Thursday, 29 September 2011

Epilepsy rollercoaster ride

My sister’s son has epilepsy.  My first nephew, the crazy cute one who says wacky things, draws great pictures and has a style sense to rival Gok Wan. The boy who I pretended was my son before I had my own kids. Yep I really did that, people would stop and say how much he looked like me and I would just smile and nod, never admitting he wasn’t actually mine. Big Sis didn’t mind, she secretly liked it.
I didn’t know much about epilepsy and I still don’t know enough. He was diagnosed last year and every week he displays new symptoms, fights new battles, has more challenges to overcome.  And because we don’t live near, I only get to hear about it. My sister and her husband get to live it, day and night. They're on an epilepsy rollercoaster ride and they'll never be allowed to get off.
Epilepsy isn’t just about fits – or seizures to give them their proper name. He suffers from ‘drops’ which are temporary blackouts, causing him to trip, drop things on the floor, even fall in his own food. Not a good look when you’re surrounded by 5 year olds and your dinner is now all over your face. But he sits up, wipes his face clean and gets on with it. 
He also has long periods of being in a trance-like state. He doesn’t hear you call his name (ok most 5 yr olds don’t hear that!), but he doesn’t hear you offer him chocolate or a ride on his bike either. He wants to sit in the corner in silence and retreat into his own world. Big Sis tells me this is the hardest state to deal with. Her lively, never-sit-still child hides out in dark corners and stares blankly into space. Drifting from place to place, not hearing you, not really seeing you and not reacting to the world around him.
You have to carry on as normal. You could wrap him up in cotton wool but he’s 5 and the last thing he wants is to be different. So unless things are really bad, he gets dressed and goes to school. Often falling on the way, sometimes arriving and not really knowing he’s there. On these days my sister tells me she cries silent tears. You know the ones you cry when you’re trying to hold it together but the tears keep coming anyway? Sometimes the mums at the school gate share the pain, sometimes the teacher’s look says it all.
His epilepsy is evolving and they’re still trying to find the perfect combination of drugs to help manage his illness. Children in school are starting to notice and they’re old enough to be told what’s going on. If they understand what’s happening to him they’re less likely to make fun of him. Bullying is an extra stress he really doesn’t need.
But he’s an incredibly brave little boy and he keeps on smiling. He’s always been slightly eccentric and I think this eccentricity will get him through it. It hasn’t stopped his obsession with super heroes or taken away his daredevil spirit. It seems an odd thing to say, but epilepsy couldn’t have happened to a better kid – he’s so well-equipped to deal with it.
I can’t begin to imagine what my sister and her husband are going through. I hope this post helps more people to understand. But the best way we can help is to learn more about epilepsy, not be afraid of asking questions and most importantly, don’t treat him as if he’s different.
And next time you see a child who’s behaving a little bit strange, think twice before you judge him. Next time you see a parent who looks slightly on the edge, think twice before you judge them too. You just never know what’s going on in people’s lives.
Dedicated to my Big Sister, who is so much stronger than she realises and my Nephew, the next big thing.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Remembering Me

I’ve forgotten who I am.
Has this happened to you? You won’t know you’ve forgotten until you remember. It’s a strange feeling, a bit like deja vu, a moment of weirdness but also huge joy. It brought a smile to my face.
I was sitting alone on the top of a hill looking across to the River Severn after a brief, but brisk, hike when it all came back to me. I could picture the twenty-something woman, walking for miles to get away from the city smoke and clear the hangover. With a good-looking man in tow and a bottle of wine warming in the ruck sack.
For a few minutes I sat there and felt happy as I remembered the forgotten me. A different kind of happy to how I feel most of the time, but happy all the same. So I texted my husband with a picture of view and the words ‘I love you’ – something I never text. He texted the same thing back (which was more of a shock), I think he understood the moment.
Like many women (maybe even some men) I’ve given myself away. To my husband, my work, my friends even, but mostly to my kids. So much so that I don’t even remember what I like. I’m a stranger to myself and I can only remember the me who exists to exist for others.
But I found it on that hill for a very brief moment and it felt really good. I'm going looking for me again soon.
As I write this, a group of my oldest friends are out reliving their Hacienda youth in a nightclub somewhere. I hope they get this feeling tonight and I think they will. I wish I could be there.
What i'm trying to say is, if you think you’ve lost you, don’t worry because you're still there somewhere. You may be cowering timidly at the back of the room, too afraid to come out, but you will. And when it happens it'll feel really good :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Should have gone to specsavers

