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!*

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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 last days of summer.

I was originally planning to be all “I don’t particularly care what people are saying, summer hasn’t ended just yet” and chat about the fact that technically it’s not over until later in the month.

However, having woken up this morning shivering, looking through the window at torrential rain and to a baby literally covered head to toe in poo (I guess the Lactulose has finally worked) I am pretty resigned to the fact that we have probably already had the last few days of summer.

Sigh.

All things considered, the small amount of summer that we have had has included some lovely times, like our holiday to Tenerife, trips out, visits to and from family and friends and our many child related adventures!

But, with Ruby starting school this coming week things have been a bit fractious of late, and so our efforts to make this summer one to remember for her have gone a bit pear-shaped to be honest. Think screaming, curly haired tantrums when daddy drives the car but she wanted mummy to drive and peas being thrown in every direction because she wanted carrots and you’re close to (never really) understanding our four year old and how draining the last few weeks have been.

So, last weekend, spontaneously wanting to “make the most” of those precious last few days of summer we took the children to Calke Abbey, a beautiful National Trust property in Derbyshire.

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It’s dubbed the ‘un-stately home’ as the owners were ruined and simply didnt look after the house because they couldn’t afford to (who could!?). The NT have kept it in its shabby state but work hard to preserve it just as it was left…but I just know this from snatched glimpses at fact sheets and hearing snippets of the video about the house because I’ve never actually been in the place! Nope. Don’t be daft. There’s a playground and sheep to see instead!

I thought it would be a great day…we walked round the parkland spotting deer, but Ruby thought that was boring. We climbed trees and did muddy puddle jumping, but Ruby thought that just wasn’t fun enough. We had a picnic overlooking one of the nicest views in the whole estate, which Ruby actually did enjoy because it included food, and we spent time doing crafts and playing in the play stables…which didn’t last long enough and ended in yet another tantrum.

Everyone suffers the rage of a four year old at some point in time, I know we’re not the only ones. And I know that Ruby is really no different to the other four year olds out there and, whilst it wasnt the idyllic day I had imagined it would be, it was time spent together as a family and, considering the weather this weekend I am glad that we took the opportunity for one last effort at some summer fun.

Carrying Henry round on my back could have been the biggest mistake of the summer yet for me though!

In a nutshell I’m now resigned to the fact that summer is over and that school is just around the corner and so I have taken the (wise or stupid, I’ll decide later!) decision to spend the next few days just with Ruby.

We’re basically going to do all the fun stuff I wish we’d done earlier in the summer…whether it’s raining or not! 

And we’re also doing the bits and pieces she has wanted to do but that we haven’t had a chance to…including Finding Dory at the cinema, which basically means I’ll be a blubbering mess by 2pm tomorrow.

Great.

Summer, thanks for popping by, you’ve been interesting. Here’s to next year!

Speak soon, x

soft play cafe.

Since Ruby was born in 2012 and all things child-related came onto our radar, it became strikingly obvious that Lichfield was lacking in small people “stuff”.

More often than not you’d get tutted at, stared at or groaned at for trying to squeeze a pram into an already packed cafe so that you could escape the house for a moment and feel like a normal human being after a morning of non-stop screaming from the tiny human you’d just brought into the world (“if in doubt, go out” and all that).

We’ve been concocting plans for a fabulous, not overly pricey, clean, safe, child-friendly cafe with lovely food and brilliant staff ever since…but it’s always been a pipe-dream and we were never actually ever going to be able to realise it and neither was anyone else.

Then, just this week, along came Little Green Frog Cafe!

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Located in the centre of Lichfield as part of Three Spires Shopping Centre and open daily from 8.30am – 4.30pm, the cafe opens officially on Tuesday 30th August but we were treated to a special sneak preview this weekend.

It’s a superb idea, and a wonderful execution by the super friendly owner-managers Ben and Debs and their team. The light, bright and welcoming cafe is a great size…you don’t feel like you’re sitting on top of anyone and the play zones have been carefully planned to cater perfectly for smalls from around 18 months to 5 years.

