Day 8

Just a quick post tonight as bedtime is looming!

Today I managed to use the airboot and the crutches to walk to a local shop a few streets away to buy crisps and nuts for our sofachurch Christmas get together tomorrow night. One came with me as far as the shop, helped carry the items and stashed them in the rucksack on my back once I’d paid for them. She then went in the other direction for an appointment and I walked home all by myself!

Amazing how something so simple now takes so much organising and working up to. I was really nervous about being out by myself, though of course it was fine. As I got in the front door, my phone rang. I stood in the hall behind the door talking to the caller for a few minutes and as we were wrapping the conversation up there was a knock on the door! I was really glad I hadn’t just settled back down on the sofa again so it was all rather useful timing! (It was delivery of a Christmas present from ebay – hurrah!).

Talking of Christmas presents, I’ve done a load more online shopping today, making lists as I went, making sure I stuck rigidly to my budget, and now I only have a very few presents to get in ‘real life’ so to speak. I’m hoping I might make it into town at some point in the next week as I begin to be more mobile; there’s a bus which stops almost opposite our house so that might be a possibility if I feel up to it. I’m relieved to have got things a bit more organised – it’s been preying on my mind and tomorrow I might pick up my knitting again.

As for today, my walk, which was probably about quarter of a mile altogether, if that, pretty much knocked me out and I sank into an accidental and very deep sleep on the sofa for an hour and a half when I got back! Since breaking my foot I seem to be weeping, and sleeping, at the drop of a hat – two side effects I really wasn’t expecting! Everything makes me cry (most ridiculous example so far was the Christmas Bake Off episode last night when Mary Berry put a little tea light into her gingerbread house and all the boiled-sweet windows glowed *sob*) and I keep falling asleep at random! Hopefully all part of the healing process…

Conversation just now:
One: How are you feeling?
Me: My foot hurts. How are you feeling?
One: The side of my mouth hurts.
Me: Maybe if I kick you in the mouth with my bad foot, the two pains will cancel each other out and we’ll both be absolutely fine…
One: YES! Let’s DO that!

The tragic thing is that, for us, that’s a perfectly normal conversation!

(Spoiler alert: we didn’t do that…)

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Our Day Out

One and I went to Liverpool on the train this afternoon. It was a bit of an impulse trip, planned only yesterday and on condition that we were both feeling up to it. We were. Hurrah!

I seem to have got out of the habit of taking the kids out and about. Their dad does a lot of that sort of stuff when they are staying with him, and for a long time I didn’t have the money or the mental resources to somehow bring myself to plan trips. Unemployment and depression are a bugger. I’m feeling better now and have a teeny weeny bit more disposable income, but seem to be finding it really difficult to get past that mental block which has stopped me taking the children anywhere more interesting or further afield than the local park.

Just taking one child is a good way back in, I’m finding. This afternoon was an absolute pleasure. We more or less ran to the station in order to catch the 11.57, which turned out to be firstly hugely delayed once we got there, and then simply cancelled by the time we’d bought the tickets! Ended up sitting on the platform for 40 minutes catching our breath…

Once in Liverpool we found Pizza Hut and indulged in their weekday buffet lunch. Again, far more affordable for only two of us than it would have been with four. Eldest daughter is tremendous company and we laughed our way through the meal, which was delicious and filling!

We headed to the Walker Art Gallery by mutual consent and had a good time looking at the pictures (and making up silly captions for some of them); particularly enjoying the special exhibitions and more modern art. Having been starting to draw during this past week, mostly through the marvellous medium of Zentangle, I looked at the pictures with a slightly different eye than previously. Bought myself a cheap sketchbook in the shop and have already started using it. Not sure what has set off this sudden craze for drawing, but I’m loving it. I feel like I’m moving in new directions with my creativity for the first time in years, and it’s really exciting. Is it an allegory for my life moving in new directions, due to starting work this year? Who knows? I’ll just go with the flow!

On the train journey home there was a lady with her almost 2 year old daughter in our bit of the carriage. They were delightful. The little girl was so enthusiastic about absolutely everything, and so very, very, TWO. A TWOness I remember well from my own children back in the day. The mum was very hands on, playing with her, chatting to her, interacting with the rest of us too; it really brightened up our journey.

