Saturday, 22 September 2012

Keeping it Simple

We are a family that don't really fit the mold.  
We are older parents.  
We homeschool.    
We don't desire more, more, more.
We try to be as natural as we can, whilst living in suburbia and needing synthetic insulin to keep one of us alive, and thus the rest of us sane.
And yet every single one of these decisions sits well with me.  
I've always felt like a square peg surrounded by round holes, so making some of these life decisions have taken no time at all.  
No soul searching.  More a kind of gut-searching, really.
Does this sit well with me?  
Yep.  OK then moving on , what's for dinner?
Nope. OK then let's not do it/stop doing it, shall we have pancakes for breakfast?
I believe in keeping life simple;  both for my child and for myself.
Routines sit well with us.  
Time at home just pottering around the garden or drawing or watching a bit of TV sit well with us.
There are many activities on offer for us and Frank as homeschoolers in our town and yet we have taken part in very few of them over the past couple of years.  Frank has shown a desire for lots and lots of down time at home.  Time to play Lego, draw, paint, dig the garden, make chalk art on the paths, wrestle and, my favourite, roll around on the floor kind of aimlessly, often under the table or a chair!
Or even, as below, pretend to be a statue with his teeny tiny toy seal (Snuggly).

These past two weeks have been unusually busy for us.  Frank turned six in July and has been expressing an interest in seeing his friends more often.   We catch up with other homeschooling friends fairly often and regularly take part in Craft Swaps and play dates.
Formal lessons have not happened yet but something in the changes in Frank over the past few months made me feel confident in booking him a place on a trampolining course at the local Leisure Centre.  
So, after some quiet chat about how it's good to try new things and how he likes bouncing on the bed and how his friends love the trampolining class and the teacher, Frank was ready to give it a shot.


He loved it!  
Maria, the teacher, is wonderful with the children; encouraging and funny and kind.
Then two days later, we hosted a pottery class here at home for Frank and six other children.
He loved it!
And the following day we took part in the introductory session for an Arts Award being offered to homeschoolers here in town.
He loved it!
So, three new sessions on top of two play dates this week and we are all in need of a little reflection:
did it sit well with us?
If all these activities were on every week then I can honestly say it would not sit well with me.  
However, with the pottery only being once a month and the art every two weeks, we can take the trampolining on board weekly and still enjoy our much-needed simple times at home.

Simplicity is always on my radar but more so than ever this week as I have signed up for a Simplicity Parenting e.course with Kathy over at Bliss Beyond Naptime.
And with a delicious serendipity the course starts on Monday 1st October, the day after I return from two days away at a yoga retreat in Suffolk (my first ever retreat of any kind, and I'm not even that great at yoga, I'm kind of nervous but soooooo need it).
So, here's to keeping it simple.
And breathe ...

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ryan's sunset

Not wanting to let the beautiful sunset of Ryan's Festival go without being officially blogged.
A week ago today this was it:
the sunset over Prettygate in Colchester, England on the day that Ryan Schuhmacher was celebrated far far away in California.

Chocolate Gingerbread ~ Oh, my!

This is the second time I have made this gingerbread and it does go down rather well.  
I recommend cutting it into fairly small squares as it is rich and dark.  Kids don't always go for it  but adults seem to love it!  
It is very sweet and I am sorry I don't have a carb factor or count for it as Frank won't eat it, so I don't have to do it!!
The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's "Feast", which is a cracker of a book.  
She does seem to use shed-loads of sugar in her recipes, so I don't make them often.
However, for a potluck or, as was the case for the gingerbread above, for a "Not Back To School Party" it's ideal.
People did approach me with slabs of it in their hands and mumble "Did you make this?", spraying crumbs as they did so and rolling their eyes in ecstasy.  
I took this as a good sign!

Chocolate Gingerbread
For the cake : 
175g unsalted butter
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle or molasses
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp warm water
2 eggs
250ml milk
275g plain flour
40g cocoa
175g chocolate chips

For the icing:
250g icing sugar
30g unsalted butter
1 tbsp cocoa
60ml ginger ale

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 / 170C. 
 Line a roasting tin of approx 30x20x5cm deep (I used two smaller tins) with baking parchment.
In a decent-sized saucepan, melt the butter along with the sugars, golden syrup, molasses/treacle, cloves, cinnamon and ground ginger.  
In a cup dissolve the bicarb in the warm water.
Take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk and bicarb in its water.
Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon to mix.
Fold in the chocolate chips, pour into the lined tin and bake for about 45 minutes until firm and risen.  
it will be slightly damp underneath the set top and that's a good thing.
Remove to a wire rack and let cool in the tin.
Once cool, make the icing.
Sieve the icing sugar.  In a heavy-based saucepan heat the butter, cocoa and ginger ale.  
Once the butter is melted, whisk in the icing sugar.
Lift the chocolate gingerbread out of the tin and unwrap the paper.  Pour over the icing just to cover the top and cut into "fat slabs" (Nigella's words, isn't she wonderful!!).

