a north-eastern holiday.

Forget the middle-east…Dubai can wait! The north-east is where it’s at for a family holiday these days!

Now, don’t get me wrong, put me on a plane to Dubai and face me with seven star service and uninterrupted sunshine for a week and I would probably choose that over Alnwick, Northumberland, BUT – we have just returned from a wonderful five days of family time and I can honestly say we would highly recommend it.

We booked a little house called Red Door via cottages.com – a website we use quite regularly, especially since having the children.

It wasn’t the best, being totally honest. But it was clean and a good base from which to travel around Northumberland. And since it took us almost a month to decide what we wanted to do and finally get round to booking something, we were lucky to find anything at all that didn’t cost us a month’s mortgage payment!

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Mr O’s family are from Northumberland, and he spent much of his childhood holidaying in the area – something that prompted him to want to take our children up there. So we tootled on up the A1 and found ourselves in Alnwick – a beautiful little market town on the South Bank of the River Aln.

If you’ve never been to Northumberland, you could probably be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about. Why would you head so close to Scotland and not cross the border? What is there up there but old coal mines? And you probably think it’s all just about Lindisfarne?

You would be wrong!

We spent the whole week cooing over scenery (OK, I spent the whole week cooing over scenery), enjoying miles of glorious beaches, walking through picturesque little fishing villages, eating the most amazing seafood and discovering history we never even knew existed – it was just fabulous.

The best day by far, in my opinion, was the day that we spent at Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden.

Mr O would disagree – he would say it was the day spent on the beach at Seahouses…but since I HATE sand (see previous post here for more info!) I will not agree with him, even though I felt myself the most relaxed I’ve been in a while on that beach.

It was, actually, if I dare admit it, blissful.

The Alnwick Castle and Garden experience, whilst quite expensive, was a full day of brilliant family fun. We spent hours and hours outdoors (yep, the small ones slept well that night!!) exploring gardens, finding out names for plants, wading through fallen blossom with Ruby taking the opportunity to throw it at us at every turn of the path, and laughing our socks off at the silly court jester who threw fire and genuinely made Ruby fear for her safety – hilarious to see!!

I quite fancied the ‘On Location’ tour, which showed you all the bits of the castle that had been used in films such as Harry Potter and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves – but since that took place at 3.30pm and Ruby had had all of her fun already, she deemed it “too boring” and so we hot footed it out of there before a huge wobbly/major embarrassment kicked in.

That evening we ate out at a place called The Jolly Fisherman in a teeny little village called Crastor. We tried Oysters for the very first time (and we weren’t sick!) and enjoyed gorgeous fresh fish and lobster in beautiful surroundings – with lashings of Alnwick Gin!

We saved money where we could by making sandwiches for lunch and we ate in the house a couple of evenings, which actually worked out quite well all in all.

If you’ve seen my Instagram feed you will know I’ve already said that I need another holiday to get over this one though.

Whilst my brain switched from overdrive to relax, my body is shattered. We didn’t sleep very well at all with Henry in our room – and not at all most nights as he decided that he couldn’t be without me and clung to me like a limpet (an after-effect of his operation?).

Still – it was a brilliant holiday, and we crammed in enough to make the memories last for some time, I hope.

Worn out but very happy.

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A good summary for a lovely time with the family.

Roll on the next staycation…Devon in July!

Speak soon,
K x

the days after.

Children are resilient, they said.

They bounce back so quickly, they said.

And…thank goodness, but it seems they were right!

Henry’s operation and subsequent time in recovery took all of 40 minutes. He was back in my arms before I’d even had a chance to finish my Costa Coffee hot chocolate in the strange little cafe at the entrance to Queen’s Hospital, Burton.

The hospital at which I’ve had (too) many a stay, at which Ruby was born, Henry was born, treated for meningitis and the hospital that I wished we’d never have to return to.

