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Monthly Archives: January 2012

A new chapter?

A year or so ago I decided to start making greetings cards. I know it sounds quite ‘twee’ but I enjoy designing and crafting so it means I have a creative project to get my teeth into and hopefully make a small income from it at the same time.

I started in earnest with great plans of designing and making wedding stationery, creating a few designs and building a website. I soon realised that wedding stationery would mean waaaay too much pressure (I’ve been a bride, I know what they’re like) at a time in my life when I don’t need any more of the stuff.

So, I am keeping it small scale for now. I have a handful of birthday and baby designs which I sell on my website and on Etsy. I’m continuing to build up my stock and in the summer would like to get along to some local markets and craft fairs to see how I fare.

I’m really enjoying crochet at the moment too, and hope to expand eventually to crotchet goodies and perhaps patchwork baby blankets but we’ll see. For now, with 2 little ones and another business I have my hands full but I’m definitely looking forward to this new little venture and seeing where it may lead.

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We acquire the strength we have overcome

As a parent, the very worst thing you can imagine is something terrible happening to your child. Something terrible did happen to my child 3 years ago which I’d like to share with you. It may happen to you (or someone you know). Statistics tell us it will and this may help remove some of the blind panic and terror I experienced and leave you better equipped to deal with it.

3 years ago, when Finn was 10 months old, I spent approximately 2 minutes thinking I was going to lose him. These were the longest 2 minutes of my life, the feelings during which I can never explain but just remembering that moment still brings me to tears, 3 years on.

10pm and Finn is sleeping soundly. I, at 3 months pregnant am doing the same in the room next door. Andy is at the Studio, putting up signs on our new building. I am woken by a part cry, part moan coming from Finley’s room. If you’re a parent you’ll now that any unusual noise coming from your baby is an immediate cause for alarm and I jumped up, instantly awake (no mean feat for a 3-month-pregnant lady) and ran to his aid.

He was bright red and stiff as a board, almost like he was paralysed with his little arms fixed to his sides and feet pointed like a mini ballerina. As I lifted him to me I felt him red hot and his head lolled like a newborn’s. I ran downstairs, grabbed the phone and dialled 999 then Andy.

The operator was calm and assured me help was on it’s way. He kept me talking and tried to calm me down. I was, as you can imagine, beside myself, sobbing for someone to help my baby. He ran though some vital questions (is he breathing etc.) and told me to call straight back if I was worried before the ambulance arrived.

Minutes later, Finn stopped breathing. That was the moment. The moment I never want to experience for as long as I live, when I thought my baby was dead. I frantically called the emergency services again and with that, saw the blue lights outside my door.

4 paramedics ran into the living room. 3 to his aid and 1 to me. They were incredibly calm, I was in awe of this serenity in such a situation. At this point, Finn was breathing, though still unconscious and rigid. The paramedics took his temperature, confirming what I already knew, that he was running a very high fever and swiftly administered Calpol and ibuprofen.

We stripped off his clothes and I held him tightly to me as they explained their suspicions, that some babies have immature immune systems and are unable to regulate their temperature. When a fever ‘spikes’ i.e. raises rapidly, it causes the brain to go into overdrive and triggers a convulsion.

When we think of a convulsion, fever or fit, we think of someone lying in the ground, limbs shaking and twitching. The paramedics explained that Finn was also likely experiencing a kind of convulsion, one which causes the muscles to tighten and limbs stiffen.

I was asked to get dressed and pack a bag for myself and Finn as we were to be taken to the Children’s hospital for tests. Andy, now home after a frenzied drive back, followed on the car.

Once at the hospital, Finn had cooled down and was in more of a normal, albeit very sleepy state. More tests were done, urine taken (not easy to do with a 10-month-old) and we were taken up to the ward for an overnight stay so they could observe him closer and determine exactly what had happened.

He was wired up to a machine to monitor his blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation and placed in a cot in just his nappy, which to me seemed unbelievably cruel in the middle of January but I was assured he was to be kept cool.

