Friday, 5 September 2014

Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails

Is that really what little boys are made of?

Girls are sweet and play nicely with barbies and cuddly toys and make jewellery with colourful plastic beads.  They'll learn ballet, in their pretty pink tutus. They'll skip in wild flower meadows, hand in hand, picking posies and singing.  They sit quietly and read books about rainbows and unicorns.  They are never dirty, never spill their food and can't stand the sight of mud.  They are loving and kind.  They will grow up unable to do anything physical but will be able to soufflé like the best of them

Boys are rough.  They fight and have an abundance of energy that can only be expelled by being loud and running about.  They don't skip through meadows…they bulldoze their way through it stamping on flowers as they go.  Boys do not sit still.  They are rude, talk back and fidget.  Any talk that isn't about poo is something they don't want to be part of.  They play with Lego and building blocks and with diggers in the dirt.  They play football and Rugby.  They will grow up to do manly jobs, drink beer and eat a lot of red meat.

I have three little boys (have I ever mentioned that).

I feel like boys get a hard time for being rowdy and rude….and, on the other hand, that "being a boy" is an excuse for any bad behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, boys don't always get the raw end of the deal….the cooler toys are always in the "boys" section (I mean, how ridiculous is it that toys seem to have a gender?) and there's far less focus on how they look/how much they weigh as they grow up.
Is a toy used with a child's genitals…?  If no then it is a toy for ANY child regardless of gender, if yes then it's not a toy that children should be anywhere near.

My boys will be brought up to respect others.

To be polite and caring young men.

To be able to cook for their future partner (Yes, Mr B, that is a slightly pointed comment.)
They'll learn that their worth isn't in how much money they earn, or how attractive they are, but from their self respect and how they treat others.

Being the mother of boys I'm going to go through the situation of their partners parents wondering if they're "good enough" for their little girl (or son….).  I want to bring my boys up so that their partners parents either don't have that worry, or who, when they meet my son, they realise how well toward they are.

My little brother went through a very difficult stage as a young teen (sorry B, but you were simply horrible at times…you were also ok..*love you*)  He has grown into a wonderful young man and I couldn't be prouder of him and all he has achieved.

Children can be difficult….and I'll be ready for the teenage rampage….but I feel that if you have brought them up with your values then they will generally end up as a "goodun".  I fully expect to be challenged and at times despair at their behaviour, but they are my boys and I will always support them to become the best young men they can be.

There will be no gender stereotyping.  Dolls are equal to Lego in this house.  

…well actually nothing is equal to Lego…….NOTHING!

Their gender has no bearing on how I bring them up.  Society might have them all figured out but I haven't yet.  They are all completely different…already that is clear to see, but they will always be my sons….whether they're Scientists, Captains of industry or Jazz mavericks is inconsequential, so long as they do what they want then I am happy.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Passion fruit curd

My all time favourite cake has to be courgette cake with passion fruit curd and a cream cheese icing, chopped pistachios sprinkled on top.

I think it's a Nigella recipe but I was given it by a friend, who in turn had got it from their friend.

Passion fruit curd is sweet and sharp and goes extremely well with cake.  The only thing is there isn't much of it about.  You're not going to be able to toddle into your local Sainsburys….or even Waitrose….and be able to find it alongside the likes of lemon curd, strawberry conserves or honeys.  I've seen it in a few fancy farm shops and deli's but that's about it.  

So it makes a lot of sense to make it if you need it.

It's not cheap to make….passion fruit isn't exactly most peoples everyday fruit and with that comes a certain price tag….but it's really worth it.

10 passion fruit
2 large eggs + 2 yolks
140g sugar
100g unsalted butter

First you have the fun job of "juicing" the passion fruit.  I do it by sieving the pulp through a sieve into a bowl.  It takes a while to do, but keep going.  It doesn't look like you'll get much out of them but trust me…keep going and you'll be amazed at how much juice comes out.

Melt the butter on a gentle heat in a saucepan. 

In another bowl mix the egg and sugar together.

Add the sugar/egg mixture and the passion fruit juice to the melted butter and STIR as you pour.
The two things that are really important is that you don't get impatient and turn the heat up and that you don't stop stirring.  You need to be in it for the long game.  It'll take a while, and you'll be convinced that nothing is happening, that nothing will ever happen and that you're going to be stuck with a weird passion fruit egg mixture, but persevere.  If you turn the heat up then you'll be stuck with passion fruit flavoured scrambled eggs and if you don't wait long enough then it won't be firm enough and will cause many an argument if you have a baking partner.  It should coat the back of a wooden spoon when it's done.  (It'll still seem quite runny, but it will set as it cools.)

