Sunday, 31 January 2016

A Month off Facebook

I decided in December that I was going to completely avoid Facebook in January. Why?
  • I was in a bad habit of checking it whenever I used my phone.
  • I felt like my limited spare time was being subtly sucked up.
  • I wanted some time to think about why and how I use Facebook, to use it better in future.
It is an odd habit to break, a sudden disconnection from lots of people who I care about.  Having deleted the app from my phone, it was a good reminder of my pledge, so I didn't lapse.  But knowing that all those updates and conversations were going on without me felt like all my friends were in a pub, and I had chosen to go to a different one.

And I did miss out on a few fun things :(

This reminded me of the need to stay connected, especially with people I care about who are a long way away.  But also the need to disconnect more from the people I care less about, using the allegedly very clever Facebook settings to unfollow the right people, or only get important updates from them.

I am committed to no more than a daily check of Facebook from now on, and no more than a daily update.  The app may stay off my phone, but as that is by far the easiest way to upload photos it may stay on, but this will be the biggest temptation to abscond.

In the meantime I have been spending a little more time reading and on Twitter, learning about interesting current affairs and staying connected to the world through the unexpected deaths of Bowie, Rickman and Wogan as they were all recognised, remembered and unequivocally praised for being talented and great human beings.

I snuck back on tonight to get through the piles of messages, notifications and the odd friend request (3).  And it makes me realise how bizarre it all is, projecting our thoughts out there in the ether for our friends, family and acquaintances to see if they so choose ... I hope that I can continue to keep my distance, whilst getting the best out of it.

And I highly recommend a month off, in case any of you fancy trying it!  I will be doing it again ...


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Things to do before you have kids

Of course you CAN do all of the below after you have had kids, but it is harder, especially while they are small.
  1. Have long luxuriant baths, maybe together.
  2. Go out - Theatre, fine dining etc.
  3. Be unpredictable - drinks after work, spur of the moment fun.
  4. Cinema.
  5. Indulgent all-day shopping.
  6. Travel.
  7. Be lazy, have lie-ins and naps.
  8. Volunteer.
  9. Work late.
  10. Stay up late and get very drunk.

6 months later ...

… and I am back at work, in a different job (still at Fairtrade).

Minnie is doing well, and is starting to become a proper person.  She is at that stage where you feel like you are chatting with her, even though she can't talk yet.  Penny talks like a grown up and she is not yet 3.

C had 2 months off, but is now back full time.

We have a new house and it is simply wonderful, a proper blessing after a hard year.

So 2014 is upon us, and I do want to keep blogging.  So please forgive the hiatus, and let's se what comes out.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

My Tonsillectomy Recovery Journey (age 33)

*** Warning, some of the below is pretty gross, only read if you need to! ***

They told me it was going to be bad.  For me it was bad, worse than quinsy and worse than childbirth, mostly because the intense pain, weakness, dehydration and nausea went on for so long, followed by weeks of discomfort and recovery.  I did have some complications, but even so, the whole process is incredibly hard even without that.  I would of course do it again if I had my time again, as the thought of multiple quinsys popping up in my life is too horrible to think of.

Brace yourself, make good preparations (see survival list below), keep your diary clear, and manage expectations re work and kids, as full recovery could easily take longer than 2 weeks.  This site was pretty helpful too:

Day 1 - Much better than expected.  Very nervous before the op, but relieved to wake up in recovery quite woozy with blurred vision, but not in pain.  Spent the day drifting in and out of sleep, happily sipping water and even eating digestive biscuits.  Discharged from hospital at 4pm.

Day 2 & 3 - Pretty easy days, eating a little and staying hydrated.  Kids out of the house, so drifted off watching Jonathan Creek DVDs.  Nervous about coming off pain medication the next day, to try and breastfeed Minnie again.  Throat covered in white scabs.

Day 4 - Decide to come off pain meds a bit earlier, seems manageable, but noticably more discomfort.

Day 5 - More painful, happy to feed Minnie again, but my milk doesn't fill her up.  Very uncomfortable, feeling weak and sick from not eating or even drinking as too painful.