Andy returned home (there is only one adult bed next to the cot and we figured we’d function better if at least one of us got some sleep, though I doubt he did) and I sat watching my now sleeping baby. Every fibre in my body was telling me to crawl into the crib with him, pick him up and hold him to me but the wires and devices attached to his little body prevented me from doing so. I felt like my heart at been ripped out, trampled and put back in my chest.

Needless to say, sleep didn’t come easy that night. The nurses had to come and do hourly checks, each time waking him as they probed his ear with the thermometer and each time weakening me a little further, the longing to hold him close getting stronger with each visit.

When morning came, I was straight up and succumbing to my primal instincts, reached into the cot and pulled my baby to me, careful not to displace any vital equipment attached to him. I let him sleep on me, reassured by the gentle rise and fall of his body until the consultant paid us a visit.

They were worried about his chest and wanted to x-ray him. Andy hadn’t yet arrived and, being pregnant I was unable to go down with him. He had to be torn from me, both of us in tears as he was taken down with a nurse to have the x-ray.

At some point during the day, he was to be given IV antibiotics as a precaution. It took 2 nurses and me to hold him down to get the needle in his chubby little hand. Because he was so fleshy they couldn’t locate the vein. Here we were, him writhing in pain, me holding him down when all I wanted to do was push them away, get the needles away from my baby and gather him into me. A lasting memory is the look he gave me as they’re trying to get the vein, blood everywhere, his eyes twisted in pain looking directly at me as if to say ‘help me, Mummy. You’re supposed to be protecting me’, yet there I was, on their side fighting against him.

The results came back and they confirmed he had pneumonia and the fever had indeed induced a convulsion. He was kept in another night for observation and when they were happy all was well, we were sent home, tired and emotionally drained with a bottle of antibiotics and ibuprofen.

Since then he’s had at least 10 more convulsions. Each time accompanied by a fever and each time putting the fear of God into me. As he’s gotten older, they have become more like ‘fits’, eyes rolling, mouth foaming, body shaking and a few times he’s stopped breathing. It is, frankly, terrifying.

During the 4 months following this first episode, we had 3 more hospital stays. He had to endure a lumbar puncture and spent 3 days in an intensive care unit in New York (not a holiday I’d ever like to repeat).

So, why am I telling you all this? Before this happened to us, I had no idea this could happen. I’ve since discovered that they affect 1 in 20 children between the ages of one and four. In most cases, they are harmless and merely a complication of the rapid rise in temperature. It’s extremely rare for them to cause long-term damage and most children will grow out of them by the age of six.

Melissa has a child who suffers from them and recently tweeted that a lady who’d read her blog was with her niece when she had her fist seizure and, as such, knew how to deal with it. I hope it doesn’t happen to any of you but if you’ve read this, and it does, I hope you’ll at least be a bit less scared.

It often happens without warning but is sometimes preceded by a viral infection or illness. If your child does start to convulse, put them in the recovery position, make sure their airways are clear and dial 999. Whilst you’re waiting for help, strip them done to their nappy and administer Calpol (infant paracetamol) once they’ve stopped shaking.

Bake me a cake as fast as you can

Yesterday, in honour of my husband’s birthday (like I need an excuse) I made some brownies. I’ve never made brownies before but when I saw the recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy book, I couldn’t resist.

It was all going so well. The Lion King was playing in the living room and the little ones were quiet. Then came Max. He sprang into the room, announcing his desire to ‘help’. So without further ado, here is Lydia & Max’s guide to baking Oreo brownies…

You will need…

165g Butter, plus extra for greasing
200g Dark chocolate, finely grated (after 30 seconds of trying to grate the stupid skinny slab of chocolate which kept snapping, I just chopped it into small pieces, it worked fine)
3 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
The seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 2 tsps vanilla extract (I used the latter)
165g Soft light brown sugar
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch salt
154g Pack Oreo biscuits
Icing sugar (for dusting)

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm/8in square tin.