Ahem ...  I ate this piece purely out of concern for quality control.
Indeed I am always here for you all at times like that ...

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Barely six months ago I posted about my dear friend Meri's husband Ryan being diagnosed with cancer.  Let's make it clear, I have never met Meri but her name and those of her family, and indeed dog, are mentioned in my home as though they live just down the street.
In terms of the DOC (Diabetes on-line Community) they do live just down the street.
They have four boys, the three youngest of whom have Type 1 diabetes.  
And last Sunday morning Ryan passed away.  
The impossible happened.  
The unimaginable.
And what do I write?  
Where is the Hallmark card for this one? 
Today Meri and her boys and extended family laid Ryan to rest and celebrated the lovely family man that he was.
In every word she ever wrote about him Meri loved him so dearly.  
They were together twenty years.
So, my default when stuck for words is to look to the words of my six year old boy.  
To Frank, whom Meri knows and whose sweet face she often mentions.
Frank calls funerals "festivals" and this is where I choose to go:
Today was the Festival of Ryan. 

A man remembered with such love and joy.  
A man never to be forgotten by those who adored him.  
This evening as I put Frank to bed we stopped to take in the beautiful pink and blue of this early autumn sunset and I thought of Ryan and the joyful heavens.

And of Meri and her four boys, who need much love and support as they step forward along the fork in the road they had never expected to walk.
May the road rise up to meet them.

Friday, 7 September 2012

a milestone

This week saw Frank pass a childhood milestone by losing the first of his milk teeth.
We had been told by the dentist at least three months ago that the two middle teeth on the bottom row were already wobbly.  We felt them and could feel no difference.
But, lo and behold, Mr Dentist was right!
About two weeks ago Frank burst into tears during our evening stories at bedtime and told me his "tooth has broken in half".  After a good peek in his mouth I explained that he just had a wobbly tooth, just like the dentist had predicted.  He cried for a bit then relaxed and got on with being engrossed by the exploits of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.
Life continued on and the tooth stayed loose but in place. 
Then  en route to my beloved Cafe Knit in Lavenham, to buy Granny Lily a birthday gift, Frank suddenly began crying again as his tooth felt really, really loose and he was a bit panicked about it coming out and bleeding.  
Inside the lovely, lovely cafe the sweet women working there were very kind to him and chatted to him about losing a tooth being really exciting.  He cheered up and enjoyed his juice but declined cake as it might take his tooth out!
The picture below as the tooth in Cafe Knit!  Sooooo close to out, I cannot believe his ability not to wiggle it out!

 And then the following day he was eating his evening apple before bed and passed me a couple of "hard bits in my apple, Mummy", which I threw in the compost.  
About a minute later my friend, Anne, shrieked that his tooth was out!  She was visiting for the evening for a chat and a green tea and was there for this momentous occasion.
We then went through looking for the tooth on the floor and recalled the hard bits in the apple!
I found the tooth in the compost, a teen tiny thing that is now on the mantelpiece until I find a permanent home for it.
Any ideas?  Where does one keep such an amazing thing?
And here he is, Mr Gappy!

 And laughing as I dried his feet after his bath!
 My beautiful boy, passing this big milestone with a smile and a fresh new £1 coin to go towards his Lego empire ...
Back soon with a recipe for Chocolate Gingerbread!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Autumn Nature Table

Frank enjoyed freshening up the nature table today.  
Autumn is my favourite season as I just wilt in the humid heat of summer and seem to come alive again as the air turns that little bit cooler and the sun sits that bit lower in the sky.
My boy seems to share my love of autumn and the feeling of gathering in and drawing close that comes with the shorter days and longer nights.
For the first time he decided that he wanted full artistic control over the nature table and went to work (once we had cleared it and I had wiped it down a bit) with a selection of the things we keep for it.
He chose to make a woodland scene complete with a fox chasing an unsuspecting duck and two cute hedgehogs setting up their winter homes.
We have two beautiful Ostheimer trees for the nature table and change them around as the seasons change.  

The pear tree here has white blossoms on the other side for the Spring season and then we have  a fir tree for winter.
And so the seasons shift and change.

