One week on

It’s a whole week since I toppled sideways to the ground outside our house. In my head, at the time, I thought I’d be back to normal after a couple of days. The reality is rather different from that, but I can be positive and see how much better I am now than I was last Tuesday night.

The situation on day 7 is as follows:

– The airboot continues to be a thing of joy. It still hurts to put my foot down in it, but at least I can do it, and standing on both feet, even supported almost entirely by crutches, is wonderful.

– I can walk short distances around the house with airboot and crutches and then need a nice long rest with the foot elevated to recover.

– The bruising continues to come out more and more; it looks a lot more dramatic than it did last Tuesday even though none of the bruises are in the least bit tender – no bruising at all at the actual fracture site! Bizarre.

– Getting about is still exhausting

– I’m pretty much managing without painkillers now – just 2 paracetamol and 2 NSAIDs during the day (which I’m hoping to cut out tomorrow), and the same again just before I go to sleep.

Today the following nice things have happened:

– A work colleague who lives in my town, is currently on maternity leave but was heading into school today for a meeting, called round to collect both my sick note and my present for the Secret Santa to take in for me. It was really nice to see her despite the fact I was in my pyjamas and the house is a tip! Also good to be reassured from someone at a senior management level that I would definitely be a health and safety nightmare and a liability if I’d tried to go to work on my crutches, and that I should take as much time as I need to get properly better rather than rush back and get worse! (Still hoping hard to be back for the beginning of term though!)

– I got a parcel today from a lovely friend which I can only describe as a ‘broken foot survival kit’. It contained some gorgeous sock yarn (which I am reluctantly resisting casting on until I’ve finished at least one of my current Works In Progress), a big bar of chocolate and a puzzle book – fabulous! Thank you Dawn!

– I also opened another parcel from another lovely friend which contained a wonderful purple knitted hat. I’ve been wearing it all day and it has both kept me warm and cheered me up loads! Thank you Liz!

I have utterly awesome friends. Lots of whom live too far away.

Plus an awesome eldest daughter, who made it to the corner shop and back this evening just because I said I was craving Lucozade. And an awesome youngest daughter who has made me a lovely detailed Christmas card. I haven’t seen Son today of course but he too is awesome and made it back to Manchester just fine on Sunday even though he had to walk to the station and find his train all by himself! Bless them all. πŸ™‚


End of a loooooooong weeeeeeeek.

On Wednesday evening, I went to collect my shopping from the supermarket (love the Click and Collect option!). The lovely man who I see there every week gave me a big smile and asked me how I was. I just looked at him tiredly.

Him: “Oh dear, that bad is it?”

Me: “It’s been a long week. And it’s only Wednesday. And I wasn’t even at work on Monday!”

The whole week has felt like that. For a four day week it seems to have lasted about a fortnight! I really thought Friday evening was never going to arrive, but here it is.

*Sighs with relief*

I’m sitting here on the sofa, surrounded by Chinese takeaway debris all over the floor (I will tidy up before bed!). I’ve put Three to bed and am waiting for One to come down from her bath so we can get started on our evening of BBC comedy. Two is in Manchester with his dad.

Tomorrow is going to be fabulous. Me and the girls are heading over to a friend’s house to meet up with a whole group of friends. They mostly live inside my computer and I haven’t seen any of them in real life for absolutely AGES, due to circumstances beyond my control. I’ve missed seeing them so much! There will be knitting, and laughter, and CAKE and chat and support and care and hugs and did I mention CAKE? πŸ˜‰

I’ve been holding out for a day such as this for many many months now. And after a week like this one (work’s been fine, home and family have been taking up a lot of headspace!), it’s exactly what is needed.

What to say when…

Blogging from my phone, in bed, because I was thinking, and the thoughts became a blog post which needed writing immediately.

Hints and tips for the friends and acquaintances of those who find themselves in the hypothetical (ahem) situation of having a child with severe depression and anxiety.