Day 6 - First scab comes off.  A little bleeding and then v painful, mostly ear pain.  Makes me feel sick when I feel the scabs half off  and falling down my throat.  Lots of gargling.  Hurts a lot to even sip the water I need for my pills.  V little eating and drinking.  Decide to go back on pain medication and put Minnie on formula.  After all, my breastmilk has little nutrition in it at the moment.

Day 7 - In the night I realised that ice still helped, so started munching on ice cubes (easier now back on pain meds) and got the ice pack out.  I also ordered a slushie machine for express delivery, figuring that even if I didn't use it, Penny would enjoy it.  Scabs coming off regularly when I rinse, leaving behind red skin which stings for a while, despite the pain meds.  Managed to drink a whole glass of water before bed, can't imagine how much my body needs it.

Day 8 - Dry stingy throat on waking up, but my slushie machine arrived!  So weird how even water hurts, but shaved ice doesn't in the same way.  Had a quick look at my throat, lots of white scabs still to go, some sore red skin from where scabs have come off, some dark clotted-looking bits.

Decided to go to the docs, as the pain is still too much and stopping me from drinking.  I could barely open my mouth for hr to see inside, and explained how much pain I was in.  She was very sympathetic and said/did a few helpful things:
- Extended my dihydrocodeine
- Extended my antibiotics
- Put me back on ibuprofen too
- Prescribed paracetamol suppositories (the idea being that there are fewer painful pills to swallow, but no pharmacist had them in stock!)
- Recommended ways to stay hydrated, such as a cold compress on the forehead, chewing a wet cloth.

Basically I just need to get as much water in me as possible so my kidneys don't shut down.  After paracetamol and ibuprofen, am able to down 2 glasses of water.

Just before going to bed, I get a small bleed which is stopped by using an ice pack and gargling ice water.

Day 9 - A painful day, trying to get painkillers down, possibly due to the bleed recovering.  In the afternoon, manage to get enough painkillers down me to drink some water, and drink a little milk with honey.

In the evening, started spitting out lots of fresh blood, followed by coughing up a large blood clot, around the size of a large brazil nut.  Decided to go to A+E, given the out-of-hours doc said there was a risk of infection, and I spluttered up another couple of clots whilst waiting at the hospital with my brother Andrew.  Not pleasant, but as each one came up, my throat felt noticably looser, more flexible and less painful.

They decided to keep me in at Guys so the ENT docs could look at me, and to make sure I wasn't going to choke on anymore clots in the night, though they seemed to think they had all gone by this point.  I was given antibiotics and saline on a drip and shuttled over to Guys.

Day 10 - In the morning, my throat was very painful, so they gave me a small amount of morphine, which just seemed to send me to sleep.  Steroids, paracetamol and antibiotics were all put through my drip, so by the afternoon I felt much improved, to the extent that I ate some soup and jelly.

It seemed what had happened was:
- The oral antibiotics did not kill the infection I had
- The infection caused clotting
- The clots made it excruciating to eat and drink
- The lack of hydration and nutrition encouraged the infection

So, it took getting rid of the clots and some IV antibiotics to properly get rid of the infection, along with the steroids to reduce swelling.

Day 11 - Feeling even better, even after no painkillers overnight.  Managed to have a little breakfast and lunch before being discharged with additional antibiotics and painkillers.
Back home and after a long nap in the afternoon, coughed up lots of white scabs which were coming off, not nice!  But that also felt better afterwards, and it seems this is part of my mouth getting back to normal.  Took me ages to eat a small bowl of mash and a small bowl of custard for dinner.

Day 12-17 - Coughing up plenty of white 'mashed potato' style white gungy expectorate.  Voice improving, but jaw and throat aches badly if I talk too much.  Eating soft foods, jelly, custard, mash.  Can't bear acidic fruity things as they sting.  Milk goes down well, but I feel it makes me more mucasy.  Throat looks pink and much improved, with only some white scabby bits remaining,  My main concern is that my uvula feels large and low, and that the opening to my oesophagus is not symmetrical.  Presume this is a reason for my discomfort while this (hopefully) settles back to normal.

