meant to be changing and it's a good thing for them to be doing so.  I find it odd that change is the most constant thing in the world and yet it seems to be the thing we fear and worry about the most.

Samuel is now 6 months old.  That's half a year.

He's flown the nest!
Samuel, jam
That's it.  He's gone.  Flown the nest.  Moved out.  Our 19 week old baby has grown up and left us.  Okay so maybe I was exaggerating slightly.  He hasn't moved out of the house just out of our room.  Samuel spent last night in his own room for the first time.  It's still a big deal.  At least it is for me, I don't think he really noticed.  In a way I think that makes it even worse as it's proof that he was ready and clearly doesn't need us anymore.  Some babies sleep really badly when they are put in their own room.  Unfamiliar surroundings and a lack of Mummy and Daddy sounds and smells really upset some babies.  Others sleep a lot better as they are not disturbed by their parents turning, snoring etc.  Now I may be counting chickens and all that and maybe last night was a one off but I guess only time will tell.
Okay to fill you in.  After the first week of his life Samuel started going longer at night between feeds than in the day; this is a really good thing!  It meant he was already learning the difference between day and night and it is quite common for babies not to learn this for several months.  Of course you will always hear the stories of so-and-so's baby slept through from 3 days old etc etc.  I rarely believe them to be honest.  Yes I know there are always exceptions but technically 'sleeping through' is if they sleep 6 hours without waking.  Now that's great but if that's all they're going to do I'm sorry but I do not class that as sleeping through.  Maybe 6 hours sleep is enough, in fact there's been countless nights where that's all I've had and often in 2 or more chunks, but think about it in real terms.  You spend all day and all evening with the baby.  At 11pm you and the baby go to bed.  At 5am you and the baby get up.  You have had no time to get housework done and certainly no time to yourself.  Personally I couldn't do that for very long.
Samuel started with a 4 hour sleep, a feed (these last an hour at night before he can be put back down again), then would do 1-2 hours then a feed until morning.  By 6 weeks he was doing 6-7 hours then a feed then 2-3.  I would go to bed 1-2 hours after him so I would get 5-6 hours then 1-2 making it a total of 6-8 hours sleep in 2 chunks PLUS 1-2 hours housework and 'me' time and we were getting up at a sensible hour in the morning.  We had the odd night where it wasn't so good but on the whole it was wonderful.
This was all fine until a few weeks ago when he suddenly went backwards big time.  He would do 4 hours max to start with then be up 2-3 times later in the night.   Sometimes Matthew could walk him back to sleep (see his blog for details on how he does this www.minipix.co.uk/2010/02/how-i-get-our-baby-to-sleep/) but more often than not Samuel wanted feeding again.  After speaking to our Health Visitor we started giving him solids.  Baby rice mixed with breast milk to start with then with some carrot mixed in.  Boy did that go down well!  You can tell when a baby wants the food you are offering them, they may not be able to speak yet but they still let you know.  If they don't want it they simply won't open their mouths for it.  If they take it then decide they don't like it they spit it back out.  Not just some dribbled down their chin from where they are learning to push the food to the back of their mouth.  The whole lot will be spat back out.  If this still doesn't get the message through to you they will resort to their well practiced routine of crying.  Samuel didn't do any of these things.  He just ate.  When he had consumed the tiny amount we were told to start him on he screamed.  Apparently it just wasn't enough.  I guess it's like if I was hungry and someone gave me a bite of a chocolate bar then took the rest away I'd be more cross and hungry than if I hadn't had any to begin with.  So we gradually increased the amount each night and then started introducing some pear at lunchtime too. 
Anyway after a few days of this his sleep patterns seemed to calm down again.  He would wake once or twice in the night, still not quite as good as we had got up to but manageable.  That was until Monday night. 
We had been away over the weekend visiting our friends in Colchester and a wonderful weekend it was too.  It was however very tiring.  This is partly because I don't drive yet so Matthew has to do all the driving so when we are going away and whilst we are away I do all the night stuff on my own.  This is fine if Samuel sleeps lots and goes back down after feeding.  Whilst we were away he was fine but sadly Matthew ate too much (www.minipix.co.uk/2010/04/overdoing-it/) and was rather ill for a day or two.  This meant that I had done 4 nights on my own already by the time we got to Monday night.  Monday night was fine until 1.30.  Then Samuel woke and fed and at 3am he still wouldn't go back to sleep.  Matthew walked him round for half an hour so I could have a break.  Samuel still wouldn't sleep.  So I got up again and fed him again for about 45 mins.  Samuel slept.  20 minutes later (5am) Samuel was awake.  I took him again and dozed in the chair while he fed and dozed.  At 6am Samuel was awake again so I got up and had breakfast whilst he played.  That all adds up to 6 hours sleep.  Normally ok but not considering I had less than 2 hours sleep from 1.30 onwards.  In 3 chunks and half of that was in a chair so not very comfortable.  Needless to say I was shattered.
So Tuesday night I bit the bullet and suggested we try putting him in his own room.  I had realised that half the problem was the fact that he was waking but wasn't always hungry nor was he tired.  He would wake and be chattering away to himself.  He's been learning lots of new noises and how to blow raspberries.  It is very cute.  In the middle of the night it is not so cute.  The trouble is these noises are slightly too loud to sleep through.  So either I lie awake listening to him for half an hour before he decides he's hungry or I get up and feed him straight away and risk him not wanting to go back down.  Either way results in less sleep for me.  In his room he can chatter away to his heart's content without it coming over on the monitor very loudly then cry when he wants food.  It worked, for last night at least, he slept for 6 hours fed for 45 minutes then we didn't hear anything from him until 7am when I woke to hear him chattering away.  When I went in he gave me a massive grin.  He was fine.
I have to admit it was quite nice to be able to get changed for bed in the bedroom rather than the study and go into our room with the light on and say goodnight to Matthew in more than a whisper and not worry about how much noise I was making turning over etc.  But I felt so guilty for kicking Samuel out just because I was tired.  It made me feel really selfish.  I don't think Matthew realised quite why it was such a big deal for me until I explained.  I have not spent the night away from Samuel in 13 months (ie since I became pregnant).  Matthew has spent many nights away on business, he is used to leaving Samuel.  I'm not.  In a way this was worse than when we've left him for a few hours in the daytime.  Then we left him with much trusted and experienced grandparents.  This time he was on his own.  All night.  In a big room.  By himself.  Without us.  This is why it was such a good thing that he slept well and come morning he was still happy and hadn't spent half the night crying.  I, on the other hand, did.  Well maybe I'm exaggerating again.  It wasn't half the night.  It wasn't even half an hour.  I was far too tired to spend that long crying.  But I did cry a little each time I went to bed without him next to us and it took me slightly longer to get to sleep.  What if he woke up and was scared?  What if he was lonely?  What if he needed me and I wasn't there?  The other side of the landing has never seemed so far away.  It may seem silly that I cried.  But I expect I'll cry again when he spends his first night away from us.  And I'll cry when he goes abroad for the first time without us.  And I'll cry when he actually moves out...And I'll cry...And I'll cry...
I'm beginning to see a pattern here.  I now understand why my parents used to worry so much over such little things and I see how my lack of understanding made them worry even more.  That makes me feel even more guilty.  Parenthood does strange things to your emotions.  You have been warned.

