rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
A few weeks ago I was trying to find a blog post I remembered Tim Harford writing about research into different perceptions of gift-giving depending on whether you are the giver or the recipient.  Along the way I also found that he'd written about Maria Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and rolled my eyes a bit (I have read enough of my friends' reactions to the book to be sure I would personally find it intensely irritating), but was interested to see how he pulled out three principles of economics that Marie Kondo is illustrating:
  • status quo bias (Kondo says throw it out unless it "sparks joy", which Harford sensibly changes to "a compelling reason to keep it")
  • diminishing returns (the tenth pair of jeans is less valuable than the second, which is why you tackle all the things of the same type in one go)
  • opportunity cost (if you can't find a beloved possession under all the other things you have, you can't enjoy it)
So this inspired me a bit to start tackling the chronic mess in the house, a lot of which is down to the fact that things don't have a home, because we haven't got room to put them away, so they don't get tidied away.  I started with the toys in the living room, because they were causing the most friction, and I also thought they were the best case of things that really should "spark joy".  (Clothing rarely does for me, for example, and I doubt the children's school uniform does either.)   It took me a good couple of hours, I did most of the work of division, with the children occasionally challenging my choices in one direction or the other, and at the end of it I had 2 carrier bags for the bin and another 9 for the charity shop.  I reckoned we removed roughly 2/3 of the toys by volume; and what remained is small enough that we can keep similar things together when tidying rather than finding it too overwhelming and shoving everything away anyhow (and making the problem worse).

Nico spontaneously spent ages over the next week playing with some specific wooden jigsaws we literally hadn't seen in months if not years, which rather gloriously illustrated Tim's point about opportunity cost.

I've done several more sessions since, especially in the last few days.  It needs me to have time and energy and inclination to spend several hours at a time sorting through a category of things, because I haven't figured out a way to bitesize it without causing even more disruption to everyone else and/or having my work undone again.  It is tiring to keep making decisions, especially potentially emotionally-fraught decisions.   I found a fourth economic concept coming to my aid: in management accounting I learned the concept of sunk costs, that is, when making decisions it doesn't matter what time and money have already been spent, what matters is the future costs/benefits that will result from the decision. 

The children have learned to trust that I won't take something away if they say they really want it, so at least now let me get on with it until I'm ready for their review, which has sped things up a bit.  And slowly the living room and bedroom spaces are becoming nicer for them.  I've finally removed enough stuff from the children's room that I can actually tidy / reorganise what is left.  This morning I asked Charles if he would rather I took him out to the cinema today, or continued working on their bedroom and he chose the latter.

And for all it seems a bit weird, I've found it sometimes helps me to let go if I say thank you to things as I put them in the discard pile.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
My youngest brother arrived Christmas Eve and was drawn into a conversation with Charles about Transformers before he even put his bag down.

Finding all the presents I'd hidden as I bought them over the past half year, working out what was for who and whether there was a reasonable balance between the children.  Then wrapping them all.  I had managed not to go as overboard as in some previous years, but wrapping still took far too long, even with Tony's help towards the end.

Failing to wake Nico for the evening meal after he'd nodded off with his uncles earlier in the day.  Being interrupted about an hour after the meal by a furious and tired Nico, and spending some interminable period trying to help him through the meltdown enough to try the merits of warm milk and a cuddle.  And then staying up with him until after midnight because Christmas is too exciting!

Tony tweeting: "Father Christmas brought me four packs of coffee and a book of Cambridge barber shop tales. What is he trying to suggest?!"  (It is an open secret to everyone but Nico that I am Santa in this house.)

Calling Charles away from Minecraft to ask if he would like sparkling orange juice for elevenses like the rest of us.  He walked right up to me, paused significantly, and said "No."
"How about salmon on bread?"
"No"
"How about opening your presents?"
"Maybe"

Opening presents together: 4 adults, 2 children, approx 90% of the gifts by volume for the children.  So much fun.

Lovely food by Tony.  Pulling handmade crackers from my aunt as we all sat around the table.

Remembering that I took my last (ever, I sincerely hope!) ATRA dose last Christmas Eve.

Taking a little walk around my local streets in the evening to stretch my legs, and enjoying the variety of decorations on display.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
  • I still have a cough.  I've progressed to the point where I am no longer stupid ill with it, I just ... cough a lot.  I'm not getting enough sleep as a result, but I'm definitely getting better.  Just slowly.
  • I went for my quarterly bone marrow sample on Wednesday; it was probably the least-unpleasant experience yet.  I got the doctor who is particularly skilled at taking them.  I'm pretty certain if there was anything to worry about I'd have had a phone call by now, so I am not worrying.
  • The children had half-term off school, and we sent them to holiday club for 3 days and took 2 days as family holiday to Sheffield where the newest and tiniest cousin is.  As usual, the highlights of Sheffield for the children were, in order: a) trams b) Ponds Forge swimming pool c) their family (especially tiny cousins).
  • I took the children swimming twice in Sheffield.  Charles's birthday party earlier in the month was the first time I've been swimming since getting ill, and I had almost forgotten how much I like it.  Taking them to Ponds Forge is more walking-around-in-water than swimming, especially as I was solely responsible for non-swimmer Nico, but it was fun anyway. 
  • Between cough and holiday and sleep deprivation I am behind on everything and have an assignment deadline on Thursday.  Essay crisis ahoy!
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I went to a short meeting at school to confirm arrangements for Nicholas's start in September.  They are being more flexible than when Charles started: for the first ten days of term, they are offering half-day drop-ins for the new starters, but leaving it up to parents which days and how many sessions to sign up for, suggesting a minimum of two.  Then they are starting the children full time, in three waves.  Nicholas is in the last wave, presumably because he's among the youngest.  So we are able to start sorting out logistics, what days off we will need, giving notice at nursery, and so on.

Charles's class ran an assembly for the rest of the school, showing what they've been working on.  One of those things was filming and editing montages of themselves doing sports, and Charles's montage was one of the ones selected to be shown.  I was terribly proud :-)

Tony and I began our couples counselling with Maggie's Wallace, which seemed to get off to a good start.

I went out and socialised last night with lovely people.

Although I was very tired this morning, I have managed to be sensible and pace myself and get essential things done but not exhaust myself.



Bird of the day: Lesser White-Fronted Goose
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
We just got back from a week in Llandudno, in this rather nice pair of holiday apartments, with my mum, stepdad and my younger two brothers.  It was spacious and nicely presented, a short walk from the station and almost next door to a well-equipped play area.  I know the area fairly well from many childhood visits to my grandmother, who lived in Rhos-on-Sea, and I'm enjoying introducing my own children in turn.

