Thursday 29 October 2009

Love, love, love

I just love this season.

We have been foraging and getting harvest goodies from all kinds of people doing the same. Yesterday Sev, Frank and I shelled a mass of wet walnuts and found these beauties among them.

Have you been foraging for anything this season?

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Our day

A rare still life with 3 year old and peanut butter on toast.

Knitting gloves and keeping those fluids up.

Ginger tea and anti-viral oil for the Aroma stone.

Feeling very sorry for ourselves today. We both have full-on colds and Frank also has a fever.
He was very floppy this morning as you can see so we left the sofa bed up after I had retreated to it in the night. I couldn't breathe lying down and so read "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls until I felt sleepy and my nose felt less stuffed. I think I read from 2-4am! I am regretting my foolhardy attitude today as Frank is showing no signs of napping despite being under the weather.

This morning I called Shelagh the diabetes specialist nurse for some advice about handling fever and ketones in urine. I had tested Frank's pee with a tester strip and he was showing high levels of ketones. His breath was smelly too. Acidic and viral-smelling. Shelagh recommended lots of fluids and testing his blood suagr more regularly. If he were to vomit or go into the 20s or 30s I should call the Children's Unit and take him in.

I was told, a year ago, when we were sent back out into the world after his diagnosis and our time in hospital
that we had 24 hour open door access to the ward and shouldn't hesitate to go in. I remember thinking, "I don't want that! I don't want an open door at the hospital! I want a child without diabetes!" But a year down the line and I am calmer about the situation. Hospital will become a part of our lives at times. And the staff and systems in place here in Colchester have always impressed and reassured us.

Clare popped in this morning and was a breath of fresh air as always.

We are now on the sofa for an attempt at an afternoon rest. It will be good to be in my own bed again tonight, especially as Budd returned home yesterday after 5 days in Scotland and I feel I've barely seen him since!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Anyone for tea?

The customer enters the cafe under his umbrella as it is raining.
He takes his umbrella down and finds himself a table.

He orders ginger tea.

And watermelon.

We woke this morning with colds, Frank's being more in evidence at first but mine fast catching up as the day progressed. After popping out shortly this morning we spent the afternoon doing puzzles in Frank's room, playing cafes in the lounge and snuggling on the sofa reading, watching children's telly and drinking ginger hibiscus tea with honey.

At bedtime Frank fell asleep as I was in the middle of making up a Charlie and Lola story. I think the Aroma stone with the anti-viral oil and eucalyptus oil in his room helped. I hope some of it drifts into my room tonight.

Monday 26 October 2009

These are days

These are days you'll remember. Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this. And as you feel it, you'll know it's true that you are blessed and lucky. It's true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days you'll remember. When May is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles you see in every hour. You'll know it's true that you are blessed and lucky. It's true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.

These are days.

These are days you might fill with laughter until you break. These days you might feel a shaft of light make its way across your face. And when you do you'll know how it was meant to be. See the signs and know their meaning. It's true, you'll know how it was meant to be. Hear the signs and know they're speaking you, to you.

10,000 Maniacs

OK, so it's not May but out and about, walking into town and playing in the garden the healing continues after the crisis of last week. Even bench Monday has happened, as you can see from the final photo of the last two days.

Frank slept in with me last night. So convincing were my stories of The Three Little Pigs and the wolf that as soon as I left him he called me back and told me in a very wobbly-bottom-lipped fashion that he was scared of the animals getting him. A fat tear rolled down his cheek and I decided to let him fall asleep in my bed. I was so tired that I didn't bother to move him once I went up to bed. Mistake! The boy had me clinging onto the edge three inches of a KING SIZE bed as he threw himself around and slept like a star fish. Tonight he is in his own bed. We co-slept for a while when he was tiny and I loved it but at that time he didn't lurch around and throw right hooks at me throughout the night. And, as any parent knows, sleep hours relate directly to levels of patience and humour.
Yesterday Frank solemnly informed me that he wanted to be a lady when he grows up as he prefers ladies and they aren't prickly on their faces.
He has a point...