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Henry snoozed for the majority of our visit this morning, but Ruby was off exploring as soon as we arrived. She headed straight for the activity corner and was found sat in the tipi with an Albert Einstein style wig on her head and a Cinderella dress from the extensive dressing up section! There’s also a lovely quiet-zone full of books and soft seating for those feeling less energetic…plus Ben explained to me that they are planning to introduce a range of baby friendly play things very soon, which will make the activity zone complete in my opinion. And a perfect place for new mums to meet and get out of the house over the winter months without feeling like they are in people’s way all the time!

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Once awake, Henry loved exploring the soft-play area which is fully equipped with slides, a ball pit and lots of soft blocks and rocking ducks for the little ones. The area was supervised by a lovely member of the team today…I’m not sure if this is always going to be the case, but it’s a great touch. The cafe is a perfect size for always knowing where your child is, and even if it’s busy I imagine you will always feel secure there.

The facilities have been well thought out with a large buggy park, booster seats, plenty of high chairs and wonderful baby changing facilities. Extremely clean dinky toilets for those that are nappy-less are a great touch and, along with the cot in the baby change area, just help to make your visit that bit easier!

Our visit was at 10.30am, so we took great delight in ordering from the scrummy breakfast menu. Mr O and I shared a pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and Ruby had a fruit bowl (which was a good size for the price) and a strawberry milkshake. The highlight for me however was the Deluxe Hot Chocolate which came piled with cream and marshmallows and was one of the better hot chocolates I’ve had for a while.

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All in all it was a lovely way to spend an hour and a half, and with the £3.50 for the play side of things being directly added to your bill at the end it is easy to understand what you’re spending without feeling like you’re constantly paying for stuff. The team are lovely – very friendly, professional and happy to answer any questions…and they even cater for special dietary requirements which I know is very important to a lot of parents.

If you have older children then you’re probably better off searching out one of the bigger soft-play centres outside of town – Little Green Frog cafe is perfect for mamas and papas with babes in arms, toddlers or under 5’s. Which is something Lichfield has never had before and, along with the great programme of activities planned on a weekly basis, is why I can see this place going from strength to strength…

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If you’re in Lichfield, pay Little Green Frog cafe a visit (book online if you’re in a large group) and you won’t be disappointed – especially if you manage to snaffle one of their amazing cakes!

Find out more about Little Green Frog cafe by clicking this link.

the parentals.

Without wishing to sound like the biggest twonk, I am the luckiest person in the world.

And, as it turns out, not only am I the luckiest person in the world where I stand in life here and now, but I have been the luckiest person in the world for approximately 32 years, 11 months and 340 days (oh dear, I’m nearly 33!) and just simply haven’t realised it. 

Technically you could argue that my brother is the luckiest person in the world as he has the great pleasure of sharing his birthday with me (what a marvellous birthday gift a screaming new baby is for a four year old!). But no, that title falls to me.

Lucky you say?! What on earth do you mean?! Well people…this is what I mean:

I’ve been through some trials in my life. Nothing heartachingly devastating, thankfully enough, but stuff like almost dying at the age of 14 from a burst appendix is enough to make anyone thankful that they are still alive and well, no!?

And at every twist and turn, there they have been. The parentals.

I must have been a nightmare growing up. I rarely smiled on family photos because I was usually in a huff about something or other. I was massively competitive with my older brother to the point of distraction. I threw big, huge strops. I would go and hide under the huge clothing rails in Tesco and have everyone searching the store for a “missing” child. It’s a wonder I wasn’t left somewhere with a note warning whomever found me to just leave me there!

But still, there they have always been. By my side and there for me. Always.

I chose a different path to what they might have expected or wanted for me…a different school to my brother which meant a mammoth trek to and from school each day. University, which cost them an absolute fortune and no doubt gave them endless worry and heartache as, for the first six months at least, I cried down the phone nearly every single day. Lichfield, which meant me moving away and 4 hour round trips every time the want to see me.

Plenty stress from the daughter.

And now, now that we have two children here they are again. Always there. Always helping, wherever and however they can. Providing advice and putting up with my strops even now (I don’t think I’ll ever mellow into a low maintenance type). And their love for our children…oh how lucky I am indeed!

And it’s not just my own parents that make me the luckiest person in the world…it’s my inlaws too.

