All posts by mummateddz

The Hormonal House

As you may imagine, our house is often the place to find hormonal outbursts. The four bigs are all of an age where you can very easily say the wrong thing and find yourself on the receiving end of a mouthful of upset. It isn’t fun and it isn’t pretty. With hindsight, it was The Boy’s extreme reaction to teenage hormones that was the precursor to his looking for answers and working out that he was trapped in the wrong body. 

We went through a hellish two years when periods arrived that I’m very glad not to have gone through again just yet. We spoke to a GP who claimed that it would take a few years to settle down and she wasn’t prepared to offer anything to help until then. We were a year in and stuck in a 3 weeks on/ 5 days off cycle. Blood tests confirmed anemia and we added iron tablets to the multivitamin morning regime. I should point out that this mirrored my own journey through the menstrual maze; the cramps, the heavy flow, the feeling that I was always restricted by the blood. At first, we felt that this contributed to the negative cycle he seemed to be caught in, and in many ways it did, just not in the way we thought. The joke many women scoff at about men coping (or rather not) with periods and giving birth seemed to be the case. My child confided in me that he was a boy and suddenly the extreme reaction to starting a period *again* made sense. Periods – the thing that only little girls have to get used to and my son had to cope more often than most. The hormonal outrage that we had been struggling with was a constant reminder for him that he was being punished by his female shell and my little teen was lost in the emotions of it all.

One of the first things we discussed at Tavistock was the need to control periods. He was desperately trying to embrace his male self when he was woken in the night by cramps and the need for a bath. Amazingly, they offered an easy solution straight away. I had explained to him that I wasn’t aware of a pill that stopped the period completely and we were both a bit frustrated. The psychologist explained that they often use Nerothisterone, a progesterone only tablet commonly used by many to delay a period for a few days but that, when taken delay, can delay menstruation for a considerable time. This tiny little pill was a game changer. He started taking it a few days later and has been relatively happy with it ever since. Every few months he has to stop taking it and have a breakthrough bleed. This week isn’t very pretty. 

So, moving forward. We have finally had the recommendation to be moved on to blockers and his relief is palpable. He will spend the next 6 months to a year exploring life with all his birth hormones blocked, a journey to hopefully get him closer to testosterone – what he’s wanted all along. By this time next year he will be well on his way to the Adult Team where the truly complicated stuff happens.

In preparation for the next year we have been advised to talk to a fertility specialist to talk about long term options. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about the risks of long term testosterone use on ferility. Although we have had transgender persons for quite some time now, the use of testosterone in young men who are still considering the changing path of transition and their ability to have, or not, there own biological children is still a very new concept and mostly unknown. Lets be honest about this, the ferilisation of an egg for someone for has never taken T is a miracle in itself so we can only give a best guess for what the chances are. That sounds a bit doom and gloom so let me pair it with the following.

There have been quite a few stories of transgender families having biological children this past year. UK ftm Dad had his daughter earlier this year and this lovely couple shared their joy at their son’s birth just this month. These are very encouraging stories and will give many trans teens hope for the future. Whether or not it gives hope to my Boy, I’m not sure. So many conversations over the past three years; adoption, fertility clinics, turkey basters, online sperm donations, helping family or having family help out…. I can’t imagine him making a firm decision within a year and yet he has made decisions this past year which I couldn’t believe possible from my baby, but I guess he’s not my baby anymore, not whilst we move through these hoops and jumps on his path to transitioning into a grown man.

He is far braver and far wiser than I could ever be. His level head, the way he considers others whilst making decisions (mostly), his flourishing independance and even knowing when he still needs his mum. I’m so proud of him and right now, with the three biggest all arguing in front of me, I say that with ease. 

We still have the hormonal rages from the Bigs. Not really emjoying this part of the parenting rollercoaster but in for a penny, in for a pound 😉

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

A bit long for some but worth a read – here.     The premise is that we learn to talk *with* “problem kids” rather than *at* them.

Many of us fall into bad habits when we are looking at behaviour we consider poor or bad but perhaps it is time we tried to see things from the child’s perspective and took the time to ask them what we could do to make the situation better for them.

Our classrooms seem so full today with Miss Prim’s class sometimes having 32 kids but the other class sometimes accommodating 35 kids at any one time! (I was one of 28 and then one of 18)

It must be extremely difficult to effectively cater for the many needs of so many different personalities and learning types, it is no wonder that we are failing so many of those children who have specific needs not best handled by overstuffed and understaffed classrooms.

Our dreamer most likely has some type of learning style best met by people who have the time and passion to engage with her. One of her former teachers was so rigid in his style that she failed to make any progress in his class (good job she started ahead of her peers) and when I discussed the issue with him, on more than one occasion, he nodded and agreed to try a few different techniques. By the end of the year I had been accused of bullying him and had resigned my position on the school governors board as the school stood by the style of teaching which had hampered more than just my child. Had I needed further proof, when Miss Prim entered his class the following year, she too made no progress but was blessed by having that cushion of accelerated learning that years of fantastic teachers had encouraged. Miss Prim, definitely not “one of those” children, failed to make progress in his class and yet I couldn’t get any of the senior staff at the school to take my concerns on board. 

Perhaps schools get stuck in the patterns of behaviour that see our children being put on the path that ultimately leads them to falling short of their true potential. Who do we blame for this cycle of failure? Is it the parents who don’t press the school to seek out new and improved models to help deal with the frustrations of our children? Is it the teaching staff who fail to recognise their own limitations and also fail to see that a different approach could make the world of difference not just to the “problem” child but to their classmates and even to other individual children who are finding things tougher than they can verbalise and who would also be helped by a method which removes some of the pressure from a younger age and actually engages with them in a way that ensures each and every child has the skills and environment necessary to reach their full potential?
Are we too late? Have we failed a whole generation who we should have taken the time and care to understand and to better support? When I look at my dreamer, I wish I had done more. She lost more than that one year. It took a great deal of excellent compassion and conviction from her next teacher to not only raise her attainment to the expected level but also to surpass her expected standard. This fabulous teacher – newly qualified – took the time to get to know her and encourage her. When our daydreamer drifted off to the land of make believer to stare at unicorns and wizards, Ms S was able to bring her back to the real world and take a moment to reassure our dreamer that she was capable, she could and would succeed, and they would find the solution together if necessary. 

