Thursday, 21 November 2013


We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary recently (actually we forgot but that's another story!).  That same date was also the anniversary of something that has become equally if not more important to us.  It is the anniversary of the day we found out our first child had been born with a congenital heart defect.

Ds1 post surgery in November 2000
I had originally written a post about this day and finding out about our son's condition but when I read it back I felt that it was too emotional.  I wanted to write about the excellent doctors and other staff we encountered 13 years ago while at Alder Hey and how they saved ds1's life that day. My post didn't convey this at all and this made me feel like a fraud.  It made me feel this way because while we had some very stressful times when ds1 was ill, we did all come through it.  The memories are still very raw for me as a parent but ds1 is, as far as anyone else is concerned, a very normal 13 year old boy.  We are so lucky because he survived.  There are plenty of parents who do not get the same happy ending however, and I'm very conscious of this.

When we had our second child we were immediately offered a pulse oximetry test for her.  Dh took her to the special care baby unit while I was recovering and they were gone for only 15 minutes or so.  It was such a simple test to do and quickly put our minds at rest as to the health of our newborn daughter. Our hospital had the equipment and so no extra cost was incurred.  Had ds1 had the same test at birth it would potentially have picked up his condition, Transposition of the Great Arteries, straight away and he would have had surgery sooner, which would have been better for him and for the surgeons too.  

A few months back I was surprised when a friend posted a link to a petition on Facebook campaigning for pulse oximetry screening in newborns.  More than 10 years has passed since dd1 had her test and still this hasn't been rolled out so that every newborn in every hospital in Britain can have the same.  About a third of all congenital heart disease in newborns is detected before birth via the 20 week anomaly scan, pulse oximetry screening could raise this figure to three quarters if it were available to all.  That's a lot of children that could be helped sooner and a lot of parents prevented from going through what we had to.  It would even save lives.

I would urge anyone reading this to sign the petition.  My original draft of this post talked about how all the healthcare professionals that saw ds1 after his birth had missed his condition, I was very angry about this, but now I'm not.  The reason I'm not is that it really wasn't their fault.  In order for any healthcare professional to help us they have to be given tools to enable them.  There is an argument that adding an additional test to newborn screening would use up valuable NHS resources, but having the test in place would have meant in ds1's case that there would have been no extra visits from my health visitor in the early days, no doctors appointments, no ambulance called, no late night transfer to Alder Hey, and that's a lot of resource that could have been saved.  A link to the petition can be found here along with more information on pulse oximetry screening.

Our wedding anniversary this year was a celebration of 17 years of marriage, it was also a celebration that 13 years ago we were very lucky.  I hope that one day other new parents will no longer need to be as lucky as we were because their babies are able to have this test.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Dear Santa...

This week I've been spending much of my time in front of the computer in a kind of paralysed fashion as I try to work out who's getting what for Christmas.  The worst part is having to co-ordinate the purchase of stocking fillers and this has taken me via a great number of websites while I attempt to compile a list (or five!).  I thought that seeing as I've spent so much time thinking about the children this week it might also be fun for me to compile my own Christmas present wish list.  With five children to buy for, dh and I don't often buy each other a gift.  We'd generally rather spend our money on really nice food and some good wine as a reward for all of our undercover work as "Santa" anyway.  If, however, we had an unlimited budget, these are the things that I'm coveting just for me.

As you may gather, I do a lot of school runs - 3 a day on average, so because I spend so much time doing this it is important to me to look the part and be able to stay warm and dry in the winter.  My wardrobe is suffering a little at the moment.  To add insult to injury I have seen several people at the school gate and even my own mother sporting beautiful winter coats from Seasalt Cornwall.  To say I am envious is an understatement.  Not only are the coats warm but they are really waterproof.  Mum has the North Star Coat in a sort of grey/black shade which is really lovely.  As it happens thats my favourite one too but in order to avoid looking like her as well as sounding like her, I'd plump for a different colour.

I look JUST like this on the school run - honest

In addition to this I'd love a new pair of winter boots.  I've been coveting a brown pair of mid calf boots for some time, but never seem to be able to justify the spend - then I bitterly regret not buying them all winter.  Well, that's happened again this year too, but if I could I'd have these ones from Clarks.

