Me and Mine – May

If there were an award for the most technically poor family photograph of the month, this would surely win it hands down. I’ll confess, it was a last minute, bedtime, iPhone selfy. Light conducive to calming down and coaxing Thomas to go to sleep is not conducive to a good photo on a phone camera!

But that is not the point is it? The technical quality of the picture matters less than the fact it exists at all. For all it’s failings, it does capture the three of us exactly as we were at that moment before bedtime, and our ritual pre-sleep family cuddle.

 

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My participation in the Me and Mine project has been sporadic – we’re currently three for five. Not wanting to miss a second month in a row was a huge part of my motivation for taking this picture, so that I would have something to share. Because what I have really learned so far this year is that we are not too bad at getting family shots taken, it’s just that we let other people take them and then do nothing about following up to get a copy of the picture. I know that there are several nice group shots of the three of us from both April and May nestling on other people’s hard drives. So my goal from here on in is not only to get more family photos – staging some of our own if possible – but also to make sure I get people to share their pictures of us with me once they have taken them!

Here’s a bonus picture, taken at a recent wedding, where we are clearly both attempting to get Thomas to look at the camera. It appears than once he did, no photo was actually taken!

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dear beautiful

When Thomas Met Thomas

From the moment you have a child, you, and they, are bombarded with branding and characters. From clothes plastered with Disney creations, to CBeebies merchandise, to the characters from popular books being brought alive in a myriad of other ways, it’s impossible to escape entirely. We’ve not really actively sought out any of this stuff, but from what we have, it’s funny that the only character Thomas has gravitated towards is his namesake: Thomas the Tank Engine.

Perhaps this is because people have understandably tended to buy us items related to this particular character. Perhaps I’ve subconsciously encouraged it, especially because he adores trains (“toot toots”) in general. Thomas (the boy) is not all that bothered by television at all, but put Thomas (the Tank Engine) on, and it will captivate him enough that he actually sits still for as many a five minutes in a row!

When I realised that the real Thomas was paying a visit to a local steam railway just a couple of miles away, we decided to join him for a day out. To be honest, I was a bit concerned that Thomas might be too young to really appreciate it. We did take him for a ride on a steam train last year whilst we were away in the Cotswolds, and he certainly enjoyed himself then, smiling and clapping. And obviously he loves Thomas, but I wasn’t sure that he would understand the idea that this was the real Thomas. But we decided it would almost certainly be a fun experience anyway, and since it was so local, it seemed silly to miss out. (I will also confess that we sneaked Thomas in for free – the cut off for free tickets was 18 months, and Thomas turned 18 months two days before we went. You’d have done the same, right?)

It turned out that he had a blast, “toot tooting” and “peep peeping” to his heart’s content from the moment we arrived.

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Meeting the Fat Controller.

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The balloon modeller on the train was a hit.

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Snack time on the train.

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Captivated by Punch and Judy. He stood here for ages, giggling and pointing, which completely surprised me as I thought he would have no interest at all.

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Up close with Thomas

IMG_7369And… meeting a “Doooooh”

We had so much fun seeing him having so much fun. I have to be honest and say that before I became a parent, doing this sort of thing was one of the things about parenthood that I was really looking forward to. Enjoying days out and activities in the same way that I fondly remember doing as a child myself. What I didn’t anticipate was just how much joy I would get out of simply watching my child discover, explore, learn and enjoy these things, nevermind what the actual event of activity is. I thought it would be fun, but not this much fun!

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Project 365 – April: Mess

The unabiding theme of these pictures seems to be mess, whether made by Thomas or by his Daddy!

Apr012013

One of Thomas’s favourite games is “Row, Row, Row the washing basket”. He’ll try to climb in, emptying it first if need be, and then demand that we push him back and forth on the kitchen floor whilst we sing along. The look of pure joy on his face makes it totally worth the arm workout.

Apr022013

Drawing with Daddy. In the interests of the environment, drawing on the abandoned instructions from the table at which they are working!

Apr032013

Playdough! Crayons have become popular lately, but Thomas is less sure about playdough. He normally gets us to remove the lids and will then touch it lightly with one finger before rubbing that finger on his face. He clearly thinks it is some sort of face or body cream and we can only surmise that he thinks this because the cream we put on his skin each night comes out of a similar (albeit much larger) tub. He won’t actually play with playdough though, and recoils away from it if handed a lump.

Apr042013

Thomas’s first experience of baking. This actiually went really well. Whilst he had a nap, I measured out all the ingredients for some rock cakes in to a series of separate bowls. Thomas then got to pour things from one bowl to another, and mix to his heart’s content. Mixing is another favourite activity right now. Quite a lot of mixture did fly around the room, but the results were still not only edible, but yummy.

Apr052013

What my husband does when left alone with a box of Duplo for too long!

Apr062013

After finishing his yogurt, Thomas decided to spin the pot around on the end of his spoon. This had the effect of spreading yogurt surprisingly far, but also kept him occupied for a surprisingly long time.