Day 18 & 19 - Finished antibiotics, ibuprofen and dihydracodeine.  A bit of a change, voice improves, can eat a little of the dinner everybody else is having, if a little chokily.  Start giving Minnie a couple of breastfeeds, don't want to do more till my nutrition levels are better.  Not getting much joy from food and drink, like my taste buds have been scared into submission.  Discomfort in the night stops me sleeping, especially as drinking water in the night feels unpleasant.

Day 20 - Voice improved again, feeling less need to hack up 'mash potato' style expectorate.  Even decide to skip the evening paracetamol, as decide I am more in discomfort than pain.  Eat toast, noodles, jelly, chicken and rice.  I weigh just over 10 stone.  Not sure what I was before, but 11 and a half pretty likely due to pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Water in the night is a little better, possibly due to less throat gunge.

Day 21 - The first day I hit anything resembling normality, and without any painkillers.  Still a little gungy, and achy when I speak too much, but can eat and drink plenty (if a little slowly) and energy levels returning.  Hallelujah!

Day 22 onwards - Gradual alleviation of achyness, tightness in the back of the throat, ability to eat whatever I want.  Back of throat still asymmetrical, I wonder if it will ever be symmetrical ever again.

Adult Tonsillectomy Survival Kit
  • Common sense - If you are bleeding more than a little bit, or cannot eat and drink at all, visit the appropriate medical professional, as this is not a normal recovery.
  • Ice - For chewing, adding to water, ice packs.
  • A slushee making machine - Sounds like an indulgence, but shaved ice can be less painful to swallow than water.
  • Ice pack(s) - To cool your neck and ears, stop swelling, ease pain.  Some people also feel heat packs helped, at some stages.
  • Chewing gum - Helps with ear pain, and keeping you swallowing.
  • Painkillers - Take all that you are allowed for as long as you are allowed, it will enable you to eat and drink more, which is critical for a quicker recovery.  Schedule when you need to take them and time them well so you are covered for times when you need to eat and to ensure you have as blanket a coverage as possible.  If taking pills is painful, ask the doc or pharmacist for paracetamol suppositories as an alternative, these may need ordering in.  Stock up on paracetamol and ibuprofen in advance, as shops limit purchase quantities on such things.
  • Ice cream/sorbets - If you can manage them (I found they stuck to my throat making it sting, not nice, only helpful more than 2 weeks after the op for me)
  • Diet supplement, e.g. Complan - For when you can drink something more than water, gives you more nutrition.
  • Straws - Makes drinks easier to get down.
  • DVD Box sets - And lots of them, helps the time pass, it is a long recovery (nearly 2 weeks, in my case)
  • Babysitters - You will not be able to look after children while you recover, you can barely look after yourself.  Plan this in advance.  Do not underestimate how long you will need them.
  • A Runner - Anyone who can dash out and get you what you might need, whether a food or drink that you feel you might be able to get down or more medication, ice etc.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Hard Day's Night

Minnie was up all night.  She started screaming and arching her back in pain at about 5pm, and C and I took it in turns to keep her in a comfy position through the night so the other could get some sleep.  Maybe teeth, probably heat or some kind of allergy (pollen has been high).

Makes me realise how, despite so many hospital appointments, Minnie has been just as easy as Penny was at this age.

But now I remember how hard it can be when things go awry.  Teething, random rashes, unexplained tears ... and all now with a toddler too.  Though Penny has been very sweet, telling me she loves me, and being patient while we tend to Minnie's pain.

Sanity is hopefully restored today, here's hoping the heatwave tempers a little.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Normal Life

So Minnie has been home for exactly 2 months now, and she will be 15 weeks old on Thursday.

And we are getting on ok.  My body has adjusted to the many nighttime interruptions.  Penny loves her little sister, though occasionally lashes out (which is hard, but thankfully very infrequent).

We are starting to be a bit braver, going into the city just the 3 of us, but I have already learned that if I push it too far then things can get a bit wrong.

Penny is potty training, I can't wait for her to be out of nappies.  She also talks plenty, now using proper sentences "I don't want it" and she is generally easy to understand.