I’m not sure if she will continue to get top scores as her secondary life continues, I guess it depends on if any of her 12 teachers (or more if they continue to drop like flies) has the ability to see their students as individuals or if they feel like the only option in our oversubscribed schools is to teach in hopes that 80% of the class manage to get something out of the lesson.
For some it may well already be too late. My lanky nephew has already had his education restricted by being put in a class with those students they consider to be a distraction, too violent, or just too “lazy” to teach. 

When my stepdad died when Lanky was 10, it hit him hard. He had lost his own father to a “new family” a few years previous and Pops was the only male role model he had (because my Mr is basically a big kid ;-] ). He really didn’t cope with the destruction he saw within his home life and with a diagnosis of Aspergus, education seemed to be unimportant and fairly useless. An outburst after he was mocked put him into special measures and he was left there to rot. This isn’t for dramatic effect. He was put into a class with all the other disruptive elements, many of which also had an ASD diagnosis with learning and/or behavioural concerns. They only had to be at school for 3 hours each weekday and they were assisted in their learning by an unqualified teaching assistant. They weren’t encouraged, they weren’t listened to, their parents were left with no answers and no way to make school life worthwhile for their sons. No one knew to try a different direction, no one knew to take each student as an individual with his own needs, his own learning methods, and his own future to help shape. It is unlikely that Lanky will ever be able to reach his full potential now. He has reached the age where he is now an adult and has been labelled as vulnerable. He is going to need additional support and assistance for the foreseeable. He had the ability to go far and do very well for himself. Now he feels like he isn’t capable of doing more than existing. He felt so low that he turned to the streets, began stealing from family and using “legal highs” to escape his existence. 

We’ve made progress with him, we might yet be able to find a way to move forward so that he can find a job, support himself in time. We had to go through months of hell first, we had to witness *him* hit his rock bottom and there was very little we could do but wait to help him get up. My darling nephew, once this happy, lively, sensitive, passionate, and creative young boy is now barely a shell. He has abused alcohol to the point of damage which might not be repairable, his heart is being closely monitored because his valves are no longer functioning as normal, he is finally getting help for his depression and, oh, he just turned 18. 

Is he the lucky one? We’re all here to support him in any way we can and it looks like we can keep him out of prison. Some of his classmates have already found their way in front of a judge.
I don’t yet know what the best way forward is but we have to do something soon. It isn’t just the lives of the children who are being labelled that is at risk. The entire lifetime of those yet 

to be educated is at risk and with it, our society as we know it. We have ignored the needs of our education system for too long. 

Our teachers need better pay and smaller workloads, our TAs need continued training and support to best aid the teacher and the student body, our schools need fresh equipment and more adequate learning spaces and our class sizes need to be reduced. 

Do we not want the best for those yet to come? Why are so many happy to sell out our children and grandchildren and what are they gaining in return? This isn’t a party political issue, this is a national travesty! There is so much to be gained if we only invest our time and our funds in the next generation. 
It looks more likely that we will leave not only “those children” who present as an issue in the classroom to flail in the system but the majority of the population which some are banking on to pay for their retirement. 
http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/what-if-everything-you-knew-about-disciplining-kids-was-wrong/

You had a bad day

First up, sorry if you now have an earworm. If you don’t know the song, here you go!

It is Friday evening here and unusually quiet as half the kids have gone for an overnighter with the Best OutLaws Ever! Yes, I used the term out law instead of in law – long story for another day. Anyway. The two littleuns, the Lawkeeper and the Selfie Ginga Queen are away for the night ready for entertaining their fabulous Grandparents and volunteering out in the community tomorrow. The Duke of Edinburgh awards have been fantastic for helping us help our community and I personally love to see the rosie pink cheeks of a good day’s work on our children’s faces.

Our biggest Sometimes Ginga has been hard at work these past few weeks with GCSE hell but I’m quietly confident that he has put in all of the groundwork necessary to obtain the best results he can, honestly, and that isn’t just as his mummy but his teachers are also sure of his abilities. I’ve been really impressed with his dedication, timetabling, responsible attitude, and general restricted flapping. He’s got this!

We’ve had a long May with a virus circling the household and I fear I may have been the main culprit having not had a moment to rest with a Birthday full month. I’m ending the month with a sinus infection to add to my general bleurgh feeling and the inability to shift illness like I once would. I was one of those annoyingly healthy kids where I would watch my siblings in bed with coughs and colds etc whilst I ate dirt and bogies and the yuck of life which makes most adults squirm. Now, as a fully grown person in my own right, I seem to have been dumped with this autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndome, fibromyalgia blanket as a 30 something and my dirty faced childhood is a distant dream. 

As a mother, I have always tried to just get on with things and I spent far too long ignoring depression and refusing pain meds which seemed to just make matters worse so I probably lived with a great deal unnecessarily until I sought help in 2010. Since then, I have never visited a GP so frequently and the added bonus of telephone consults has been an absolute body saver. 

** yep, this is a catch up on a blog I fell asleep writing and we are now half way through July **

I am now less than 48 hours away from meeting with a consultant to discuss my Fibro and all which comes with it. I am extremely excited and terrified in equal measure. It has been so long since a specialist took a look at me that I’m a bit worried that they’ll tell me that there is something else at work with my body and if they had known then I could have started this miracle cure years ago. That, of course, might just be wishful thinking. 