I’ve always had bad eyesight. An optician once told me that you get the eyesight you need. So if you always have your head in books, you will probably be short-sighted (can see well close up, but nothing over 3 feet). If you are a football referee, then you’ll probably become long-sighted, etc etc. I've never been good at fielding, but I can read the smallest print.

Whilst glasses and contact lenses have cured most of my problems, I still don’t seem to be able to see and judge my reflection properly. What I see in the mirror is not what you see in real life and certainly not what a camera sees.

I look SO good in a mirror, seriously. I get dressed and I often think I look slim, foxy, of below average weight, and essentially not bad for late 30s. In fact, if I am really honest, I see something like this:

But then I see REAL pictures of myself and I wonder how I got it so wrong. I don't help myself I know, I mean, what was I thinking?

I’ve learned how to pose now. I never stand on the end of a group shot, I tilt my face so I don’t get a double chin, I do the whole knee-up-leg-bent-standing-on-tip-toes thing to make my legs look thinner. But the photograph still never truly represents what I’m pretty sure I saw in the mirror.

In the mirror I’m a size 10, in reality I’m usually a 14, on a photo I’m pushing obese.

But lately even my mirror doesn’t lie. The baby weight is still hanging around. I’m eating too many cupcakes from Nom Nom and with a return to work imminent, I’m struggling to fit into any of my clothes.

So I’m going to fat club. Something I thought I'd never do. I'm a bit nervous about the whole group therapy thing, but mainly I’m hoping it will improve my eyesight considerably. Either that or I'm off to Ikea for a new mirror.

Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Gallery - A Happy Memory

I'm late entering my post into this week's Gallery on the Sticky Fingers blog because I couldn't find the picture I wanted. Anyway, I found it in the loft, in a frame with lots of other pictures and I couldn't take it out (for fear of disturbing the 'arrangement'). So I took a bad photo of it, but you get the idea.

This is not only one of my favourite photos, but a really lovely memory. It makes me remember how much fun I have when I travel with my husband. When this was taken we weren't married and we were starting to fall in love with Spain all over again. This is nowhere unusual or glamourous, it's the Alhambra in Granada.

I took this photo as we were relaxing on one of the patios, basking in the sun after too much wine at lunch. We sat there and began to fall asleep.

I am a bit of a fake when it comes to romantic pictures. I have many 'captured' moments like these, but they are always taken by me (using timer delay) and most of the time I've planned them earlier. Don't tell me I'm the only person who does that??

I didn't plan this one in advance, but saw it in my mind as we sat there. So ran and set my camera up and ran back and struck my pose. And I love it.

Five minutes later we got told off by a security man for sleeping on the floor.We were embarrassingly ushered out of the area and asked to move on. Oh well. Memory made and kept.

The pic now sits in a frame with others from the same trip, when all we could afford were clip frames 'cos we spent all our money on holidays. Now they just look tacky, but I'm keeping them as they are. These kind of memories are the best.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Introducing...the LadyBib

I’ve decided that baby-bibs are pointless. It's taken two children to help me realise this, but I've had an epiphany. The wrong people wear the bibs around here and things need to change. It's not our children we need to protect from splashes and spills. It's us.

Mothers - we are being taken for a ride. Adorning our babies with every type of bib imaginable. Cute ones, funny ones, ones with slogans, made of plastic, made of cotton. Washable, disposable, even ones with arms and legs. But I put this to you - use a bib and your child will find somewhere else to put the food.