Wash hands. Explain to 2-year-old why they need to wash their hands. Position chair by sink, place 2-year-old on chair. Tell 2-year-old to stay still whilst you wash their hands. Tell 2-year-old not to get down. Recover 2-year-old from the other side of the kitchen and place back on chair. Wash their hands. Tell 2-year-old not to splash. Dry self and 2-year-old.

Position a chair by your working area and place 2-year-old on chair. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Remove from heat and intercept just before 2-year-old’s finger plops into the hot melted butter.

Extract chopped chocolate from 2-year-old’s grasp and explain it’s not for eating now. Add the chocolate to the butter, leave for a few minutes. Intercept again. When the chocolate has melted, stir together. Remove celery stalk from pan. Tell 2-year-old to stir less vigorously. Clean up splattered butter and chocolate mix from worktop/splashbacks/microwave/coffee machine.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Stop 2-year-old drinking vanilla extract.

Add the sugar in 2 additions, whisking between each. Pour the sugar around the egg mix so as not to knock the air out. (Read: chuck the lot in, followed by the measuring bowl). Remove the bowl and keep whisking until the mixture becomes stiff.

Once the egg mixture is ready, remove 2-year-old’s hand from chocolate mixture and pour in, again around the sides so you don’t knock the air out.

Retrieve eggy whisk from 2-year-old and set aside.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and a third of the biscuits (or whatever you have left that’s not in the child’s mouth). Re-prepare the tin after finding the buttery paper on the dog’s head, stir until combined and pour into the prepared tin.

Scatter the remaining biscuits (if you have any left) over the top, pressing them in slightly, and bake on the middle shelf for 25-30 mins. The middle will be slightly gooey.

Pass chocolatey spatula to 2-year-old so you get A MOMENT’S PEACE and pour yourself a gin.

Leave the brownies to cool in the tin. The top may sink and crack slightly but this will only add to the texture and reflects perfectly on your state of mind.

If you want to see the actual recipe and how it should be done properly, find it here

I just wish I’d taken more pictures, rather than just the end result. Cooking with toddlers is actually very frustrating funny and the state of the kitchen when we’d finished was laughable.

No 2-year-olds or dogs were hurt during the making of these brownies

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Nothing happens by chance, my friend

Luck:  Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions

It would probably have been more appropriate for me to have written this 2 days ago, on Friday 13th but I was out having way too much fun on my mini-adventure so didn’t get the opportunity.

My husband and I started a business 5 years ago. Frequently, we are told “you’re so lucky” referring to us being given this opportunity. Each time, I wince internally and bite my tongue, for what we’ve achieved has nothing to do with luck.

I have quoted the Oxford English definition of luck above. Our success has not been bought by chance, rather 6 years of hard work and sacrifice.

When the company Andy & I worked for hit tough times 6 years ago, we decided the risk was too great by staying there, like sitting ducks waiting to lose our jobs (and being deeply unhappy at work).  We set about starting our own sports therapy and rehabilitation studio.

For 6 months or so we were swamped by business plans, finance applications and spent weeks in business start-up seminars until we were finally ready to make the leap and register our business. That was the easy part compared to what came next.

We found premesis to rent and had an offer accepted. I found out I was pregnant 2 weeks later. Bad planning? Perhaps, but it would not hold us back and we went on, full steam ahead. To cut a very boring long story short, negotiations went on and the lease took 18 months to complete.

Andy had already left his job and was operating in the same place but on a contracted-out basis. I was studying for an accounting qualification and have a very vivid memory (and I think video evidence) of me, sat at the computer with a 3-day old nursing baby, entering invoices into our bookkeeping system (to clarify, I was entering the invoices, not the baby). I sat my first exam 6 weeks after Finn was born, those first 6 weeks a blur of nappies, very little sleep and accounting conventions. NOT how I imagined my first 6 weeks as a Mum.