Also this week we have celebrated, albeit a bittersweet celebration for this Mama, Frank's first wobbly tooth.  
And we step not just into Autumn but into a new phase of Frank's life.  
Milk teeth are on their way out and big teeth on their way in.
We are talking about this as being exciting though my heart is a little sore at all this growing up.
We are also taking chamomilla, a homeopathic remedy for teething as Frank was a bit freaked out about his tooth being so loose.
And this Mama is taking deep breaths as her boy gets more beautiful by the day as he grows towards the man he will become...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

this boy

this boy is growing up
this boy has had a haircut
this boy adores Scooby-Doo
this boy is bright and full of energy
this boy loves stories
this boy loves to sword fight
this boy loves jacket potatoes ("jacket a-patoes")
this boy is artistic
this boy can mimic voices uncannily well
this boy loves "Almost Naked Animals"
this boy loves

And the week before last this boy was weighed at the hospital and his blood pressure taken, his HbA1c taken and his height measured.  
He has lost weight.
The hospital were telling me they are now officially "concerned".  I go home and Google "unexplained weight loss in children".  It's not pretty (no shit, Sherlock, right?) but he HAS NO SYMPTOMS.
He is fine. 
We are under the care of two separate hospitals for Frank's diabetes.  
One here in town for his general D-care and one in Cambridge for his pump.
They are both fantastic.  
We cannot fault them.
However, after a few days of calling one of them and asking for the latest blood test results so we could see if coeliac disease or maybe thyroid issues were at play here (and need I add that we were rather heavy hearted all that time), we were told that due to human error his weight was plotted wrongly on one of our previous visits and, whilst he hasn't gained much weight, has HAS NOT LOST ANY.
Good grief.  
That was four long days.
And on we go, taking it one day, maybe one week at a time.
This experience really highlighted for me the progress I have made in accepting diabetes, that uninvited guest who just won't bugger off, in our lives.
It is not the first thing out of my mouth when I meet someone.
I don't feel the need to blurt it out and I feel so much healthier for it.  
Frank is now of an age where he would possibly begin to feel "defined" by his diabetes as I blurt it out to new people anyway, when before now he was perhaps too young to take in what I was saying.
The one thing I am now very hot on though is not letting people get far in the "poor little boy, he can't have sweets" or "but he looks so healthy" or, as from my own bloody mother on the phone this evening (and on speakerphone no less, with Frank in earshot) "I suppose he'll go to school one day, but it's difficult with his (pauses to find the right word and then whispers it as though it is an profanity) "illness". 
Speakerphone was switched of smartly and mother's ridiculous inability to "get it" silenced for her grandson.
And on we go!

Monday, 13 August 2012

doily bunting

I have been crafting on and off.
Summer is not a time for lots of craftng for me as Frank and I tend to be out and about or just enjoying the garden.
So I tend to find time when I can fit it in between Lego and making cartoon books and beach trips and gardening.
My aim this year is to only use what I have at home and to buy nothing at all new if I can help it.  
It's a tough one sometimes, but I have a strong desire to clear things out every August and so using up some of my collection of thrifted doilies and table runners seemed like a grand plan.
Enter a little strip of bunting made from doilies and embroidered bits and bobs!
 ~ oooh, choosing the fabric was the most fun! ~

 ~ and in situ it looks fresh and fun ~
Bunting therapy, if you will.
We have had some diabetes-related scares recently but I am saving them for another post.  
Back with more on that tomorrow.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

that beach

Oh yes, it's summer for sure now and we spent a beautiful day at my favourite beach ...
All these pictures were taken as we left the beach hut that we had kindly been lent for the day and walked along the beach , en route to the van to make our way home.
We were tired, sun-kissed, sandy and at such peace with each other.
My heart was so happy in these moments.

 ~ the boy digs ~
 ~ oh, that beach ~
 ~ obligatory shot of my feet in the surf ~
 ~ writing his name ~

~ contemplating a bit more digging ~

Summer living is full for us this month, with family visits and fruit picking, late nights (it's the Olympics, you see, we have to see it all!!), concerts in catherdrals and football in the garden.  
This week saw me out for the count with some kind of virus, or maybe migraine (I've never had one but it felt like I have heard them described) for three days.  
Luckily lovely hubby stepped in on the day trips to farms and the like and now I am fighting fit and raring to go for another summer week.
Bring it on!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Road Trip sans child - Jinkies!