Eat with a spoon, and put whatever's left in the cake.

(If you purely want it for one cake then you can make half the quantity and you'll still have more than enough.)

I made the cake for two very good friends wedding and was horrified (and slightly proud) that it had all gone before I'd managed to get a slice at the afternoon tea.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sugar and spice and all things nice

My friend has just had a baby girl.  Now…with a house full of boys I've never had the chance to do the "pretty dresses" thing. (I do get to do the "adorable braces" thing though.)

I was positive that little baby was going to be a boy.  I could feel it in my waters……..well… turns out my waters were wrong.

So having a rare free afternoon I really couldn't help myself and threw myself into making the tiniest dress you can imagine.

…I may have cried at how tiny it was…

I know I have my very own tiny person (who is finally becoming a little chunk like his brothers were) but it still shocks me at how small babies are.

My buttons leave a lot to be desired, but hopefully it'll go relatively unnoticed.

To check the fit, I had to call on a certain little Rupert Bear.

….It was a little weird to see….

I often get asked if I'm disappointed that I don't have a girl (very odd question) or if we're planning on trying again because we "might get a girl" next time (because apparently you can choose these things).  Firstly, a little awkward to tell people, if my heart stays this way then we can't have another baby because *get ready for the dramatics* I'd probably die and secondly….why should I specifically want a girl.  I have three fantastic little boys and I couldn't ask for more.  Sure I miss out on giving my daughter my wedding dress one day (but then again if I'd worn my mum then I'd have looked like Little Bo Peep so I'm sure it'll be out of fashion by then) and I miss out on making pretty little dresses for them (although who knows, the boys might want to wear dresses and I'd let them.)  So no…I'm not disappointed with any of my children, surprisingly.  Were I to ever have another (don't worry Mr B, if you're reading this, it's not going to happen) then I'd want another BABY….not a certain gender.  I get asked if I miss the freedom you have when you don't have children, or if I wish I could go out on weekends (I don't….)

To my lovely, wonderful friend, who MADE a whole new person….If anyone makes comments about whether you're going to try for a boy next time, asks if you wanted a girl, or judges your parenting style because Baby A is either "too girly" or "not girly enough", or looks at you with sympathy because you can't go to the pub because you "have" to do bedtime then shake it off and smile. You have done something incredible, and have brought a gorgeous little girl into the world.  

You have a little person who is so delicate and special and is yours.  

I'm going to say it again….you MADE her!  

She is part you and part her daddy.  She's got a huge family who will always be there for her.

She's going to have pony rides on her Grandpa's back, help daddy make Mothers day cards and clumsily bring you up breakfast in bed, spilling the OJ everywhere, bake cakes with her Grandma and share her food with Dylan (dog).  She's going to laugh and cry and share the good and the bad times with you.  She's going to test your patience and be a bossy little thing (well she is your daughter).  She's going to be curious and as she figures out how the world works, learning new skills, you will watch in awe.  How could someone who is so tiny and precious and new turn into their own little person, with like, dislikes and her own opinion?  You're going to have kitchen discos and family snuggle time and every night you're going to put that little bundle to bed and have to sneak back to watch her sleep.  You're going to be sitting on the sofa watching her play and suddenly, in a moment, get choked up because of the love you feel for your little family.  You're going to feel like the luckiest person in the world.  You're going to worry about her all the time (what parent doesn't) and you're going to have to kiss a lot of bumps better.  You'll also get to share all her accomplishments, big and small. She'll learn to ride a bike, to read, to sing and you'll be right there with her.  You'll get to make new traditions and teach her the old.  You'll have to go through the torture, every parent feels, of leaving her, for the first time at nursery and then school, knowing that each year she's becoming more and more independent, learning and growing, and will watch her blossom into the incredible young woman she will surely be.

She is your baby, and she is special.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Cat Face

This is The Great Catsby (Excuse his name but I'm a sucker for a cat related pun).

My neighbour was having accidental kittens (well her cat was, not her) and she practically forced me to have one. There were threats and steely glares…..or maybe I fell slightly in love with them and asked if we could have one.