He cried so much when he woke from surgery that I could hear the theatre nurse bringing him to us from the other side of the hospital. I grabbed him and held him so close, and he clung to me so tightly I was certain I’d never let go.

After a mammoth sleep of 1.5 hours in my arms (if I’d known he was going to sleep that long I would have sat on the bed…my bum was so numb!) he woke up and demanded a biscuit. And that’s when I knew that everything would be alright!

After 10.5 hours without food or water, the bottomless pit then proceeded to consume the world’s biggest banana, an entire pack of Mini Cheddars, 2 x digestive biscuits and a ham sandwich along with about 4 Tippee cups of water!

Definitely alright.

After he’d finished his feast he grabbed his coat and made a run for it. Seriously. He was out of the door and saying goodbye to the nurses before we knew what was happening!

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We were exhausted. He was on cloud nine.

So we brought him home.

Our baby yelled for his sister the minute we pulled onto the drive, and she was thrilled to have him back.

He had a good night of sleep, only woken by Ruby who was crying so much after a bad dream where a cat was biting her bottom (no idea what that’s about!?) and seemed perfectly fine. Until we had to administer his drops.

The poor thing screamed and cried and desperately tried to wriggle away from me. 3-4 drops 3 times per day to try and help his ears heal and to get rid of the infection that the surgeon found whilst in there adding the grommets.

But, two hours later he was back on fighting form, hiding in the toy box, shouting at Ruby, running around the house and generally being a tinker…

It will take him time to fully recover. I know that.

He spent much of the first evening after the op cuddled into me, crying when I left the room and resisting sleep – almost scared to drift off, perhaps a hang up from the operation? Something isn’t quite right as he just will not let you leave him, when normally he would snuggle his monkey and drift off without issue (most of the time!!). 

I really hope that putting him through this procedure proves to be the right thing to have done.

We’ll see in three months time, I guess, as that’s the next time we need to see the consultant. 

Cross your fingers folks!

 Until then I’m taking every opportunity for extra snuggles and cuddling him in close. 

the waiting game.

Tomorrow our son, Henry, goes into hospital for an operation.

When he was just 3 months old Henry contracted Bacterial Meningitis (read about it and learn the signs & symptoms here…), which was horrific to put it mildly.

Thankfully, he came out of it the other side relatively unscathed.

However, at a routine post-Meningitis hearing check, the Audiology team discovered a hearing loss and, six tests later, that hearing loss isn’t getting any better.

So tomorrow, Henry heads into surgery to have grommets inserted.

Grommets are, for anyone that is wondering, very small tubes (like cotton reels) that help to drain away excess fluid building up in the middle ear.

Here’s a helpful handy diagram to show you exactly what I mean!*

grommet1

We’re hopeful that the grommets will drain away the fluid and that he will then pass his hearing tests – as the Audiology team believe that it’s the pressure of the fluid that is causing his hearing loss.

And, to be honest, that’s what I’m banking on – because otherwise, it’s likely that the Meningitis has damaged Henry’s hearing and so, if he doesn’t pass after the grommets have fallen out then we’ll need to consider hearing aids for him – and that, being completely honest, for some reason, makes me feel very uneasy.

Now, in my rational mind I know that this is a simple and straightforward procedure.

I know that he will be fine. That it’s routine and done hundreds of times a week. And that if, after it all he needs hearing aids then that is NOT a problem.

But yet I still feel like my world is spinning.

I feel sick. I’m worried. I’m nervous. I’m tired.

So, so tired.

Henry on the other hand, thankfully, is full of beans. He’s his usual belligerent self, shouting at his sister, raiding the fridge any chance he gets and stomping about the place wittering on to himself and anyone that will listen (and pretend to understand what he’s going on about!).

Tomorrow is unknown. I don’t have a clue what to expect. And I think that’s half of the problem.

I am, as you now know, a planner.

I’m strengthened by structure, and lists, and details.

Tomorrow makes me VERY nervous.

Once again, I’ll be on that ward.
The ward I had really hoped we’d never have to return to.