Apr072013

We went to Howlett’s Zoo today. Thomas spent the day running around pretending to be a lion, shouting “Raaaaa”. The real lions were suitably unimpressed, and this is me removing Thomas from taunting them.

Apr082013

We keep finding Thomas’s milk in some surprising places.

Apr092013

Today was a messy play day. We had lots of fun with water, bubbles and food colouring. Lots of mixing, filling and pouring. Messy play up until now had really lacked any sort of focus or creativity, as Thomas simply isn’t able to play that way, so it’s mostly been about exploring textures. Today, we got the tea set out and he spent a lot of time pouring “tea” in to various different containers, as well as mixing everything with a spoon.

Apr102013

Thomas is obsessed by the baby monitor. He loves pressing all the buttons, and holding it to his ear like a phone, but he also likes repositioning it on its base.

Apr112013

The love-hate realtionship with the vacuum cleaner. When left standing innocently in the corner, Thomas is drawn to the Dyson like a moth to a flame. He can’t help but explore it, including pressing the main button. If Ian or I approach and he thinks we are going to start it up, he runs as fast as his little legs will carry him, with a look of panic on his face and a squeal of “oooooooooo”. He really, really, dislikes the vacuum actually being used. Which is ironic, given hw many crumbs he creates.

Apr122013

I’d love to say that Thomas built this, but I’d clearly be lying. This is again a creation by my husband. We have a large collection of wooden train track – some was a gift, some was from my childhood and a bit more was half price in the Early Learning Centre. Thomas really loves it, but it’s also a toy that we get a lot of fun from too!

Apr132013

A rare night out results in a very crappy low light iPhone photo. Was a good night though!

Apr142013

Thomas chasing the deer at Knole Park. There are almost identical photos of me at the same age somewhere. I spent a lot of time here as a child, and given how much Thomas loves running around here, I think that will also  be the case for him.

For My Babies

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for three decades. Three decades sounds like a long time, but the truth of it is that I don’t remember a time before diabetes, so it only feels as long as my lifetime. Not knowing any different doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me though. I’d absolutely be lying if I said it wasn’t sometimes an unequivocal suck.

I’ve mentioned countless times before that diabetes is an irritating and pernicious creature. There is nothing predictable about diabetes, and it has the capacity to affect every aspect of life whilst equally being affected by a ridiculous number of variables – beyond the obvious food, exercise and insulin doses comes stress, hormones, the weather and whether the day of the week contains the letter ‘u’.

I’d also be lying if I claimed to have this thing all figured out. I’m not sure that is even possible. There are plenty of times where I simply cannot be bothered with all the effort it takes to try to tame it. Some days I feel as though I’m chasing my tail from high to low and back again without doing anything differently to the day before, when everything stayed nicely in line, and that frustrates me beyond belief. So sometimes I give up and give in, stop trying to achieve the best control and simply coast along.

When I was a teenager, that was the most frequent state of affairs. As a young adult, the balance shifted to more time taking care of myself than not, but still with periods of time where I must hold my hands up and say it was completely neglected. In recent years, things have changed again.

Now, on the days when I can’t face multiple blood tests, the days where I want to eat without counting every last carbohydrate, or exercise without thinking about manipulating my medication, on the days where trying to find somewhere comfortable to wear my insulin pump sends me in to a rage, I try to stop and really think about what I might be sacrificing for the sake of a few minutes thought and effort.

I look at Thomas, and I think about the future. By the time I am my mother’s age and Thomas possibly has children of his own, I’ll have been living with diabetes, and taking insulin, for over sixty years. That is a long time, espeically when you consider that insulin for the treatment of diabetes has only existed for ninety years. But I know that I want to be there to see my son, and any future grandchildren, grow up. And I want to actually see it with my eyes, not be blinded by retinopathy. I want to be active enough to run around with them, and do so on my own feet. I don’t want to miss time bonding with them whilst I am attached to a dialysis machine.

And right now, I want to offer my future unborn child(ren) the very best start that I can. I want to keep finely balanced on the high wire of tight control, just as I did before and during my pregnancy with Thomas.

All my life the thought of complications from diabetes has nestled in the back of my consciousness and been something I’m peripherally aware of. But I’ve never been someone to be actively afraid on a day-to-day basis. It would be fair to say that blindness is one of my greatest fears, and that I’ve always wanted to try to stay healthy for my own sake, but the thought of complications, and their effect on my life alone, as a motivator for good control pales in to insignificance compared to the motivation to keep my babies healthy and to stay healthy for them.

I’m aware that this whole post sounds trite and twee, but it’s honestly true that where diabetes is concerned, I’d do almost anything for my children. I’m still far from perfect, and frequently get it wrong, but I am sure that I will never stop trying.

Walking a tight line

The Secret World of Trying to Conceive

Secondary school sex education would have you believe that you only have to be half naked with a boy to end up getting pregnant. And (possibly as a consequence) most of the women I know spent the better half of their early adulthood doing everything in their power not to get pregnant. I was certainly one of those women that doubled up on contraception “just to be sure”. (But then, back then I really didn’t want a baby.

