Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Somewhere between a rock and a better place...

And so I've hit the half way mark.  Three cycles of chemo down, three more to go.  I'm sitting on the top of the mountain, catching my breath and hoping the descent will feel a whole lot easier than the climb.  I'm doing well, according to my wonderful oncologist.  The chemo is doing what it's supposed to do and I can see the visible proof.  I'm saying 'thank you' quietly a thousand times a day.
Still got my hair. Yay. Well, most of it.  This is a very nice, much apprecaited bonus.  It's shedding but slowly and I'm just hoping and praying that I don't wake one morning looking like Bill Bailey - shiny scalp and long straggly ends.  Sorry Bill -  you wear it well but I just know I couldn't carry it off.
And yes, we've fallen fairly comfortably into our new routine.  My amazing four seem to have adjusted to mummy's good and bad days without too much upset and the usual band of angels in my life are rallying around as I knew they would.  I feel blessed. Knackered but blessed.
Something else is different too, this time round. Something completely unexpected but rather wonderful.   There's a hand holding mine in the chemo ward.  There's someone making me giggle uncontrollably as the hideous cold cap is being suctioned onto my head and I feel like I want to be sick, cry and scream all at once.
Chemotherapy and laughter were alien last time round.  It was the loneliest feeling in the world.  I've laughed more in the last three months than in the last decade. Who would have thought it?  Definitely not me...
I've never had a rock before.  Always cringed slightly at the word. Jealousy probably, or maybe more a feeling of not being able to relate at all to the idea of being able to lean into someone and exhale.  I've had, I've got other rocks, plenty of them.  A super sister shaped rock, a giant dad rock that's more like a boulder and more huge, shiny, rock like friends than one woman deserves.  But this particular type of rock is a first.  And it's making everything better. 
We don't talk much about cancer.  He doesn't think of me as ill and therefore I don't think of me as ill.  Best approach, don't you think?  Sitting in our corner of the chemo ward eating maltesers and making plans is actually a pretty pleasant way to pass the time. 
There's no doubt about it, cancer is rubbish but it could be worse, a whole lot worse and hey, spring is in the air.  I plan to have a good spring.  Let's all have a good spring. We deserve it, don't you think?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

An unexpected blip...

Ella, Louis and Theo are thriving.  Just turned five and quite possibly at the pinnacle of cuteness.  They run into school each day smiling and happy and emerge a few hours later smiling and happy. They get home and they scream, they shout and it’s still utter mayhem but it’s our life and it’s all been okay, we’ve managed to stay on track in recent months without too much casting a shadow. In fact we've had the sunniest of spells in years.
So, about now, I should be high fiving myself for making it through.  About now, I should be quietly celebrating my fifth of year of being cancer free. 
Turns out that I wasn’t quite as free as I thought.  And so, for the second time in my babies little lives I’m embarking on the joyous journey that is chemotherapy.  I’m bracing myself for three little horrified faces when they see me without hair for the first time.  I’m preparing myself for six months of stepping back into the very much unwanted identity of an ill person, for a freezer full of lasagnes and kind gestures and, heartbreakingly, for my children to inevitably look at me in a different way.
Jake, my big handsome boy is quietly shattered and struggling with the memories of last time, knowing what lies ahead. The little ones will simply be cross that very soon I won’t look like mummy.  I know this because of their reaction to the odd photo they’ve seen of that challenging time.  The bald me of four and a half years ago – clutching my beautiful babies and smiling at the camera, attempting to appear like everything is tickety boo when really it was just rubbish. Really rubbish.
'I don’t want that mummy.’ said Ella a while ago as she studied the one picture of that time I have displayed at home.
I don’t want to be that mummy either, darling.  I’m so sorry, my angel.  Do you know how much I love you?
Deep breath then and off we go.  Another chapter for me and my four.  And as usual, they’ll probably show me the way.  They’ll teach me how to ‘be’- how to handle this latest set back.  This was not part of the plan but I know there'll be some magic in it. There already has been.  I know that we’ll emerge from this even stronger and more resilient, even more full of love and appreciation for what we have as a family.   I’ll eventually accept that actually I look pretty damn good with a pixie cut and that when it comes down to it, nothing really matters other than the five of us being together with me being ‘mum’. 
The thing I moan about, the thing I struggle with, the very thing that has felt so draining at times is now the very thing that will get me through, again.  Being mum.  The biggest motivator of all. 
So come on then cancer.  I’m really trying not to take this personally.  Let’s make this latest visit of yours a quick one, okay?    If that’s alright with you?  You can come in but please don’t make yourself at home.  There are five of us here with big, crazy plans and you’re kind of getting in the way.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