And once again, my baby will be handed off to someone else to take care of.

My control of the situation will be gone and, for a short time, so will my beautiful, smiley, happy son.

If you have any experience of this, or you can offer any pearls of wisdom to help me through then please feel free to comment.

Here’s to a quick and easy procedure, and to never having to go through this again!

But for now, we wait…

Speak soon,
K x

*Image supplied by afairgo.net

the me and mine project.

You know when you spend hours getting lost on the internet? Trawling through blogs, laughing at funny cat videos and eating mini eggs like they’re going out of fashion?

No?

Just me then!?

Judge me not…but I like nothing more than a good Instagram session of an evening, after the ‘winks are in bed and I have dragged my bum into the kitchen to make something for dinner that is!

Last year, probably around June time, I came across a wonderful blog, Tigerlily Quinn, and I loved everything about it (Fritha is so refreshingly fab, you will love her and her posts)…but especially the Me and Mine Project feature.

It’s a very lovely community much like the ‘100 Happy Days’ project of a few years ago (which I embraced like a chocoholic at Easter) where people take at least one photo per month of their entire family…warts and all…and write a post about what they have been up to that particular month.

I instantly wanted to do what I always do…jump on the bandwagon!

Mr O always says that for someone who’s been in marketing for over 10 years I am the biggest sucker her knows.

He’s probably right…but do I actually care?

Nope!

This time around though I took stock (miraculous!) and decided to wait, it was half way through the year…why  start something half way through?

So I waited and waited and bloomin’ well waited some more…and now, it’s the last day of January and I’m ready to jump full force onto that bandwagon that I know I will love so much.

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As a general rule I don’t like photos of myself.

I look like I have no eyes in most of them, and my teeth are a funny colour…so I tend to stick to photos of the babies.

This photo was taken whilst we froze our backsides off in a park in Ashbourne after I dragged us there to visit a shop that ended up being closed…another thing I was lured in by…yes Mr O, you were right again!

Ruby wanted a picnic so we sat on a bench in the park and ate leftover Christmas dinner sarnies and shared a bottle of water (I say shared…I had none after seeing the floaters that Henry had left in the bottle!).

All in all we’ve had a good January…only one or two small boughts of illness (which is amazing for us), and even though it has seriously felt like the longest month on record, it hasn’t been a total let down.

There has been:

  • Fun with grandparents
  • Holiday booking!
  • Crazy work schedules
  • Coming to terms with peach decor…blurgh!
  • Getting back into reading
  • Losing half a stone (no bloomin idea how mind!)
  • Fixing stuff that the mischievous Henry has broken
  • Picking up where I left off with my blog…

Yup, I may dispise winter and January might be the worst month for me but actually, it hasn’t really been that bad…still glad it’s over though!!

I hope that I will be able to look back on this project in years to come and remember a brilliant year, because goodness knows we deserve one.

But enough now of my jabbering, what have you done that you really enjoyed this month? And, more’s the point, do you fancy joining in!?

 

The Me and Mine Project

arguments with a four year old.

Our daughter, as many of you will already know, is four.

Our daughter, as many of you will know, is also very strong-willed and a feisty little creature.

This basically means the following things:

  1. She knows best
  2. She doesn’t listen to a word we say
  3. She will pretend to listen whilst rolling her eyes at you
  4. She knows best
  5. She throws monumental, melodramatic (and somewhat hilarious) strops from time to time
  6. She flicks from loving her brother to wishing he wasn’t around faster than you can blink
  7. She knows best

She’s a teeny weeny wolf in the most angelic of sheep’s clothing. With a head bob and plenty of “sass” that comes from one too many episodes of My Little Pony!

She’s awesome. She’s kind. She’s clever. She’s frustrating.

She’s Ruby.