As I type today with just a few of my fingers because it is too sore to use more, I am also suffering from some type of trapped nerve type pain in my shoulder that has been persistent for a few weeks and it is now travelling down my arm. This same arm is being traumatised by pins and needles and also a sensation like a twisting burn across my wrist. It is the most irritable of symptom clusters and is slowing down my creative crafting to a crawl. No good to me at End of School year gifting.

I also feel like I need to “crack” my ankles – you know, when you flex your fingers and they all “crack” and feel better for it. I’m walking around, almost collapsing every few feet as my ankles seem to fail under my weight. I’m also experiencing hideous cramps which I try to rub and ease but, more worryingly, these spasms which are catching me off guard are taking my feet and making it point in funny directions or forcing my toes to spread out and it is taking all my resolve not to cry and swear.

Blimey, I sound like a right moaning Myrtle! That isn’t quite what I meant to do. With all this moaning and groaning it is also important to remember the positives too. I have 8 beautiful, healthy children who all got fabulous school reports and performed wonderfully in the exams we already have the results for and most importantly they’ve ended the school year as better people! Their generosity and kindness has been exceptional this year and they’ve all offered clothes and toys for children who were left homeless in London, pennies into collection pots out and about, and even offered many suggestions for fundraising this year. 

Our children have so little in the grand scheme of things; we don’t have holidays, our bikes and clothes are mostly secondhand or hand-me-downs, even toys are often sourced from charity shops and Facebook selling pages. The fact that they feel they have more than enough to give back to others is extraordinary to me and I am often humbled by their generosity. They don’t limit this to our wider community either. They have been playground friends, members of the school councils, advocates for improving LGBTQ+ awareness and support, and generally being “good people”. 

There is so much to be glad about in this world and it is easy to forget in my daily world of pain just how wonderful this world is. There’s another ear worm and is quite apt given that Pride is being celebrated around the world right now with beautiful rainbows being flown high and wide! 

I am Proud of so much and have always been. We are blessed beyond measure and as long as we hold that love for each other close our days will never be as bad as we think they may appear to be.

I’ll be there for you…

There are some thoroughly wonderful people in this world, I mean seriously awesome individuals. These people go out of their way to ensure someone else has what they need to do more than just exist. They are rare diamonds. Most people lack the courage to take the first step. That doesn’t make them lesser examples, it just means that they will, hopefully, one day find the moment they need to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference in another’s life.

I don’t have an abundance of friends, I have always found it difficult to do the groundwork on a friendship, I’m socially awkward and emotionally wary but this means that the firends I do have are the absolute best. These last few years I’ve had to lean on these angels and the support has been, without exception, tremendous. They have dropped plans, arranged sitters and have rushed to my side in order to prevent any harsh sanctions from Social Services or the hideous punishments that a person can give to themselves when they feel that they have done something out of line. They saved our family.

Last September, the Little Man was being a right toad. This isn’t unusual, in fact, this is our normal afternoon expectation and he’s old enough to try his hand and young enough to get away with it. Last September I also found myself at the start of the worst flare I have yet head. It wasn’t the pain this time, I’ve got much better at coping and masking the pain, it was the Chronic Fatigue, Insomnia, and as close to influenza as I have ever been. I wasn’t full of germs but my body’s immune system reacted as if it might as well have been. I still haven’t fully recovered. My body has gained the shakes, hot & cold flushes, eye sensitivity, tinnitus, temperature fluctuations, and a general feeling of lugging around the whole world by your shoulders. 

So, the story goes that I was sat on my armchair, nursing the baby after dinner as was our routine, Little Man went up the stairs and come down via the window. Completely heart stopping and utterly unbelievable as he didn’t have a mark on him and literally walked away with a tiny fracture on his inner hip/pelvis. We called for an ambulance and unfortunately the wait was rather worrying – well over an hour – but I kept him as still as he has ever been and eventually he was taken into A&E before being kept in overnight as a precaution. 

What happened next was actually more scary. My Fibro wasat breaking point, I had applied for disability benefits just a week earlier and this added stress tipped me over. The biggest Mr took the older children for a visit with Little Man and I was left with just the two smalls. I was serving a tomato based dinner so all clothing was removed – have you ever seen how much mess an almost 2 year old and a 3 year old can make? Not pretty – and because of my zinging muscles and nerves we ate in the living room. 

Two social workers turned up “just policy” and decided that they would take us on. For the next 9 months we walked on eggshells. I was crtiticised for not making the smalls “cover themselves” when they arrived. Apparently the house smelt of cat urine, which is somewhat true. We had brand new kittens and a mummy cat I was trying to keep inside. This leads to many smelly indoor litter boxes hidden out of sight from small fingers. They also said that the sheets were dirty on the beds. It is possible that we were at the end of the week before stripping, I can’t recall for definite but when their report again mentioned dirty sheets I was very cross. We had made sure that the newly rearranged beds (another criticism being that we had too many children in one room) had fresh linen the afternoon before their visit. They only had their word against mine but it is now down on record! A rather ridiculous thing to get hung up on it but that seemed to be their biggest issue. That and the smalls not wearing nappies on their initial visit. My perfectly potty trained smalls were perfectly innocent to two strange women in their home just before bath time but it was a huge concern for them. Their other main issue was making sure that the children had access to counselling via school. Yeah, in this time of money savings my children don’t generally hit the benchmark for *needing* counselling but the lack of movement from the schools meant that we had to live under constant fear of the unknown for months. It was completely stressful and is probably a major aspect of my continuing poor health. 

I still have nightmares of the children being taken into care because my health – which I have little to no control over – being blamed as was the case for us. If I was too ill to properly supervisor my children then I shouldn’t have had them to begin with. Not quite the exact words one of the social workers used but not far from it. That being said, I’m not sure what my health had to do with anything. I was downstairs looking after those who needed the watchful eye. My 8 year old son is more than capable of using the toilet by himself unless they felt that my time was better spent watching his urinary output but no one would actually answer that question.