Solomon, our family cat was a silver tabby and I think they are the most distinguished looking felines.

Catsby…is….crazy.  Jumping 3 feet in the air and attacking your toes crazy (I assume this is kittens in general…please tell me this is kittens in general….!)  He'll have a mad 5 minutes and then will just flop down, cuddle in close (mostly as close to my neck as he can get) and will purr.

….and that purrrrrrrrrrrr…'s like a freight train….

He is a little bit rude though.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Howard sleeps…and sits...

……no…I don't get it either…..odd dog……

Then again, he also does this.

He's a quirky little thing.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Thank you

My goodness……the response I got about my illness has been incredible.  In one day I got over a thousand page views.  It might not be a lot for some but flipping heck…….for me that was a scarily large number of people.  

A lot of the responses were from people who I "know", be it in everyday life or purely online, who had known that I was ill, and had been reading the updates from my sister as I went up and down.  The majority were telling me that they'd known that I'd been incredibly ill…….but that they had no idea that I'd been that ill.  I'd tried to write a more condensed account of what happened from my point of view so left out some parts and to hear that the condensed version was shocking was strange.  It's become "normal" in my head, because it happened…and yet, if I were to be on the other side of the screen and read it then yes…I suppose we've been through rather a lot.

To be honest, generally I don't "feel" like an ill person.  I've been out of hospital for three months now and whilst I need to pace myself I can live life with a pretence of normalcy.  Sometimes I forget what I've just been through and how far I've come.  

I get frustrated with myself when I feel exhausted and have to drag my feet up to bed in the middle of the day.  

I get frustrated when I only manage a quick "once around the block" with the dogs.

I get frustrated when I'm so tired that I completely forget the English language.  (I seem to have the habit of calling pheasants "peacocks", foxes "wolves" and the like and have no idea why……)

I get frustrated when I snap at the children for no reason other than they're being too loud and my brain can't process it.

Looking at me I don't look ill….yes, I have scars, but they will fade.  Even I forget it, so I don't judge anyone else who forgets and thinks that I'm a bit of a lazy sod at the moment.  If I think about how I've progressed since coming out of hospital I'm proud…and I need to remind myself to look at it this way, rather than getting angry with myself for what I can't do.

So here goes…

I am home, with my husband, children and pets.  I can get up out of bed every morning with a smile on my face and come down to start a new day.  I get to see my little boys.  I'm sleeping in MY bed…not a sticky, uncomfortable hospital bed.  I can have a bath or shower.  I can move all of my limbs…sit...stand…walk…hold cutlery…lift my head up.  I can cook and bake.  I can sew. I don't have any machines attached to me, either keeping me alive or monitoring me, reminding me that it could all change with the bleep of an alarm.  I can go outside whenever I want.  I can see family and friends and be social…..somewhere other than my bedside.

I am alive.

I'm not a negative person by any stretch of the imagination but it's easy to get stuck on what you haven't achieved or things you're not very good at, rather than appreciating what you are good at and seeing what you've achieved in a day/week/month/hour……  

So here's to being more positive….like this little man.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Baking with Hugs

Whenever The Great British Bake Off is on my boys go crazy for it.  Last year Oliver and I snuggled up and watched them all together.  Then he'd watch them with Grandma and then would come back and ask to watch them again.  

This year he was so excited when the new series started, as was little Hugo. 

The boy is obsessed with cake.

………so we baked…just me and him.  Big brother in Jersey, baby brother being looked after by the real life Mary Poppins.  He was such a proud little man…although hasn't really grasped the idea of cooking times.  I probably should have left him with the raw mix and a spoon….actually…he'd have probably been fine without a spoon.

::Yes, he tasted the lemon.  I laughed *bad parenting*.

::Well done little Hugs…I'm very impressed.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Where have you been?

I last left you when I was looking like this.

We'd had our first day of proper sunshine, in March and it was a wonderful Sunday, just me and the boys.  I had a lovely post that I was going to put up, but I never got around to it.

But then…to quote Harry Potter "Bed empty, car gone, no note….you could have died"….

Well, actually, I did nearly die. *woah there Ali, tone down the dramatics*  
Puns aside, my family and I have been through a rather full few months.  That evening I started bleeding and then my waters broke.  Three days after that sunny Sunday I gave birth, at 29 weeks, to little Rupert.