There are the usual little arguments that I’m pretty sure are standard for any parent of a four year old…you know the ones, no you can’t have chocolate for breakfast, too much TV will make your brain mushy, no you can’t have chocolate for breakfast, please put your shoes on, I’m sorry but Jamie can’t come to live with us as his mummy would miss him too much, no you can’t have any more chocolate as you’ll be sick…and so on and so forth.

#totalbrokenrecord

But last night, and I have to admit quite often recently, her sass turned into being just plain mean to her baby brother.

And as a result, last night we had an argument that was bigger than the usual ones.

Last night she ended up in her bedroom in tears.

And last night I felt more guilt than I have ever felt after an argument with her. Ever.

Why?

Because I lost my cool. Because she cried so hard and because, last night she looked at me and said, “Does this mean you don’t love me?”.

And that, quite simply, broke my heart because oh Lord, do I love her.

I love her so, so much.

But the thing is…when I see her nastily growling in the face of her baby brother, or snatching toys from his hands just because he is enjoying himself, or laughing when he falls over, it kind of makes me cross.

And it makes me sad, because I don’t understand where that comes from. Is it normal?!

Ruby has never been that child you see. Sure there have been moments, but in general she’s had glowing reports about how good she is at sharing and we are always being told how kind she is. So why is it then, that all of a sudden she seems to have designated Henry as public enemy number 1?

Listen to me please. Stop doing that. Behave yourself.
You’re doing so well at sharing. That was so kind. Thankyou for being nice to Henry.

I’ve tried all the tactics, and I could spout ToddlerCalm, How to Encourage Sharing…all the parenting books you like… back at you, but I’m still no closer to cracking this one.

And this is the one that causes me to have arguments that make my four year old think I don’t love her!

Help!

So much has happened to our little family over the last 19 months since Henry arrived. Meningitis, starting school, we’ve moved house, I’ve gone back to work…and I guess all of these things are taking a toll on all of us.

I don’t know if how I parent is the best way to do things. I tell her I love her every single day. I worry constantly about what she thinks and feels. I spend ages explaining why we’re doing things the way we are. I talk with her after every falling out and we forgive and forget. I wonder every time we fall out how much of all of this she will remember, and how it’s affecting her “future self”. I fret about whether we should spend more time with her on her own, without Henry around. I worry about their future relationship – I want so much for them to be friends. I feel incredibly guilty about arguing with her – shouldn’t I just be loving every single minute I have with her instead!?

Shouldn’t I find it easy to take the upper-hand and just let it all go?

Maybe? Probably? Definitely?

There are lots of things that I don’t know about our four year old and how best to parent her, now and in the future. And I am hoping that this, like other triggers for arguments, is just a phase.

One thing I do know for sure is that I love her so much. I am so proud of her and how she has handled all the changes that have come her way recently.

And that will never change, no matter how many times she rolls her eyes at me!

Any advice? Sibling rivalry getting you down too? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Speak soon x

the struggle.

Hi. My name is Kathryn. And it has been exactly four months since my last blog.

Oops.

You see, I started oliphantum way back in March 2016 with the intention of blogging regularly and creating a little world through which I could get back a bit of “me”. Find my humour and get my creativity going again after having two children and spending a lot of time being poorly and at home.

But it wasn’t always that easy.

Two children is hard.

And why is it that, just like with birth and the first baby, no one actually bothers to tell you exactly how hard!?

No one tells you that sleep deprivation from two small people that don’t sleep feels like pins being consistently stuck into your eyes.

No one tells you that your first born will, at some stage, turn into a miniature Tasmanian devil and try to smother your newborn baby either with love or a pillow!

No one tells you that whilst you thought keeping up with laundry for three people was hell on earth, that doing it for four people will nearly kill you.

No one tells you that what little you had left of your former intelligence will most definitely stick two fingers up at you and leave at the first chance it gets, leaving you a blithering idiot that can only do one thing at a time and talk about nappies for approximately 19 months (I am at this point now – I may be wrong, and I may still be a blithering idiot!).