We originally planned and booked this holiday last July, when we were all at my mother's home for a long weekend, and not even the earliest signs of my cancer had appeared.  I've been looking forward to it ever since it became likely I would be well enough to still go.  It was a little experimental: we've not done a holiday in this mode with extended family before, and there was a bunch of admin and planning beforehand to make sure things went fairly smoothly, but I think it paid off well.  An adult:child ratio of 3:1 definitely made things easier!

Highlights for me were:
  • a trip on the Ffestiniog railway to Porthmadog, where we spent a few hours with my aunt and her partner, who'd driven over from Machynlleth
  • seeing Bill Bailey at Venue Cymru
  • spending several afternoons in bed resting/sleeping, knowing there were lots of other adults to play with the children, and feeling so much better as a result
  • discovering a little model railway on the West Shore
There were a whole load of other things I would have liked to do were I fully fit, but I am working on accepting my current limits and it was really very easy to rest and relax and sit around talking with my family and all that good stuff.

One less fun thing that happened was that Charles got temporarily lost while I was on the way to the seafront with him and Nicholas one day, but he did exactly the right thing once he realised he'd got separated from us.  He went up to the sales desk in a large shop and asked to use their phone, gave them my mobile number (which he memorised some years ago), and got through to me to tell me where he was.  The shop turned out to be signed up to a lost-child protocol for the whole town, which meant shortly after I arrived at the shop, so did the local police.  They noted our details and gave me some very polite but firm advice about keeping my children close in a busy tourist town, and agreed with me that Charles had been very sensible.  I was moderately embarrassed on my own account, but very proud of Charles and made sure he knew it.

The other less fun thing was that I had an OU exam in Cambridge on Friday morning.  I came home alone on Thursday evening to get a good night's sleep, and went straight from the exam to the railway station.  I left Cambridge yesterday lunchtime in grey gloom, and arrived back in Llandudno in glorious sunshine just in time for dinner.  Nico and Tony met me halfway back to the house - I heard a small voice shouting "Mummy! Mummy!" and was then obliged to carry an armful of excited three-year-old all the way back while he told me in detail and at volume all about his day.

(I also ended up getting into a really interesting and pleasant conversation with the person sitting opposite on the train from Chester to Llandudno; I love it when that happens, and the journey flew by.)

I'm quite tired now, after the third long train journey in as many days, but hopefully I'll be fine again after a good night's sleep.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Nico has been accepted by the same school as Charles.  It's what we were expecting, but there's a difference between "very likely" and "formally confirmed".  Now I can move on with a bunch of medium-term planning.  First step, finding out if there's room in the afterschool club for him.

Once we get past the initial reception settling-in phase, our weekday logistics will be a lot less complicated for the next two years.  But in about a year's time I have to start evaluating secondary schools, eek.

(If you want to know how the schools application process works, it's all here: http://www4.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20059/schools_and_learning/363/applying_for_a_school_place/4)
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Having a working immune system is great.  My cough is nearly gone and today I went on several buses, and to a place inhabited by large numbers of children, and I might do something similar tomorrow. 

Louise and I took the children by bus to the Funky Fun House; normally I do this by bike but that didn't seem sensible yet.  It's two buses with one change on the edge of the city centre and a short walk at each end.  The children were mostly cooperative and sensible on the journeys, and clearly enjoyed hurtling around at the play barn for hours until I declared time to come home before we got caught in the rain.

Cambridge buses are much less stressful to use if you are in no particular hurry to be anywhere; the long tailback on the way home due to cars queueing for the Grafton Centre was merely a bit dull, and at least we were warm and dry.

When we got home, Nico spent over an hour being entranced by CBeebies Stargazers, which delighted me by having Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock co-presenting.

Louise goes home tomorrow morning; the children and I have a vague plan to do the long bus ride to Cheeky Monkeys once she has departed.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
1. I've taken my last dose of anti-cancer pills this morning, hopefully ever.  Nice timing.

2. Yuletide opens tomorrow.  I discovered this huge fanfic gift exchange four years ago when I was pregnant and rottenly ill with it.  One of my dwircle/LJ friends (don't even remember who!) linked to their gift .  Over the next week I found myself working through the collection as a welcome distraction and bulwark against how miserable I felt - one particular long cold train journey was made bearable by the stories I read on my little smartphone as we trundled along.

I've participated a couple of times now; not this year because for obvious reasons I didn't think I could commit to writing anything (I was right). But the amazing thing about the gift exchange is that all the stories are available to anyone to read.  I now have a little routine: I download all the fics that look interesting in the fandoms I know, and load them into my ebook library held in Calibre.  Then I browse my way through the still-anonymous fics, clicking through from the handy end link to kudos / comment / bookmark as appropriate.  I never ever finish doing this before authors are revealed (and I get emails for all the authors I'm subscribed to), but it means I can continue to read fics anonymously throughout the year.  And of course I look out for recs by others and follow those too.  It's one huge indulgent reading festival, and it starts tomorrow.

3. My children are both SO EXCITED about Christmas; I think about 90% the haul of presents under the tree, and 10% the promise of lots of indulgent food.  It's due to stop raining soon, at which point I'm dragging them to the playground to work off some of their energy.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
First, a picture of me, showing off my new SHAWL (made to order for me by [personal profile] killing_rose / RavenYarnworks - it is the cookie monster shawl on the Etsy page, only with different yarn):

Showing off new shawl

Some closeups of the knitting (click through for bigger photos if you are keen on this kind of thing):

Shawl detailShawl detailShawl detail



And finally, two lovely photos from my dad's visit on Saturday. The children were persuaded to pose together to update the background photo on my dad's tablet from one of Charles holding a baby Nico:

Happy siblings posing together


My dad spent some time helping Nico paint, to both their apparent satisfaction:

Painting together


Charles was also kind enough to supply me with a new icon. I seem to be quite good at provoking his facepalm lately; we are clearly reaching "MUM, you're so EMBARRASSING" territory.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
(Maybe I’ll expand on these at some point, but on past experience probably not)

Acoustic Festival of Britain in June: I met [personal profile] jae  and really liked her! I saw Show of Hands with her! I enjoyed listening to live music and also a night and a day responsible to none but myself. I was really impressed with young Welsh singer Kizzy Crawford. I also realised I really don’t enjoy long-distance driving any more, but I did at least have the audiobook of Ancillary Sword to keep me going.

Read more... )
rmc28: (happy)
I put my hair up in a French-plait for the first time in years.  20 months growing-out since the last time I cut it to 9mm.  Of course, some of it was falling out after the 25-min walk to work, and I redid it twice during the morning and then gave up and shoved it back into a ponytail instead.   But it was nice while it lasted.

Passport with the right name arrived!  (I had a letter last week with a query, which I put on one side to deal with After The Election.  The nice person from the passport office who had written the letter rang me to follow up before I had got round to writing back, and we were able to sort it out by phone.  This was all after office hours on a weekday evening.  I was impressed.)

