A sad time for the family

The last few months haven’t been very kind to our family.  In October last year my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it’s one of the most aggressive cancers and very difficult to treat if found in the late stages. The signs make it difficult to diagnose early too, abdomen or back pain, sudden onset diabetes, sudden weight loss and appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, itchy skin and dark urine. You may have some, all or only one of these symptoms, generally it is found when being treated or investigated for other problems. Unfortunately my uncle was stage 4 and due to how aggressive this cancer is, even with 12 weeks of chemotherapy it spread to multiple organs and he lost his brave battle in February.

Shortly after this my other uncle had a fluke accident, he fell from the emergency exit of a coach, around 15 ft high onto a concrete floor and broke 17 bones and punctured both lungs. Thankfully he wasn’t alone and emergency services were there very quickly and after a couple of weeks in intensive care he was moved into a rehab ward. He was doing really well and was up and about quite quickly, thankfully he’s always been very active so this helped with his recovery. He had a slight relapse with a bout of pneumonia, but this was to be expected after his lungs had taken a bit of a beating. He is now home and still has a way to go but getting around well and even been back to work a few hours.

In April my auntie was taken into hospital, also with pneumonia, and after a few weeks backwards and forwards, with various problems she came home and seemed to be doing well. Then last weekend we got the worst phone call any family could ever have. She had taken bad overnight on the Friday and lost her battle on Saturday morning. Personally I think she was just too tired to carry on the fight. Over the years she has battled everything, breast cancer on both sides, both knees replaced, one twice, her shoulder needed replacing, she had a lot of lymph nodes removed and all the time she worked full-time, six days a week. She was self-employed so quite often she was back in work within days of being out of hospital, not the best way to recuperate and probably didn’t help. She was one of the funniest, craziest people (every family has one) and she always made a family get-together great fun. She will be missed very much, but we have lots of funny stories and know that she’s no longer in pain and actually passed very peacefully.

It has given us all a great shock but also made us all realise life has to be lived to the full. Both her and my uncle gave everything to life, and both lived it to the full.

Please if you have any signs or symptoms as described above then go and see your doctor, better to be checked than leave things too late.

 

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A cheeky weekend away

A few weeks ago we noticed an advert in the newspaper for a weekend break, which included a visit to the RHS flower show at Chatsworth. It was a really good deal, so we phoned up expecting it to be fully booked but no, they had a few spaces remaining. Oscar was all set to be away for the weekend too so it fell perfectly for us.

Early on Saturday morning we arrived at the coach stop to be greeted by a very funny driver and a lovely, comfortable coach. After a couple of stops to collect more people we were  on our way. The weather wasn’t the best, cloudy and drizzly most of the time travelling, however by the time we arrived at our scheduled visit, Stratford-upon-Avon it had stopped and the sun was trying to make an appearance. We had four hours to explore, so first we had a walk around the historic streets.

After our stroll we took a cruise along the River Avon, it was sunny and warm. We were given a map and audio guide to hear more information on the sights along the way.

Then it was back onto the coach for a short trip to the hotel for the evening, Jury’s Inn near Leicester. We were being housed in B wing, we all pointed out it sounded like prison, and judging by the look the staff gave us it wasn’t the first time they had heard this ! The room was not prison like, it was huge, we had a double bed each.

The evening meal was decent, the beds very comfortable and breakfast was lovely. Then back onto the coach for a 9am departure. Stephen, the driver, was excellent and we arrived at Chartsworth house at 10.25, five minutes early.

And then the fun and excitement began…

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We walked round all the stalls, chatting to people and getting ideas for things to make and do.

Then onto the floral marquee to find new favourites and pick up some plants and seeds to bring home. The scent in this tent was amazing, and without being there you can’t really explain it. heady, at times overwhelming, sometimes subtle. The thing that struck me most was being able to pick out the different scents from different flowers. The colours and blooms were stunning, and I took lots of photos of plant labels and have copied them into my allotment book with descriptions of the type, height and spread of each plant.

We had a look around the beekeepers tent and then sat down near the river for a glass of Pimms and listen to the band playing on the field.

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Lastly we wandered around the show gardens, they are a lot smaller than I expected, however it’s good to see what can be achieved in such a small space, as most people don’t have huge gardens and some of the ideas can easily be used on the allotment too.

I had a chat with some vegetable growers and after tasting a couple of things and seeing some interesting plants I came home with only two packets of seeds.

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I’ve already sown a couple of these and am excited to see what happens.

Holidays !

We have just had a lovely two week break on the island of Fuerteventura. It was wonderful to spend a couple of weeks without alarm clocks, school, work and to do as we pleased.

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The weather was warm, around 23 degrees most days, down to 14 in the evenings. The locals walked round in jumpers and coats, whilst we wore swimwear, t-shirts and shorts.