Friday 23 October 2009

Trust your gut

Over the past twelve months I have begun to learn to deal with the reality that is Type 1 Diabetes. Anyone that has ever read my fledgling blog will know that my little boy, Frank, was diagnosed last October and that it has been a difficult year since.

A week ago I was feeling like I had made such good progress and then something happened that threw it all into question again.

I know Frank has a chronic condition. I know he would die without insulin and that it is my job to administer it.

Managing Frank's T1D is an art, not a science.

His blood sugar can alter in a moment, despite careful planning. Excitement, tiredness, growth spurts and exercise can all affect his sugar levels. He in not keen on having his blood sugar tested as it involves pricking his finger and getting a good sized drop of blood out of it. Afterwards he holds his hand under his arm like an animal with a wounded paw. I cry but try not to let him see. However, children pick up vibes from their parents. He knows I struggle with it.

So, anyway, this Wednesday he was at 22.6 at 8pm. Way too high considering we should all aim for between 4 and 7. We gave him only one unit to bring his levels down but also some milk as he said he was hungry. Andrew had work to do and was in the dining room so I decided to plan my lesson for the following evening. I was tired but felt I wanted to test his blood sugar again before going to sleep. So, I planned and waited and something in me didn't want to sleep.

Then at midnight the lights went off. I could hear drilling in the street and saw that there was a group of workers fixing a problem up the road. All the lights were off, even the street lamps. Andrew had to abandon his work. I did too as my computer has no battery power beyond twenty minutes. We went into Frank to test his blood sugar, having to do it by torch light, to find him sleeping fine but shockingly at 2.6. Far, far too low. Full hypo. Freakishly low considering his high only a couple of hours earlier. We then had to wake him and make him drink juice and have one of his purees to bring his levels up again. All by torch light.

My intuition had told me not to sleep but to check him again. My intuition that I have learned to tune into more and more over the past year. If I had just gone to bed he might have been in a coma by the morning. He might have died.

The two days since this have been exhausting. How could I have got it so wrong? Everything else fades into the background. Work? Phone messages? Politics? The environment? World peace? None of it exists for me during such days.

And I still hate the injustice of it. I did it all right. I breast fed. I cooked good food. No sugar. No juice, just water. Healthy, wholefood Mama. It was no talisman against anything. But in my positive days I know I did right by him then and continue to do so now.

I struggle to explain the weight of this in my life to my friends and family. How can such a complicated thing be summarised in a sentence when some kind soul asks "How's Frank?".

Parenting is hard. Parenting a diabetic child is on a whole other scale. But this much I know for sure:

Trust your gut.

As a parent just listen to the voice inside.
No one knows your child like you do.
No one.
Trust your gut.
Allow yourself to parent with conviction.
You owe yourself this much.
Your child needs this from you.
Trust your gut.

Monday 19 October 2009

Converse Bench Monday

Severine is here!
Her converse look even more battered than mine and so she was roped into my paltry attempts to come up with something for Bench Monday. She is the one with the dinky feet.
I have spent the morning working at a local primary school, the afternoon baking crumble (thanks, Anne, for the bag of apples last night) and planning. Frank and Budd have been to the zoo and I can now smell dinner being prepared downstairs. It is a working day for me and a Stay At Home Dad day for Budd. We have stopped being so flexible for work and have stuck to our days and it's working really well. We all know where we are:
here, now, loving our little family.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Not for the faint of heart.

And on a lighter note I finished this today. Life is not all existential matters. Knitted breasts have their role to play.

Towards Gratitude

I am grateful for my boys.

I am grateful for days out in nature with them and for every moment I spend with them.

It is all too easy in life to focus on the next thing to need doing, the next meal to need cooking, the next load of washing to put on. But what if we stopped for a minute and took a breath and lived in the present, right there in the moment.

What if we looked at our loves and really saw them?

My baby has diabetes. I am essentially his 5'10" pancreas. I have to be aware of his condition, constantly. There are blood sugar results to consider, injections to give, potential food and exercise to balance, insulin and glucose to carry around and a normal contrary three year old to throw into the mix.