What NOT to say:

– Why? Do you have any idea of the root cause of it?

– Oh my goodness, that must be AWFUL! I don’t know how I’d react if that was one of my kids.

– Have you tried….?

– Sounds like a teenage phase to me.

– Is anything being done about it at all?

– You must be absolutely beside yourself with worry.

What to ACTUALLY say:

– That must be tough. You are doing an amazing job. Here is a cup of tea. And a listening ear if you ever need it. I have no well meaning advice for you. Let us chat about the weather.

No real clue where to start

Actual plan for the bank holiday weekend and days previous to it:

Children were going with their dad for a week from last Tuesday to this. I was going to have two days of blissful aloneness and silence (I take introversion to great extremes!) and then go over to J’s house so the two of us could go camping at one of our favourite campsites near Holmfirth, for some much needed rest and recuperation from the exhausting joys of single parenthood.

What actually happened:

J’s dad unexpectedly died last Saturday. 😦 He was a wonderful, kind, intelligent man with my very favourite sort of dry sense of humour and I adored him.

I waved my children off with their dad on Tuesday morning, threw a load of clothes in a bag, left all the washing up to fester all by itself for a week and drove across to be with the family and help out in whatever way I could. The whole family have made me incredibly welcome over the past couple of years and they really do feel like my second family. As soon as I heard the news I just wanted to be there.

Over the past week, I have done some expected things and some unexpected things. Lots of them aren’t my story to tell. I’ve found strength in myself where I hadn’t suspected it lay. I’ve laughed, cried, cuddled, tidied and cooked. There have been high moments and low moments.

Following the registering of the death in the centre of Sheffield, J’s sister and mum and I all went shopping. The two of them bought lipstick and new watch straps; I treated myself to a new watch for a fiver. We had lots of fun, laughed a lot and tried on comedy hairpieces in a department store. Then we sobbed on the bus on the way home. I think that example is a fair representation of the emotional map of the week!

I am so, so glad I was there. It has been a huge privilege to play a part in the grieving and the organising which goes along with any passing. I know my presence was appreciated and I very much appreciated being there.

I held it all together very well considering, and my only real wobble came in my dreams – I woke up yesterday morning having just dreamed I had drunk an entire bottle of Night Nurse through a straw… hmmm…!

I drove home through torrential weather late last night, feeling about as miserable as I have for a while, following one of the lowest moments of the week. I didn’t sleep a great deal, being twitchy and worked up. (I didn’t break out the Night Nurse though! Hehe!). This morning I threw myself into sorting out the kitchen and dining room after I’d left it in such a state a week ago, and felt much better for it.

The children arrived home and their cuddles were healing. One helped me do the supermarket shop and I now have meals planned for the rest of the week and all the food to make them with. I haven’t been that organised for ages! Two suddenly had an urge for baking this afternoon, and the result of that urge is a delicious batch of cherry biscuits which appeared as if by magic while I sat on the sofa and did nothing towards it. Result!

Next week Mum and I will be driving over for the funeral, which is going to involve some excellent music choices and some Spike Milligan. πŸ™‚

Before that, we have a week to organise school uniform, stationery etc. and get on top of the laundry backlog (again). I’m still mostly working on the premise of ‘don’t stop, don’t think, just keep going, tidying, working and I can cope’. I’ve decided that as long as I am entirely aware that’s what I’m doing, it’s ok, for now…

The Prev family invade Shropshire!

We went camping. Me, One, Two, Three, our tent, some sleeping bags, a couple of gas stoves and a sense of adventure.