Sickened yet?! 

I am the luckiest person in the world as I have the best in-laws too. They are truly lovely, and help us out so much despite living so far away. I don’t think I could ever repay them for the love, help and support they have shown me over the years.

So, if your parents are with you still and you are reading this as the mother or father to your own wee ones…no matter their age, their location, their state of mind, their contribution…be thankful.

Be thankful for the effort that went into raising you, even if there were horrible times. Be thankful for the sacrifices that were made to give you the scalextric or the Barbie DreamHouse Campervan that has been lovingly hoarded in the loft for an eternity in case you one day have a daughter that will want to play with it (thanks Dad!). Be thankful for the hours spent cleaning up sick, making your meals and stroking your hair as you went through yet another crisis because Peter Gronough didn’t even know who you were (cringe!).

And be thankful that, without even knowing it, they set you up with the tools to deal with the uncertainty, guilt and general mess that comes with being a parent yourself. Because you might not feel it, but you are doing great.

You are indeed the luckiest person in the world.

Except for me 😉

Speak soon, x

driving me crazy.

Travelling in the car is to us what having your nappy changed is to a weeny one. Natural, necessary yet a little bit annoying.

Mr O and I have spent our entire life together travelling up and down motorways as we’ve journeyed from Luton to Doncaster, Blackburn, Lichfield, Coventry, Liverpool, London and many other places in between…and sadly, because of this, we now know the M6, M1, M62 and M18 motorways (and if you know Mr O, the toilets at each service station!) like the backs of our hands.

Our children, being only small are somewhat lacking in the car travel experience department and are, understandably I guess, not really very happy about us trying to provide such a wonderful, joyous education for them.

Take our most recent car journey as an example…

Our best friends live in Leighton Buzzard. Of course they do. Everyone knows that it’s the rule that your best friends must live at least 1.5 hours away down a very busy motorway!

So it started off very well, with the promise of a little nap (sadly not me!) and a sing song before we reached our destination.

In reality it wasn’t any of this. It was a mixture of awful and even worse.

Henry and Ruby took it in turns to be annoyed. Henry would scream and cry, and then when he’d given up, resigned to his fate once more, Ruby would pick up the baton and start whining about us not being there yet, that she wasn’t actually sleepy, that the nursery rhymes weren’t on loud enough, that the radio was too loud (she was trying to sleep after all!)…

It was certainly one of our most interesting car journeys of recent times.

And then there is this:

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Oh, look, another 50mph zone!

The circular sign of doom.

The mark of killer traffic jams, lane creepers, idiots on cruise control…and the fact that our entire motorway network is just full of them, all at the same time, is soul destroying.

We have spent the last 2-3 years filtering slowly through 50mph zones, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually spotted people working. What are they actually doing anyway!? And why has it suddenly become en-vogue to remove crash barriers and replace them with massive concrete walls!? How is that safe!?

Crazy.

So, good people, here are my very special top tips for travelling with small people and how not to end up looking like this:

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Oh dear…

  1. Be prepared – tell them in advance that it will be a long journey
  2. Get them just the right amount of excited – too much excitement will result in endless “Are we nearly there yet?” situations that will make you want to hurl yourself from the moving vehicle. You need them excited to get there but also excited about the getting there itself (the promise of a treat at the half way point usually helps!)
  3. Take stuff with you – no matter how long or short the journey, let them take as much “stuff” as they want. It will keep them occupied and avoid a tantrum when told they can’t take their “stuff” with them
  4. Play nursery rhymes – but do a deal with them first, as a parent you simply cannot listen to nursery rhymes for the entire journey as your ears will bleed. Take it in turns to be in charge of the music!
  5. Spelling games – spot the signs coming up and ask them to tell you how many letters they can see, it usually ends up with them shouting that you’re driving too fast, but it’s a great distraction technique
  6. Counting games – how many red cars can you count etc. etc. will keep them busy for at least 10 minutes
  7. Snacks – doesn’t have to be sweets, can be anything at all. But try to individually wrap things or put them in challenging pots that keep them occupied…sneaky, sneaky mummy!
  8. Don’t engage in small talk – and by this, I mean the talk of the smalls. Just let them witter at you. It’s easier and you can pretend to be a unicorn or something. Or, better still, pretend to be a mute…it angers Ruby, but it might work with your little one!
  9. Pretend to be asleep – you will be shouted at, you will have things thrown at your head, but if you can keep your face straight you are guaranteed at least 15mins of time with your own inane thoughts
  10. Tell stories about your life – if all else fails, use your trump card. Ruby loves hearing stories about me, about Daddy, about our parents and about her Uncles. Tell them everything you can. Teach them about your past, and about the past of your family…they will love it.