Railcard with the right name arrived!  (This followed tedious faff which I shall write up separately.)

New sandals for Charles arrived!  (John Lewis were out of stock of the right size when we went shopping on Sunday, but put through the order online for me.)

I'm not sure which of Charles and me is the happiest right now.  But we're both pretty happy :-)
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I've just been ill, and busy, and ill some more.  Did you know that it's entirely typical for coughs to last up to three weeks? Well now I do.

Studying is mostly progressing in bitesize chunks; I've missed a few days while ill, but also picked up once my brain came back, so that's passed the first test of "is this really sustainable?".

My colleague's funeral had a very gratifying turnout; the funeral service itself focused heavily on the afterlife I don't believe in, but I drew a lot of comfort from fellow attendees, and exchanging stories at the wake.   Her family very kindly let me pick out some of her things from the flat they were clearing out.  I focused on books on topics we had in common and came away with more than I would have expected: I was amused when one of the business texts I'd picked out was referenced in my studying a few days later.  Now I just have to find time to read it before finishing the course.

Running is on hold until I stop coughing, which cannot happen soon enough.  Also I missed the 20th anniversary alt.fan.pratchett meet / Pratchett wake, but at least Tony and Charles got to go.

Eastercon is imminent; my mother-in-law arrived tonight and Tony and I will leave the children from Friday morning to Monday evening.  I've not even been away from Nico overnight yet; I have been away from Charles a few times for the length of a conference, but Tony was with him for all of them.  I am nervous and excited and hoping it all works out well.  Mobile phones make the prospect a lot more bearable.

rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
It's half-term next week, most places around the country I gather, and Legoland are running a "Junior Builder Week" - also known as "a use for our lego-themed hotel while it's out of season for the theme park".  We stayed a night in one of the themed family rooms, and the following day there were various lego-building activities around the hotel.

The children, and Charles in particular, loved it from the moment we walked into the hotel reception and there was a giant pool of lego pieces to play with, and a vast wall of minifigs behind reception.  We were the only people checking in at that late hour (it was about 10pm) and the receptionists invited Charles to come behind the counter and look at the Wall of Lego People up close.

The room itself was pretty good, with the children's bunk beds in their own area the other side of the bathroom from the adults' bed.  The bathroom was very smartly fitted out with lots of nice details (integrated small-child seat on toilet! overhead shower and second mobile shower head! Lego-branded shower gel and brick-shaped soap!)  I was in two minds over the "Adventure" theming what with this meaning a carpet lovingly decorated with spiders, lizards, scorpions, etc, and Nico (who is a bit scared of spiders) wasn't very happy about the lego spider in the bathroom.

We did manage to get the children to sleep and they did get something approaching enough sleep overnight (I didn't, but never mind) before we went down to breakfast. Then there was lots of assorted playing with lego (and in Nico's case, with automatic doors to the outdoor play area) until people were hungry enough for lunch.  We opted for the buffet-lunch in the same restaurant as breakfast, and Tony took both boys to the outdoor play area while I enjoyed 15 glorious minutes eating dessert slowly by myself.

Finally we went in the hotel pool and "pirate themed water play area" for a good 90 minutes and after that we decided to head home.  (Nico was asleep within 15 minutes of leaving the pool; Charles nodded off on the bus back to Windsor).  Once again we passed through Windsor and I thought "I should really plan a visit here where we have time to visit the town and not just Legoland."

The one thing I really disliked, that I'd managed to forget when we went to the theme park last year, was the constant piped music, always slightly too loud for comfort, in all the public areas.   The pool area is also very noisy, more a constant roar of white noise than the muzak.  I thought Charles dealt with it very well, but it definitely added to frayed nerves when we were getting hungry or tired.

Charles is already asking when can we go again :-)
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
In a stroke of genius, my inlaws Lucy & Simon bought matching jumpers for the four children. It took quite some effort to pose a baby, two toddlers and an 8-year-old together, and parents had to be in there too to settle them down, but here, see the cuteness that is my children and their cousins:

Four cousins and their mothers


We kept the jumpers on our two for the journey home. It's my experience that dressing them alike gets an "aww cute" reaction which gives us rather more slack for them being children in public. Anyway, the two of them in matching jumpers holding hands through the non-accessible bits of the underground was a sight to behold. If I hadn't been carrying a buggy up and down flights of stairs, I would have photographed it for you.

(In fact any way of playing up the "aww cute" is helpful, which I first realised during Eastercon when C was a toddler. We got a lot more approval and a lot less annoyed huffing when he was running around dressed up as dragon or spider than we did when he was "just" a toddler running around.)
rmc28: (wedding)
I fell asleep sometime after midnight.  At some point after that Nico woke up and came into my bed.  Charles woke me up at 5am, but was persuaded to go away again.  And at 6am.  And at 7am.   At 8am I finally felt ready to wake up properly.

Nico got much more into opening his stocking this year; Charles mostly resisted the urge to play with all his brother's stocking-contents as well as his own.  As last year, I put the (excessive number of) presents behind the fireguard in front of the unused fire to keep them out of curious toddler hands.  Mid-morning there was a little present avalanche and the fireguard fell over.  We put it back up up but further out from the fire, and left the presents where they had slid.

I'm wearing a tshirt with Olaf from Frozen, with the slogan "I'm All Out Of Shape".  We've had a mellow morning eating treat breakfasts and too much chocolate, and Nico playing Let It Go and dancing/singing along.  Now Tony has made the salmon-on-bread and poured the bucks fizz.  Charles is wearing a Santa hat and preparing to hand out presents, and all is well with the world inside my home.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Three years ago I bought us a new artificial tree, and spent a Saturday afternoon in bed gestating, while Tony and Charles assembled and decorated the tree.

A year later, Charles did the tree mostly by himself and roped Tony in to help, while I looked after 6-month-old Nico.

Last year, we opted not to try for the tree at all, given how mobile and unreasonable our 18-month-old toddler was.

This year, Charles helpfully pointed out that if we waited until 1st December we would be rushed because it was a schoolnight, and therefore it would be much more sensible to put the tree up today. This time we included Nico until his "help" became too difficult for Charles to handle, and I took Nico off elsewhere to distract him while Tony and Charles decorated the tree.

So far, Nico is being fairly sensible around it, but presents are still going behind the fireguard to reduce temptation.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Scene: 8am today, nagging C to get dressed because we are already behind schedule for getting out to school. "Remember Mummy, I have to dress up as someone out of history!"

Argh. Flail. "Robin Hood isn't historical Mummy" (which cheered me). So we went for "wedding suit and top hat, you can be Brunel" except he decided he wanted to be a Victorian magician. So I made a top hat and a wand out of thick black paper and sellotape in about 10 minutes, and he got breakfast and cleaned his teeth and got to school on time. I was only a little late to work.