We stayed at an old favourite small campsite near Church Stretton, where we have stayed a few times before, but not for six years. When we arrived, one of the older two exclaimed ‘it feels like we’ve come home!’. *Big grin*

While we put up the tent, two ladies came across from the campervan opposite, offered to help and then said ‘we know your children!’ Turns out they are friends of the children’s dad’s new wife and were at their wedding! Last time they saw Three she was dressed as a dragon… Strange coincidence! Lovely to meet them. πŸ™‚

I politely refused their help because I wanted to be absolutely sure I could put the tent up all by myself with just the children to assist, in case I need to in the future – they totally understood. Despite a bit of wind ‘helping’ us along, One and I managed to turn a big pile of material and some poles into a passable home for us for the weekend. Hurrah!

Not long after the tent was up, it began to rain. Undeterred, the children played swingball regardless.

The first night was very, very, very windy. It was very, very noisy. Everyone was scared that the tent was going to blow away. I went out to check the guy ropes twice (they were fine. I was reassured). All four of us ended up snuggled into my bedroom compartment in the early hours, lit by three little lanterns to cheer us up. Eventually I went and put the kettle on and we all had hot chocolate at three in the morning as the gale rattled the tent around us. Of such adventures are lasting family memories made. It was awesome.

In the morning we eavesdropped on various caravan owners chatting about how scary the wind was in the night, and how they were amazed ‘that tent’ was still standing. (We were the only tent at the site). I felt very smug! And very proud of my lovely tent and our satisfactory pitching skills. πŸ™‚

On Friday it rained. A lot. And then a lot more. We went to the Secret Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms – a place we have fond memories of. Some of it was the same (the cuddly mammoth outside the door) and some of it has changed (the local library now occupies over half of the old cafe area; the life size mammoth skeleton no longer makes a scary mammoth noise; the hot air balloon simulation is disappointingly different) and I have a feeling the general consensus was that as a family we may well have grown out of the place a little. I’m glad we went back one time to find that out though.

Later on we had a cream tea in Church Stretton and then met up, for the first time, with someone I have known online for 7 years who also happened to be holidaying in the area! It was the lovely H from Dancing Through The ShadowsΒ and she is just as fab in real life as I expected her to be. She put up with our particular brand of family insanity very well and even braved our campsite to be fed a cup of tea and a home made biscuit!

And the rain went on. And on. Overnight the wind came back, though not quite as bad as the night before. I only ended up with one small child (Three) sleeping in my bedroom compartment for a bit of reassurance, and we all had a much better night’s sleep.

By the morning it was not raining. We decided to take ourselves off to Carding Mill Valley and spent a lovely long afternoon playing in the river, making dams, playing a complicated imaginary game I couldn’t even begin to understand (Two and Three), and sitting reading (me), playing games on phone (One) and having a fairly unhealthy picnic (all of us). I love it there, and if we lived near enough we would be there every weekend and probably a lot of weekday evenings too!

While we were there I had a phonecall with some very sad news that someone I loved very much had unexpectedly and peacefully passed away. I’m still very saddened and shocked by this and the news cast a shadow over the day a little, though it also made me even more aware of the need to make the most of every moment with our families and I was doubly determined to enjoy my children’s company and the gorgeous surroundings.

That evening, our last one at the campsite, the sky was clear and we had the chance to cross ‘star gazing’ off the list of things we all wanted to do this weekend. We sat outside the tent with our hot chocolate and watched the stars and planets emerging in the dark sky. This is a family tradition but the first time Three has joined in – on previous family camping trips she was still a baby and had a fixed bedtime! It was lovely and another memory was made.

This morning we awoke to a dry tent, to my relief, but unfortunately by the time we’d started to eat our bacon butties, the rain was starting again, and it only worsened quickly as the morning progressed! We packed everything up inside the tent and managed to pack the car in a window of time when it wasn’t flinging it down, but the tent itself went down absolutely soaked and I didn’t attempted to roll it up tightly back in the bag, just folded it loosely and stuffed it in the boot as it was!

We soggy lot had Sunday lunch at McDonald’s in Shrewsbury and then carried on home. I’ve partly unpacked the car, had a good sit down, a cup of tea, some toast, and kept smiling at the memories of the first real camping holiday I’ve taken the children on by myself since becoming a single parent.