Minnie is smiling lots, playing with her hands and on the brink of laughing.

Our eagerness to get a bigger house with a garden is growing, but it is hard to figure out how manage it financially, and of course to figure out where we would live.  We are still very happy in South London, but countryside also beckons.  Never mind our dream to live abroad.

So we are happy ... busy but happy.  Squeezing in lots of hospital appointments, for blood, renal, heart etc, and also for blood transfusions.  Trying to fit in a little kid-free time each to do our respective creative projects, as well as spending quality time together as a family.

Time time time ...

Saturday, 30 March 2013

... and relax ...

Baby Minnie came home last Wednesday, it is a joy to cuddle up close with her so much, and a blessing that she feels so safe and comfortable in our arms after 6 weeks of sedation and hospital madness.

Although I can't hide a little sadness and apprehension at the news she has some hearing loss (moderate to severe), it is a miracle that she has escaped this whole incident with so little damage.  She is a very normal baby, very chilled out, and very much like Penny always was.  And it is great that I feel so confident with her, just keen to feed her up so she gets strong and well as fast as possible.

Now that we have had some calm, as even after we came home I spent the next day at the doctors and then at the hospital all day while she had a blood transfusion, everything seems much more sane again.  C, P, M and I had a relaxing day together yesterday, along with a visit from Gramps, Marion and Elle, and the next week hold plenty more family time as well as some form of low-key celebration for P's birthday.

Everything has been a bit mad for the last 6 weeks, and in some ways for the last 11 months what with the strains of the pregnancy.  But now I finally feel like the tight wire in my brain is being allowed to relax and unwind.  I even went for a 15 minute run yesterday, which felt fantastic.

C and P are off at Bettie's birthday party today, so I am catching up on jobs while Minnie cuddles up close to me in our new snuggly sling.  Perfection!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Our New Baby

Our baby was born on the 14th February, and she was born very sick.  It seems she had been very anaemic in the womb, which had left her short of oxygen.  So she came out with multiple organ failure, and we were not clear for a few days whether she would make it or not.

Two weeks later, she is now stable, though with many ups and downs.

So how do I feel?  Getting through the first few days was intense and emotional, and I'm so grateful for the unconditional support of a loving Charlie-Fish, the rallying of our wonderful family and friends, and the distraction of the lovely Penny.  I was happy to cry when I needed to, it didn't bother me crying in front of people, and I felt very rational about the whole thing.  Not thinking 'why us?', because indeed why not us!

But now we are in this for the medium haul, and it is hard.  Above all, it is a physical wrench being away from my baby, my sweet sweet little Minnie who is needing to be so strong to get through all these trials.  I miss her physically, and spend my days in some semblance of normal life, but aching to be next to her and to keep her close to me.  This makes me cry too, and both Fish and Penny seem to be getting used to my occasional hormonal outbursts.  They are not bad, they are very healthy.

It is also painful when I hear of any decline in her condition.  She has improved so much over the last two weeks, we felt like she was on the right road.  But now it is more complex, as Charlie puts it, 2 steps forward with 1 step back.  And each step back makes my heart sink.  And there are so many areas she needs to mend, kidneys, liver, heart, blood, brain ...

But the facade of normality has to remain, for our sanity and for Penny's sake.  The weirdest thing is that if she had come straight home with us from hospital, it would be far from a sane household, with newborn baby and toddler in full swing.  This is a different kind of madness, so unexpected and so hard.

So, for now, I need to surf the waves of sadness that wash over me from time to time and just keep going ...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

On Maternity Leave Again

So, last Thursday I finished work, and I don't think I realised what a drain working full-time had been on me, both mentally and physically.  I now feel like I have been given the gift of time, and even better I get to spend that time with my lovely bundle of Penny, exclusively even until Baby 2 (Fidget) comes along.

So sanity reigns, I have the time to bake cakes, cook good food, go for walks in the park and see my NCT friends ... all of which seems to good to be true.  I am sure when baby arrives life will be demanding in a different way, but for now it is good to take a deep breath and enjoy.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Without Child (and yet with child)

After a sickly and tiring November, I am still snotty but starting to feel Christmassy.  Cards are made, plans are in place, decorations are up, and all is well as long as I have a clean tissue nearby.