Charles, in outfit and brandishing his wand, on the stairs
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Someone (and I don't remember who, I'm very sorry) on my DW / LJ follow lists linked me a few months ago to this amazing "Mass Bolero" - a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Torvill & Dean's Olympic gold. The dance was re-choreographed to work on land, and broken into 10-second segments and all sorts of community groups across Nottingham learned one 10-second segment each, and then it's all filmed and stitched together beautifully. I think my favourite is the rugby players, but I love the whole thing, the huge variety of bodies and backgrounds, sizes and shapes.



Each of the children like to watch it with me, I think they are getting different things out of it. Anyway, after we'd watched the tribute a few tens of times, I looked for a video of the original. In contrast to the mass community production, this is the very specific hair-raising beauty that comes from very talented people who have practiced very very hard to get everything just so.



And just for fun I found another 30th anniversary version, this time from ITV's Dancing on Ice. Just how good and how practiced those two athletes still are:


rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
C: "Mum, I know why the tooth fairy was a day late that one time when I put the tooth under my pillow and she didn't come and take it away that night but the next one.  It's because you fell asleep early that night, and you are disguising yourself as the tooth fairy!"

Me: "Is that so?  Shall I stop?"

C: "No! Because I like getting the money."


There is a new tooth going under the pillow tonight.  I'm currently considering leaving extra tonight as a bonus for having worked it out.

I'm wondering if when he'll take the next logical step and figure out who's filling the stockings on Christmas Eve.

(Now both children are dancing around the kitchen to Talking 'Bout My Generation. Sometimes they are lovely together.)

rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
Charles is 8 today.  We took advantage of a teacher training day last week and spent Friday and Saturday at Legoland Windsor, which was a good family trip, but very tiring.  He got a few birthday presents there from us, and some more from relatives when we got home.

I've been living in Cambridge for 18 years now.   I am finding this strangely hard to comprehend.

[icon is a recent photo of C holding his baby cousin the mustardseed]
rmc28: (silly)
Nico has a new consistent and very clear word: Poo. 

Charles finds this very funny.  Ok, so do I.

Also Charles has begun asking daily when we are going to have another baby.   He doesn't like the answer "Never".  This is the stereotype one expects from one's mother-in-law, not one's beloved firstborn.
rmc28: (reading)
At his request, I just read the opening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as Charles's bedtime reading.   He was really engaged until sleepiness won.    We've also got the films, but he was quite definite about reading each book first before watching its film(s). 

I haven't actually seen the last four films either, and it's been a while since I read the books.  I'm so looking forward to sharing this with him.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
1. He wants ukulele lessons.  I am entirely happy to support this, but it just took me five minutes to find my chequebook.  I wonder if I can persuade the music teacher to take bank transfers if he sticks with it after this half-term.

2. He has convinced me he can cross the one quiet road safely so he is now walking (most of the way) to school by himself.  Except the first bit is my route to work so yesterday we had an argument because he wanted to Do It Himself so refused to walk with me, and I wouldn't set off for work until I knew he was on his way.  So we had this embarrassing standoff halfway down the road until a friend of his turned up and he could save face by walking with friend.

3. He was losing his temper in the shop yesterday and
a) actually listened when I suggested going outside to wait for me and calm down and
b) found that it did actually work and came back much calmer, if still upset, about five minutes later. 
We continue to discuss the merits of walking away and counting to ten.  I'm making a lot of use of the latter at the moment ....

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I woke up a bit after 4am to find both children had come into my bed during the night, despite neither starting the night that way.  I snuck downstairs to watch the end of the Scottish referendum results.  No more than 15 minutes later, Nico turned up next to my chair looking very sleepy.  About 15 minutes after that Charles turned up looking worried and very sleepy.

I've spent the next hour or so fielding questions about the election from Charles e.g.
"What does 'united' mean?" 
"Why wouldn't Scotland want to be independent?"
"What's a nation?"

Meanwhile Nico is playing with wooden blocks and ignoring the tv.


ETA: well, that was a disappointment
rmc28: (charles-dragon)
I've talked to some people in person about this, but I wanted to make a brief public post, not least because this topic is going to absorb a lot of my attention for the foreseeable future.

Charles was formally diagnosed with high-functioning autism last month.  Tony & I were not entirely surprised, but now that our suspicions have been formally confirmed, we have a lot of catch-up learning to do.

The letter we have says "high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (also known as Asperger's syndrome)" and later on says "in the medical profession, the term Asperger's syndrome is being phased out and the term high functioning autistic spectrum disorder is being used more frequently". Meanwhile the National Autistic Society insists there is a difference between autism and AS.  

The doctor who made the final diagnosis talked with me for some time and recommended a number of resources (listed below). In addition, I can talk with my youngest brother, who was diagnosed very young, and with our parents for their perspective.

I am interested in recommendations / feedback on recommendations, and will prioritise in the following order:
  1. people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  2. people parenting children who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  3. therapists, psychiatrists, or similarly-qualified people with recent experience working with people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  4. everyone else
Comments here, or emails to me at rmcf @ cb4.eu if you want to keep it non-public.

I don't want to talk specifically about Charles on this post, and will probably keep that to locked posts and direct conversations.


Resources

From the doctor:
National Autistic Society, in particular the resources on visual supports
The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Anthony Attwod
Managing Anxiety in People with Asperger's
by Anne Chalfant
Mental Health Aspects of Autism by Mohammad Ghaziuddin

From this Captain Awkward post I also identified:
Asperger's From The Inside Out by Michael John Carley

I've got copies of all the above books now.

Based on the NAS website age-appropriate recommendations I've picked out the following to read with Charles, which are on their way.
I Know Someone With Autism by Sue Barraclough
Can I Tell You About Autism? by Jude Welton
A Book About What Autism Can Be Like by Sue Adams

and we also have the NAS's own publication What is Asperger syndrome and how will it affect me? on the way (they are out of stock of I have Autism .... what's that? but I will look out for it being back in stock if the AS one is any good).
rmc28: (bat-funny)
Charles: plays with shiny new Angry Birds Star Wars book from my father
Charles: watches Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Charles: "Oooh! Mace Windu! He is so cool!"
Me: "Do you recognise the actor playing Mace Windu? Have you seen him before?"
Charles: focuses fiercely for a few minutes
Charles: "NICK FURY !?!  THAT IS SO COOL."

Clearly I am going to have to work through SLJ's backlist to see if there is anything else I'm prepared to let a nearly-8-year-old watch.  (I'm only just okay with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that's only if I'm there with him and keeping a careful eye on his reactions to it.)


rmc28: Rachel with manic grin holding up wrist with new watch on (watch)
Charles and Tony made me a birthday cake yesterday:
Nearly ran out of candles

Yes, I did blow out all the candles, but only just, and then sucked in a breath full of candlesmoke, so it took a while for the spluttering and coughing to calm down. But then we had cake to eat, so it was all good.

