Sunday, 28 September 2014

Cilla: surprise, surprise

A strange thing happened to me this week. I found myself sniffling joyfully at Cilla, the ITV three-part drama about Cilla Black.

I know. I know!

How can this be? Although I did cry at the Coleman sauce advert as well this week so my cheese-monitor can't be trusted.

Even though Sheridan Smith is just fabulous and the love story between Cilla and Bobby is really cute I was surprised (surprise, surprise) to find myself swept up in bittersweet nostalgia.

You see the whole show reminded me of my Dad. My lovely Dad who I lost 13 years ago.

And I miss my Dad. Lots.

My husband thought I was a loon bucket as I sat there dabbing my eyes and saying stuff like "the unexpected hits you between the eyes!"

Anyone who has lost a parent will tell you that it is the silly stuff that catches you out. The unpredictable thing when you are least expecting it - that's the surprise you seesurprise, surprise (sorry! I'll stop!). Sometimes those memories can be painful but then at other times, they are worth their weight in gold.

The show took me back to a time when my Nan (my Dad's mum) had a stall in a local market selling fur coats and pink fluffy negligees (back in the day when both were acceptable). I loved going to that market. I loved the banter and bartering. I mostly loved going around the other stall holders, my Nan's mates, who would give me 50 pence to spend on the toy stalls. It was beyond ace on toast.

There was one stall holder that held particular fascination - a lovely lady called old Cilla - whose daughter hosted a show on a Saturday night that we could stay up for. I was in awe of the fact that my Nan was friends with her.

I would pester my Dad for information but she was just always Cilla from the block to him (before Jenny got in on the action). My Nan was not so shy and would regale us with stories - usually putting herself in the epicentre (she was pretty cool my Nan).

Cilla, Alan and Old Cilla. Source: Daily Mail

Getting a slice of your childhood handed back to you on a plate on a Monday night is quite a gift. Especially as I get older and my links to my Dad's family become less and less. His stories are not shared as they once were. But for two nights recently I've been thrust into them again and I felt like I had him in touching distance. Precious stuff.

So who is joining me for the final part of the series tomorrow? Look out for old Cilla's chums in her parlour.

If the unexpected brings a smile.
That's a big surprise.
Surprise, surprise!

Gabe says: "Anyone got any idea what she is talking about? Anyone? Nope! Nor us.
But I do like the sound of those pink negligees."

 photo 93142f35-6d39-479f-b3de-d94dbca68162_zps58499252.jpg

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Listen to the mustn'ts, then listen close to me

Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. 
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. 
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... 
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 
Shel Silverstein

I stumbled on the above quote a couple of years ago when I liked to torment myself by trawling through special needs forum boards. A lady whose child had just been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy posted it. She said even though her boy had just been given one of the cruelest death sentences and they would have to watch as his active body slowly wasted away, she was not giving up. She was not giving up on believing in the impossible.

Waiting on test results for the same disease for Gabe, her strength and determination sowed a seed.

Anything can happen, anything can be

Our environmental conditions weren't right back then to make that seed grow. It was a bleak desperate old time. We struggled to put one foot in front of the other. Jobs, our beautiful other children, friends and family were just the backdrop to the relentless turmoil that was looking after Gabriel.

It physically and mentally consumed us. 

He was ill every day for the first two years of his life. His chest was constantly infected and a hacking cough would bring back every ounce of milk and every milliliter of medication (ironically needed to stop the vomiting and cough) within minutes. Then the process would have to begin again. Over and over, hour after hour. All day and all night. Every day. Every night.

There was no sign of it ever abating. 

It seemed back then that there was only one possible conclusion to this nightmare. It was suggested by the medics that this was something Gabriel would not be able to overcome. It wasn't just the illnesses, it was the inability to even hold up his own head or acknowledge his surroundings. He wasn't developing at all. Things, they hinted, would get worse before they got better. 

We took shifts to stay awake downstairs beside his cradle for the first year. He was in most pain and distress through the night. Sometimes we would nod off, then wake frantically to check he was still there, still breathing and hadn't choked on the secretions, which he had no strength to control. Prayed that we hadn't let him down by sleeping on our watch.