No one else had any other concerns for how the children were being cared for and my darling, beautiful, wonderful friends who came to our rescue and sorted out the mess that was my crafting area, and rearranged bedrooms that I had been unable to help with for a while, and the declutter(!) It is so easy to slip up when you a. tend to hoard always fearing the worst and b. have a “reduce, reuse, recycle” mentality which means you gladly accept hand-me-downs and save money on school jumpers for years on end. They saved our family from still having to deal with the red tape monster that Social Services can so often be and it meant that our slightly alternative, every so subtly ‘abnormal’ family was kept together and on track. 

You know who you are. I love each and every one of you xxx

Honest Blogging

Today, I don’t feel like I measure up. One after another after another I have in someway hurt and upset my children and I find myself wondering, at 11.13 on a school night, how do I fix this? 

I am not the kind of mother I thought I was going to be, indeed, I am not the sort I once was in any shape or form. 

In the beginning I was caught up in my situation. We had planned the making a baby part but hadn’t considered the affording part as well as we might have. Two young adults, studying at college, both realising what we wanted and how staying at school wasn’t going to achieve it. It is, therefore, fairly accurate to suggest thatg we jumped into things with both feet whilst wearing blindfolds. 

I am not a lover of pink and I moved any pink outfirs to the back of the wardrobe when our first born arrived. We let them choose their own path and we encouraged building blocks, train tracks, dolls & prams, fairy wings, and all things Winnie the Pooh – a childhood love I was glad to share! I was never anti “girl” toy, I just really don’t love the colour pink and on little chunky babies it can have a hint of marshmallow about it (sorry not sorry).

By the time we got to our Little Dude we had a great set up which included Barbie having a tea party with Action Man as well as I fantastic train set that wound around the Grandparents ground floor visiting the teddybears picnic and Megabloks mountain before stopping at the Fairy Pirate Ship! Our aim as parents was to show each of our children that they weren’t restrained by what was expected by society and they showed us that they would each take and leave what they wanted from the choices available to them. I think we ended up with a healthy bunch of well rounded individuals who are liked and respected by those who count and mostly by those who can help them to achieve and succeed. 

The downside to our regime is that our children also have healthy debating abilities, a knowing sense of how to use their argument, and unfortunately, the acting skills to throw a tantrum with great ferocity and ear-splitting volume. They learnt the skills in toddlerhood but perfected them with their early teenage showdowns. 

It has meant a fair amount of biting of tounges and the occassional parental blowout of frustration. This fabulous Summer heatwave has made our wonderfully full household very tetchy and irritable, more mistakes than normal are being made, and butting of heads, egos, and emotions has been a major downside. 

We have had Sports Day x2, Theatre Performances, Proms, Duke of Edinburgh trials, Year 6 Journey, Pride, Award Ceremonies, New School Meetings, Tavistock groups, GP appointments, and my FMS/CFS consultants appointment which falls on Leavers Assembly/Leavers Disco Day. As a parent my life is extremly hectic and my feet are hurting and my body is aching, and my mind is melting. 

I don’t know how I am going to keep on top of everything that needs to be done and I’m snapping like a crocodile. Everytime I turn around someone is asking me for the impossible or shoving another form in front of my nose and more money is being asked for. I’m stretched to breaking point and so is our budget and, as most adults know, when the pounds are no longer stretching every single penny needs to be counted and preferably not by somebody else’s bank account.

We’ll make it work, we always do. My mental strength is recovering after my mindless spending on rucksacks, prom shoes, and kitchen utensils since loosing Vic. My physical health being so low helped to make the slip easier and hopefully my new ‘specialist’ should aid some recovery, with luck anyway. 

I just want to be able to be an active mother, to be able to keep a standard of tidyness so that I’m not tripping on teddies and hairclips, to be able to get back to cooking and baking, to spend quality time listening to them instead of wincing in pain whilst waiting for meds to kick in. I want to be a “normal” mum (if there is such a thing) and not the one with the funny walking and grimacing expression. 

And tea. I’d like to do it all whilst drinking a cup of tea that is just too hot to be around small people with vie like grips.

Failing all that, is it bedtime yet?!

V is for Vanishing

I’m sorry to have been quiet for so long but it has been a long and difficult month here in the Bear Cave. I actually have 3 or 4 half finished blogs that I should finish and edit and will try to soon but for now I just want to reflect on the passing of my beautiful friend, Vicky.

We had such a hot headed relationship with many ups and downs but since she died, I keep thinking about are the times when I must have hurt her and she never deserved it. Like the time I slapped her when we were in year 9. She called me a b****, and rightly so, but in my defence she had taken my diary and showed my crush all of my embarassing teenage ramblings.  We were besties again by the end of the day and she never got the £5 she was promised for nabbing it. Ha! Then there is the hilarious start to our friendship when rival school girls join forces against the kids from schools we had never heard of. We complimented each other in many ways, she was the Ying to my teenage Yang and we were both thoroughly happy about it. I miss her so much it hurts, physically hurts. The morning of her passing, I had planned to visit with her again. Once a week, at the very least, I’d drive in tears to the St Christopher’s hospice, I’d wipe away the tears, plump my cheeks and slap on my smile. We had our “smile” in common too. We both used to hide behind a perfectly performed smile for decades whilst our insides were crying and screaming for help. For decades, we had both lived in the shadows of our depressions, we learned how to live without having people see the dark circles from restless nights and we hid our secret food consumption, although some would argue that point and our expanding waist lines would back them up.  Vic knew my deepest, darkest fears and never once did she tell of my feast and famine relationship with food. 