There was a bit of a theme of the children "borrowing" my gifts yesterday:
Roll roll roll

Charles takes a turn

Otherwise I celebrated by going out for a run and by catching up on some of the Enormous To-Do List.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
We spent most of a week in Sheffield, which was nice and sunny when we arrived and when we left, and rained most of the rest of the time. 

Our accommodation was a family room in a travelodge, very near the Ponds Forge swimming pool, which we visited several times and enjoyed greatly.  There's a little toddler pool (strictly under-8s, constant supervision), and a big main pool with an intermittent wave machine and a 'river' running all around the outside.  There are also two flumes but I was engaged with N on my first visit and they were shut on my second.  N went from terrified of the pool on his first visit to gleeful wading and sliding until he was turning blue with cold at the end of the last.

For getting around, we bought week-long "Citywide" (for adults) and "Getabout" (for children) train+tram tickets, which did the job nicely (except I made a mistake on the first day and bought the wrong sort for a day, which was nearly £20 we didn't need to spend, sigh).  Travel to and from was by prebooked trains, with sets of four seats reserved each way on the long leg from Sheffield to Ely.  Strictly, we don't need to buy a ticket for Nico as he is clearly under five.  Practically however, he doesn't sit on anyone's lap for long, and it's much easier to manage both the children if we have a set of four seats to ourselves, rather than trying to work around a complete stranger in the fourth seat.

Apart from swimming and riding trams, our main bit of tourism was visiting the Kelham Island Steam Museum, which was a real delight.  Charles was absorbed and looking around at everything for most of two hours.  Nico was particularly engrossed by a couple of the exhibits (one where you turn a handle to make light/move a train, another where you have to work out which additions to steel are appropriate for which purpose, against the clock).  He also loved watching a large gas-powered engine spinning, and did lots of spinning himself in response.  We made sure to time our visit to see the enormous River Don engine in steam, which held a whole mass of visitors completely enthralled.

We had a bit of drama in the visit at a point where I thought Charles was with Tony, and Tony thought he was with me, and of course he was with neither of us, having got engrossed in a particularly interesting exhibit.  I was helping Nico who was finding the steam-themed children's play area a bit too challenging, when a member of staff found me and brought me to a scared Charles in the reception area.  Both children promptly burst into tears and clung on to me while I simultaneously tried to soothe them, reassure the staff, and answer a phone call from Tony.  The museum staff were completely lovely about the whole thing, and I'm very grateful to them.

Sheffield being a lot closer to my mother's home than Cambridge, we took the opportunity for a day trip to Leeds midweek to meet up with mum and my stepfather Mick.  Mick's grandchild Sophie came with them, which suited both her and Charles very well.  We had lovely curry at Mumtaz (now licenced as 'Chandelier' to sell alcohol), and then ambled across for an hour or two in the Royal Armouries.  I confess, I primarily treated it as a free dry space with somewhere to sit down with my mother and Nico, though the rest of the party did some actual looking at the exhibits.   I mainly got to enjoy the amazing staircase lined with weaponry, while letting N wear himself out climbing it.

We deliberately didn't try to pack too much into any one day, and came home on Friday so as to have a whole weekend to catch up before returning to work.  As a result I'm feeling about as rested as I ever manage, given toddler.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I bashed the little toe on my right foot this morning by walking into my own bedroom furniture (I have form for this).  From its state this evening I suspect I broke it.  NHS Choices assures me that there is little to be done but strap it up and wait for it to get better.  I am supposed to be running another half-marathon in 2.5 weeks, and doing a long training run this weekend.  Humph.

To cheer myself up, three good things:
  1. ALL THE BLOSSOM.  There are multiple trees in blossom outside the window of my office.  SO LOVELY.
  2. I actually used "On your left!" appropriately while cycling past a pedestrian on one of the shared-use paths on my commute.  Then I felt terribly self-conscious.  But I will probably do it again when appropriate, because it makes me giggle inside.
  3. The children are being lovely: Nico is using "Dada" and "Mama" consistently, and Charles is being very solicitous while I sit with my foot appropriately raised.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Today was so warm I wore sandals. The children voluntarily went out into the garden. I took them to the playground this morning, an idea greeted with enormous enthusiasm:

Setting out on a sunny day
[Two children grinning at the camera in bright sunlight, in front of some crocuses]

They were especially keen on the swings, either with me pushing them both:

Round swing 2
[Same two children sitting together on a large round swing, one looking up, one looking down]

or with Charles playing big brother:

Swings 2
[The older child is mid-push of the younger in a baby swing; in the background all the play equipment basks in the sun]
rmc28: (bat-funny)
This is brought to you courtesy of excessive watching of the Captain America: Winter Soldier trailer (only 25 days to go here!), and extensive discussion with Charles on who belongs in which category.

Avengers venn diagram

[Venn diagram: 3 circles labelled "FAST", "STRONG", "METAL ARM". In the intersection of all three is WINTER SOLDIER. Other Marvel heroes are allocated to appropriate sections of the diagram.]

Edited to add: the inspiration of this is the bit in the trailer where Steve Rogers says "he's fast ... strong ... had a metal arm" over an illustrative set of visuals.
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
This week I have been to "Christmas songs" featuring Charles's year group at primary school, and "Nativity Play" featuring what seemed to be the entire enrolment of Nico's nursery.  The two events have left me filled with
a) delight in the enthusiasm and creativity of children and the teachers and childcarers
b) increasingly homicidal rage towards other parents/carers who keep standing up and blocking my view of a)

Being British, I expressed b) by folding my arms and frowning slightly at their backs while internally vowing to turn up at least 15 minutes early next year so I can sit in the first couple of rows.

I'm having a similarly split attitude towards Christmas in general: where my family and friends are concerned I've been enjoying the planning and the choosing of gifts and the social events and the getting ready, but as far as people in general are concerned I basically cannot wait for the point where I get to go home on Christmas Eve and shut the door on the outside world for at least a couple of days.

I think my lurking misanthropy stems from being deeply tired: work is busiest from August through to November, so I have just started to catch up on things-not-instantly-urgent.  I am struggling failing to keep up with my study schedule, and the children are both being clingy and demanding in different infuriating, entirely understandable, age-appropriate ways.  A week off work isn't going to fix any of this, but it will help. 

Charles is very excited about Christmas, and Nico is just old enough to start appreciating that something special is happening - he was rapt and delighted by the decorations C & T put up yesterday.  I have bought both children far too many presents (which need wrapping, argh) and am very much looking forward to watching their reactions when they get to open them.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I spent Friday trying to dispatch a cold with soup and distraction. I did not succeed, so I have spent the weekend feeling ill and sulking about not being able to go running. Yesterday I spent in my pjs, but today I felt better enough to get dressed, and Charles did the honours with my camera.