A marvellous mini break...

 Don't you just love it when things come together?  I've always found it very handy that my best friend lives up north.  It means that every few months I simply have no choice but to gather together every scrap of available childcare and make a solo trip up to see her in Harrogate. It would be rude of me not to and I just know the kids wouldn't appreciate our endless chatting and wine slurping.  Scrap that - the truth is I wouldn't appreciate them interrupting our endless chatting and wine slurping. Bad, bad mummy.
So, receiving an invitation to review Ox Pasture Hall Hotel just outside of sunny Scarborough was a no brainer.  Would I and a guest care to enjoy a complimentary overnight stay in one of their luxury suites with dinner and breakfast, yes please thank you very much ever so kind of you don't mind if I do was my cool, I'll just have to check my schedule reply.
It took us about two hours to drive from Harrogate to Scarborough. Mel at the wheel and me trying to ignore my pathetic passenger induced queasiness we arrived at our destination a little weary and definitely ready to relax.
We received the warmest of welcomes and were shown to our enormous suite -  the honeymoon suite, in fact. There was more space than we knew what to do with,  the rooms were tastefully designed and cosy with a huge bathroom that had the funkiest taps I've ever seen. 
Tummies dictating the timetable as always, we wasted no time in heading to the lounge where  a glorious, pre ordered, afternoon tea awaited us.  Glad that we'd purposefully missed lunch we polished off freshly baked scones, sandwiches and cakes and took in our cosy surroundings whilst enjoying the heat from the wood burning stove.

Set in seventeen picturesque acres Ox Pasture Hall is widely regarded as one of the most romantic hotels in Yorkshire and based on location alone I can see why.  Hmm. I could have got grumpy about the fact that I wasn't there with a significant other eager to help me test out the King size bed but that would have just been silly so I didn't.
It was a cold, wet day and being a pair of lazy bones we chose not to venture out for a hearty walk after our mouth watering cake and sandwich fest. We did, however, jump back in the car and take a five minute drive down to Scarborough's rugged North Beach.  We took the obligatory deep breaths and spent a moment or two having our own private, wistful thoughts -  essential when staring out to sea on a winter's day, don't you think?  That done we wasted no time in nipping back to the hotel, happy at the prospect of a luxurious night ahead.
We decided to eat early, blaming our voracious appetites on three and a half minutes of blustery sea air. We enjoyed a drink back in the lounge area while we perused the lengthy menu and agonised over what to have - always my favourite kind of dilemma  though on this occasion my infamous indecision was just ridiculous such were the choices on offer.
Dinner was, by far, the highlight of our stay.  We ate in the Courtyard restaurant and quite simply oohed and aahed our way though three stunning courses and a gorgeous bottle of wine. The food was outstanding.  It would have been lovely to see more guests enjoying the work of such a talented chef and maybe adding a little more atmosphere to the evening but really, we were quite happy in our own little bubble of decadence and excess.
Back in our room we flopped on the sofa and watched a bit of TV before bed.  The Wi-Fi signal wasn't the best  which wasn't a big problem for us during a short stay but probably worth a mention.
We slept extremely well -  though I'm now wondering if it was actually a food induced coma that had us snoring sweetly for nearly nine hours. Either way, we woke up refreshed and after the most powerful of showers, ready for the day.
Breakfast was easily on a par with our meal the night before.  Mel and I rose admirably to the challenge set before us and somehow found a way to devour the most delicious full English we'd had in a long time.  All locally sourced and once again cooked to perfection we savoured every mouthful feeling thoroughly spoilt and indulged.
And sadly, that was it. Time to pack our bags, say our goodbyes and wend our way home. All too short a stay but a very, very lovely one.  Thank you Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, you went above and beyond.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Six minute segments of love...