It gave me pause for thought about how things have changed for us since One was that age (at which point I had a teeny baby Two as well!) I had almost forgotten what it was like to spend my days with such a small person; the total full on hands on parenting that has to be done; the exhausting, relentless, delightful chatter; the handing over of the bunch of keys, the remote control, the empty crackly bag, whatever will divert and amuse the child for the next one and a half minutes before the next excitement needs to be produced.

My youngest is almost nine now, and the oldest is getting on for fifteen. It’s a very different experience these days. Travelling today with One was just the same as it would be travelling with another adult. The pleasure of her company was totally equal to the delight the lady in our carriage was showing in her own daughter, but it was expressed in a totally different way. I could read my Kindle all the way to Liverpool and all the way back. I didn’t have to cope with a pushchair, a changing bag, several snacks to be brought out at predetermined times (though we did have to use the lift in the art gallery due to One’s dodgy ankle and she was lamenting the lack of a wheelchair to push her around in!)

My friend SerendipturasΒ posted on a similar theme to this the other day and I feel as though I’m copying – but it really was the small child and her mum on the train, as I was travelling with my much bigger child, that sparked off this reminiscence – maybe N’s post was in the back of my mind already.

I loved being a mum to littlies. I love being a mum to these much larger people now too. It’s a very different experience. I’m not needed any less, but I’m needed in a different way and there are times when I can actually do my own thing (like reading a trashy chick-lit novel on my Kindle instead of providing constant exciting entertainment on the train!).

It’s been a good day. Fun, with excellent company (love that eldest daughter of mine Β and our identical warped sense of humour!). Exciting with the different view this sudden drawing bug has given me. And thought provoking about the way my life as a mother has gradually changed in the past fourteen years.

Still not sure I’m feeling ready to take all three of them on an expedition at the same time yet, but this was a good start. πŸ™‚

Quick update

Work is going well, lots and lots to learn and in January I will jump in with both feet and just hope I find I can swim, or at least tread water till I learn to swim! However, I currently have a stinking cold which I know is the direct result of being subjected to alien germs from a neighbouring local authority!

One and I had a trip to Manchester at the weekend. We travelled there on the train on Saturday morning, shopped till we dropped (window shopping mostly!) and had a fabulous time at a Saw Doctors gig in the evening. We stayed at the youth hostel, had a wonderful time and we are already planning to repeat the experience next year! We worked well as a team – I was in charge of the itinerary, and as she now knows Manchester better than me (her dad lives there), and I have no sense of direction, she was in charge of leading the way! She is such superb company and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Got home Sunday lunchtime, slept the afternoon away on the sofa and then went to bed ridiculously early because I still couldn’t keep my eyes open! I think the week and the weekend caught up with me all at once!

The house is going to rack and ruin since I’ve started being out every day. I need to find new routines and ways to keep on top of the essentials; it’s just chaotic and hit and miss at the moment. I decided today that one thing I have to accept is that although I get home at about 3.15 each day, I won’t actually sit down and rest until after tea at about 6. If I can get into that habit, and start to craft a plan for different things on different evenings, it might be ok. 25 hours a week is far from full time, but in terms of school hours, it almost is, especially when the commute is added on. (I’m still thoroughly enjoying the commute).

This afternoon/evening, I have managed to do some food shopping, make spaghetti bolognese for tea, tidy up the living room enough that I can stand to be in it, clear the dining table, wash up after tea and make tomorrow’s sandwiches. I’m quite pleased with that.

I’ll be glad when the admin side of starting work is all finally sorted out. Every day brings letter after letter from the DWP, the tax credits people, and a CRB (amazing how quickly they come through these days now you can do them online!), and one document after another I need to find and bring into school with me in order to get officially employed.