In the meantime, Charlie and Penny have gone to Greece for 5 days with Erika and Theresa to see Super-Papou, and it sounds like they are having a wonderful time.

Which leaves me home alone, though with a baby in my tummy, which kind of precludes me from going for crazy drunken nights out till 5am.

But in the meantime, some small observations:
  • It still only takes me 15 mins from being in bed to being showered, dressed and off to work.
  • It is refreshing not to feel a constant sense of urgency, which I think comes from wanting to be with Penny whenever I am not at work.  A symptom of working full time, but soon to be fixed via mat leave and considering a part time future.
  • I don't trust myself to remember my keys, especially with my current 'baby brain' memory ... so I check at least twice whenever I leave the house.
Looking forward to cuddling my little pudding-pie (and my big pudding-pie) very soon, but in the meantime I will be relaaaaaaxing :)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Peaceful Saturday Morning


Penny kindly let me sleep in till 7:30 this morning, and we have had a lovely morning hanging out together, and getting some easy quick jobs done (Ocado online shop, cooking some Fimo beads I made last night).

Charlie is at his board game conference in Essen, and I am reminded how manageable life is, even if he is not here and I am pregnant (i.e. tired and sometimes a bit grumpy).  I miss him, but all is very well.  And he is clearly having the time of his life ("Games! Games! Games!")

My diary is pretty free, and there are some bits and pieces I would like to do, but nothing terribly urgent.  Erika, Ruth and Wela are coming round tonight, and I am completely looking forward to it as the cooking is already mostly done, so I can have a fun chatty evening with them and P.

And Penny is being a complete sweetie.  She is at an age where she can do so much, she loves to entertain herself but is also delightful to play with or read to.  And stroppy tantrums are still very rare.

So, a quick read of 'Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too', a cosy shower, and then P and I will be off for a walk around Brockwell Park ... perfect!  Hooray!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Little Boy that Never Was

Don't get me wrong, I know that except for death and taxes, very little in life is truly final.

We had a very good 20 week +6 days scan today, where the baby was shown to be healthy and growing well, and will also be a little girl.  And, as Charlie and I are only planning on 2 children, this seems to be a clear indication that we will not experience being parents to a baby boy.

Which is fine in many ways.  Sisters may well fall out, but hopefully will be very close as the years go by.  And there are various other generalisations I could make, but it does feel very final.  As we approach the end of our childbearing chapter, it is an emotional day in many different ways.

Even having another baby at all seems a bit like cheating on Penny.  But if we were to have expected a boy, we had a name chosen.  And the thought of bringing up a mini-Charlie when he is just so wonderful was too good to be true.  And of course I am already bringing up a mini-Charlie.  Penny is so much like him, even though it is the easy option to say how much she is like me just because she is a girl.  But she both looks like him and behaves like him.

And I know we won't be bringing up girls any differently than how we would if they were boys.  They will still climb trees and learn how to play chess and go.

So now I just want to meet the little fidget who is wriggling around in my tummy, because I know she will be wonderful in so many new and surprising ways.  

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Catching Up

So, returning back from America went ok, though getting over 8 hours of jet lag with a baby is hard ... even when you can sleep, odds are they can't!  And there were plenty of autumnal germs waiting for us, so there have been coughs and colds all round.

Feeling very seasonally chilled out though, enjoying the cooler air but not the rain.

As I am over 20 weeks pregnant now, the baby has been wiggling more and even kicking.  It really helps me to bond with the baby.  I mean, you know you are pregnant earlier on from the sickness, the scan and the line on the stick, but it feels abstract to have a baby in your tummy.  It is only when it starts moving that I can really connect.  And looking forward to seeing the baby again at the scan next Tuesday, though the anticipation of knowing what gender the baby will be is too much!