Yes, you read that right.  I am fresh back from a three day, two-night road trip with my friend Anne.
For anyone with a diabetic child you will known what a BIG DEAL this is!
For myself it is doubly tricky as my lovely man has not been confident enough for me to leave home overnight for some years.  And then I, as with many parents let alone D-parents, have all kinds of control issues.  
Does anyone else do it as well as I do?  Well, no not really.  But well enough is fine.
I did have a short trip a couple of years ago but honestly didn't relax into it in the way I did last week.  
I knew my boys would be fine.  
I knew Andrew would do his best and that if anything went wrong he would sort it out just fine.
And all was well.
 ~ the beautiful church in the centre of Lyndhurst in the New Forest ~
 ~ my tipple overlooking the lawn at our hotel ~
 ~ strolling out onto the New Forest heathlands ~ I'm the one in the hat! ~
 ~ Montacute House ~ anyone recall it from the Ang Lee version of Sense & Sensibility?  It is stunning ~
 ~ dinner at The River Cottage Canteen ~
 ~ my main course ~ fresh garden veggies and udon noodles ~ yum! ~
~ me with my trio of hummus starter ~ I am camera shy at present but know that you'll all be looking at the food anyway! ~
And boy did I miss these guys.  And they me.  
The break did me good but it is good to be home where my heart belongs.

Tomorrow is August and I am embarking on my own 30-Day Vegan as a kind of retreat.  
I followed this last summer as a student of Heather and it was such a wonderful, fulfilling, supportive experience.
My intention from August is to have a health focus each month as a way of bringing my own health into a more mindful place.
I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 9 July 2012


And in the blink of an eye my baby turned six!

 We have been busy celebrating our Boy Wonder with a family party, a party at a great cafe in town with a walled garden and yummy food and lots and lots of Lego.
There were gifts.  A pinata.  A victoria sponge cake. Pass-the-parcel.
I also co-ran a Reiki Retreat the day before the party and am now very tired indeed!
It is Monday evening here.  
My boy has fallen asleep on this day, the day of his sixth birthday, talking to me quietly about Lego and Harry Potter and smiling when I tell him we are going fruit picking tomorrow morning.
And every day I tell him, as I did today, "I love you.  I am proud of you.  You make me happy".

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Folksy Flannels Quilt

After making the little quilt for Frank's bed I leapt straight into making another for our big bed and had set my heart on some brushed cotton flannel.  
It's a fabric I remember well from my childhood and loved the soft warmth of it.  
A while ago soulemama mentioned Folksy Flannels by Anna Maria Horner so I got googling and found a source in the UK (in order that postage didn't involve selling a kidney!).
I decided pretty quickly on a blue/yellow mix of colours and got ordering, then cutting and sewing.  
Oh my, it was fun and such yummy fabric.
The batting is 100% cotton and the backing fabric a second hand flannel sheet I picked up  locally at a charity shop.
Making this secnd quilt and, I confess, a third recently has really demystified the whole process for me.  I had spent a long time thinking that quilting was too difficult for me.
Well, no more!
I am officially a quilter.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hello July

Well, I fell off the Marauders' Map there for a while, didn't I?
Clearly I needed some blogging-free time and I have made full use of it, I assure you.  
We are all well here in my little family and life continues apace. 
Much growing has been done by Frank, much crafting and reading of Harry Potter to Frank by myself and much retiring from his main job and poetry gigging by Mr Muffinmoon (aka Fred Slattern, Colchester's Slum Poet).
We have a ten day trip to Denmark under our belts and spent two days of those at Legoland, much to Frank's delight.
I seems, also, that blogger have been busy whilst I was otherwise engagaed and I am struggling to work out what's going on here today!
I feel it will be impossible to fill all the gaps of what we have been doing in one blog post and so will concentrate on Denmark today.
We are a family with a camper van.  We have no other motor vehicle.  We walk and cycle or we drive our van around.  
Thus, for us, and considering I feel best when I am not in a tin can way up in the air and also when I can pack as much diabetes-related stuff as I wish, we tend to head for the Netherlands or Denmark or France or Germany or indeed stay home in the lovely UK for our trips.
This year, with a Lego fan in our midst who is turning six in a week's time (yikes!), we felt Denmark and Legoland over there was a good plan.
And, boy, was it fun, once we finally got there.   
And thereby hangs a tale:  waking up on the morning of our planned departure on the 5pm ferry I was getting Frank dressed and saw what looked like lots and lots of insect bites all over his back.  To the docs and the practice nurse confirmed chicken pox!!!   
This actually felt like a huge stroke of LUCK to me.  
Yes, really.
Imagine how it might be being already on the ferry or in Denmark and seeing all these spots break out.  The Danish are great at speaking English but I do not want to be fighting my D-Mama corner to doctors that might not understand me clearly.   We all know we are indeed the experts in our own child's care and that most doctors do not have the knowledge that we do.  
We are the specialists and travelling elsewhere can feel very much out of my confort zone should things go wrong.
Frank felt fine but we had no idea how many  more spots might break out and, more importantly, how having Type 1 diabetes might bring complicaitons for him.  So, we cancelled our place on the ferry, sat tight with the door closed and a skull & crossbones on it and waited it out.  
Frank continued fine.  
No more spots broke out and after a few days had passed we rescheduled and hit the ocean, heading north east to Esbjerg from Harwich.  
It is an 18 hour journey and so everyone has a cabin and we even enjoyed the fabulous buffet of smoked fish and fresh salads.  Yum. 
 And once there we camped for five nights, spent two nights in a pirate-themed room at Legoland, a night in a B&B and then came home much refreshed and, for me at least, needing a break from the strong coffee and smoked fish!
A few pictures for you all.  
A taste of Denmark.