It became a new normal. But sometimes, in the dead of night while the world slept on, the injustice of the situation would be overwhelming. It felt like we were just delaying the inevitable, prolonging the torment and that every second with him was so precious but yet more painful.

The worse form of torture is one that is sustained, one that you know with certainty will begin again with each new day with little hope of an end.

The doctors were stumped. They didn't know what was wrong. Just that it was so very wrong. As predicted things did get worse. He survived two intensive care stays, we introduced a feeding tube, we continued mopping up his vomit with practiced hands and we waited on test result after test result. The joys of the lottery of life-limiting paediatric diseases. 

Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.

But then things gradually started to get better. Slowly and slowly. 
His milk protein allergy diagnosis was a turning point. There came many more.
It was as if the claws of the vicious cycle he had been in were slowly releasing him.
  • He started to put on weight, to show an interest in food, to go from refusing his bottle to swigging its remains and demanding more
  • He began to hold up his own head, then roll. Slowly he began to sit, discovered his flair for bum shuffling and just this week has learnt how to get himself up from lying to sitting. His first, but hopefully not last, transition through positions
  • He began to babble, then sing his lar lar lars. He deemed it important to master "let's go" and "no, no, no". He now shouts "hiya, alright?" as his dad walks through the door
  • He didn't at first realise his hands were his, would scream at the merest brush, then would spend hours admiring but not using. Now no reachable surface remains unflicked, untouched or explored

  • Unplayed with toys lay littered across the house, glaring remainders of inability. Now with glee they are being dusted, batteries sought. Three years' worth of birthday, Christmas and whim-based treasures are being introduced. With bursting hearts we watch as they are banged, bashed and discarded as designed.
The Forbes Daily that randomly prints each day from the tinkered with printer, the data usage always at critical status due to his phone-based shenanigans, the orange mush stains on my settee and the little bum that mops my floors, makes me very grateful every day. 

He still has a good way to go. Our life is governed by the mustn'ts and the don'ts and we have to work really hard at the shouldn'ts and the impossibles, but now we won't accept the won'ts.
Not anymore.
You see anything can happen, child. Anything can be.

Gabe says: "Just off to get my Forbes Daily, See ya"

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

How to feel like an old hag

I have to confess I have been feeling a bit less youthful in recent years. I've tried to figure it out. Could it be because I need to stop flicking through my phone when I wake up in the night (such a loser) or because I should have a bit less wine and a bit more water (or even more watery wine - known locally as a spritzer).

But then it hit me. I am feeling old because I am now *ahem* older.
I am going to let you in on a secret.
But you must keep it to yourself.
Are you sure you can? I know you like a little bit of a gossip!

Here it comes...
Are you ready?
In 6 weeks' time I am waving goodbye to the flirty thirties and I am about to enter with a heavy (ageing old bag) heart the naughty forties.

I know it's hard to believe what with me looking like the epitome of chic youthful glamour at all times.

Honestly mum, I'd say you were only 26.
What do you mean why am I laughing when I say that!

But as I say goodbye to this decade I have a few burning questions to ask:

1. Which joker called them the dirty thirties?
Because they are dirty but not for the reasons I hoped.

What started well with an amazing girls' trip to Amsterdam followed by a summer proposal from the boyfriend descended steadily and gradually into what shall for evermore be known as the Decade of Dirt. Everything pretty much begins and ends with poo. Or snot. Or grot. Then pee. And then back to poo some more. Kids are gross. No one told you that when you chuckled at your "funny" birthday cards on your 30th birthday and then started flicking through the glossy wedding mags. Oh no. Not one person mentioned the sewage-like smell that fugs up your baby years when you were sniffing Jo Malone scents in feffing Selfridges as you spent your Dirty Flirty Thirty birthday vouchers.

2. Where do all the old bags go?
I have been quite content to snuggle down with a Chinese takeaway and Simon Cowell for most of the past 10 years. And the advent of the box set has sealed the fate on any instigation of a trip to the pub. Yet there has been a bit of a renaissance of late as my gang from school starts hitting the geriatric heights of 40 too. We want to celebrate and mark this landmark birthday, but it has presented itself with a whole host of dilemmas.