I’m hopeful that as they get older things will become easier on the travel front…

They certainly can’t get any worse! Or can they!?!

Share your best and worst travel stories with me…I’d love to hear them.

Speak soon, x

sick tsunami.

We’ve had a bug this weekend. A nasty, horrible, sick-inducing bug.

I think, well I know, that it started mid-week with Henry…who was ridiculously sick all over everything but was then, by some strange miracle, totally fine. Ruby then sat on the sofa all afternoon on Friday, subdued and not her usual self complaining that she felt poorly.

And then came the sick.

Bucketloads of sick.

Luckily I dodged the bullet on cleaning it up as she was fantastic and ran to the toilet before any of the sick actually came out. The poor thing was a little traumatised by it all, but not more so than her Daddy who was completely baffled by how much sick can come from one so small.

We were due to travel to Aberystwyth this weekend to visit Mr O’s brother, his new wife and the youngest Oliphant and his fiancée were coming along too for a right proper catch-up. So, being generally very excited about a weekend with our brothers (wine, chat, good times!) I shrugged off the sick-fest and packed the weekend bag ready to set off bright and early on Saturday morning.

And then came more sick.

But this time the sick was from me.

Now, I know that I am not alone in severely disliking being sick. I mean, who actually enjoys it, right!? But this?! This I really did not enjoy. I cannot believe how sick I was.

Nevertheless, I spent a whole day in bed on Saturday determined to feel much better in the morning so that we could drive to Wales to see everyone on Sunday. How utterly naive of me.

Those with older children, or those that have tackled a bug before, feel free to chuckle at this point – because on Saturday night things got even worse. We literally had no idea what was coming!!

Henry wouldn’t sleep. We’d tried all the usual tricks except for the one where I stand and cuddle and rock him until he goes dopey…because I literally couldn’t stand up for more than a minute without feeling like I was going to die (how we thought I would be better in the morning I have no idea!). Eventually, through some minor miracle he finally went to sleep, so we breathed a sigh of relief and I planned to shift myself off to bed to try to feel better for Wales.

And then came even more sick.

A sick tsunami.

More sick than either of us put together have ever seen. In our lives.

“Muuuuuuuuuumy! Mummy, I’ve been sick in my bed!”

Oh bloomin’ heck.

Poor Ruby was covered head to toe in sick, and her bedroom looked like a scene from The Exorcist. And then Henry woke up screaming.

So, I showered the little sick monster with one hand whilst I bounced Henry on my hip, all the while trying not to be sick again myself and trying to make light of what was a pretty manky situation. She was crying because she realised pretty quickly that this was definitely the end of our plans to go to Wales and Henry was just looking at me as if this was the funniest thing he’d seen so far in his short little life.

She has woken up today completely fine. I however am still feeling like something that was dragged up from the pits of hell, and the fact that I haven’t been able to eat all weekend has made things even worse as I feel so lethargic and fuggy.

Spoiled plans really upset me, especially plans that I have been really looking forward to. We don’t get to see Mr O’s brothers very often, and so the fact that we’ve not been able to see them (and still haven’t been to Aber even though Drew has been there for a VERY long time) has made me feel very upset. We must, must get a new date in the diary, and soon.

Thankfully, this time round, Mr O hasn’t picked up the bug so he has been wonderful looking after the children. There are little parcels of left-over food that will never be eaten all over my poor fridge, the sitting room is a disaster zone, the children look feral and I’ve heard nothing but moaning about how hard it all is from him – but yes, he has been wonderful whilst I’ve been sobbing, whinging and generally moaning about the fact that I’m poorly sick.

Oh well, another week starts tomorrow – August already!

Speak soon x