And so to begin...
Where to start?  'Let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start'.  Well maybe not the very beginning I don't think I'd ever catch up.  I could start at the beginning of the year but we're already half way through April and the beginning of the year is somewhat of a haze to be honest.  Not because I was drunk I'd like to add but because I had a 2 week old baby and the lack of sleep to go with it.  I think I did see the new year in during one of the night time feeds or when I was being sick (very random 12 hour sickness thing it was too) can't remember which now.  Whichever it was I'd certainly not brought in the new year like that before. 
Anyway back to the beginning...um...I could start at the beginning of the month, which as I've already pointed out is April in case you weren't sure.  It was Easter at the beginning of the month.  We were visiting lots of friends and family and we went to my youngest brother-in-law's baptism.  A great weekend all round.  Thing is, I don't think a running commentary, or even a breif summary of all the conversations would  be all that interesting to those who weren't there to participate. 
As a side note I'm typing this one handed as I'm feeding my baby at the same time.   It's amazing what you can learn to do one handed when you have to.  This is even better if you can do those things with either hand as then it doesn't matter which side you're feeding on or how you're holding them.  Well of course it matters how you hold them because if you hold them upside down too much they'll probably be sick on you or start to complain.  Also once they reach the 'grab anything and everything and put it in my mouth stage' you need to be careful where you hold them too and be constantly aware of what's within their reach.  If you don't want them to be eating roast dinner just yet then don't have them on your lap whilst you're eating.  You see the other thing is that babies are learning so much at the beginning of their lives (ooh another beginning but that was a bit messy so you probably don't want to hear about that) that they are naturally very curious determined creatures.  This means that it doesn't matter how many times you move their hand away from your plate they won't ever get the hint.  In fact they're more likely to think it's a good game and do it even more.  Learning to do anything with either hand is also helped significantly if,like me, you're ambidextrous.
I haven't always been ambidextrous, well I have but I haven't always know about it.  I have always used my right hand to write, out of habit I guess so that is still the one I use mainly and is slightly neater and quicker than my left for writing at least.  I have always been able to do a lot of things with either hand without realising that most people can't do that.  I can sew with either hand (something that used to confuse the costume designer a lot when I worked in the wardrobe department of a theatre), bowl and play pool equally well with either hand.  Then there's the odd little things in life that although most people can do with either hand they find it strange and it feels odd, things like sitting crossed legged either way (the same with folding your arms), putting a coat or rucksack on with either hand first, applying make-up with either hand and other such examples.  Oh and I'm now typing with the other hand as Samuel has fed, had a nap, sat in his bouncy seat whilst I did the washing up and made triple choc rice crispy cakes and he is now feeding again from the other side.  I bet if I hadn't of told you you wouldn't have even noticed.  Oh and a big box of baby clothes just arrived from ebay.  Well they're not FROM ebay but bought on ebay.  Size 3-6 months.  For some reason it is always a surprise when a baby outgrows their clothes and now needs the next size up even if they are in the next size up age category, such a surprise in fact you feel the need to tell everyone with a tone of disbelief and they inevitably reply in a similar tone with a phrase along the lines of 'Really?  Already?  Humans are funny creatures.

Anyway I digress.  I suppose I could start at the beginning of this week but that might lead to a debate about exactly when the beginning of a week is.  I used to have a friend who thought that the week began on a Saturday as that was when the TV book started from.  My Dad insists it's Sunday as the Saturday is traditionally the Sabbath, the day God rested after creation, which makes Sunday the start of the next week.  Other people think the week starts on Monday as that is the first day after the weekend when everyone is back to work (at least office type jobs anyway.  There are many jobs that don't follow this weekly pattern).  I'd like the week to start on a Thursday.

I could also start at the beginning of today.  Which I guess in a way I have as that is when I signed up to Live Journal but now it is lunchtime and I'm hungry so maybe I won't start at all.