When I had counselling as a young person, it was Vic who I told the whole truth too. I was scared of my dad being told about how hard I felt the breakup of my parents’ marriage, how lost I felt when we were pushed from pillar to post and from one girlfriend to the next, and why I missed my kind, sensitive, generous Grandfather who provided the stable father figure I desperately clung to and who had been cruely ripped away by Leaukemia just as I hit double digits. Vicky heard all of my woes, she held my hand, and she helped me past the worst of the pain. 

I wasn’t the adventurous one of our small group. I was stable and quite happy to keep my feet on the ground where they belonged. Our friend, El, would talk of climbing mountains and flying planes. Vicky would listen with wide eyes and awe whilst I stood shaking my head with a big fat nope. It was no surprise to me that she abseiled down one of the tall buildings of London and she thoroughly loved every minute. Last year she would recall in great detail all of her many adventures in her “Not a bucket list bucket list” and we would swap names of complicated pills on our joint efforts to combat our painful bodies. 

At out last gathering of friends, she giggled over the silliness of the two children now exploring her house and laughed with delight as the smallest of them climbed on to the cat’s radiator bed and found herself in a miniture swing. We had to stop for a photoshoot before the little madam squawked and asked for help! Vic was in such high spirits but we could tell that the cancer was winning this time around. She was repeating herself and not making complete sense. We were watching her slip away from us as the brain tumours took her from us.

I spent a few hours in her company that penultimate Saturday. Her darling Mummy was on hand and also one of her newest and inner circle friends was ready and willing to chat for a while and share stories of grey iced cupcakes with brilliantly colourful cakes underneath. She told of many tea and cake catch ups and the ease in which their friendship blossomed but that was Vicky summed up. Fiercely loyal to her friends and no time sinkhole people who took more than they would ever give. When we found a moment, just Vic and I, the words fell from my lips onto sleeping ears. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her, that she meant the world to me, and that the last three years were the best of gifts from her to me. I needed her to know that we would all miss her terribly and that it would take an enormous truck to fill the gap she left in our lives. 

I said goodbye to her that day not knowing if it would be the last time I could. When I got the text from her sister letting me know that they had got the final curtain call, I dropped. Here ended the best of people. She vanished like the light from a candle in fresh summer breeze and blessed us with this most beautiful summer sun. It was no surprise when she arrived for her greatest ever party, that she did so with style and a huge splash of pink flare! I managed to sit on the chair with the best view of her. I listened with thrumming ears as her wonderful friends spoke fondly and with love, I sang through the songs as they played not caring if anyone else would mind and my Natters and I clung fast to each other. 

Afterwards we shared great stories, laughed and cried together and toasted this amazing example of what the human race has to offer. Mother Nature, God, Allah, Zeus, the little green aliens… I don’t know who exists and who doesn’t but if there is an almighty (or several) they have a very odd way of sorting the curds from the whey. The Die of Destiny has been rolled and mistakes have been made. 

Vicky was one of the good ones. She filled our lives with pink and fluffy and cats. I owe her my life, truly. She stayed with me when she had no reason to and I love her for it. 

Vicky, I miss you. If there is an after, I hope it has cats, cake, and a lovely pot of rosie lee. It needs to have deck chairs and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, fish and chips in the paper wrapper, and cheesy love songs, lots and lots of them. You will stay with me forever and a day. Love you xxx

Peace be upon us all

I had the opportunity to have a thorough run through of the 10 commandments and how they relate to my life. I very much enjoy being able to explore my spiritual beliefs or lack there of. 

To make it clear. I would place myself somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic. I explore as much religion as I can and consider if there is a place within each that might fit me. I’m still looking.

Predominantly, I look towards the Christian faith. I grew up with a fabulous grandmother who was very firm in her Catholicism and she enjoyed scaring God into us. I can’t say she was very successful but she stayed true to her faith until the end. She was a stern and complex individual who fled her home in Ireland to offer her illegitimate son a better life. She married my grandfather and raised a total of four siblings together in the best way they could. My grandfather seemed to shun religion, he openly scoffed at Sunday Best and I don’t remember him visiting Church except for hatches, matches, and despatches. Only one of the four children seem to have a connection with religion today and her own children have found Allah. Islam has brought peace upon them and they are active, happy members of their communities. I love that my cousin seeks comfort from her maker and leads her life in a way that honours his teachings. Her quiet faith brings strength and support and, I imagine, brings its own questions and a journey to the answers. 

We grew up being brownies and beavers – both branches of organisations with God, Queen and Country at their cores. The Girl Guides, 1909, was started to respond to the specific needs of girls and young women, whilst the Scouts was started the year before. Robert Baden-Powell wanted to encourage young people to be responsible, capable, God lead individuals. I spent week after week pledging to live my life under a code of honour which I never thought twice about. I would follow my dad to the Methodist Church for Mothering Sunday and other calender events before hot footing it to the Salvation Army to take part in the tambourine performance and hear another beautiful sermon about the Lord. I admit to finding great comfort within the church walls, I learnt things that school would never teach me and was read stories of a time long ago with men and women of courage and faith. If I hear the choir sing today I can feel my heart swell and my own voice joining in. 

As an adult, it is from the communities with ties to the Church that I receive greatest support and love. My friends, religious and otherwise, welcome me into their homes and into their hearts. They stand shoulder to shoulder with my family offering them unconditional love and an overwhelming sense of being welcome – mostly. 

I spend my time between the fantastic congregation of the Salvation Army, I listen with an open heart to the words and with an open mind to their structure and then willing give more of my time with my Baptist family in the hopes that their love and guidance will sink into our family as it did with myself as a child. 