I am very proud that:

– We put the tent up by ourselves and it stayed up despite scary wind.

– We had a good time and the activities I planned worked out well (mostly!)

– We stayed organised and reasonably tidy and had nice meals cooked on two gas rings.

And my favourite thing to be proud of:

– I stayed chilled out and hardly got stressed or shouty at all – only a tiny bit this morning when trying to pack up a tent full of stuff in a torrential downpour!

OK it was only three nights but it worked really, really well; we had a great time, I proved to myself that I can do this on my own and next summer I might be able to plan a longer trip (no time or money left this year now!)

Bonus ASD footnote:

The one disadvantage of taking a child with Asperger’s Syndrome camping: constant repetitive singing of his favourite youtube songs all the flipping time….Β and no escape from it!

One of the many advantages of taking a child with Asperger’s Syndrome camping: When the people across the field come back from a night out and are a little louder than they realise they are being, chattering away happily and obliviously, only Two had the gall to get out of his sleeping bag, entirely of his own volition, walk across the field and ask them politely and firmly to please keep the noise down because he is ‘trying to get to sleep and finding it rather difficult’. They apologised to him and kept the noise down. I applauded him silently from my own scaredy cat sleeping bag… Β πŸ˜‰

A week of refreshment, relaxation and 7,000 other people!

Yesterday the four of us arrived home from a week spent at Newark Showground, living in our tent. It was the annual New Wine North & East Summer Conference, and this was our third one. And without a doubt this was my favourite one so far.

A brief history of the last four summers:

August 2009. Greenbelt festival with Two and Three while One was at Scout camp, camping with a few friends. Newly separated, trying to get to grips with being a single parent, totally stressed, I was an utter basket case for the majority of the weekend. I had so many stamping feet tantrums that weekend I’m surprised I didn’t leave my trainers in the mud. It is fair to say that I didn’t enjoy Greenbelt much, but I think that had more to do with my state of mind and attitude at the time than the festival itself.

August 2010. New Wine with all 3 children, and some church friends. Though a year had passed, I still struggled with holidaying as a single parent, and also struggled with being fully sociable with our friends. During the week I realised just how much I was still struggling with everything, and drew an accidental picture depicting how awful I was feeling; lonely, rejected, useless, with cripplingly low self esteem. When I looked at the picture I was shocked and upset. I spent a fair proportion of the week in floods of tears, though I did enjoy it and the children said it was the best holiday they had ever had. πŸ™‚

I started some counselling in the September, and took the picture along as a starting point, saying ‘this is where I am starting from’, basically.

August 2011. New Wine with all the children and the same group of friends. I could really tell I was in a better place this year. We all enjoyed it, I cried a lot less, still found some of it difficult but relaxed a lot more than the year before. One memorable moment was the phonecall from the Child Protection Officer to ask to meet me for a chat after Two had told his group leaders he wanted to die. Quite a tricky conversation to have, to let them know that he says it quite often, it is more of a reflex reaction and not to be taken particularly seriously, without sounding blase and as though I don’t care! The other memorable moment was managing to lock my keys and my mobile phone in my car by accident at about eleven o’clock on the last Β night when all of our friends had already gone home. That took a lot of sorting out along with a very kind and helpful steward and eventually a breakdown lorry driving onto the site after midnight… oops! (It took me a whole year to confess to our friends that this had happened…)

August 2012. New Wine with 3 children plus 2 of our usual party and their respective daughters. This was without a doubt the most relaxing holiday with children I have had, possibly ever, and certainly since becoming a single parent. Here are some reasons why:

– Having recently finished 2 years of counselling and also having treatment for depression I am in a hugely better place myself. I’m learning to chill out and relax like never before.