The hotel was in a quieter resort and was a sport hotel, which was fantastic for Oscar as the pool was cold so he still had plenty to keep him entertained. We had tennis, badminton, squash and basketball courts, a football pitch, and table tennis. So plenty to keep him busy and active, whilst I could lie on my lounger reading plenty of books. Perfect.

A five minute walk down a small hill took us onto a prom and a twenty minute walk to the local town (the hotel provided a free shuttle bus), we loved this walk as it was very open stony land, full of chipmunks and tiny lizards. We started taking an apple from breakfast and feeding it to them.

We booked a couple of trips to break up the holiday and see more of our island and took a day trip over to the neighbouring island, Lanzarote. This island was very different, even though it was only a half hour boat trip away. The boat was glass-bottomed and Oscar loved watching the fish swimming around it, until we started sailing when the waves started making him feel a little sea sick so we moved to the upper deck and he was fine. Lanzarote is also a volcanic land, but this one is still active and we had a tour of it and the national park created after the last eruption. It was amazing to feel how hot the floor was, and they have created a cafe and use the heat from it to cook the food, like a giant barbecue. The beaches here where very different, black sand from the volcanic rock and popcorn stones from coral.

We also had a jeep tour of Fuerteventura, it was very bumpy and lots of fun. The guide was hilarious and very knowledgeable.

In the evenings after dinner, Oscar played football until sunset, then he joined me on the bar and we played cards and pool.

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It was lovely to get away, catch up on some reading and sleep, have lots of quality time.

 

The ‘What If’ monster

This visitor decided to join our family recently and was a very unwelcome guest, who bought chaos and unhappiness.

It started about two months ago, when Oscar brought a letter home from school about options night, GCSE options ! Seriously, it feels too soon, where’s my baby gone. The letter explained that we would have a talk from the head of year about how the system worked and then would have the opportunity to chat to subject leaders to make an informed decision.

Oscar said he had already decided, with the compulsory subjects he was doing I.T,  geography and either art/music (or both). I was happy to support these choices. And then the monster appeared.

The closer we go to the school meeting the more we heard ‘What if’ ….

‘What if they don’t let me do the subjects I want ?’

‘What if they make me do subjects I don’t like or need for the job I want in future?’

At first I didn’t ignore the questions as such, but didn’t take the questions are seriously as I would a few weeks later. ‘They will’ ‘don’t worry about it’ etc, I didn’t realise how much he was worrying about and after a few weeks it was becoming unbearable because everything came with a ‘what if’ to the point that Oscar had started doubting and questioning every part of his life and even if it was worth living at all. He was refusing to do anything, go anywhere, other than school and home. He was struggling with everything, even sleeping and eating.

Once I realised how bad it was getting I needed proper help and spoke to a work friend, who is a trained counsellor, I explained what was happening, his behaviour and how he was coping. I had no choice but to acknowledge the fears and how great these where. So when he questioned ‘but what if’ I had to sit him down and show him I was taking it seriously and answer as fully as possible and discuss options for dealing with these fears. It wasn’t easy but over a few days he responded. It gave him security that the fears are serious and the options gave him choices, this put power back with him and slowly started building his confidence.

However the day of the meeting, and his fears hit a new high and panic set in, he got himself in such a state before we left that he had a panic attack. Thankfully I was able to talk him down and calm him, but he looked dreadful when we got to school. He couldn’t even make eye contact with friends and struggled to speak to his form teacher (who I emailed an explanation to later).

We listened to the talk, and looked through the information booklet and slowly he became more ‘Oscar’ again. He wanted to look at his chosen subjects to check they were correct for him. First was geography, one of his favourite teachers, but the subject matter for the exams didn’t appeal. However overhearing the history teacher chatting to another child/parent, he was suddenly interested. The first change of the night. Next we went to look at art (I didn’t want him to do this, but kept that to myself) again he said he wasn’t sure. Off we went, IT next, a no-brainer, always was going to be first choice and still was. But then P.E took his attention, and he started asking the teacher lots of questions, he was really interested. I’m not sure where it came from but he decided there and then, history, PE and IT, with music as an extra.

So after weeks of ‘what if they don’t let me do the subject I want to do ?’ he changed all but one of his subjects. I have used this to show him how fears can build and stop us doing things, or alter our opinions before we have all facts and information to make the right choices. Also life is flexible, and so are decisions, they can change often and that is a good thing. A choice made today could change tomorrow because circumstances change.

He is still doubting himself occasionally, but now he understands everybody does this, it is a normal thing, but not to focus on something going wrong beforehand, but deal with it afterwards, if it does and it probably won’t.

We won’t find out until later in the year if he will be given his chosen subjects, but there’s no reason he won’t and we will deal with whatever happens.

Life is very complicated and sometimes the pressure on kids is tough, but the pressure they put on themselves can be worse. Kids fears need to be taken seriously and as parents we need them to feel secure enough to tell us and be strong enough to help them deal with these, or find others who can help.