 I am not nearly 40. I'm telling off you.

Where does one go when they are starting to think about buying shares in Botox? Yes - there is the local pub or a nice (yawn) restaurant, but we want to shake our timeworn thang without looking like we are auditioning for Cougar Town. Side shuffling in a trendy late night den a few weeks ago in what was the first of a batch of 40th birthday celebrations, I surveyed the 18+ years crowd and resisted the urge to ask if their mothers knew they were out. We sealed our antique status when we moved on to a quieter bar up the road and congratulated ourselves on the fact we'd remembered to bring our own tissues for the loo.

You can have ALL this cake metabolism but you
must make me skinny for next Saturday. Deal?
3. Why does my metabolism now sit on its arse and demand cake
I made it work hard in 2006 and then again in 2007 when I wanted to snap back to some vague semblance of a woman rather than a bowling ball. It was especially flogged big time after my little girl was born as I had a hen do in Marbella when she was a mere 4 months old. In a revenge attack in 2010 after Gabriel she flicked two fingers up at me and did a go slow. Now to get the mean old cow working you actually have to make her do lots of exercise. We all know that requires some effort so we've just called a truce and share Double Deckers.

4. How can I subtly ditch all these younger mates?

I don't know what has happened. A heap of my mates are now younger than me. Man alive they are ageing me with their early/mid thirties ways. I'm suddenly the old hag of the pack. I have lost a few peers from my age group along the way mostly for being a baby bore or forgetting to text people back for a couple of years. You can read my How to lose your friends guide here (I am obvs doing a series here). I still stand by the line "for the fair-weathered few that I have lost along the way, I have retained and gained friends worth a billion times more" but I just wish you were all a bit more wrinkly and not so jaunty (get in the sun girls quick so we can be twins. Go on I'll time you!)

5. Why am I getting poorer?
Why do I have less money now than I did a decade ago - everything is allocated. Even if there is anything spare they go into "pots" called the holiday fund or the "will we ever get a feckin kitchen extension" account. Every time you buy shoes you guiltily think this could go towards a day out with the children (just before you think blow that and buy them anyway).

6. What's going on with the growing population of slugs?
I can't stop worrying about random crap. It is like my brain has woken up to the fact that yes the world can be one huge, dark and scary place but feck it I am going to worry about important stuff like slugs (is it just me but is there an alarming amount of slug slime on the streets today; are they going to take over the world). Yes there is widespread poverty and war, but I'm going to ponder on what will happen if I call the Street Cars number in Coronation Street (I may have done this) or I am going to lie awake in the night fretting about whether I have missed the start of the new series of Scandal (have I, have I?).

7. Did I get any wiser?
Unless discovering that you do actually have to sand the paintwork before glossing it (I thought that was an urban legend) and even "outdoor" plants need water (who knew) I don't think I have any wisdom to impart. Well maybe just this: never eat yellow snow.

Gabe says: "Do you want to know something hilarious?
I told mum she only looked 26!" Sucker!

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Wicked Wednesdays: more crap photos

I am so happy to link up once more to Brummymummyof2's Wicked Wednesdays as one thing I am good at is rubbish photos.

While the hubby got some crackers on his phone and the family camera - this is just one of many terrible offerings from my phone camera of our summer holiday.

Secret under the table pictures. Cause I am really creative and all that! This was at a beach bar.
The beach was gorg - obvs you prefer seeing my hubby's hairy knee


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

How to annoy your mother in five easy steps

An excerpt from the early memoirs of Prime Minister Gabe, leader of the free world. Then aged 3 and three quarters. A letter to his first ever school friend Dylan.

Yo Dylan!
How are you doing my main man? I've had the most fabbulious summer holiday but have missed hanging out with you my buddy. No one seems to wanna play with mud or smear crazy soap over their head with me. When we go back to school tomorrow we are not going to be the little ones anymore. We are going to rule the school like the Fonz or the T-birds (I've been watching dodgy 3am telly with my mum again). Babies smell. We are gonna be like cool dude pre-schoolers. Anyone from the Nursery Year (aka the losers) coming on to our bit of the carpet better beware! Or have Peppa Pig books to give us as tokens of their loyalty.