– The children are all a year older and it is a year that has made a huge difference. One has moved up to the 14-18 activities and has really enjoyed the extra freedom and maturity levels of that. Two has moved up to the 12-13 activities which meant he could stay in bed a bit longer in the mornings and got free toast during the interactive breakfast cafe! Three being 8 now is allowed to leave her venue by herself instead of being collected by an adult, and she along with my friends’ daughters had a LOT more freedom this year to go where she wished when she wished. This meant I could attend seminars at any time of day I felt like it instead of being tied to the morning ones only.

– I filled in a form stating that Two is on the autistic spectrum and detailed his propensity for talking about death so I didn’t get phoned up by concerned people this year. This set into motion a whole process of special needs provision for him and he loved it. He now wants his own pair of ear defenders, and spent a lot of time during his group activities in the ‘Our Place’ section (for special needs) blowing bubbles and playing air hockey with another boy with Aspergers Syndrome. This all suited him far better and he can’t wait to go back to ‘Our Place’ next year; the team were fabulous with him and I really felt I could relax about him this year!

– We catered for ourselves this year instead of as part of a group. This meant I could shop as cheaply as possible and also gave us freedom about mealtimes which was more difficult when part of a cooking and washing up rota. It made an enormous difference to my relaxation levels.

– Instead of choosing as many seminars as I could fit in, this year I picked the few that really interested me and had a lot more time just chilling in the tent. I was so tired at the beginning of the week that I kept dozing off during morning and evening worship (yes listening to a sermon with your eyes shut is TOTALLY normal…) and a few afternoon naps really helped.

I got a lot out of the talks I heard, particularly ‘Raising Strong Daughters’, ‘Good Enough Parenting’ and ‘A Beginner’s Guide to the Bible’ (I’m not exactly a beginner to the Bible but I haven’t actually read it at all for a year so thought I’d like to start from scratch!). I really enjoyed spending family time with the children when we ate together, and loved the fact that their activities kept them busy so I could relax and do my own thing too.

I’ve come home feeling refreshed, revitalised and feeling very good about my ability to take my children on holiday by myself – I never felt at all confident about that until now! My friends kept teasing me for being ‘too calm and organised’ – those are NOT qualities I have ever demonstrated in their presence before!

It was all fab and I can’t wait for next year!

Another day, another set of logistics

Giving myself a few minutes to sit and blog in the middle of a busy day. I feel like I’m just running constantly to catch up with myself at the moment and that is not likely to change for a week or two yet!

Part One: The Past Week Or So In The Prev Household

I’ve been continuing my mission to get and keep the house safe, hygienic and pleasant to live in, with varying levels of success. The bad weather has led to an enormous backlog of laundry, which has been lying around the house in piles (huge pile in the kitchen: dirty washing in a queue for the machine; huge pile on the dining table: clean washing in a pile for the iron; huge pile in basket in living room: clean washing a little nearer to the actual ironing process: little piles on sofa: ironed clothes waiting to be put away).

However, Two and his dad did such an amazing job on his room last Saturday that it inspired One and I to make a start under her bed last Sunday. This continued across the floor this past Saturday, and then, six binbags later, on Sunday I moved a bit of furniture around to give both girls a dedicated section of room each. We are very proud of ourselves. All the children now have real bedrooms to relax in, instead of rubbish heaps with no visible floor. Their rooms were the final frontier of the Great House Sort Out and so everywhere now is reasonable and being kept on top of. This is major progress (as long as you ignore the laundry piles…).

Part Two: Saying Goodbye To A Special Lady Yesterday

Yesterday morning, my wonderful mum arrived early to take over the school run so I could get in the car and drive for over 2 hours to Doncaster in order to attend a celebration service for the life of ‘Auntie’ Pat Willimott who has been a friend both online and in real life for seven years now.

I was so glad to be there along with 17 other people from our corner of the internet, all wearing touches of lime green and representing many many more who weren’t able to make the journey. I think Pat’s friends and family were surprised and pleased to see how many lives she had touched across the country, and how very loved she was by us all. (Her husband was less surprised as he knows many of us well and was in fact wearing a lime green tie for the occasion!).