You see, as my perfect baby girl sat quietly in her high chair, looking clean, serene and still wearing the same dress I put on her that morning – I was already on my third outfit. Something's wrong here I thought. The balance isn't quite right. Why is she the one wearing the bib but I'm the one covered in snot and food?

Bibs are sold on the promise of protecting baby's clothes from spills. Errr, but she's got five times as many clothes as me. So many that I panic she won't get to wear them all before she grows out of them. So why the hell am I protecting them from spills? Surely I should be encouraging her to spill more, so I can change her more often!

Meanwhile, my wardrobe choice is so limited, that I've started wearing my husband's clothes. Oh I've got plenty of clothes in my pre-pregnancy size, but as I'm still carrying a fair amount of baby weight, I only fit into a few select maternity items, and I can't afford to buy anything new to get me through my *temporary* fat state.

So I’ve taken things into my own hands and invented the 'LadyBib'. (Sounds rude, I know). It's the most practical wardrobe item you will ever own. Trust me.

I know you can't tell (!), but I made it myself. (see photo). It covers three key areas. The shoulders (snot, sick, dribble), the front (food spray) and the back (sick you don't see until someone you fancy kindly points it out). You can slip it on over anything and wear it around the house. Just don't forget to take it off before going out.

I now only wear one outfit per day and when I get dressed in the morning, I know that's it. It's improved my quality of life considerably. In fact, I'm going to make more, so I always have a clean one while the other is in the wash.

You know I'm right.

Ditch the baby bibs, invest in a LadyBib instead. It’s the next big thing.

To make one LadyBib

Find old t-shirt (I cut up my maternity nighty – very satisfying). Find pair of sharp scissors. Cut t-shirt off around bust area. Discard bottom. Wear with pride.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Gallery - Shoes

I'm not a shoe girl, I'm more into stationery, or cardigans, or luggage. All of my shoes are practical and sensible. I don't own a painful pair of shoes that I wear just for the joy of it. The shoes gene went to my big sister, she's the SJP in our family (I'm more of a Miranda, season 1 and 2, before she got stylish).

That said, the gallery theme this week on the Sticky fingers blog is an easy one for me. When it comes to shoes I have one fetish,  and it's Camper.

Camper make quirky, comfortable, stylish and sometimes odd, shoes. Odd as in weird, odd as in 'odd' - see picture. These are Camper twins, the second pair I've owned. I've had 4 pairs of Camper in all. Not enough, but they're not cheap.

Find out more about Camper shoes here

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Abortion Access

It's rare that I have reason to write to my MP on a national issue. But the current debate on changes to how women access abortions has got me really fired up. They propose some 'simple' changes to the way women considering abortion are counselled. The simple change may include anti-abortion groups providing that counselling. It's another hurdle women will have to jump to have the right to choose whether or not they keep their unborn child.

Suzanne Moore wrote a great piece in the Guardian, it's worth a read (if you are pro-choice).
I have always believed in a woman's right to choose what to do with her unborn child.  I was happy in the knowledge that if I was ever in a situation where I was pregnant with a child I couldn't support or didn't want, living in the UK I would have the right to choose and the medical support to back that up. Obviously I prefer contraception as the best approach - but not all women have that option. 

The idea of an unwanted child being born into an unhappy life, upsets me more than the abortion itself.

Now I've got kids, I admit that's changed. I'm in a stable relationship, we are financially secure. If I got pregnant 'by mistake' then I don't think I could have an abortion anymore. I'd be too emotionally attached to that bunch of cells already, I've seen what it grows into.

But that doesn't mean I've forgotten how I used to feel and what I used to want. We should never let go of the people we used to be and the rights that were important to us at different stages in our lives. We could be in that position again in the future.

You don't have to agree, the great thing is, it's up to us individually how we'd deal with that situation. I respect everyone's opinion on this issue because we are all different. This isn't about politics, or the way you vote, for me this is about respecting a woman's ability to make decisions (without having to question, question, question...)

That's why I followed this link and emailed my MP to oppose the new restrictions on abortion access.