And yet, life is such a gift, such an amazing set of chances and luck. It is not always what we imagined or wanted. But it is what it is and to find peace in that has helped me move forward from the darker places I have been over the past year since diagnosis.

I am grateful for my boys.

I am grateful.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Digging and Dreaming

Two nights in a veritable heaven.
Old Hall hosted us for a couple of days and Frank was in his absolute glory: running around with tractors, chickens and cows as well as living the dream that is harvesting Mangolds when The Enormous Turnip is your favourite story. Autumn sunshine, good homemade and home-grown food, good company, good people and some decisions to be made about going back. Frank's vote was for two weeks and he was very emphatic as he also held up two fingers; numerical genius that he is.I have been working at being a more mindful parent recently and trying to live in the moment with Frank. He thrives when I manage it, in fact we both do, and we have so much more fun together as everything is more peaceful and calm. At Old Hall Frank just blossomed with being out in the fresh air all day, running aorund a lot and taking in all the smells and sights of a working farm. I felt myself blossoming too. It is a very special place and offers the space to just be.
With my increasing desire to live more simply and be closer to nature this couple of days was a beautiful insight into what might be.

Saturday 10 October 2009

The Needles and the Damage Done

Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill is an amazing building and warrants the americanism "awesome". Today I visited for the first time with two friends from the Knit and Natter group for the annual Knit and Stitch Show as managed by twistedthread.
There were hundreds of stands and thousands of women in the building, along with around four men.

We arrived and sat sipping coffee whilst looking at the programme and then headed off in three different directions to frolic amongst the fibres.
Yikes, it was good.

My head was spinning after an embarrassingly short time and I realised it was because I was unused to being alone and actually able to concentrate on the task at hand. Normally I am watching a three year old out of the corner of one eye.
The creative ideas just had me so excited and damage was done to my stash of cash alarmingly quickly. Some of it was a bit cutesy and twee but each to their own and the great majority of stands had a fantastic range of items on offer.

I can't wait to get started on these projects and will detail them here as they progress.

This fabric, for example, is going to become a hanging for our bedroom.

Other items are for beaded pulse warmers for me, a skirt, a patchwork blanket (of gorgeous Amy Butler prints) for the lounge, a cushion cover, felt Linzer biscuits for Frank's toy basket and some felted gnomes for the nature table.

Bring it on!

Thursday 8 October 2009

Knit and Natter

This morning saw me heading out to my monthly Knit and Natter group at a lovely independent garden centre called Growing Together. I love this group. We are all women and knit very different things but for the same reason: we love it!
Above is my lacy scarf sitting prettily on a fern. There are little piglets scampering cheekily around and chickens clucking happily as we chat, knit, sip our coffee and nibble on the yummy homemade cakes.
Today's toics ranged from (the ever-present) diabetes, buying wool on Ebay, felting, the Knit and Stitch Show at Alexandra Palace this week, vegetable growing and book groups.
It's not a bad way to spend a morning.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Of hedgehogs and glitter

Today was just Frank and me. The two of us. Perfect. We hung out making a picture for Elsa in the morning before popping into the hospital for Frank to give blood (he needs to be tested for thyroid function every year). He was super brave and so sweetly calm that the nurses gave him not one sticker but three as well as some goodies for his doctor's bag. Then off to Manningtree to play with Elsa whilst I caught up with Angela.
The disruptive lunchtime appointment at the hospital meant that I gave Frank snacks instead of lunch and then at Angela's he had more snacks, so I wasn't at all concerned about his blood sugar levels. As far as I was concerned he had eaten really well. I prepared dinner and tested him just before, even bracing myself for another injection, only to see him at 3.2, basically in hypo. Sometimes I feel really in control of it all and sometimes I get sideswiped and realise how much more there is to learn.
I love him so much and am so proud of him that this experience now spurs me on to getting better at helping him manage his diabetes.
All my posts are not meant to be about Frank's Type 1 but it is with us every moment of every day. There is no respite. We are his life support system and it's deeply frightening at times. Sometimes I want to put my head in the sand but then the parent-thing switches on, just like it did when I first gave birth to him, and I realise that I always have been his life support system and his need for me isn't scary but beautiful and a blessing. Every day I want to be the best Mum I can. He deserves nothing less.