It was a wonderful service; the hymns were sung with gusto even through our tears (you’ve got to love Methodists for a good sing in all circumstances!); the eulogy, written by her husband Steve and read by a friend, was full, apt and had everyone nodding and smiling throughout, and the photos which were projected onto a screen gave us all a flavour of Pat through the years – and her enormous smile which shone out of every photo from the earliest baby picture to the most recent.

I was reflecting as I drove home just how lucky I am to be a part of this special community of people, drawn together initially by our love of a series of children’s books, but so many close, loving, supportive friendships have developed over the years. I watched during the service as people held onto others for support as they cried, and so many hugs, love and laughter afterwards as we gathered together to share food and memories of Pat. These are people I can be completely honest with about what is happening in my life, and not feel I have to put any sort of ‘face’ on. We are an amazing, caring bunch of people and Pat had a lot to do with that ethos developing. She will not be forgotten, and will be very much missed in so many ways.

I arrived at Mum’s house at 4pm, where two of my children were waiting for me, having driven home, exhausted, drained but so glad to have gone. Sank onto her sofa with a welcome cup of tea and then suddenly remembered that I had to take Three back to school for 5pm for a performance, and she would need feeding first! Lots more rushing around ensued, including collecting One from an appointment along the way. I eventually collapsed into bed about quarter to ten, having abandoned the washing up for the morning!

Part Three: Today’s Complicated Itinerary

Today is Graduation Day for me at the Bridgwater Hall in Manchester! Very exciting, but ridiculously complicated as my mum and the children are coming to watch, but we have to travel separately so that they can finish school and I can still get there in time to don my cap and gown.

Various stresses surrounding today:

a) (This is leading the field at the moment for some reason!) Will my hat fit? Did I measure my head accurately when I had to type the numbers into the website? Will it be too tight and give me a migraine? Will it be too loose and fall over my eyes? Will it be far too small and just fall off when I ascend the stairs to collect my certificate? Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to this dilemma…

b) I looked at someone else’s graduation pictures from the same venue, on facebook, the other day. The place was totally packed. One child isn’t dealing well with crowds of people at the moment and became quite anxious at the sight of them all on the photo.

c) Another photo depicted a huge pipe organ which appeared to dominate the entire hall (Mum assures me it really isn’t as huge as all that!). Two, who is almost certainly on the autistic spectrum, is absolutely terrified of organ pipes. To the point where he has had to stay outside, out of sight of them, on a number of occasions when we’ve visited churches or cathedrals. I am now having visions of my mum having to cope with two children both having panic attacks for unrelated reasons…! Though I have warned Two about the organ pipes and so it won’t be a terrible shock. I might lend him the ipod touch for (silent) distraction therapy.

d) We have a 15 minute window between mum and the children arriving in Manchester and me having to be seated in my place with all the other students. During this time I need to find them and hand over their guest tickets so they can get in. Late trains could jeopardise this somewhat. I probably should be more anxious about this than about the hat, but the subconscious is a peculiar thing. πŸ˜‰

Part Four: The Rest Of The Week

Tomorrow morning: volunteering in year 4. Tomorrow afternoon: attending school musical extravaganza performance with mum (watching Three singing songs from the musicals with the rest of year 3, among other musical delights). Tomorrow evening: helping at Cubs (I think, must check). Thursday morning: sign on. Thursday afternoon: housework especially laundry sorting. Thursday evening: take and collect Three from school again for evening performance. Friday morning: volunteering in year 4. Friday afternoon: One and Two break up for their summer holidays! Saturday morning: One’s Grade Three violin exam. Saturday evening: Meal out at the Chinese buffet with Mum, J and the children for my 40th birthday. πŸ™‚ Sunday: Aaaaaand relax (I hope).

I’ll say one thing about life – it’s certainly not dull at the moment! And I have wonderful friends and family to share it with.