I played with the children yesterday.  Monsters.  I turned the lights off upstairs and chased them.  All five of us ended up in a pile on my bed.  Theo reached such a level of hysteria that at one point I wasn't sure whether he was going to be sick, wet himself or simply punch me round the face.  It was fun. Really good fun.
The whole little episode probably lasted for about six minutes before we headed back downstairs. They took up their default positions on the sofa and I headed into the kitchen to find a gold star to give myself for being the kind of mum I want to be.  Even if it was just for six minutes.
Earlier that day I'd also cooked.  A lot. It's called batch cooking, don't you know. I didn't.
Hearty stews, crumbles and casseroles now fill my freezer. This is a very big deal. We ate hotpot for dinner.  Hotpot.  And it wasn't Betty's it was mine.
As Louis and Jake fought over the last helping and I scraped the crunchy bits of potato from around the side of dish for Missy Ella - well, I felt like Olivia Walton and the lovely Lynda Bellingham rolled into one. I literally bustled around the room as I cleared the plates away and made a mental note to buy myself a pinny and a rolling pin. 
So, this is what being a good mum feels like.  I'd kind of forgotten.  It's felt like a monumental task lately, one I've not felt up to.  Too exhausting, too demanding, too much of everything. 
Yesterday, I realised that I don't need to get it right all of the time. I just need to try a bit harder for some of the time.  I'm never going to be that mum who gets rid of the telly and throws away the biscuit tin in favour of home schooling and a sugar free diet.   There will always be bad days and days when I feel lazy and resentful and like I want somebody else's life.  And that's allowed, sometimes...don't you think?
Power parenting, I think I'll call it.  Short, intense little bursts of one hundred percent focus on my four.  That's got to be better than the painful, sloppy, what's the minimum I can get away with type of approach I've had of late. 
It's definitely a learning curve this raising a family thing.  Shame I can't get together with Olivia and Lynda for a coffee. They'd sort me out.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Where my head's at....

I’m torn.  My three are hurtling towards five with grubby knees from the school playground, a million priceless questions and spaghetti sauce down their jumpers. Jake has started secondary school and is on the brink of a whole new chapter.  They are all still the centre of my universe and I theirs and for that I’m truly grateful but…there’s a but and I’m trying to figure out what it is.
I’m mum, mummy and sometimes mumma and I love it.    Occasionally Louis refers to me as ‘stupid lady’ but that’s only when he’s really cross.
They need me as much as ever and I most certainly need them.  But something is missing.  The balance has gone awry. 
Is it wrong to admit that there’s an increasingly large part of me that’s fighting for some airtime?  A part of me that wants to not just be mummy and remember what it’s like to be Em?
As my trio are growing, I think I am too.  Or changing or… something. 
But how do I make room for something more?  Is it wrong to even want something more?  Shouldn’t being ‘mum’ be enough?
The choir I sing in once a week is great for my spirits and a lovely break from the routine.  The friends I adore keep me going and make sense of the world when all I see is chaos.
My health is good, I remain cancer free and am no longer dealing with constant drama from a certain person.  Life is good.  I believe life can be great.  I’m just a little restless, wondering what the final piece of the jigsaw might be.
I sometimes look at Ella, Louis and Theo and wonder how they got here.  I mean, really…how is it that these three high spirited imps have taken root so firmly in my heart but continue to challenge me like nothing else.  What a different parenting experience to any that I’ve known so far with Jake.  These three are wild and strong and noisy and yep, challenging.  Really, really challenging.
Ours is not a calm and ordered home though I used to think I was calm and fairly ordered.  Emotions are expressed at top volume, objects are thrown and tears are shed.  Every single day.
I spend a lot of time thinking I’m getting it all so terribly wrong but then I look at them rolling around like lion cubs, falling off the sofa and into fits of giggles. I look at Ella reaching out to comfort Louis or Theo in a rare moment of softness.  I look at Jake being the most incredible big brother and how much they all idolise him. 
‘I like you, mummy,’ says Theo at least once a day and I breath a sigh of relief.
I like you too, Theo.  I like all of you.
I guess we're doing okay....