Hello, hello. What's your name? Are you from the poo poo nursery
side or dude preschool side?

Mud rocks!
I've been having a busy summer and like found out loads of new stuff that I can do. Do you know what has been the bestest fun - winding my mummy up on the most epic scale. You've got to get in on some of this action mate - it's been cracking me up. Let me tell you some of the coolest tricks I've learnt.

1. Demanding the phone at all times

This one has legs but I've upped my game of late. As soon as she brings out her phone and starts the plinky plonking I've perfected full on OUTRAGE. If I screech really loudly in her ear and arch my back lots then she tends to give in and give it to me. And this is the best bit. I've worked out that if I press the button at the top it allows me to make the ringing sound and hear all the voices go "hello, hello, hello". It cracks me up. Remember though even when you're a bit bored of it - don't give it back. Hide it behind you - she'll never find it. And if she goes to snatch just hold it above your head and let it crash down - it's great as it does a brill smash all over the floor.

Woah stop the bus - forget the phone - who is that?!

2.  Switching off the TIVO box in the middle of The Good Wife or Game of Thrones

I loves this one. l am the master of this. Wait until your mummy is all comfy on the couch with a cup of tea. Then come out of no where like the Brotherhood without Banners (gosh Game of Thrones is fabby) and bum shuffle really fast to press the big red button on the box under the telly. Wait until she is all comfy once again and thinks you are playing with your toys and then sweep in again. Top laughs.

3. Waking up just as she goes to bed

Tell me this - how come we are little and have to sleep in a bed all by our own and they are big and get to share. What the blink. I am not having that. I don't mind having a little snooze in my cot while they potter doing their thing downstairs but once they are climbing into bed - I want in. Sometimes they try and leave me but if you cry like really really REALLY loud they break. If that fails mate - just do a poo. That always works a treat. Once in the middle of their bed, make yourself all comfy by putting your head right next to mummy's nostrils and putting your feet up on her belly. Again wail loudly if she tries to move. It's well good. Everyone gets a lovely sleep.

My bed!

4. Refuse outright to go in the pram, highchair or even on the floor

Now listen carefully as this one is important and a skill I've only recently acquired. But it's worth its weight in gold. You know how sometimes you just don't wanna go in the highchair or whatever because you are busy turning the TIVO box on and off - well just don't let them do it. It is ace. Make your body go all straight and stiff so not even the strongest man in the world can bend you (which just for the record ain't daddy). Watch out though as mummy sometimes pulls a fast one and uses my straightness to sneak in some standing practise. And we know that's physio - and physio should be resisted on all levels. Just cause.

5. Pulling off glasses, hair and everything that is neatly stored on reachable shelves

I didn't like touching things before but now it is brill. You can use your hands to do stuff like pull off mummy's glasses or sunglasses and throw them on the floor (she especially loves it when out and about). Just before she tries to put you back in the pram, change tactics and start pulling her hair especially those little fluffy ones at the back of her neck. If you are dumped on the floor, use your time wisely to go room to room pulling all the DVDs and books off the shelf. Someone will always kindly put them back so you can go and do it again a bit later. Don't forget if you see any type of cup on the floor grab it quick - you get a gold star if you manage to pour out any of the wet stuff especially on your head. It is very mega amaze if you do it to the perfumed drink. Mummy does a funny squeal - it is beyond bonkers.

Obvs there is loads more annoying stuff to do like refusing to eat any orange mush until they put on In the Night Garden and eating so slowly you get to watch two episodes (result!) but I'll show you all the rest of my tricks in person tomorrow.

Watch out teachers (and smelly nursery babies).

Love Gabe (aka the Fonz of the Early Years Unit)

I'm gonna rule the school

Related posts:
Gabe's games
My big brother's birthday bash

Brilliant blog posts on

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

When your pregnancy blows up in your face

Have you had it?
The moment in a pregnancy scan when the sonographer stops smiling?
The polite banter ends.
Have you seen the blink and you'll miss it "oh no" flash across her face?
Have you?

Did you feel it?
The cold creeping fingers of fear as you realise this is not going to be a good day?
The rising dread.
Did you feel your insides turn to mush as you realised your life was about to change?
Did you?