No sooner had we got the keys to our new studio than I had fallen pregnant a second time (this was not a mistake by the way, unplanned would be my term of choice). The studio was a bare shell so a 7-month-old Finn was kept occupied in his playpen in the corner whilst Andy and I (in between bouts of nausea and exhaustion) painted, plumbled, built and created our studio, our dream finally realised.

I worked until 2 days before giving birth. Andy took 2 days paternity leave then continued his 14-hour working days, leaving me (often sobbing) with 2 babies on my own. I continued to work weekends after Max was born. He’d accompany me in his car seat and watch on as I number-crunched and desperately willed my lagging brain to keep functioning.

2 years on and the business is flourishing. Andy is still working the long days and misses out on a lot of the boys’ growing up. Yes, the business is doing well but, as anyone who’s run a business knows, that money is channelled straight back into the business so we’re yet to see a financial gain.

We’ve recently employed a fantastic personal trainer/sports therapist. Hopefully soon Andy can start working more ‘normal’ hours and we can have a better quality of life.

Reading this back, it sounds like I’m having a right old whinge. I appreciate many people are in much worse positions than us and we’ve achieved a lot which I’m incredibly thankful for. This was a dream of ours for a very long time and there’s nothing like seeing your dream finally realised and we love every minute of our jobs. I do, however, reiterate that we’re not ‘lucky’. ‘Lucky’ would be winning the lottery or finding a tenner on the street.

We’ve worked bloody hard for what we have and I urge anyone who has an ambition to do the same. We had very little money to start-up, it was all done on believing in ourselves and using our confidence in that belief to gain faith from others that we could make it work. And we have.

Another fine example of following your dreams is Helen. Her ambition has just been realised in the shape of Lionheart magazine, a beautiful, inspiring independent magazine. Proof that if you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen, luck or no luck.

A Friday Adventure

Ok, so calling it an adventure makes it sound much more grand than it actually was. Although I’ve lived in Bristol my whole life (bar a 3 year jaunt across the other side of the world) I live out-of-town and rarely venture into the heart of the city. Only for work (and that doesn’t count).

Today I had to collect my Mum from a garage in Bristol and we had a few hours to kill before her car would be ready. Although I see her every Friday when she’s off work, we rarely actually do anything of any note.

So we decided today to have a little meander through Clifton. She (mis?) spent her youth there and always enjoys visiting her old stomping ground. Plus, she knows the are way better than me so I’m (not entirely) less likely to get lost, as I so often do.

A school friend of mine, Jess, regularly tweets about her cakey adventures with her gorgeous daughter in the village so our first stop was the Mall Deli. We decided to stop for a coffee and couldn’t resist one of their delicious cakes. The lady took the boys to the front of the cafe to choose a cupcake each and Mum and I shared a slice of coffee & walnut cake.

The staff were wonderful and the cakes absolutely delicious. Since the Lionheart launch I’ve had The Homemade Mama’s cupcakes on my mind and wondered if these would satisfy my cravings. Although not quite up to Kimberlee’s fine creations, they were a close second, absolutely delish. We’ll certainly be visiting again soon. Oh, and they do children’s hot chocolate too. Made them feel very grown-up.

As we passed Lisa Elliott, the florist herself came out bearing armfuls of hydrangeas. I had some of these in the house last year and can’t resist their perfume filling the room (and, er, masking the doggy-baby smell). She immediately struck up a conversation with Finn, asking if he knew what colours the flowers were and telling him the names of the blooms. He was enthralled, and we were sold. 2 Pots were put aside for us to collect on our way back.

A quick browse around the antiques shop (man, I could spend some serious money in those places if, like, I had some), a stop at the butchers and we were on our way back. We collected our flowers and my boys received their first rose each from the florist. Well, who’d have thought a single red rose could please 2 children so much? (did I ever tell you how easily pleased my kids are?).

So, clutching their newly acquired stems in one hand and the other paw clinging to the grown-ups we made our way back (via Waitrose, of course) to the garage and ended our City adventure.