National Sugar Boots by Clarks - £89.99

To complete the look, I'd really like a new bag, a waterproof one of course! (Can you tell it rains a lot where we live?)  My favourite one at the moment would have to be this Garden Bird Cross Body Bag from Cath Kidston.  I love the dark colours - a must when there are small children about.

I have a bit of a thing for bird prints too

When I think of Christmas I remember all of those gift sets of overly smelly toiletries that relatives used to give me as a teen (I don't think they were trying to tell me I needed a bath - I hope!) and I do still quite like that sort of thing now I'm a fully fledged grown up.  Last year we bought my mother in law a great little set from Bomb Cosmetics for Christmas.  The trouble was that when she opened it I instantly wished I'd bought one for myself too.  They have some wonderful Christmas themed sets this year and at £12.99 I think even the kids should be able to club together to get me one!

Pocket Money Prices! *stares hard at children*

If they were feeling especially flush I'd quite like some make-up from Benefit Cosmetics.  There are so many lovely sets to choose from, I'm not sure where to start!  As long as there was lip gloss of some sort in it, they couldn't go too far wrong.

Lip Gloss and Blusher - what's not to like?

I couldn't forget something for our home, after all, when I'm not doing the school run I'm generally here!  Before the children came along I had a pretty impressive collection of Alessi Kitchen and home-ware.  I used to really enjoy collecting it and displaying it all, however, most of it has now made way for more practical and child friendly items - even my whistling kettle is now in the loft :(.  On my search for presents this week, this Alessi Mediterraneo Fruit Basket caught my eye - very stylish and also big enough to hold all the fruit that we consume as a family in a week!

This would have pride of place in the middle of my kitchen table

I'd also like this wonderful smelling reed diffuser from John Lewis.  I love the last one that we had from Heyland and Whittle, but it has all gone now and I really miss the uplifting scent it provided.

Of course, this is all fantasy (unfortunately) and so I'll never actually get any of it unless I save hard for ever a while.  So to finish off my list I think I'd better make the last thing a present for my dh.  If he bought me even one or two items off my list he would really deserve it after all.  It's from Emma Bridgewater who are local to us and best of all its in the sale! (Although if it was full price I'd still get it for him).

Yeah!  He even cooks the Christmas lunch so this is totally deserved

Having said all of this, while its rather nice to get piles of presents on Christmas morning, after the events of the last few weeks I'll be rather glad to just have my all family around me on the big day.  I know I will enjoy seeing my children's faces as they open their presents far more than I'd enjoy any gift of my own and so with that in mind I'm off to carry on my Christmas shopping and attempt to find them all something they'll love.  With a bit of luck I may even get it all finished before the beginning of December...

What are you planning for Christmas, any good gifts?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

This is not a sponsored post - if it was then there would probably be an outside chance of me owning this stuff.  All ideas are sadly just in my head...

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A Hug Without Permission

I'm linking this post up with Kylie at Not Even a Bag of Sugar.  It's a blog that I've read since the twins were tiny and it has given me great comfort particularly during the twins first year when their prematurity was more of an issue for us.  The 17th of November is World Prematurity Day and Bliss, along with organisations worldwide, are running the campaign #giveahug to raise awareness of pre term birth.

My twins were born seven weeks early.  We had expected them to arrive a little early as twins often do.  I had a scheduled Caesarian Section booked for when I was 38 weeks, in fact the day it was booked my consultant had seen me, I'd had a scan and been told everything was fine.  However, my waters broke that night and due to the fact that our local hospital had a full Special Care Baby Unit the decision was made to transfer me from there to a hospital 50 miles from home, which had space in their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

I spent the next three days on bed rest while the consultant there tried to stave off my labour.  He thought he'd been successful but on the 4th of October 2009 at about 1.00 pm I was declared to be in full labour, 7 cm dilated with twins who were now both breech!  What followed was quite a blur.  No theatre and not enough staff, no anaesthetist either.  The twins delivery wasn't anything like I had planned for.  I had imagined being proudly wheeled out of theatre with a baby in the crook of each arm - that first hug with them both that proclaimed me a mother of twins.  Instead I was separated from them for more than a day. Neither dh or I got a cuddle with our babies for the best part of a week. 