Today was Three’s year group’s Christmas party. When I went to collect her from the after school club, she excitedly told me about what Santa had given her. “Ooh, did Santa come?” I asked. J, standing next to Three, piped up: “It was Mr H…..!” (a caretaker). Three looked over to the caretakers’ office to see if Mr H was in there. “Ssshhhhhhh….” she whispered. “He might hear you!” I’m still not sure if she really thought Mr H had no idea he was Father Christmas and she didn’t want to spoil the surprise!

This post feels disjointed and my head feels full of mush. I think I will leave it there and stop rambling now! Bed. With an entire toilet roll next to me to mop up my streaming facial orifices…

A week in highlights

“You can’t argue with grammar. You actually can’t. It’s physically impossible.” – Son, just now…

So what can I tell you about the past week? It has gone by in a bit of a blur.

Last Saturday: An unexpected visitor arrived in the form of J needing some TLC and a place to escape to for a few days. We were happy to oblige (though I would be the first to admit that though we welcome visitors, our house is anything but a quiet retreat!). His imminent advent forced me to tidy my bedroom which hardly had room for me in it among all the mess, let alone someone else as well. I was delighted to have done that, and it is still nice and tidy today. πŸ™‚

Sunday: We took J National Trusting to Little Moreton Hall, complete with sandwiches, fruit and a flask of tea. How middle class can you get? We had a great time though a certain child got rather overstimulated and containing him was rather hard work. Also I’m not sure the lady supervising the dressing up really appreciated my children’s particular style of play – she is clearly used to calm quiet dressed up children admiring themselves in the mirror, rather than excited noisy children pretending to assassinate each other…

 

Made me giggle though…

 

Tuesday: I went back into school for my first volunteering day of this academic year, and J went to spend the day with my mum. It’s a long time since I was helping in Key Stage 1 (year 2) and I was really nervous, but I was working with two of my very favourite ladies in the whole wide world, which made it much easier. The classroom looks lots more spacious when the children are smaller! I managed to learn about three or four names, all of which I will have forgotten by next week, but I’ll get there in the end. I heard lots of very awesome children read and generally had a fabulous day. I know that I am going to LOVE Tuesdays. πŸ™‚

J went home on Tuesday evening. We both cried.

Wednesday: I would have been volunteering in year 5 with my lovely year 4s from last year, but had to send my apologies as it was Review Day at the secondary school. Two children, two appointments with form tutors; one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I spent a lot of time there on Wednesday! Both meetings were positive and I came away feeling that school are committed to doing everything they can to support the needs of my two rather complicated, fabulous children. I spent the whole evening as a taxi service for all three children’s social lives. Wednesdays are going to become the new Thursdays, this year…

Thursday: Signed on. Mused to myself on the fact that I seem to have lost all my self confidence again when it comes to jobseeking. I have found five jobs to apply for this week. A few months ago I would have thought ‘I can totally do that job!’ and filled in the application form with confidence. Now all I think is ‘why on earth would they want to employ me?’ and avoid the application form until the last minute. Meh.

Friday: Took my mum to B&Q, Wickes and Dunelm Mill in search of a curtain track she needed, and to Tesco for her shopping. In return, she took me for a carvery for lunch. It was a lovely day! After school I put Son on a train for his first solo journey to Manchester where his dad was waiting at Piccadilly to get him off at the other end. One and I spent the evening watching comedy on the TV.

Honourable mention for the whole week: Ever since Three went back to school, we have done every single school run by bicycle. She cycles on the pavement, I cycle on the road next to her, and then cycle home again. We love it; we get there much more quickly than walking, it is good exercise and I’m not using petrol (which is absolutely extortionate these days!) It also means I am cycling three miles a day which has to be a good thing.

Saturday: We made Turd Biscuits (see previous blog post). I fell asleep on the sofa for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Again, One and I spent several hours in front of the TV in the evening.

Another busy week ahead, so today is a day of rest (ish). No such thing as actual rest when there are three children here and a chaotic house to run!

 

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˜‰

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.

16. Out and about

Unfortunately for this photo prompt, I haven’t left the house all day today! So here is a photo from our outing yesterday morning in Nantwich (in which we almost beat the rain but ended up getting drenched on the way back to the car park!)

Three and I have enjoyed spending time on our own together this week.

#photoadayjune