The youngest Gingerling very much thinks we are Christian. We go to church sometimes and we close our eyes when Mr A (for Awesome) tells us to open our hearts to the Lord. She’s a very astute nearly, nearly 7 year old (6 and 4/5). She has been told that good Christians go to Church and listen to what the people say. Our dear friend and Major Redhead always spoke in a way that our Little Sponge understood and would have her listen intently before asking what a word meant or by nodding with a “we do that, don’t we mummy!” by way of acknowledging the words flowing into her. 

I can see the older girls all seeking something, all listening, all questing. They, like myself, are willing to listen, to feel God in their lives. In many ways I hope they do find what they are looking for. The way of the Lord sits so well with our church family, the glow of his wisdom is beautiful to behold. If only it was so easy for us all.

Whilst talking to the Good Rev about the commandments I found it easy to answer his questions truthfully and whole heartedly. He makes it very comfortable for me and I respect him greatly for it. I fear that he could not support my son with such easy grace. His Lord made it very clear, 2000 years ago, that there is no place within his heart for my boy. And yet, if I apply the 10 commandments to my son I can see that his place in heaven would be well deserved. A kinder, more sincere and honest a human being would only be found amongst other beautiful young people. They live their lives by a code of conduct that is based upon the words spoken by our parents, grandparents, great grandparents. Do no harm. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not cheat. Respect your elders. Protect those who cannot protect themselves. They don’t even use any Lord’s name in vain preferring the plethora of profanity in the English language or the good old almost swear “oh for pete’s sake”, “frickin’ heck” or “fiddlesticks”! 

Why is my child not welcome? I can’t ask this of the Rev just yet. I want to know but I also don’t want to hear that my child is somehow less worthy of any God’s love because his inner being has been nestled into a body that feels alien in nature. I do not know enough about Islam, Jehovah’s teachings, or other holy scriptures to know how my boy would be seen or received. All I know is that he is pure and he is good and if a god does not love him for that then he cannot be the true saviour of which I seek. 

And there in lies the conundrum. I look for a place of belonging, not just for me but for my children too. I cannot listen to a chosen mouthpiece of God and have them tell me that my child is not worthy, not welcome. My understanding of religious faith and doctrine is too limited. I have yet to find my spiritual leader, I know not if I ever will.

So many lives have been lost this past 24 hours. Some to life limiting conditions, some to old age, some to war, some to famine, some to disease, some to a violence without a name, and some because of a man who seems to have lost his way and may have uttered the name of a Lord he may or may not believe in. The loss of so many children, possibly 25,000 every single day, is not easily reconciled. I imagine God has been listening to many prayers today. I hope that many of those prayers have been answered in one way or another, that those mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, doctors, nurses, friends, emergency service personal have the comfort they seek.

Perhaps we all (okay, maybe 90%+) seek answers from a higher power when times are tough. I am open to seeking the truth, the answers, the continued questioning. My love is with you all, always. I will not stop seeing you as my family and any Lord I find will welcome you too. 

Sweeping it under the carpet

With our size family, we often have to deal with issues of self esteem. There are 3 gingerlings, some bean poles, some belly woes, a few geeklings and a couple of nerds, a bookworm and a sports enthusiast. We have been exceptionally lucky because none of these things have led to any sustained bullying or upset. The issues we have had is because of the sense of justice, the choice to follow the rules, the lack of “tell-tale” mentality at home which allows for a greater sense of needing others to do their best and the reporting of poor behaviour or rule breaking.

My children get pulled apart for doing the right thing. It is absolutely frustrating that they have to deal with back handed name calling, pinching, pushing, isolation tactics etc. and when I try to discuss the issue at school, it is *my* child who is told to ignore poor behaviour in others, to walk away from troublesome 10 year olds, to find a new place to play, to stop taking things so personally. 

This doesn’t wash with us nor does it mean that the school get to deny they have a problem with bullying. As a parent, it is my job to protect my children, to encourage a positive attitude and install a compass to help steer them clear from trouble. When I drop them off at the class door I expect the staff to put the same effort in and 10 years ago, mostly, they did. As I now approach our youngest two entering the system I can see definite flaws in how things are being handled and the way the schools mark down incidents.

At a recent meeting with one of the Heads, it was mentioned that the mother of the boy who *slapped my child around the face* was not keen on the school’s behaviour policy so although it would have been mentioned the school had not given the child any sanctions beyond asking him to say sorry. So, as an adult, I can go into the playground and smack a member of staff and all I’ll have to do is say sorry….. No. I can’t see that assault being let go quite so easily and this is what children face everyday at school.

There’s one of those urban legends about a young lad who twangs a girl’s bra strap multiple times and when he doesn’t back off the female turns around and punches him in the face. Parents are called to the school and the girl looks to be excluded for a day or three for violence when the mother, quite rightly, steps in and explains that if the young adult isn’t punished she will be forced to press charges for sexual assault. It is almost certainly a lesson based on some truth but also one that doesn’t seem to be being heard by those in a position of power and responsibility.

My beautiful niece, only 12 years old, was having trouble with the snidey kids at her secondary school. It started with giggling as she passed, whispers in the class line, notes being passed around reminding others that she wasn’t to be talked to. Her mum tried to do right by our little Smiler, explained to not let these kids get the better of her, remind her that she isn’t any of those things being talked about, to be “the better person” and walk away. That worked for a short while but when these bullies saw it wasn’t working they stepped it up a notch and eventually became physical. One day she finally had enough. Smiler had done everything she was supposed to; walk away, tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell head of year. Now she had nowhere else to go and felt that she wasn’t worth as much as these other delightful tweenagers because no one had her back at school, a place where she spends the majority of her time, where she is supposed to be as safe as, or better safer than, home. She stood up for herself and when the leader tried to trip her up, again, she told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to pack it in right now. The other girl laughed before grabbing a handful of Smiler’s hair. She defended herself brilliantly and matched her enemy pull for pull, scratch for scratch. She was put in isolation for the rest of the week and made to apologise to the other girl.