I’m sure, however, that I also, remember being taught about the female reproductive cycle in secondary school biology (although maybe it was only at A-Level, or even undergraduate physiology) so I was aware that there is only a very short time frame in which there is a risk (or chance – depending on your viewpoint) of becoming pregnant. But when you’re avoiding pregnancy like the plague, the facts don’t slot together. The mantra “it only takes one time” sticks, and there is no reason to be thinking about which week is the week where pregnancy may occur.

Once you actually want a bun in the oven, of course, everything is different. For most of us at least, the idea of falling pregnant being a case of having a single quick fumble suddenly seems enormously laughable. Months of unprotected sex with not even the merest sniff of a morning after pill still yield nothing, and that fertile week is suddenly all you think about.

The thing is, trying to conceive is ultimately such a personal thing. Sure, there are plenty of forums out there full of women all pursuing the same goal, but they are without exception pretty anonymous. Hardly anyone uses their real name, and being behind a screen makes it easier to be open and honest. But virtually nobody, it seems, talks about this stuff openly in person with people they know.

Surprising as it may seem, given my candour here, I’m no exception. I get asked at least 5 times a week (the joys of working with the public) whether we’ll be having another. And despite the months of trying already behind us, almost without exception I mutter something non-committal like “maybe one day” or “yes, but I’m not ready yet, one is enough hard work”.

The efforts and struggles of trying to conceive are all too frequently hidden away.

Perhaps it is because the act of making a baby is ultimately very personal. It’s about you and your partner, and something you want to do together. Admitting that you are trying can also feel like holding your hands up and saying “yes people, we’re having lots and lots of sex”. We’re adults, and it’s normal and healthy in a relationship to have plenty of sex, but there is nothing that draws attention to it quite so much as talking about trying to conceive (if you discount having actual public sex, but fortunately not many people are in to that, and if you are I’m betting people knowing about it is the least of your concerns!) It is also in no small part because many people don’t want the “pressure” of people waiting and anticipating, or even outright asking if you are up the duff yet, never mind the unsolicited advice to “just relax” (as if it were that simple!).

Behind closed doors however, there are literally hundreds of couples riding this roller coaster without feeling able to talk about it. Living their lives in two week blocks. Two weeks where you know for sure that you are not pregnant, and that start with sadness and end with impatience waiting for the egg to drop. Then the “two week wait” where the “am-I-aren’t-I?” dilemma reigns, counting down the days until you will find out.

There are women out there carrying out personal science experiments in their bathrooms. Peeing on sticks and in plastic cups to find out when their hormones are surging as an indicator that ovulation is imminent. Women whose first waking action is to measure their temperature to see whether ovulation has indeed occurred. These are definitely things most people don’t chat about over their coffee.

And it’s a world which has its own code too – 2WW, OPK, BBT, HPT, BFP. It really is a secret world that no one could have imagined when they were sitting in their school science laboratory hearing all about the facts of life and how not to get pregnant.

And you know something? I don’t think it helps. I think the school student in us probably did have a better chance of making a baby without all the silent obsessing. All the waiting and hoping. All the disappointment. And even all the tools available that are supposed to help. What really is the point of knowing exactly when you ovulated if you are having regular sex throughout your cycle. Do you really need to know the actual day if sperm would have been ready to meet egg anyway?

I think what would help is making trying to conceive as normal a part of day-to-day life as saving up to buy a house or working towards a career promotion, and I wish it was easier to be honest about the journey. Internet forums are one thing, but they are not really a substitute for a face to face discussion about feelings, that doesn’t require a dictionary to translate. Hiding it away isn’t helping.

So in that spirit, I’ve decided to start talking about trying to conceive in real life, away from the web. I don’t want to be told to “be patient” or “just relax”, or to be judged because so many people have been trying so much longer and I should be grateful that I already have a child (of course I am, to suggest otherwise is just plain rude). But I’m fed up of being part of a secret world that does nothing but fuel anxiety.

The Productivity of Parenthood

Not for the first time this morning, I found myself wishing that the early morning productivity that comes out of necessity when you are a parent could have been bottled and sold to to the pre-parent me.

A few years ago, I would barely (for which read, probably not-at-all) have been out of bed by 9am on a Sunday. These days I’ve seen several hours of activity that includes doing a couple of loads of laundry and folding up another, getting us all fed, washed and clothed, blowing bubbles until I felt light headed, singing 100 rounds of Row, Row, Row Your Boat (with accompanying rowing actions – who needs the gym?) soothed a tantrum, built a train track, unloaded the dishwasher, located a lost toy, read six stories, cleaned the bathroom, admired crayon scribbles and vacuumed all the crumbs up from breakfast.

How could I previously have claimed to have “no time!” What did I used to do with myself before?

Sleep? Pah! It’s overrated!