Were you dazed?
The point that she put down the probe and caught your eye?
The words forming on her lips
Were you silently praying and beginning to beg to all manner of gods in your head?
Were you?

Could you breathe?
The words 'a problem' and 'referral to fetal medicine team' making you gasp.
The fear crushing down heavy.
Could you take in all that it meant when she mentioned chromosomal disorders?
Could you?

Should you run?
The thought probably took over your brain stopping any pain at least for now.
The urge to flee.
Should you get up and walk away and pretend that none of this ever happened?
Should you?

Should you? Could you? Do you?

In March 2010 my pregnancy blow up in my face. My 12-week scan showed a high nuchal fold (fluid at the back of the baby's neck) and therefore a high risk of a chromosomal problem.

I didn't get told that I had lost my baby in that scan. I couldn't begin to imagine that pain.
But to my shame there were flashes over the next few days that I wished I had.

You see I knew immediately what this could mean. Someone close to me had had similar news six months earlier and was facing giving imminent birth to a child that was not expected to survive. You can read more on this story here. She is an amazingly strong woman (who I will admire to the day I die) that gave her child - created so fragile - a chance.

I was not that woman.
I was not that strong.

The urge to turn back the clock. To have not put myself in this situation was immense.  We had to wait two whole days for the fetal medicine team to see us. 48 hours is a long time to think. To plan. To dwell. To rage. To self protect. To begin to distance.

I didn't have to do this. I could make it all just go away. Go far away.
You shouldn't still have to play when someone had changed the rules.
Should you?

The fetal medicine team could tell us no more (there were no more scan markers) and the only way to know for certain if we were facing life with a child that would have a disability would be to have a CVS test. Would you like one, they asked? You can have it now and know the results in a few days. Then you could plan, they said.

Yes, I whispered. Yes, my brain shouted. Yes, the future me with the life mapped out hollered.
Let's know for certain. Let's make a plan. Yes.
Please yes.
The "wait a minute" of my heart nestled so tightly beside my baby was not allowed a voice.

But my husband was.

If we have this CVS, he asked quietly, is there a risk to the baby?
There is, they said. Two in a 100 woman experience a miscarriage due to CVS. Two in a 100 babies, potentially normal babies, will die.

Suddenly my heart's voice was getting stronger - urging me to stop and think. The team sensing our new hesitation told us to go for a coffee and have a talk.

Looking back now, a twenty minute coffee break is not a long time for a decision such as this. But for us it allowed us to stand back and look at the facts:

  • Was it good news that there were no new markers on the scan?
  • Could we therefore rule out the more serious chromosomal problems?
  • If we were told today that our baby had Down's syndrome, would we continue with the pregnancy?
  • Did we want to risk our baby's life to know something that wouldn't make a difference to our course of action?
  • Could we be brave?
We answered mostly 'yes' (I've always been a sucker for a pop quiz) and decided that was enough to decline further testing for now.

When your pregnancy blows up in your face, the need for certainty in a situation so uncertain is overwhelming. You think 'knowing' will help. You need to find some control when your life is spinning so seemingly out of control.

With the benefit of a three-year hindsight and a once very ill boy getting stronger by the day, what did I learn? Perhaps this:
  • No one to this day can tell me whether the nuchal fold size had anything to do with Gabe's eventual condition. Perhaps it was fluid from his hole in his heart? Maybe not? I know lots of women with the same nuchal fold reading that went on to have normal babies. I know loads of women who had normal nuchal fold readings that had children with a disability.
  • The strange thing about our situation is that Gabe's unknown genetic condition would not have been picked up by a CVS test as it can't even be picked up on an in-depth genetic array. It is so rare that testing for it is only in trial form. We would have thought we were getting a reprieve and we weren't.
  • Even though we got six months to ponder on life with a disabled child we were still not ready. It still took us by surprise.
  • This normal versus disability thing is shoved down your throat at a prenatal stage in these stressful circumstances. What you are never told is that for every condition - genetic or otherwise - there is such a vast spectrum and you are never going to know anything for certain in utero. There is no black or white with any child. They don't come with a warranty agreement.
  • I have known children born with the worse odds defy all the doctor's predictions and make their parents' hearts soar on a regular basis.
  • For every bad day there are ten amazing ones and a hundred your bog-standard 'the world's not falling in' and 'hey what shall we have for dinner today' average.
And finally if I had know then that the thing that I feared was just this lovely little boy called Gabe I'd have laughed. If I had know my foetus with the chromosomal disorder that made me weep was this boy who giggles in mirrors and now bum shuffles to hidey-hole places then I would have done a little dance.