Having a relaxing weekend, seeing Kirsten, Matty and Anna, and as the others are going for the annual autumn walk tomorrow, and if it is not raining Penny may go to, and I may well get a day to myself ... what will I do?!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Home Again

A group of us had a late breakfast at the Spot Café before going for a walk in the park.  Some went for a game of Pitch & Putt, while P and I rested on the beach watching the boats and enjoying playing in the sand.

Then one final fat burger before driving to the airport.  Returning the cars was seamless, and P and I snuggled up on the plane to have a fair bit of sleep, though I was happy to know that I wouldn’t be back at work till Tuesday.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Cycling and Walking

French Toast breakfast at the Spot Café.  Then the 3 of us jumped on bikes (and a trailer) to cycle round Stanley Park.  It seems to be the main thing to do in Vancouver, and it was clear why.  

Such fantastic views of the bay, with seaplanes landing and tugboats plodding along.  

We stopped off on the beach to play in the sand with Penny, which she loved. 

On returning the bikes, we started walking.  Down Denman Street, spotting a good restaurant for our last evening together (The Boathouse).  Then all the way down Davies Street, stopping at a couple of good second-hand/thrift shops.

Then we walked all the way over the main bridge to get to Granville Island.  Fantastic views of the city, but a long way to walk.  Especially as we had to double back a long way to actually get to where we were heading.

We stopped off for some well-needed food in a great little fish restaurant, and went in a few shops.  Which included a hammock shop, where we decided to buy an enormous family hammock on a whim!  A splurge, but you really can’t get hammocks as good as American hammocks in the UK.

As I was exhausted from all the cycling and walking, we took a taxi to Gastown to see the old gas lights and architecture.  Then back to the hotel to meet the others for dinner.

The restaurant was slow, but we had our own corner and the food was terrific.  My steak was especially good.  Penny was a bit restless at the beginning of the meal, which was hard, but she settled down eventually.  And we hung around for ages, making friends with other diners too, as we went through all of our top ten experiences of the trip.  Mine were as follows:

10 – 3Cs Cowboy music show in Cody
9 – House on the Rock Inn – Submarine Pool and Hot Tub
8 – Dave’s all you can eat attempt in Butte
7 – Chicago – Architecture and posh dinner at The Signature Restaurant
6 – Seattle Karaoke
5 – Dressing up in the 1880’s Cowboy Town
4 – Cycling in Vancouver
3 – Yellowstone
2 – Rushmore
1 – House on the Rock

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Canada Ahoy

We jumped on the Monorail with Matthew, picking up Katie and Dave on the way, as we headed towards the markets in the middle of Seattle.  Stopped off at Ludi’s on Pike for a brilliant hash brown and bacon breakfast.  Then we wandered through the markets, along the waterfront to the Curiosity shop (which was nothing much, in my opinion).  Then quickly into the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) shop before meeting the others back at the hotel, and we found a tremendous fountain on the way back.

We then drove to Canada, meeting a pleasant but firm border guard as we tried to get across.  Anca had had to leave us in Seattle as she had some last minute visa issues, so we were down another person at this point.

Vancouver was very impressive as we approached, such an impressive city by the bay with mountains in the background.

After driving down Robson Street, we got to our rooms at Robson Suites.  Walking back up Robson, we found Earl’s on a recommendation from a local.  And it was fantastic, being fairly Penny friendly with amazing food and great service.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Washington and the Ocean

Stopped off just over the border in Ellensburg to see Dick and Jane’s garden, full of lots of homemade colourful art.  Then we chose to have lunch in a beautiful converted yellow church, where they had made Heavenly Loaf (fluffy ciabatta with cheese, garlic and plenty of salt, yum!)

Arrived in Seattle, realising that we were nearing the end of our trip by hitting the ocean.  The roads were undergoing repairs and were hard to navigate, but Charlie managed to get us to our posh hotel, The Maxwell.

Got to the Space Needle just as the sun was setting, was hilarious to see it ‘unset’ as we went up in the lift.

Afterwards we all jumped into taxis to get to the karaoke place.  Charlie was looking after Penny for the evening, so I snuck out to have tacos with them before they headed back to the hotel.  Singing was fun, as always, with lots of enthusiasm all round.