What does that teach the next generation? Do the right thing but you might get hurt in the process but stand up for yourself and you will be punished and probably more harshly than your bully..? Why are we allowing the bullys and their bullying parents to dictate how we handle these situations? Why should our children be putting up with hurtful behaviour, attitudes, and violence, the consequences of which stay with a person for a lifetime? Accidental headlocks, recommending the wearing of shorts under skirts to prevent bullies from showing your knickers to the rest of the school, ignoring others blatently breaking school rules, holding back the tears for fear you give the bully more ammunition. Our children shouldn’t have to feel scared at school, they shouldn’t have nightmares or breakdowns as you insist that they attend classes. 

I urge all parents to stand up to bullies. Speak to the teacher, the Head, explain that you will not stand by and allow your child to be subjected to poor behaviour because the school fail to see it, or worse, see it and do not appropriately handle the situation. Our children have the right to an education free from harm and harrassment, lessons that don’t involve being kicked under the table, lunchtimes free from people ruining food, and also to walk home without a group of kids following or crowding around them.

School isn’t always fun, we all know how far the government have gone to make tests the most important part of the learning process, but as adults, we have the capability and responsibility to keep our children free from physical AND mental harm. 

Apple for Teacher

Once upon a school class, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I felt a compelling sense that I needed to help people especially the young. Little by little I grew as an individual and decided that my path had led away from medicine. I could not stand to be in school and the idea that I had to spend another 10 years of life not being able to help children whilst I studied and amounted a vast debt just didn’t seem right.

The Mr and I met at college. He is the reason I absolutely believe in love at first sight. He came out of a meeting in the hall and swaggered down towards the common area and I knew with every fibre of my being that I was going to have children with him. Fourteen months later our first child was delivered by caesarean section, a more than healthy 9lb 15oz and a beautifully fuzzy ginger top. Looking at this tiny (!) human being I knew that I had found my path. I wanted to be a mother, a really good mother. 

Mothering is so much more than making sure you meet the 4 Bs. – bottle/boob, bottom, burping, bundling. Bundling is my favourite part. The mini human gets laid in a lovingly made blanket from a nanna, aunt, bestfriend, and you tuck the edges around them almost too tightly. Some like their arms tucked too whilst others have one arm out, a thumb in their mouth, and then you hold them. Just hold them. 

In the late hours, when the world seems quiet and it is just you two, that’s when the lessons are learnt. You teach your child about love, acceptance, joy and laughter, even fear. In return your child shows you compassion, independence, loyalty, faith and trust.

Oddly, that isn’t exactly what I had planned on exploring but it is a good start to where our family finds itself right now.

The youngest gingerling has just finished doing some “fun” quizzes and as a reward she will be going to the seaside. Miss Diva didn’t find them so fun. You had to sit in boring seats and you weren’t allowed to even laugh! But she got to write a really good story only she didn’t have enough time to finish it and that isn’t fair.

Year 2 SATs suck. I have always had a passionate dislike of them. They tell us nothing about what truly matters when we look at our 6 and 7 year olds. It doesn’t state their favourite colour or toy, whether they prefer Science or Art, how high they climb on the bars or how much their handwriting has improved this year. My wonderful 6 (and a half! Very important to Miss Diva) year old has spent the last 6 months learning how to pass a test. She was told how to write with a start, a middle, and an end – like those are the only options available when writing a story. She knows how to work out a word problem in maths, which is useful in the long run but not so helpful in encouraging her how to remember her times table and then how to use that to work out division. The last time she worked on a beautiful piece of artwork was Christmas and they haven’t had a music lesson since the class assembly in January. She has had afterschool booster sessions and even a couple of days of extra mini quizzes during the holidays. My beautiful prancing, dancing, singing, smiling, giggling 6 and a half year old wasn’t even alloed to laugh.

Yay. I’m sure that tells the government lots about my child.

My not so little anymore CEO is just about to start her “fun quizzes” except without the sugar coating. She knows exactly what is expected of her by her teachers and is not sleeping because of it. Her SATs prep started last school year. As soon as My Daydreamer went off on her school leavers journey the lines were laid down to start teaching the year 5 class how to “do well” in their SATs. For the whole of the last 12 months they have had it drummed into them just how important these tests are and they have worked for nothing else. I have every faith in my rule enforcer, my little teacher’s pet, my stressed and anxious nearly nearly 11 year old. She has the most awe inspiring spirit, her mind is so enquisitive, always asking questions, always fighting for the World to be a better place to grow. I know she is intelligent, probably top 10 at her school, I have no desire for her to do these exams which leave her despondent and fearful. To see the light ebb from her as her shoulders slump and her wrists need rubbing from cramp. 

The tests don’t show that though. They aren’t interested in my child’s personality, her strengths and weaknesses, they only care about how well she can decipher the maths word puzzle, how her teachers have taught her the difference between clauses, how to use adverbs correctly, the humble comma, and when to use there, their, and they’re. She must also resist the use of emoticons because they’re not appropriate. 

>.>

My no longer little but my almost fully grown red head has been stuck in his bedroom for the last two years. The once vivid green walls are now adorned with a revision timetable covered by an exam timetable, post it notes in various shapes and sizes, thought maps, English quotes, and words of hope that soon this month long stressfest will soon be over. 

The GCSEs are the ones that terrify me. The teachers have high hopes for my biggest boy. Meeting after meeting, email after email, each one telling us if he just studies a little longer, revises just a little harder, pushes himself just a little further…. He has bitten each and every fingernail, you can see the little patch of fringe where he has been tugging and twisting, he is mainlining chocolate and his light hasn’t been out before 2am in a ridiculously long length of time. 