The biggest thing I have learned from this, TALK !

The best day of my life.

I was inspired by a friends blog to write about my own experience of the best day of my life. The day my son was born.

It was not an easy pregnancy, from three months the morning sickness began, only it didn’t limit itself to morning, it was morning, noon and night. Some days I left work, went straight to the hospital to be given injections and put on a re-hydration drip. On a good day I would be home in a few hours, others I was kept in overnight.

At twenty weeks I went for my routine scan and discovered two things, first I was having a boy and second I had a low placenta. They said it may move as the pregnancy continued and not to be too concerned. However that changed very quickly. Two weeks later I began to bleed. After a couple of hours of waiting, the bleeding stopped and I got to hear my boy’s heartbeat. Everything was fine but the placenta had pulled further down and this meant a C-section would be needed, eventually.

Things settled down for a few weeks and was progressing as expected, even the sickness stopped.

Then, with two months to go everything went into free fall.

Sitting at home one afternoon watching television I had the strangest sensation, like a rubber band had snapped inside and then the bleeding really started. A quick phone call to the maternity unit and my mum and I made a quick dash to the hospital and was admitted to the delivery suite.

The placenta had started to come away and I was in slow labour, they had to stop this as quickly as possible. Within an hour I was hooked up to numerous drips and machines, on total bed rest and fifteen minute observations. I was given steroid injections to boost babies lungs, and gave me a dead leg. Thankfully the intervention worked and the contractions stopped, as did the bleeding, and through it all my little man was totally fine, oblivious even.

I was moved onto the long term stay ward, with three others in a similar situation. For the next two weeks I wasn’t allowed out of bed, and had to be taken to loo in a wheelchair. After this I was allowed to get up but not off the ward. Every day I got to hear my boy’s heartbeat and every other day I had a growth scan to ensure he was doing well, and he was.

The problem was that I wasn’t doing so well. My white blood cell count had gone through the roof and they couldn’t understand why. This was putting extreme strain on my kidneys and liver, by the end of three weeks in hospital my consultant was really concerned. Although the baby was doing well, if left much longer I was at risk of kidney failure and serious lifelong problems.

On the Monday they came to discuss options and after a bit of negotiation we agreed on Thursday for a planned C-section, however I was to have blood and urine tests twice daily and if things deteriorated further then I would go straightaway.

So twenty-eight days after being admitted I was to have my baby !

On the Thursday morning, I went and had a shower, changed into the lovely backless theatre gown and paper knickers, then mum and I walked down to theatre. First I had a quick scan for them to take further measurements and make the finally decision. It was one I was dreading, epidural or general anaesthetic. I was hoping for the first but it wasn’t to be. Unfortunately the placenta was once again causing issues and stem bleeding and keep control of the situation it was better for me to be under a general anaesthetic.

The short walk to the theatre was going well until the nurse said ‘say bye to your mum’, it was as if she’d told me I’d never see her again, the nerves kicked in and the tears began. The poor anaesthetist spent the next five minutes trying to calm me down enough to take deep breaths without sobs and snot getting in the way. Then off to sleep I went…..

A good few hours later I woke up on the ward, baby-less for the first time for seven months. He decided to cause his own chaos on arrival, he went from being perfectly happy and healthy to his lungs collapsing and being resuscitated within a few minutes. He was transferred to the special care baby unit (SCBU), put on oxygen and into an incubator and being fed via a tube through his nose. I had to wait until the following day to see my beautiful boy. Once I was allowed out of bed there was no stopping me, I would have breakfast then disappear down to SCBU until they threw me out in the evening. I could only touch him for a short time through the port holes in the incubator, it made changing nappies (especially dirty ones) interesting. Feeding was small and often, 2ml of milk pushed slowly down the tube into his stomach every hour. Too fast and he was sick, too slowly and he got gassy. That was when he wasn’t pulling the tube out ! He was naughty from day one….

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By day five, I was at breaking point, all I wanted was to hold my boy. The hormones kicked in and the tears and sobs arrived. The nurse was an angel and knew instantly how to solve the issue. It took around ten minutes of changing tubes, replacing equipment but finally I had my baby. I had my first and the best cuddle ever. The nurse said the first contact should be skin to skin as this helps both mother and baby regulate bodies and bond.

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Boy did it work, within two days he had really improved. His oxygen levels stabilised and he was out of the hot room and breathing independently. After twelve days we was up on the ward with me and exactly 14 days after being born we came home. He was closely monitored for the first year but never looked back, I however deteriorated as the year went on. Blood clots and Graves disease (caused by the pregnancy) meant almost seven years of treatment and operations and finally now, 12 years later I’m healthy again.

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It was the most traumatic time of my life, has given me some of my greatest problems to overcome but I wouldn’t change it or him for anything.