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Konfession...

There comes a point in the evening when I don't want to get another glass of water or break up another fight.  I don't want to pick up a fallen blanket and I definitely don't want to start looking for a headless toy pirate that could be absolutely anywhere in the little shoe box we call home. 
There comes a point in the evening when I don't want to hear the word, 'mummy'.  I know.  What a horrible thing to say.  There comes a point when I've simply had enough.
Sometimes the tiredness is so great that it clouds and smothers all of the beautiful moments.  Sometimes the responsibility of lone parenting, of being the one who holds it all together is just too much to bear.  And so, my solution? Another early night.  But not til I've spent an hour or so lost in the world of Kim Kardashian and her band of K-something sisters.  The programme has become my drug of choice.  My moment to exhale at the end of the day when all I can do is sit, slack jawed and empty headed.  I have nothing left to give and Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and momma Kris are kind enough to ask nothing of me.  One, two, three episodes back to back are all it takes to calm my frazzled nerves, regulate my breathing and sedate my over stimulated mind.
There.  I've said it.  My name is Emma and I'm struggling to Keep Up.   Night, night.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Love you, Ella Bella xxx

It had been a bit of a morning.  There were tears (mine) and tantrums (all of ours) but as we parked up outside nursery I was determined to turn things around and try a parenting technique I'd been reading about. 
Love Bombing it's called - an attempt to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection. I really did have the best of intentions but instead fear I've damaged Ella irreparably and think I'd better start saving right now for the therapy she will no doubt need in approximately thirteen years time.
All in a row, they sat - Ella and her two sidekicks looking like butter wouldn't melt after two and a half hours of carnage.  My nerves were jangling,  run ragged doesn't come close.  I took a deep breath and turned to look at their snotty little faces. 
'Right, you lot,' I began in my best stern voice. They only bothered to flick their eyes towards me because they were still tightly buckled in their car seats, otherwise I would have been wasting my breath.
'Now, listen to me,' I continued without the merest flicker of softness and turned first to Theo sitting next to the window behind the passenger seat.
'I love you!' I pointed at my (youngest by a minute) little one and broke into what I felt must have been the warmest of smiles before turning to Louis and continuing, 'and I  love you and..'
At that moment Theo leant over and whacked me crossly on the arm which wasn't the response I was expecting.  It threw me off course and that's all I can say in my defence because mid way through yet another broken 'moment' and as I took my keys from the ignition and went to open the car door there was a plaintive whisper from the least plaintive little girl I've ever met.
Big, fat, silent Bambi tears slid down Ella's cheeks.
'But what about me?' she whispered and my heart quite simply broke a little. 
Confusion quickly turned to shame as I realised I hadn't bombed my one and only girl with the same declaration of love as her brothers.  I'd been interrupted, distracted, side tracked as happens so frequently and now, there she sat, feeling fundamentally unloved.
It was the whisper that did it. And the glistening eyes.  That's not the Ella I know.  The tough, fierce, scary girl that seems to be the boss of not only me but everyone she meets.  She cuddles less and so somehow I find myself cuddling her less.  She is sparing with her kisses so I have to remind myself to
kiss her as many times as the boys.  She doesn't seem needy and she doesn't seem insecure.  She isn't needy or insecure but she still needs to be told that she's loved.
Oh God, just shoot me now.
I'm not giving up on this love bombing idea.  As we walked into nursery and I gave them all their goodbye cuddles I don't think I've ever squeezed Ella so tight.  I muttered to myself as I walked away, head hung in shame.  Bad, bad triplet mummy.  This job is hard.
I'm sorry, gorgeous girl. Promise I'll make it up to you. You'd better watch out - there are more love bombs coming your way this afternoon than you can shake your stinky blanket at...