When I say little I mean little.  He was a dot at 3lbs exactly.  The doctors whisked him off and put him straight in a plastic bag to keep him warm.  (It might have been the gas and air but I found it absolutely hilarious that they were going to put my newborn into a sandwich bag.)  The little fighter even managed a tiny little cry, letting us know he was ok….

…and then he was gone, with the doctors, down the hall to the neonatal department.
The room, that had been noisy with machines, doctors and midwives was silent.  Just me, my husband and my father. 


It's not how I imagined my pregnancy to turn out.  I was meant to be having a May baby….possibly June if he'd kept me waiting, but here I was in mid March, going through something I never have expected.  I'd failed at doing the one thing my body should know what to do…I couldn't keep him safe.

I was set to work, expressing, straight away.  Over the next few days I started getting a really good supply.  After being discharged and returning home I would go in first thing, to be with little Roo, express, spend time watching him and then come home.  Expressing was my life.

About a week in Tom and I decided that the boys would go to Grandma's, I'd stay home for one day and he'd go in to see Rupert.

The day that I "stopped", I came down with a terrible fever.  40 degrees with terrible shakes, burning sweats and my goodness, it was utter hell.  I kept expressing, every 3 hours, without fail…even though I was told to dump what I got..I had to keep my supply going for Rupert.

I went to the doctor who told me that everything was fine.  It was probably just viral so it'd get better.

Oh boy, was he wrong!

The week after, I'd had enough.  I couldn't cope any longer.  I wasn't sleeping, was severely dehydrated, dizzy and could barely stand, anymore.

My mum took me to my local A&E.  I remember the triage nurse taking my temperature and saying it was something like 38.4.  I smiled and said "Oh, that's really good then." (meaning that it had come down.)  She looked at me in horror and said "No….no, it's really not."  …….oh….

They did the usual.  Took bloods and cultures; gave me fluids; did an ECG etc.  I ended up on the maternity ward for a while, as they thought I might have a womb infection.  It was hell, listening to all of these other ladies who had their babies with them.  Why couldn't I have my baby with me?

I don't actually remember anything else….
I woke up 3.5 weeks later, and it took another week for me to understand what had happened to me.

Pretty much anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.

It turns out that I'd had double pneumonia.  It got so bad that one of my consultants in the ICU was trying to get me a place in Papworth hospital to go on an ECMO machine.  An ECMO machine is a bit like dialysis but for your lungs (although whilst we're at it I also ended up on regular dialysis…that's just how I roll.)  It takes 90% of the blood out of your body and oxygenates it, leaving your poor, battered lungs to heal without having to do something so pesky as, I don't know, breathe for you.  The problem was that they had to wait for me to get bad enough to warrant the ECMO (of which there are only a handful in the whole of the UK).  Until then they just had to wait, and just try to help me to breathe.  It was the same day that the consultant came to my family and told them that it was happening.  I was whisked away, already on the ECMO machine, in the ambulance with a 4 car entourage behind me.

3.5 weeks I was sedated.  I can't imagine what it was like for my family.  My chest wasn't "breathing" and there were big hose pipes going in and coming out of my body, with my blood.  At one point I put on 22kg of water weight because my kidneys struggled.  (That's not far under half of my current body weight.)

I was brought back from sedation in Papworth and then moved back to West Suffolk.  I don't remember a thing until about a week later.

The dreams I'd had………….I never want to repeat them again as they were utterly terrifying but flipping heck, the things I'd "been" through.  I wouldn't wish those "memories" on my worst enemy.  They were so real.  I woke up and decided that I must have gone utterly crazy and ended up in an asylum because of everything that had gone on in my dreams.  It took a while to realise that I hadn't left one or the other hospitals.

Everything seemed to be going really well.  I was being able to use less and less oxygen and could start moving my limbs slightly. (When I woke up I couldn't move anything my self.  It was such an odd feeling.)  Seeing my family was incredible.  My husband, parents, brother and sister….just incredible.  I longed to see the boys but they weren't allowed in, unfortunately.  Rupert was wheeled in from neonatal though, and I got to see how big he'd gotten whilst I was out.  

When I was deemed "too well" for the ICU I was moved to the Cardio ward.  They'd noticed a problem with my heart muscle but I no longer needed the intensive care, so off I was wheeled.