I’ve just received an email from my Mum listing all the things which made her smile today. The list was massive and it just proves that pleasure can be gained from the simplest things in life. Even if one of those things is my eldest son falling down the toilet 🙂

I would walk 500 miles

I read today that 60% of us make a resolution to lose weight in the new year. I’m not usually one of those, I try to keep active throughout the year and am lucky that my shape remains pretty constant.

This year however, I have a goal. My brother is getting married in Barcelona this summer and it will involve an (eek!) pool party. I’ve not squished myself into a bikini since my honeymoon. 7 Years older and 2 children later I’m not exactly confident about prancing around in a two-piece without a bit of, um, sculpting going on.

I listed my aims for the year earlier this week and included a goal to be more active with this in mind. Joanna had a fabulous idea of setting herself a set mileage each day to run, or walk if that’s not possible.

I love this idea and it would be brilliant if I could run each day but, with a husband who is away from 6am-10pm each day and no childcare (bar an expensive creche at the gym which is rationed to once a week) I don’t think I’d manage.

Getting into running in the last year and long walks with this guy…

…have made me appreciate how rewarding exercising outdoors can be. If 8 years previously working as a personal trainer taught me anything it’s that the most successful people in terms of inch-loss and exercise adherence are those who do something they enjoy.

I walk roughly 4 miles a day at the moment to let off the endless labrador-energy harnessed by the above hound. It’s easy, cheap and I can take the kids along too. This is fine to keep things ticking over but the time has come to up the ante and shift the last stubborn inches clinging on for dear life.

So, I’ve set myself a (rather ambitious) challenge of covering 50 miles a week which I can walk, run, cycle or swim to achieve.  It sounds alot now as I’m typing it but with the walks, cycling to work and some runs and swims thrown in, I think I can do it. It’ll be a challenge but that’s the point, right?

So, picturing myself lounging around the pool in the Spanish sunshine, sipping chilled champagne, I embark on this challenge. 16 Miles covered so far this week I have some catching up to do but am confident I can do it. Anyone want to have a go too?

Thanks for the memories

Last night we said goodbye to 2011. In style of course, with champagne flowing and bellies filled to bursting. Today has been much about reviewing, reminiscing and enjoying the memories created over the past 12 months…

January

A month of discovery, learning self-feeding and what tactile fun can be had with lumpy porridge

February

Signalled the end of a tiring journey to my first half marathon. Completed in a respectable 2 hours and 15 minutes. An achievement indeed, one to hopefully build on in 2012

March

A third birthday this month. Enjoyed so much that he finally gave in to slumber still clutching his celebratory balloon

April

Royal history was made and enjoyed complete with patriotic face paint and little flags waved furiously at the beautiful princess on screen

May

Was a month spent enjoying the good (and not so good) British weather. Trips to the seaside made for much merriment with seaweed

June

Saw the first harvest of our veggies. Patience not being my strongest attribute (something of a weakness when trying to grow-your-own) I couldn’t resist pulling one of the babies up to see how they were coming along. Did this little guy a favour as it happened. His brothers and sisters sadly perished thanks to the dreaded root fly

July

Another birthday, this time for an excited 2 year old and the start of months of gorilla spotting around Bristol to celebrate Bristol Zoo’s 175th birthday

August

Provides one of the biggest events in the Bristol calendar, the international balloon fiesta. Sadly, I didn’t get any snaps of the festival itself but the wind was in our favour and I did capture the salt-and-pepper sky as the balloons came over our house

September

Provided us with a last opportunity to soak up the Indian summer sun. We took a trip to Slimbridge and made the most of the water park in the late summer heat

October

I picked up this little chap from a farm shop and as well as a (probably not so) spooky Halloween lantern, he provided pumpkin bread, muffins and a delicious soup, all for about £1.50. Who says you can’t eat well on a budget?

November

Chicken pox x2. A tough month

December

My absolute favourite time of the year. Christmas craft, cake, Baileys and sparkly things more than made up for a crappy November

So here’s to a happy and healthy 2012. Happy new year everyone x