Read more... )
rmc28: (charles2011)
Exchanging very punny emails with my older child (at a distance of about 10m).  Every so often he leans back from the family computer and says "MUM I SENT YOU ANOTHER ONE", watching to see my reaction as I read it.

His puns are funny to my taste, and he has spelled everything correctly too!

rmc28: (charles2011)
Charles had another bout of career planning yesterday, as we walked together to get Nico from nursery.  "I want to be a teacher in a nursery and look after the babies and help them stop crying.  AND, if the baby has an older brother, I will tell the older brother how to make the baby laugh and stop crying."

He asked Nico's key worker R about how you become a nursery teacher, and she said the job title is "nursery practitioner" - it used to be "nursery nurse" but this changed recently to avoid confusion with actual nurses.   There are apprentices at the nursery who do a day a week in college and work the other four days; but it is also possible to do the written learning online.

Charles thought a bit and said "I could probably manage college just one day a week".  I pointed out he needed to finish school first anyway.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
+ On Tuesday we found Nico has two more teeth, at the back of the mouth, making a total of 10
- Also we found he had an ear infection
+ Which we took to the GP surgery in Llandovery, who were willing to work with the railway timetable to give us an appointment yesterday morning
+ And prescribed antibiotics whrich have already had an effect within 24 hours
+ Meanwhile Charles went swimming for the second time and loved it

- It is our last day at Seren Loft
+ But the weather has gone back to gorgeously sunny
+ And it has been a good week

I've done a bit of study but not as much as I hoped; we've all chilled out quite a lot, we've had good excursions to Llandovery (x3) and Llandeilo and Llandrindod Wells, and we may even have some social time with our hosts this evening.

Travel tomorrow and a weekend to recover and then back to work / kidsclub / nursery respectively.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Last weekend we went to Paris for 4 nights, to kick off our family summer holidays. We managed to coincide with a peak in the local heatwave, in a hotel room without air-conditioning. Ouch. We managed, but it was hard work at times (loud room with windows open or quiet-but-roasting room with windows shut).

What we did in Paris )
We were back home before 7pm, and between us had just enough oomph to get unpacked and everyone fed and into bed. Although it was still warm in Cambridge, it wasn't as fierce as Paris had been, and our house is easier to keep cool than that hotel room.

We then had a couple of days at home before coming out to Wales for a week at Seren Loft. So far we are enjoying it very much - the hot weather was with us on Friday and the first bit of Saturday but we've had lots of rain since. I commented to Tony that my many childhood holidays in Wales have led me to associate "rain falling on wooded hills" with feeling relaxed and happy (so long as I am somewhere safe and warm looking at it). The children like the Loft a lot, and Charles is especially enamoured of the artists studio beneath it. I have brought my OU textbooks and am vaguely thinking of spending a fair bit of time in the studio studying while Charles Does Art, and Tony has lots of baby time.

rmc28: (charles2011)
[C is waving a firefighter's helmet around]

Me: Do you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?

Charles: No, I want to be a dad. [pause] And one of those people, what are they called? Who give lifts?  Taxis?

Me: A taxi driver?

Charles: Yes.  A dad and a taxi driver.


.....

As [twitter.com profile] ghoti pointed out, taxi-driver is a job that can combine well with childcare duties.

rmc28: Rachel with manic grin holding up wrist with new watch on (watch)
I got a new watch today. I haven't had a working watch since December: I had one dead-battery rotary, and one working-but-back-falling off digital. I finally got enough grip to remember to take them both with me on an errand into town on Wednesday, and confirmed that it would basically cost as much to repair either of them as it would to get a new one.

Since December, I have found it really frustrating not being able to flick a quick glance at my wrist to tell the time, but having to drag out my phone from a pocket or bag. The ridiculous relief when I got my new! shiny! watch! on my wrist today was overwhelming - five months' pent-up frustration I think.

Anyway, I vented a bit of my excitement on twitter, and my friend asked for a "bad internet photo of it on your wrist" so I obliged, and decided it would do as a new icon too.

Today has also featured a family expedition into town:
  • Watching The Gruffalo's Child at Cambridge Arts Theatre.
  • Buying an Angry Birds hat on impulse for Charles
  • Lunch at Pizza Express for the four of us. We got two children's meals and Nico ate between a quarter and a third of his and then requested a feed.
  • Shopping for new shoes and new non-school clothes for Charles.
  • Shopping for shallow plates for Nicholas to eat from, as he'd done well with the shallow bowl in the restaurant.
Nico helpfully slept through all of the shopping in my sling, and woke up only when I sat down at home again. Since then he has been toddling industriously around the house, amicably torturing the cat (who is too old or too tolerant to run away) and repeatedly stealing my phone and/or the tv remote control. He's definitely a toddler now, not a baby.

Some phone-photos from today behind the cut:

Grainy cuteness! )
rmc28: (bat-funny)
Nicholas is getting old enough to be interested in board books, and so we have dug out the old favourites from when Charles was a similar age, reminding ourselves of the joys of Room on the Broom, and That's Not My Misc Item. An additional joy is that these are just about the right level for Charles to read aloud, and so more than once I have found him reading them to Nicholas.

Some of you my remember That's Not My Superhero. Last week I wrote That's Not My Avenger and put them both on AO3 while I was at it. (I got kudos this morning, it made me happy.)

That's not my Avenger )

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I am sitting on Charles's bed, with the contents of his stocking on one side, and those of mine & Nicholas's on the other. As is becoming traditional, Charles opened his, then mine, with excited commentary. Apparently Santa chose very well this year. I am trying not to look too obviously smug.

We have fetched down a box of Charles's old baby toys & got two biggish ones out. Nico is sitting between my legs, playing industriously & Charles & I are looking on & talking together.

We are trying to let Tony sleep in: he has a lot of cooking ahead today. My brothers haven't emerged from their respective rooms yet[1] and the stockings on each bedroom door remain undisturbed. Soon I will go pull on some clothes & go downstairs with my boys for breakfast and maybe we will watch some silly tv. There are a lot of presents under the tree, disproportionately many for Charles.

[1] Jonny lives with us, my middle brother; Matt, the youngest, arrived on Sunday; Dan, the oldest, plans to drop in tomorrow.

Life is good.

Matt has just emerged, asking for wrapping paper. And I thought I was being last-minute wrapping late last night.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Just some quick photos caught on my phone of Charles sharing sunglasses with Nicholas.

Nico tries the sunglasses

Charles tries the sunglasses

Cool dudes

I wish I was more in the habit of picking up the little point-and-click digital camera than the phone though, it consistently gets much better photos than the phone.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Work
I restarted work! Mondays and Tuesdays only. Tony is not working on those days, and brings Nico to me at lunchtime. We heat up lunch in the little kitchen microwave and sit together at a table in the foyer of my building. I eat and cuddle my baby and feed him, and most times I also take him off to the ladies' loos and change him, and almost always I get to show him off to a passing colleague or three. And then I give him back and go back to the office and work for another 4 hours.