The next day was horrible.  I couldn't breathe……my breath was fast and short and I couldn't slow it down.  Everyone just kept telling me that I was panicking and that I needed to calm down.  No matter how many times I tried to explain that it wasn't me, no one "believed" me.  My O2 levels were absolutely fine, therefore it HAD to be anxiety causing it.  I had waves of consultants from probably every department come in to see me.  After the mental health doctor came and told them that it wasn't mental they were lost.  They had no idea what was wrong with me, but there was obviously something.  The day ended with me going in and out of consciousness.  I remember it being very quiet and then about a million people rushing in, poking me with needles and talking in very worried tones.  I was intubated and then put to sleep.  

It was this point where my family were told to say goodbye.  That it was unlikely that I'd make it through the night.  I'd nearly died twice before then, nearer the beginning, but this was said with a sense of finality.  My liver had completely shut down and my body was being poisoned.  My blood acidity level was through the roof.

Somehow, I came back.  Dialysis took enough of the toxins out of my body for me to start to stabilise. (I'll never say I'm not a fighter, again.)  I was taken back to Papworth, where I woke up.

A few days later (yes, sorry….there's still more to come) from a CT scan I was told that my Gallbladder looked enlarged and so was sent to Addenbrookes to see if it needed to be taken out.  Thankfully after getting there I was told that it was probably ok to leave it in and to just take more antibiotics.  I was moved to the heart ward and there I stayed for a couple of weeks before being allowed HOME!

…well, not home but to my dads, where Tom and the kids had been staying. (Rupert made it home before me, the cheeky sod.)

It's been an incredibly long journey but finally we are back home, with the dogs and a rather crazy new kitten.  Rupert is growing and I'm getting better, despite the cardiomyopathy.  

I know it's a cliche but it's really shown us what's important in life.  We always knew it was family, but now it just seems that bit more important.  We almost lost it, so it feels more special.

Without the help of some very close family and friends I don't know where we'd be.  The doctors could heal my body, but without each other I think we'd all be sectioned by now…

….well…that was a bit of an essay, wasn't it?  If you made it this far then well done, have a cookie and a picture of little Rupert bear at 5 months old….and Hugo in a sombrero….(because who doesn't love a sombrero?)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Six years

January the 2nd marked the time where I have been a mummy for 6 years.

SIX whole years.

Two months in and I still can't believe that I have a six year old son.  

A little man who knows his likes, dislikes and has opinions….proper opinions that he's thought about himself, not just believed whole heartedly because mummy and daddy tell him something is a certain way.

He questions things he doesn't understand and will not stop until he has an answer that he is happy with.

He inhales knowledge.  Be it dinosaurs, trains or science, he has a need to learn.  He reads book after book (with a little help) and revels in his new found knowledge.  That boy knows how a steam train works, pistons to firebox and has learned how a combustion engine works with the help of models, Tom and Grandpa.  Most Mondays, after school, he goes to one of the Cambridge science museums with Grandpa (on a boys adventure) and knows some of the exhibits off by heart.

He has a fantastic sense of humour…although I could do without so many "poo and fart" jokes…

He's incredibly protective of his family, especially his little brother(s) and the dogs.

He gets incredibly upset if he things that someone has been wronged and vehemently believes that everything needs to be fair.

He is a whizz with Lego construction and I can sit and watch him put together models meant for boys twice his age.  With this I get explanations of why that piece goes there.

His imagination does run away with him.  He can't always get all his thoughts out fast enough and it frustrates him terribly.  If you sit him down with a set of pens and paper then he'll sit for hours and draw, and draw.  Each pen stroke has a meaning and I am in awe at the complexity of his little mind. (At school they had a project to make a dragon and write a story about it.  He called his dragon "Fish" and it breathed ice instead of fire…so the knights just got frozen and didn't die.)

The boy loves to bake.  He can whip up a sponge by himself, tongue stuck out to the side in concentration.  Actually…he just loves cake in general.  He asked for a carrot cake for his birthday cake. (I was very proud as it's also my favourite.)

He is polite and kind.  I couldn't ask for a better mannered boy.  I've always said that apologising when you know you're in the wrong is the hardest thing for anyone to do…let alone a child.  That he can apologise without a second thought explains Oli to a tee.

He's a little man who will tell me that he loves me ten times in as many minutes, just to make sure that I know he does.

I couldn't be prouder of my Little Man.  ….but I still can't believe that the tiny little baby I held in my arms on the 2nd January 2008 is now six years old.
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