We have spent so much of the last five years battling the anxiety and handling the stress so that he can explore his identity and then embrace his transition. My boy doesn’t need this extra burden. He would have put himself under enough pressure to do well. He desperately wants to do well, he wants to get the qualifications he needs to move forward on his career path and help children in a way I absolutely understand. He is determined to make a difference in this world and he sees the educational route as his future journey. 

His GCSEs won’t show that about him. They won’t show off his absolutely enchanting voice, his delicate style of drawing that he has no faith in, his dark sense of humour which he shares with his father, his passion for politics causing voices to shake and hands to clench. They won’t count the tears he has shed because he doesn’t think he is good enough, the notes screwed up because they need to be just so.

The numbers at the end of the day won’t matter to me, they won’t change how much I love and cherish them, I am not concerned about competing with the other mums in the playground or stealing the Best Mum award of 2017. 

My children have been, otherwise, fabulously educated and by some of the best teachers – when they leave compulsory education at 18 they will be articulate, well-rounded, informed young adults but a good chunk of it will come from us, as parents, family & friends, who have all worked just as hard as the professionals to ensure that the next generation are ready for what comes next.

They are going to be awesome adults. 

Jus’ Sayin’

😉

Enjoying the little things

I don’t have particularly fond memories of school. I stood out in Primary for being the first in my class to have divorced parents and then we had the only Stay at home single Father who was loved and adored by all the mothers and even the all female staff. When I moved to Secondary I was placed in a very small class (18 students) of exceptionally gifted and talented 11 year olds. It seems I had a natural gift for English and Maths which put targets on all of us. We were the geeks and/or nerds of the school and expected to lead the way for excellent results during the next 5 years. My saving grace was an incredible group of friends. 

We were a quirky lot, got down to work when we had to but also found the time to laugh and break the stress of the day. We all dressed in black one year to fundraise, one of us could speak passable Klingon, another hid a shed full of animals and is now a Vet Nurse. We were good for eachother and I made some life long friends who will never understand how much they meant to me at a time when I felt extraordinarily lost. 

One of the girls and I had a very up and down relationship; she was my bestfriend and also my achilles heel. She knew so many of my secrets and she occassionally slipped up and would dump me in it with one boy or another that I was head over heels in lust with and it would all end in tears. Looking back it was fairly typical teenage hiccups but, also, I thought of her as a cousin or stepsister. That’s the relationship we had. I told her all the darkness and she would try to find me some light. I put up with her catty side because I loved her dearly and it was nothing to the way my own sister treated me. Her family were, and are, awesome. Her parents are some of the coolest going and they never seemed to get fed up with my constant visits. They are truly diamonds of the South.

My bestie and I fell out around the time of our GCSEs. It was a biggun and it took me a very long time to forgive. Too long. We would find eachother over the next 14 years and have a quick catchup. I was at a different point in my life to my school friends. Happily married, a houseful of kids, chicken pox, washable nappies, and the start of my aches and pains. She was a working woman, living her life the way she wanted to and still getting through her own baggage. 

Then we hit 30 and whilst I was still making babies, she was starting a rollercoaster that she never planned on. 

She was having shoulder pains which they were struggling to indentify and eventually a bit of a push from mum about an “unrelated” issue made the doctors look a little deeper. Yeah, cancer. This woman who had lived her life in the positive had been hit with a killer blow. That’s when it stopped being about where we were in life and it came back to a group of friends who had each others backs. 

I had missed my bestie. The odd sense of humour, the dark laughter, the sage advice. I was glad to be able to reconnect even if the circumstances were less than ideal. Oh, who am I kidding? Less than ideal? They couldn’t have been worse. It shouldn’t have taken cancer to bring us back together. Any hurt that happened half our life time ago should have been well and truly buried. It was buried. I knew that we were a couple of teeny boppers just finding our feet and hurting inside because of things we had no control over. 

We laughed again, giggled inappropriately, enjoyed giant yorkshire puddings and afternoon tea. It was simple. I want anything for it to be simple again. 

Her cancer isn’t shy. Her Doctors have been doing a fabulous job at pushing it back, holding the flood gates. The multipe surgeries have helped, certainly she finally got the breast reduction which had always been a back seat “one day” – something we had a dark laugh about. We also chatted about the special one of a kind face mask they use to hold her head completely still for targetted treatment. She tells us that there are these fabulous murials on the ceiling rather than crappy hospital tiles. The staff are extraordinary too. They go above and beyond to make sure that all of their patients are as comfortable as possible. 

We often moan about waiting times, prescription costs, time hanging on the phone whilst sorting out appointments, and yet, our NHS has gone above and beyond to help my beautiful friend. It does so every single day around the UK. 

That word seems to be said so often now. Cancer. There is sound scientific reason behind it too. We have a 1 in 2 risk of being diagnosed with cancer across the course of a lifetime. That’s some seriously scary odds. The good news is that we are increasing the odds of surviving every single day so for the majority of people who get dealt the Big C card, they will beat it and go on to live happy, healthy lives. www.cancerresearchuk.org

My friend got given the rubbish hand. She has managed to hold off her ending for longer than she was first told. I am so glad she did. I found my friend again, just when I needed her. I’m so incredibly blessed. She has helped me to live again, just at a point where she can’t. Hold your loved ones close today and everyday. Don’t weigh yourself down with hate, work through it and let it go so you can enjoy the daily grind – okay, not enjoy but you have to count the days that are normal as a good thing. I do the night rounds at home, checking in on each child, removing the hard plastic dinosaur, tucking teddy back into bed to avoid an early wake up alarm to find him, turning off the cd player, and brushing the fallen locks off the faces. Today has ended well and I enjoy knowing that we made it through another day. 

I don’t know what happens next, I suspect it will be awful. I want to remember the little things like daisy chains and pizza parties, blue lemonade and bent chips. It’s the little things that matter the most, they all add up and make amazing memories. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I’m glad I have the opportunity to revisit, to make anew, and find time to look back.

Love you, V xxx