 ~ Frank at the Ribe Viking Centre ~ I asked him to look like a "serious Viking" ~
 ~ smiley boys at Legoland ~
~ the best beach we found on the trip ~
~ the fantastic wooden castle and figures at the Ribe Viking Museum ~
~ and, finally, but best of all, the disabled toilets in the Hotel at Legoland ~ crocodiles in wheelchairs ~

Happy Sunday and happy July to you all.
Much love.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Pirate King

Sorting through Nana's old costume jewellery, Mr Frank decided he wanted to keep the whole booty in his treasure chest but wear it all at once firstly because "that's just what a Pirate King would do, isn't it, Mama?".

Yes, my love, that's exactly what a Pirate King would do.

Diabetes has been kicking my proverbial butt these past few weeks with disrupted nights and crazy numbers.  
However, we are well; I am just knackered and have lost some of my blogging mojo.
Back very soon though as I miss this space.
Love to all.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Off the Needles ...

... no less than two Ishbels!
One in a really not-Jules colour of Golden Phoenix and one in green.
I only have photos of them as they were blocking at the moment but I am wearing them all the time and they are perfect for this cool Spring weather.
I had the hardest time getting to grips with the pattern.
Not because it is difficult but it was my very first attempt at lace knitting and it required some concentration as I got to grips with the pattern and the stitch repeats, whilst generally also playing with Frank.
I am so happy I stuck with it and as soon as I had completed the first large one I immediately cast on the green one so that the whole process would become more familiar.
And I am pleased that I did.
It really is a lovely shawl pattern and would make a great gift for friends.
2012, however, is the year of knitting for me, me, me!
On the needles at present is a beautiful leaf shawl in a much more typical shade of sage green.
It begins with casting on 491 stitches.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

A Frank Update

This is Frank.
He has Type 1 Diabetes.
And he needs a haircut!

At the hospital this week Frank was weighed and measured and his HbA1c taken (7.7, up from last time but I am truly happy with anything under eight. So, even though I shall work even harder I am not unhappy with the result).
I had been concerned about Frank having lost weight after he jumped on the scales at home and seemed to be about 5 or so pounds lighter than I remembered from our last hospital visit.
So, at our appointment we looked at the numbers and the results of the blood tests were discussed and all seemed well.
I wasn't too embarrassed at having raised my concerns and was told that I had been right to do so. It does seem that our scales weigh lighter than those at the hospital but Frank is definitely looking slimmer, so I am pleased to have had my mind put to rest this time.
Anyone with a child with this condition will know that it is wise to keep alert to other changes as the chances of thyroid issues or coeliacs is higher in Type 1 Diabetics than in others.
I had convinced myself that we were facing a thyroid problem when in fact, at present at least, all seems to be well.
And I am so very grateful for the comments I received about this.
I found it hugely comforting.
Thank you.
In other news I couldn't resist posting these photos from today as they really made me smile.
They illustrate something that I am aware of every day as Frank and I go about our days: we are wired differently.
We have been working today on making a board game to go into a story sack that were will be giving to another homeschooling family soon. Once we had done our game Frank got all excited about making another and so we did.
Well, I got the board ready with the numbers and then left him to create the game whilst I did some gardening.
Coming inside I brought some hyacinth flowers that were getting past their best and decided to make a spring garland for the front door.
So, I sat with my boy and did my girlie stuff whilst he made his game.
The contrast of what our brains love was wonderful!
I leave you to enjoy the pictures as they reveal our inner selves ...

And interestingly when I spellchecked this, the word coeliacs came up as cowlicks!