No one tells you that you will cry more after your second child. Perhaps because no one likes to talk about that part – but they should!!

Then there was my eldest starting school, me starting a new job AND a big house move…just because life didn’t seem hard enough!

Yep, the second half of 2016 was pretty much a disaster.
A really big struggle.

This isn’t a pity party. I’m not looking for sympathy. It just sometimes helps to actually tell people that it’s been hard work.

And that I haven’t coped very well with it.

At times I coped pretty darn badly to be honest.
Craaaaaaaazy woman would be a good name for me, and I’m sure that Mr O would agree.

Thankfully all the poorly in the world, all the stress, upheaval and general ridiculousness has helped me to see things a bit more clearly.

Two children is still going to be hard throughout 2017. Especially because Henry has now turned into a beast that likes to scream at me whenever I even suggest his nappy needs changing and Ruby has decided that she knows everything in the whole world and that I, actually, know nothing.

I don’t do resolutions as a rule. I am never going to give up chocolate and running is alright, but only in summer. So for 2017, here is my annual List of Stuff To Remember:

  • My children are not trying to (purposefully) drive me insane
  • I’ve had a toddler before and survived unscathed
  • Chocolate is good, but in moderation
  • My four year old is the most loving, kind and clever girl – everything we wished she would be
  • Siblings fight and argue, it’s normal
  • Gin and Tonic is my friend
  • Work, although important, is not the be all and end all
  • Find the time to write my blog, because it’s fun and I enjoy it

But mostly I think I need to remember to count my blessings.

I need to remember that I am loved and that I love my family and friends so much. Nothing is worth forgetting that for. Not ever.

Here’s to a fantastic 2017.
Let me know what’s on your Stuff to Remember list in the comments!

Speak soon x

meningitis.

I started oliphantum back in March 2016 as a way to document our life, our world, the way we see things and to show how normal life as a mother of two unfolds in South Staffordshire (if life with children can ever be described as normal that is!).

It was a way in which to get some of my creativity back (I’m a marketing Account Director by trade) and do something fun! And it was also a way to help me get my head back to “normal” after a horrific experience in September 2015.

That horrific experience was the near-loss of our 3 month old son to meningitis.

It’s Meningitis Awareness Week this week (19th – 25th September) and so I wanted to share our story with you, in the hope that it will help to spread the word about how serious the disease is and make more people aware of the symptoms we all need to look out for – especially in babies and toddlers.

the story.

Henry had been a little unsettled and unusually cranky all day, and when he started to be sick I knew that something was wrong.

We called NHS 111 (the free non-emergency advice line) and they advised that we take him to the Out Of Hours service. The Doctor there believed that Henry had a virus and that we should just take him home and monitor his symptoms.

He slept fitfully that night and the next morning he threw up each and every milk feed (a massive disaster since he was breastfed and I wasn’t pumping!!).

He was restless, kept arching his back and I just couldn’t settle him.

We walked his sister to pre-school and on the way home I called the Doctor and booked an emergency appointment as Henry wouldn’t stop being sick and his moans had turned to a constant, high pitched cry (a big symptom that I had no idea about).

I raced him to the surgery as I knew that something was wrong, this wasn’t my baby.

Henry had a fever but it was only just over the ‘normal’ levels, however, because he was just 3 months old the Doctor immediately referred us to the paediatrician at our local hospital.

The triage nurse at the hospital instantly knew that something was wrong, Henry’s screams were now ear-piercing and there was such pain in his cry. He was quickly becoming floppy and unresponsive and I was very scared.

Meningitis hadn’t even crossed my mind at this point (but I later learnt from the nurse that she thought it straight away).

The Junior Doctor assigned to Henry asked immediately for permission to perform a lumbar puncture and explained that he felt it necessary as he believed Henry was suffering from meningitis.

My whole world fell apart.

what happened next.

I couldn’t hear another word that he said as my ears were ringing and all I could think was the worst.