Gabe says: "I am aces, I really am. I could look at myself all day!"

"Yep, still aces"

"Still here looking beyond aces"

"In fact I am the bee's knees"

"Oh and I make a lovely spag bol."

Watch me go!

Post Comment Love

Thursday, 24 July 2014

How to have a really exciting life

I think in a past life I might have been a Grand Prix rally driver or a freestyle cliff diver. Deep down inside that little rebel thrill-seeking gene still exists. I might not be tight rope walking in the Himalayas in my present existence, but boy do I like to find things to keep me living on the edge.

I seem to just do (or not do) things that make my life as stressful and as complicated as possible. Just for fun like.

For example:

1. Knowing for over a year the date that you are going on holiday yet only applying for the children's passports a few months before just so you can have the little drama of them still not arriving a week before the holiday.

No one really wants to go on holiday, right! It's all about the brochure. Sob!

2. Having a rubbish phone with no Sat Nav and only having a vague idea where you are going so you have to pull over three times and ask for directions like an 18th Century person meaning you turn up 40 minutes late for your rendezvous.

3. Promptly forgetting the directions as soon as you start driving again.

4. Adding in a wailing baby for laughs

5. Adding in a wailing baby with a big fat smelly poo!

6. Making sure it is for something important like a hospital appointment.

7. One you have been late for BEFORE.

8. Thinking you have all day to tidy up and cook for your friends coming for dinner then rushing around like a lunatic throwing a thousand things into your bedroom and praying no one has the urge to lift up a sofa cushion. You can do it! Just that wee at the back of the toilet to wipe up before the door bell rings! There is no time to wash your hair - just wear a hat. All is good.

Helloo. Come on in. Dinner will be served after I have glugged half a bottle of wine

9. Saying yes to more than one event without checking date clashes and then not having the bottle to cancel anything and therefore hoping the universe will sort it all out for you. Which it rarely does. Cause it thinks you are a disorganised idiot!

10. Buying sandals with two straps to buckle up on each - gets really, really thrilling when you are in a big rush!

11. Getting the giggles in church when the children's headteacher is in the next pew because the baby has trumped on your lap and is also giggling.

12. Deciding you just have to put on a wash, do the dishes, make the beds and send four emails for work before the school run meaning the children have to jog to school (hell bells - it's good for them).

13. Snapping at a random person on a stressed out day - the one that will never ever EVA forgive you EVA (and will shoot you death glares for six years afterwards)

14. Having a washing up bowl with a hole in it so you have a time limit on how long it takes you to wash the dishes before the water washes away (okay - I am also only person to not own a dish washer - see point 15)

15. Buy a house that needs "doing up" and then have three children in quick succession so you would rather live in 1970s shabby chic then face weeks with no kitchen. Making sure no knifes fall out of the knackered cutlery drawer on to the baby's head is fun yeah!

16. Finally returning a call to a dear friend after you have promised to call her back in a quiet moment (then never having a quiet moment) and also forgetting her text messages three seconds after reading them. It could go either way - pledge drinks early in the call.

17. Being too slow to get down the stairs on a Saturday to retrieve the credit card bill from your intrigued husband (you might need to use womanly tactics to distract).

18. Opting to cook a roast dinner on a hot Thursday like it is a really good idea.

Gabe says: "You slave for hours on a roast dinner, spend ages mashing it up and
I'll just throw it around the room. Deal?"

19. Deciding to write a blog post about stuff instead of doing the 755 stuff you actually need to do.

20. Yeah and so I am ending on 19 cause that's how I roll - edgy and all that! Watch out Kate Moss!

Post Comment Love