I love it: being back at work, feeling useful and competent, but not having to go too long without my baby cuddles, and getting to do a big feed rather than a big pump at lunchtime. It's not quite as good as the conference creche but it's SO much better than going all day without seeing my baby at all, and a huge improvement on the work pattern we did with Charles where I went from 0730 to 1330 without my baby 5 days a week and didn't see Tony properly except at weekends.


Running
All the updates are on [community profile] c25k but basically it's going well and I am liking it more than I thought I would. I've had a cold this weekend which has kept me indoors and I am missing it more than I expected.


Study
Going well, though I have been less good at getting in my weekly hours since starting work. There was a tutorial yesterday at Hill's Road and I was too ill to go, which annoyed me.


Charles turned 6 last weekend and we held a party at home for some of his schoolfriends (note for future reference that "colouring in pictures" which I'd thought of as an easy-to-join-on-arrival activity kept the assembled children happy for nearly an hour). He asked for an Angry Birds theme and we did our best, including commissioning this most excellent cake from [twitter.com profile] planetxanna (it was delicious too):

Pay cake #1: Angry Birds. On time! on Twitpic

He seems to be enjoying year 1 of school and certainly it is stretching him a bit harder than Reception. We are supposed to get him to read out loud to us for 10 minutes a day and we probably manage it 80% of the time. He has started spontaneously reading out random signs on the street and titles of books we leave lying around. It is really, really cool to see him starting to use this skill as a tool for himself rather than just something we or school ask him to perform.


Nicholas is three months old, almost certainly teething (dribbling, gumming hard down on things), smiling at people with great enthusiasm, failing to sit up but wanting to, sleeping midnight to six most nights plus several other naps each day, continuing to breastfeed plentifully and remaining beautifully baby-chubby. He is getting the hang of hitting and grabbing things on the baby gym but would mostly rather be held/carried in a sling.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
We've had nearly two weeks of the "family" timetable and it's beginning to bed in, just in time for me to disappear to Lib Dem Conference with Nicholas and disrupt everything ...  This week I actually managed to do my 5 hours of study, and I'm working on Charles doing his daily homework actually daily as requested by his class teacher.

I seem to be more-or-less physically recovered from the surgery, though I'm being quite cautious about increasing the weights that I lift, until I'm sure.  Mentally, I am very ready to be doing other things than 24-hour babycare.  The family timetable and the OU study are helping here, but even more will be my return to work in ten days.  It'll just be Mondays & Tuesdays until the end of the year, but I miss my work, I miss the people I work with and I miss being able to work on something solidly for more than 10 minutes without having to schedule 3 other people to free me up.

Also I think it'll be good for Tony and Nicholas (and Tony and Charles outside school hours) to have their two days a week together, build their confidence in each other without me around to interfere.

Putting myself together for conference and work, I've been getting important appointments done, like my post-natal check, a haircut, and a vital Rigby & Peller bra-fitting.  I now have supportive, well-fitting nursing bras and a fiercely supportive sports bra.  My last trainers died sometime during my pregnancy so I bought a new pair from John Lewis - rather cheaper than going to Advance Performance, but the service showed it.  So no excuses for not starting C25k when I get back home from Conference.

My suitcase is half-packed and I have been procrastinating actually reading the agenda and setting my timetable, but there's still a bit of time before I head out for the bus to the train to the seaside.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Birthday boy with baby
We all went to the Discworld Convention in Birmingham last weekend, including escaping for a day to visit Cadbury World, as we were already so near to Bournville. For me it was a lovely social weekend, but I felt a bit less fannishly engaged than I would have liked to be, and am thinking on the likely causes and possible solutions for next time.

Charles fails to pose for photo at #paralympics
On Thursday I took the children (yay) to the Olympic Park having secured park-only Paralympic tickets, so we could "soak up the atmosphere" - we had no entry to any events but with a newborn and a restless five-year-old I doubt we'd have stayed long in any audience. We probably saw about a quarter of the park, had a meal, bought some souvenirs, and then gave in to the chilly damp weather and headed home again.
On our way home, Charles is worn out


On Friday, I took the children (yay) to Welwyn to meet up with Tony's sister, who has her own bump due to disgorge in a few weeks, for a lunch of gossip, and to pass on all the late-pregnancy / newborn baby stuff that we no longer need. Welwyn is easy for us to reach by train and for her to reach by car, and may become a good "compromise" meeting place for more frequent meetings in future, when neither family wants to do the full 2-3 hour journey to see the other.

Pumping kit & bottle inventory - or "how does all this fit together again?"
The week before DWCon, I dug out all the breast milk pumping/sterilising/storage stuff I kept since Charles stopped taking bottles about five years ago. The steriliser now has a place in the kitchen, and I culled out enough bottles to support the level of pumping I'm aiming for (no more than 2-3 times a week, to be used short-term, not bothering with a freezer stash). The rest of the milk storage went to SIL. I've started using breastshells to protect my clothing from my huge oversupply, and sometimes manage to sterilise them so the milk can be saved for use in a bottle later. I've had a couple of pumping sessions to provide for babysitting, and filled my first donation bottle for the local NICU. It's sitting in the freezer until I've completed all the paperwork so my milk can be used, and my intention is that it will get a friend filled every time I pump from now on.


Charles taking a turn at feeding his brother

rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
We've been home since Wednesday evening. I've spent most of the intervening time in or on my bed, though I am slowly increasing the amount of time I spend downstairs each day.
Cut to spare reading pages )