 

 

 

 

The allotment so far…

2018, the year of the sunshine and heat. For us it was the year of the tomato !

The beginning of the year was snowy and cold, which meant digging and getting the plot ready for what we wanted was almost impossible but then the weather changed in quite a dramatic fashion, from frost and snow to tropical temperatures and hose pipe bans.

At the start of the year we had a few very large beds, which I found difficult to manage and wanted to make into smaller, easier to work from all sides without walking over. However with the lack of time it was easier to leave a few covered and just work on half the plot.

A couple of these we sectioned off and two we left and planted rows of potatoes, let them do the hard work for us.

 

The first things to be planted where the garlic, onions and shallots. However we lost 3 patches of garlic to the fox, who very strangely kept digging it up. The sweetcorn vanished, probably mice but then a few months later sweetcorn appeared and grew in a totally different bed on the plot, so maybe they just borrowed it ! I was given some Brussels sprouts and broccoli seedling plants from a neighbouring plot holder, neither of us had ever grown these before, so we just put them in and watered along with everything else and bingo, it worked.

Everything in the greenhouse went bonkers, the tomatoes produced so many that we haven’t bought any over six months and still have a freezer full. The chillies also over produced and even giving bunches away we’ve got enough to last another year. I made a mistake of planting a few too many courgette plants and we had so many that my mum made a few trips to my Auntie’s cafe with them, as well as giving them away to friends and neighbours.

I got a couple of pumpkin plants and a butternut squash, neither of which I had grown before, but thought they would fill a large area easily and anything they produced would be a bonus. And produce they did, we got enough pumpkins for a decent Halloween carving plus one small butternut squash, which feels more like a family member than a food stuff.

We put in two ponds (one preformed plastic one, and one an old bath) and started planting flowers and bushes around to encourage wildlife into the plot. The fencing was rescued from a skip as the church next door was having it replaced. It’s in good condition and just needed attaching.

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I also found two rose bushes that have been planted for sentimental reasons. One for Phil and the other for my family.

Yellow roses symbolise love, joy and friendship. Pink roses symbolise admiration and grace. So the names and colours are very apt. Oscar’s sunflowers were beautiful, they were the small multi-headed variety and they flowered right up until November.

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At the end of September, once the main bulk of the growing was over, we get spent a few weeks of hard work and started separating the beds into smaller patches and wood-chipping the paths. There’s still quite a bit to do, but it’s looking more manageable and the plans for 2019 are coming along well.

Lets hope for another great growing year ahead.

June on the allotment

The weather has been crazy, it’s hot, hot, hot and apart from about an hour of pathetic drizzly rain that soaks humans but dries before it hits soil around three weeks ago, we’ve had no rain for a couple of months and the dreaded hosepipe ban is being mentioned.

The allotment has stalled a little as it’s too hot to be digging, so the areas that I’ve not yet cleared have been covered and left until the weather cools down. The ponds have been very welcome. I used a cheap trellis, held down with a couple of tent pegs and bricks to make a ‘wildlife escape route’ and the little birds, coal tits and sparrows mostly, are using it as a ladder to drink, its lovely to see them enjoy it. I had great plans of planting around the ponds and creating a flower, shrub area but that’s on hold until the weather eases up.

The plants are loving the heat and everything has been growing well, including the weeds. We had a slight issue with pigeons pinching all the pak choi so I’ve sown some new seeds and will make sure to keep it covered.

I was given three broccoli plants and two Brussels sprouts, neither of which I have ever grown before and this week we’ve harvested from 2 of the broccoli plants and the other isn’t too far behind. The netting has kept most of the butterflies away although now the sprouts are getting bigger it will need to be moved soon. Another job for another day.

The second peas (after the pigeon raid) never grew very high but we’ve had plenty of pods already and still plenty to fatten up. It’s been the similar with the broad beans. The french beans are slowly making their way up the frame.

The courgettes are producing really well, we’ve had 3 and I’ve given a few away to neighbouring plot-holders. I have planted two pumpkins and two butternut squash, I’ve never grown these before, and all have gained new growth and the pumpkins are flowering.

The greenhouse is a nightmarish place to be as it’s ridiculously hot in there. I have opened the roof, both side windows and the door vent but it gets super hot inside, however the tomatoes and peppers are loving it and have grown really well and are fruiting nicely.

Thankfully before the very hot weather really started we managed to sort out around half of the plot and those are the beds which are being used and grown in. I’m looking forward to get the rest sorted and growing some new things next year. I would like to get some more fruit growing, raspberries, strawberries, and gooseberries.

 

Whilst I was busy weeding and watering my mum was working hard making repairs and beautifying the shed and the ‘bath’ pond.

Have you grown anything new this year ? Any suggestions, tips or ideas welcomed.

Enjoy the sunshine.