Then, slowly the hugs came.  Despite having three older children and a lot of experience of looking after small babies, caring for the twins was completely different.  I couldn't pick them up when I felt like it or even change them without permission.  Hugs were scheduled as part of a routine.  I remember our first cuddle together very well.  I enjoyed it so much that dh had to remind me, an hour later that we had to go and pick up the other children from school and so we needed to leave the unit.  Begrudgingly I let the nurse put our babies back in their cots.  Most visits were like that, there never seemed to be enough time.

First hug together - not how I'd imagined

Something most parents of premature babies experience is that they don't feel like mum or dad until they are allowed to leave hospital with their child.  My twins were 18 days old when I finally got to be in charge, to hug them without asking permission first.  I get lots of hugs now of course, sometimes almost more than I can cope with in one go!  I appreciate them all because I remember how long I waited for them.  Every single one of them is special to me.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Ranty Friday - It's a brand new day, what you waiting for?

I'm not usually accustomed to writing ranty posts on my blog, but this whole week has wound me up, so I'm joining in with Mummy Barrow's Ranty Friday linky so that I can vent my spleen.  I'll apologise in advance, it's long.

For some reason, despite the lack of anything Disney related in our house (we don't even have Sky), my kids have picked up on the annoying Micky Mouse Clubhouse Hot Dog Song.  The song is so bloody annoying that considering I had never seen it myself until I checked out YouTube earlier, I cannot seem to get it out of my head.  "It's a brand new day, what you waiting for?" sings Mickey (clearly ignoring the rules of grammar there).  So, my cheery little mouse friend, shall I tell you what I've been waiting for this week?

This week started off waiting for the local hospital to schedule an operation for my poor mother who yet again needs surgery.  No problem, said I, we'll just wait for the call and organise things from there.  Shouldn't be too difficult.  Wrong.  Hospital phoned on Monday afternoon - could she come in for a pre-op now, the surgery will be tomorrow.  So, we dropped everything and rushed to the hospital, leaving dh to sort out school pick up, feeding children their tea and a kennel for the dog (oh, yes my mother has a dog, which brings me to my next point).

So, surgery all sorted out.  The pre-op people were actually very good although the hospital fleeced us for £2.20 for two hours parking along the way.  We get home and dh has sorted out the dog with a great kennel.  My in-laws use it so that's good.  They take the dog in the morning and leave all his stuff there.  You should be aware at this point that the dog is a Jack Russell puppy and my mother cannot cope with him any longer (he's not a bad dog, just too much for her) so we have been in the process of re-homing him.  Mum had spoken to the breeder and arranged for her to help find him a new home and there are a couple of possibles.  Mum also, due to the immediate nature of her hospital stay, had given my details to everyone, friends, neighbours, kennel, breeder (virtually half the town!).  So, I'm now in charge of the search process.

Tuesday comes, I take mum to hospital, she has her surgery, it goes ok I think, the hospital won't tell me much over the phone.  Back at home, I get a call from the dog breeder (who is lovely, by the way), a man is interested in mum's dog.  Great I think.  He is a good fit because he already has another dog from the same litter.  So we arrange to meet at the kennels (the owner of which is very accommodating) the next day.  My father-in-law drives me as I don't know the way.  We get there and the man, his wife and son see the dog and decide that they aren't a good match and leave.  I am cross because I feel they have wasted our time somewhat.  The main reason for their decision is that their dog reacted badly to ours, which is fair enough but they barely gave him a chance.  The breeder (who turns up too) says she'll call me and we go home.  I get about half a dozen phone calls for various friends of my mother throughout the rest of the day.  It's really nice that they care but the thing about retired people is that they've all forgotten what it's like to be person with small children to care for.  They manage to call at various points during and immediately after the school run, or when I'm bathing children and can't really speak.  One of them has an annoying text speak habit too.

I visit mum, she's doing well, but the op was longer and more complex than expected so she's staying in for a while.  I tell her the whole story about the dog and suddenly feel very responsible for the situation, which has not been of my making.