Monday 5 October 2009

Apple Pie

So, the saga (of how to use up the closely estimated 250 apples from last week's scrumping by Budd) continues. And today I give you apple and thyme pie! Before

and "Ta da!" after.

It served as Valerie's birthday cake and we ate it with either creme fraiche (me) or custard (Val and Budd). Too many years of cold custard with a skin at Place Farm primary school wrecked any chance I had of loving custard. It's a cliche but it really did ruin the yellow stuff for me.
Frank was busy painting (hence the plastic table cloth with insects on it) and didn't want any apple pie. Anyway he assures me he doesn't like apple cake as he only likes cake on its own. Without the apples. A very three year old thing, this not mixing foods. Everything in its proper place and don't fancy it up.
It is also my second Bench Monday and this is my feet with those of my beloved, taking a moment on the sofa as the pie bakes in the oven, (you can just see my pinny) and the boy plays with his Lego.
I wish you pie with your loved ones.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Dizzy gets a house

Today I found out what a fresh imagination and a broken pot in the garden can become: a new home, and a blue one at that, for little Dizzy the cement mixer. I was busy peeling a slicing more of the mountain of windfalls when Frank came in asking me to come and look at something he'd made. On going out into the garden I found him making Dizzy nice and snug in her new home. When I suggested he might like to paint her house his little face lit up and he was immediately sure that she'd want a blue house. We got the paint pot, filled it to the brim and found a big brush, just right for the job. Tomorrow we plan to stick some shells onto the pot to make it even prettier.
Joyful days.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Hospital visit, apples and the first fire

The sun comes into the kitchen in the mornings. I love making breakfast with the morning sun for company.
Frank's quarterly check-up at the hospital went well this week. He has gained weight, which is good as he has been on the thin side since diagnosis. He was really brave, even when legging it down the corridor and out of the building with me running after him, and really does seem to be getting used to being there now and then. His blood check showed us that his overall blood glucose level had gone up a bit but after analysing his numbers for the past three months Doctor Cackett agreed that there wasn't anything she'd do differently and to make an appointment for three months time. He is now due his yearly blood test for thyroid function and so I will be taking him back for that next week.
Budd had been scrumping that day too and had come home from his secret location with four enormous bags of apples of different varieties. So, once back from the hospital Budd and Frank set all the apples out on the dining room table and I went off to teach my class.
The next morning saw us doing this

We made the first of no doubt many vats of stewed apples, these first ones with no sugar or even spices. They are my control apples. We have never really added sugar to stewed fruit and when others do it tastes hugely over-sweet to me. I do like to add herbs or spices, such as cinnamon, ginger or thyme to stewed apples. Watch this space for the next batches.
This morning Frank and I headed out for a slice of banana cake at Growing Together, a fantastic, independent garden centre with a cafe, out near Layer Marney. We had a great time munching our cake, running around with the piglets, saying hello to the Indian Runner Ducks and chickens and buying some cyclamen for the pots at the front of the house. Frank also chose some plants to decorate the mini duck pond that he has been digging in the lawn and filling with water. I will include some photos soon, but it looks like an oasis at the moment with cyclamen, cacti, strings of conkers and beaded necklaces embellishing it!

Many friends are surprised that Frank can eat cake at all. It is one of the ironies of Type 1 diabetes that he eats more sugar and drinks more juice now than I ever allowed him before diagnosis. With insulin on board and a tendency to run around like a (thank you, thank you) normal three year old he will need the extra fuel. Keeping him acitve means he can eat cake and have ice cream, although I continue to be vigilant about ingredients and quality, just like I would be were he not diabetic. Timing of snacks is everything and I prefer to plan Frank's snacks and treats for as early in the day as possible to allow ample time to run off any extra blood sugar.
And I write all this sitting in front of the first fire of the Autumn, laid by Budd and Frank, and so cosy.