From that point on things happened so quickly. Henry had a cannula inserted and was whisked away for the lumbar puncture. The team advised me not to attend the procedure, and I was glad not to have been there – he was two rooms away but I could still hear him screaming.

When they returned him to me he was so lifeless. He was deteriorating so quickly, and we needed to move fast. We were placed into isolation in a side room and Henry was hooked up to all sorts of different machines to monitor his oxygen levels, vital signs and to administer fluids and medication. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

At this point I hadn’t even had a chance to call Mr O to relay the news, so I waited until he arrived that evening with Ruby (our two year old daughter, for anyone new to the blog!).

It was when Ruby arrived at the hospital that we started to worry about whether she would catch the disease too, but luckily the Doctors assured us that because meningitis has no incubation period, she would be showing symptoms by now if she had it.

The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis came back to us within a few days, and so Henry stayed on the life-saving medication that he had been originally prescribed.

His temperature was highly unstable and would drop dramatically throughout the day and night, so he was constantly monitored every hour for a week until he stabilised and finally started to show signs of improvement.

After a fortnight in hospital we were allowed home, but had to return each day for another fortnight so that Henry could have his medication through his cannula. His hands were so swollen after all the medication and fluids, but slowly that started to return to normal.

We were finally discharged a month after that bloody awful day.

one year on.

It’s been a year since all this happened now, and it has been an interesting one!

At first, every little thing had me on edge.

I didn’t want to sleep, I didn’t want to leave him for a second…which was difficult since we also had Ruby to love and care for!

She started playing up and being a bit naughty, and I don’t blame her either! Here comes this newborn baby, taking away mummy and daddy from her a little and then REALLY taking mummy away for almost a month as she cared for that baby in hospital. What a mess it all was.

A month or so after we were fully discharged we were called back to the hospital for a routine hearing check, and it was at this check that we were told it was likely that Henry’s hearing had been affected by the meningitis.

We have had three follow-up hearing tests since that point and unfortunately Henry’s hearing is deteriorating and there is fluid building up behind his eardrums. We have been advised that Henry will need grommets and/or hearing aids to enable him to hear fully.

If you follow my blog and IG account you’ll know that we have been so lucky.

Henry is a fabulous, clever, funny baby boy, and his hearing problems are minute compared to some of the after effects of meningitis…

We will always be eternally grateful that we caught the disease so early, and that the Doctors and Nurses listened to my instincts that something was wrong – as the story could have ended up far, far worse than the situation we now find ourselves in.

what you need to know.

Meningitis can kill within hours. It’s a vicious disease, and is (sadly) quite common, especially in babies and children.

I bet that the vast majority of you had “the talk” in assembly when at high school, and I bet that you’ve all seen and heard so many things about meningitis in the past. Perhaps you even know of someone that has had meningitis.

But, somehow, it’s still a disease that is all a bit too ‘background noise’ for us to pay much attention…and you never think it will happen to you, but really it’s never been more important to pay attention and learn about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

It can be quite confusing, with some conflicting symptoms. And it’s NOT all about a rash!

Let this cute little baby be your guide to the main things to look out for…

baby-with-symptoms

Looking back on it now, Henry displayed the vast majority of these symptoms…but meningitis didn’t even cross my mind!

So, after all of this I guess the main message really is this:

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

You won’t necessarily know that it’s meningitis. So if you feel something is wrong, don’t wait – go and pester, tell the Doctor that you feel that there’s something really wrong.

And whatever you do, please don’t wait for a rash.

A rash can mean septicaemia. And septicaemia (the blood poisoning version of the disease) is much more life threatening and dangerous to your little one.

Click here to scoot on over to the Meningitis Research Foundation website and read up fully about the symptoms.

Do you have experience of meningitis? What’s your story? I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you dealt with the experience.

If you’re on Instagram or Twitter, share your story using #mymeningitisstory and the Meningitis Research Foundation hashtag #MRFAwarenessWeek

Speak soon,
K x