Tomorrow I may venture out of the house and I think we should be up to visitors from Monday.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Things I've done this week while trying to distract myself from obsessing about going into labour:
  • Took Charles swimming in the school pool - this is thanks to nice parents who have passed the resuscitation course and are opening it for a minimal cost after school twice a week.  It is small and shallow and when I next take him I may not bother going in, as he can basically manage just fine in it without me.
  • Cambridge Geek Night which I went to for the first time and really enjoyed.  The first talk, by Greg Law on setting up a software company, had me grabbing to make notes within a few minutes, and led to some interesting conversation in the break.  The second talk, by Lucy Chambers on the Data Journalism Handbook, provoked more questions, and definitely exposed a split in opinion of the attendees between those who wanted to see more journalists understand data/stats/science and those who wanted to see more scientists/geeks get good at journalism and storytelling.    And then lots and lots of interesting conversation with other attendees until I started falling over tired.  The next CGN is Tuesday 21st August, with [twitter.com profile] julianhuppert and [twitter.com profile] markgfh, a combination which I shall certainly be keen to see.
  • Started the Udacity statistics course, which really ought to be pushed at journalists everywhere, along with the Data Journalism Handbook.  Udacity itself looks interesting - currently it's mostly computer science with a bit of physics and the statistics course, so really I ought to know the subject matter already, but I like the concept.
  • Learned some French on DuoLingo - this was recommended to me by [twitter.com profile] catherine237 and it's social-media-gamification applied to language learning.  There are short lessons within which one gains "skill points" and as these build up one goes up levels.  It's in beta, expansion by invite only, and I have two invitations left.  Languages covered are French, German & Spanish for English speakers, and English for Spanish speakers.
  • VBAC class at the hospital with Tony, which mostly covered stuff we knew, but gave us some new valuable nuggets of information.  My favourite thing is the handout of a truly useful checklist of questions to ask when presented with a proposed intervention which I think could be usefully generalised across most medical interactions.  Of the five mothers there, I was the only one who had had a full labour last-time, and I found it annoyingly hard to verbalise what contractions are like and how pushing feels when asked.
  • Avengers Assemble at the cinema with Keith (4th time for me, 2nd for him) and yes I'm still enjoying it.
  • Midwife checkup: routine, everything continues normal & healthy, blood pressure fine, passenger head down and back to front of my bump, i.e. ideal position to start labour.  I probably won't see a midwife at the surgery again: I have an antenatal clinic appointment next week and by the middle of the following week I should have given birth.
  • Walk/leaflet delivery/pub lunch/gossip with [personal profile] pseudomonas which was jolly nice and got me out of the house and gently exercising as I should.
  • School summer fete which was heaving and incredibly hot and sunny.  We got cake for my birthday and I successfully restricted Charles to a very few small toys.  I spent probably too much money on bouncy castle sessions for him, but it's an entertaining way of giving money to the school. We also saw a display of tap and ballet dance from the dance school he's started at this half-term, learning Streetdance and apparently loving it.  He was pretty fascinated by the display, but he's already internalised the "ballet is for girls" message, *sigh*. 
  • Turned 35 but didn't plan any celebration as I wasn't sure what I'd be doing.  Vague hopes of a double birthday were not realised.  I think we'll have a birthday-and-baby party sometime next month.  [livejournal.com profile] fanf got me a large box of chocolates, which was just what I wanted.
  • Talked to a landscape gardener about how to rescue our front garden from weeds and our back garden from hen-inflicted devastation and end up with something we have half a chance of maintaining nicely.  A quote will come sometime next week.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I've now been on maternity leave for four weeks.  The school runs give my day some structure, but I have to admit I mostly sit and rest rather than do much with the time in between, despite my best intentions.  I have managed to sort and declutter the remaining heaps of outgrown children's clothes so we now have neatly-packed boxes of clothes sorted by age group from newborn to five and a couple of boxes of baby toys ready.  

[livejournal.com profile] j4 & [livejournal.com profile] addedentry very kindly gave us a moses basket and a baby play mat when I visited them at the end of May.  I have picked out a buggy and a nappy change table to buy just as soon as I clear the space for them to go into (this is supposed to be an incentive for me to finish the necessary decluttering next week ...).  I have filled in my "VBAC pathway" with my midwife - essentially a structured birth plan on an A4 form - and written out a checklist of actions/decision points for when I go into labour.  Tomorrow I reach 37 weeks and can go into labour without it being labelled as premature.  I expect it will be at least a week or two more though.

The last week has been half-term for Charles (and I think pretty much all schoolchildren in the UK).  We had a lovely long weekend featuring parties on Friday night, Saturday, and Monday night, plus a Big Lunch organised by the local Residents Association on Sunday.  Tuesday was rather quiet as a result, and on Wednesday morning Charles & I headed off by train to stay with my mum and stepdad in Todmorden for a few days.  It was very rainy throughout the visit and we mostly stayed indoors .  Charles seemed to appreciate having lots of one-to-one time with me, and time with his granny.  He also spent a lot of time watching Mick lay flooring in the attic.  I got to have a fair bit of time talking to my mum about everything and nothing.   Overall it was a very restful and pleasant little holiday, even if both Charles and I missed Tony a lot (video calls at bedtime helped).

While I was in Todmorden, I finally got around to reading a couple of books bought several months ago, on the grounds they would rapidly become irrelevant if I didn't: Pregnancy & Birth Handbook, by Dr Miriam Stoppard and Your Best Birth, by Ricki Lake & Abby Epstein.  The former felt very much like a revision session and I basically skim-read it.  The latter is very US-centric and puts my irritation with certain patronising obstetricians at the Rosie into perspective - I am left profoundly grateful that I'm giving birth here rather than there. The book has a good chapter on VBAC and again I felt as though I had usefully revised everything I needed to know rather than learning new stuff.  There was some other good stuff  about birth companions and having reasonable expectations of one's partner under stress, and talking about worries together in advance. 

I was amused by the little section in Your Best Birth on using art and creative writing to bring out and address one's fears of labour and birth.  I summarised research and wrote checklists to do that.  Checklists are sort-of creative, right?

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Charles took the news fairly calmly.  "I didn't know foxes eating hens was actually real" (he has had both Fantastic Mr Fox and The Foxbusters read to him this year).  He insisted on seeing the dead hens for the very sensible reason that "I don't know what a dead hen looks like".   Out in the garden, we discovered that one of the bodies had gone entirely; the other had been moved, so presumably the dratted fox came back after the pesky humans had gone away again.  I'm glad we took the time to find and move our survivor (Dilma) into safety.  

Charles noted the remaining body in a kind of "oh, that's what it looks like" way and seemed much more interested in checking on Dilma, who was sitting on the nesting box in the hen house, still apparently ok.    Back inside he asked for cuddles and we had a conversation about feeling sad and whether I'd cried (yes) and then got on with his usual weekend-morning routine.

When I'm dressed I will bury the remaining body and if the weather remains dry get some garden tidying-up done too.
rmc28: (rmcf+fcdf)
... I was in labour and just beginning to struggle with contractions; we had the whole night to go before Charles arrived, courtesy of an ambulance ride and a surgery team.

This evening we went to the library and paid off his accumulated fees and fines, wandered around the shops together where I managed to buy him a present without him seeing, and had supper together at McDonalds. We talked about school and his new friends and everything and nothing. Back at home, he and Tony are making something with Hama beads he was given by a friend at his birthday party last Saturday.

Ailbhe, as so often, wrote a suitable poem, reproduced below with just the gendered words changed:


"You'll miss the baby days," they used to say -
"So short and sweet and then all gone away,"
But I don't miss those days at all, I find,
While I am witness to your unfolding mind.

I loved the baby days: delight
And joy, us wide awake at night,
But now the baby boy is gone,
And you were in there growing, all along.

I love the child you are now so much more
Than ever I could love the babe before
And daily grows my joy, as you do grow,
That ever-changing you is who I know.

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rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Rachel Coleman

April 2017

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