The week then gets rather better from here on in, well, the bits relating to the dog at least.  Another call when I get home, a very keen couple want to meet on Thursday morning.  So, yesterday I waited, and waited at the kennels, admittedly I'd arrived early but was getting worried when they didn't show, then I see the car coming up the driveway.  Fortunately they are smitten with the dog, I think they are more than suitable so they leave with him, I pay and thank the kennel staff and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

So, now it's Friday.  I have omitted one tale of stress from my week, which has been bubbling slowly in the background but I think here is a good place to write rant about it.  The one thing I have been waiting most for all week, actually for the last twenty-two days, is for Orange (or EE as they are otherwise known) to unlock my flipping iPhone for which I have agreed to pay them £20.  A call on Wednesday (on hold for 20 minutes which I could ill afford that day) revealed that, not only have they not done that within the 20 day timescale quoted, but they are now charging me £5 more a month for my phone service because it is out of contract and the discount I was receiving no longer applies.  Some fantastic customer service representative has promised to sort it all out for me but two days later I still have had no news.  I also have a nasty feeling that they have locked me into a further contract with them as he agreed to reduce my bill by applying a new package.  Seriously Orange, its not difficult.  I have an iPhone 3GS which I hardly use so it makes sense to move to a SIM only deal - I do not need an upgrade.  Your own staff agree with me and cannot match the other deal I've found, they gave me the PAK code (which expires in 8 days) and I just need the phone unlocking.  Do you usually hold your customers to ransom like this?  

Well, I know not many people read my blog, but can I just say to anyone who might actually be reading this that if they are ever tempted to become customers of Orange they should run in the opposite direction immediately.  The staff in the shop made a mistake on my contract originally and we spent over an hour setting it up.  The staff member serving me insisted on opening my box fresh phone and inserting the SIM himself, even though I asked him no to - do I look like I'm incapable of opening a box ffs?  I was charged for data for about two months even though it was included in my contract.  They employ call centre staff who can't understand me and who then send me 23 identical texts with the same spelling error in them, and now this.  As far as I'm aware I can't leave them but I can't live with them either.  I'm currently thinking it might be easier to just cancel the contract and take a new one out elsewhere.  I can't do that though, because my bloody phone is still locked to their network.   Argh!!!

A sample of the 23 texts Orange sent me last month

So, my Friday Rant is Orange/EE, easily as annoying as Mickey Mouse and his Hot Dog Song - maybe they should adopt that as their on hold music, at least I'd know the words...


Monday, 4 November 2013

Lunch Time Love

Over the last week or so, its been extremely difficult to get the twins to go into pre-school without a tear or two.  The staff assure me that they have a good time when I'm gone and they do always come out smiling.  That still doesn't make it any easier for us as I try to prise their hands from mine or remove one or the other of them from my leg when its time for me to go.

The worst bit is that just as ds3 has managed to settle and not end up having a tantrum, then dd2 decides that it is her turn to cry as soon as I leave.  They are tag teaming me!  I'm sure the other parents must either pity me or think that I'm a terrible parent as I stride purposefully out of the building with one or sometimes both of them wailing like banshees as the staff try to stop them from running after me.  This is a new thing for me as the other three children used to skip happily into pre-school, waving and smiling and actively urging me to leave at times!

Some distraction does help and the pre-school are fantastic at that but sometimes the lure of play dough or cutting and sticking doesn't even work.  In addition to that it eats into my precious child free time, the time that everyone promised me I'd have once the twins were finally in pre-school.  Three hours isn't actually very much though and two and a half (by the time I've extracted myself) barely gives me time to do all the things I need to do before its time to pick them up again.

That was until last Friday.  Friday is different for them at pre-school because I have an extra 45 minutes of our 15 free hours left at the end of every week.  This means that I can tag on a lunch time session for them and send them in with their lunch.  They get to have lunch in the dinner hall in the main school with all the bigger children.  While most pre-schoolers might be a bit daunted by this, mine really seem to love it.  They are actively involved in choosing what goes into their lunch bags and cannot wait to sit with their friends and eat there.

The lunch bags - apparently the best lunch bags ever...

So, last Friday, I was expecting to have to make my usual exit, with wailing children clinging to the hem of my coat.  When we arrived though, the twins rushed in, threw their coats off in record time and happily sat with all the other children waiting for lunch.  Dd2 waved and grinned at me, ds3 shouted "Bye, Bye, Mummy" and that was that.

I walked out of the school gate without the sound of my children crying echoing in my ears, I walked home with a smile on my face.  Who knew something so simple would have such a positive effect on us all?

I'm joining in for the first time with the #magicmoments linky at
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