Thursday, 26 June 2014

Green thumbs

I'm a fair weather gardener. g will bemoan the fact that I don't really weed. Digging, hoeing and mowing just aren't my bag. I feel guilty when pruning. 

What I like is planting. Especially seeing tender fresh green shoots poking out of compost. My kitchen window is perfect for a few reasons: Sunny, warm and most importantly I remember to water things when I'm elbow deep in dish water staring at dry soil.

I mentioned on Monday's post that I've just planted out my chives, thyme and parsley. So all that's left on my window sill are 2 trays of dill, coriander, basil and rosemary, my massive mango plant, 2 nectarine stones and an avocado. Oh yeah, what I like best is growing things that I have enjoyed eating.

My favourite is when everybody tells me it won't work. Meet the cherry stones that will never grow...

3 weeks ago I was over the moon that my mango stone had sprouted. Now I'm wondering where the hell I'm going to keep it if it keeps growing at this rate.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Hemihelp are a charity supporting young people and their families with a hemiplegia.  Smudge was diagnosed with hemiplegic cerebral palsy when she was 2.  Her case is mild. We don't for a second take for granted that she is so very lucky compared to many of the children who share this diagnosis. However, smudge does have a body that doesn't always do what she wants it to. What her friends can do. She fights to keep up and because she's 8 we all bear the brunt of this fight.

Hemihelp asked if I would like to write an article on coping with stress. It took me an age. Possibly because I never feel that I actually manage to cope with stress. Most days I feel like I'm riding a wave. Some days I'm on a surf board channeling Point Break. Then others I'm caught in a rip tide struggling to stand up and snorting sea water out of both nostrils. 

Despite this I managed to write and they published:-

Looking after yourself

Finding time for oneself in the stress and challenges of daily life is not always easy. After taking a moment to think about her own needs, Sarah Macpherson feels better prepared to deal with her daughter's sometimes challenging behaviour.

With all the physical issues hemiplegia raises I sometimes forget that it is caused by brain injury and as such can have an impact on behaviour. My daughter's physical issues are relatively mild but her temper is not. It is hard to admit that my funny, kind, lovely wee girl flips and behaves horribly.

She tends to keep her most spectacularly impressive displays for just her dad and me. She can hold it together to function at school, has wonderful relationships with her doting grandparents and is a credit to us when we take her out and about. However, at home, where she feels able to let go, things can get a little stressful. 

We have found that getting her to drink through a straw when she is mid meltdown has a magic effect, instantly calming her. Although we can't have her wandering around with a straw permanently stuck between her lips.

Her reactions to seemingly innocent requests or instructions and resulting behaviours are part of her condition. Like with her affected hand and foot, there isn't going to be a magic pill to make it better. So I need to deal with it. I need to not react to her demands for a fight, to refuse to let the rudeness or cheekiness get to me and to keep reminding her that she is loved no matter what her hemiplegia throws at her and us.

I keep a mental score card in my head. When I keep my calm and don't rise to the bait I win, when she elicits a reaction my daughter wins. I still lose too many points, but I win overall and this helps me feel a little better when she gains a point.

To keep doing this I need to be on top form, I need to be strong. I need to find ways of managing the stress and to always remember that sometimes in order to best look after my child I need to take the time to look after myself and enable my husband to do the same.

I'm not pretending that this is easy, in fact it seems to get harder the more challenging her behaviour is. When she is particularly adrift I struggle to muster the energy for anything other than slobbing on the sofa watching mindless TV. But when I look after myself it helps, I feel more capable, energised and more determined not to let her win even a single point.

I have tried to find the answers at the bottom of a packet of Maltesers but unfortunately I know that eating healthily has a positive impact and that if I want to have the energy to remain calm I need to fuel myself properly. Happily, I've worked out that if I'm pinny clad in the kitchen I get peace. Even my incredibly stubborn 8-year-old can't argue with the logic of me being busy when I'm stirring a risotto, she's permanently hungry so letting me cook might be accused of selfishness.

Then there's the sleep issue. My first reaction to stress is to completely lose the ability to fall asleep, which then turns me into a wreck running the gauntlet of my emotions. I try to make time to go to a weekly yoga class and have been dipping my toe in the water with mindfulness, a type of meditation using the Mindspace app on my phone. It takes only 10 minutes and that quiet time makes my head a calmer and sleepier place at bedtime.

My husband and I both take the time to focus on our hobbies. I work in some time to read and to write; it might not sound like much but I need that brain activity to keep me sane in a world of packed lunches, lost socks and menu planning. It's hard to have the discipline and the self-control to walk away from the chaos of family life; but what a difference it makes.

For my husband it means taking his beloved bike out for a 50 odd mile cycle. When he works shifts, and isn't always about at weekends, it can be hard to remember that he needs this as much as we need him. When he arrives home sweaty and disgusting, with a massive smile on his face, all reservations about him losing quality family time are lost.

Quailty family times means that both parents need to be in a place where they can appreciate it, and for us this means remembering that occasionally we have to put our own needs first.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Weekend Perfection

I'm starting this week basking in the glow of a weekend well lived. What with getting g back for a weekend, sunshine, a solstice and the impending summer holidays. Life is pretty damn good.

Saturday was a lazy day. I spent the day pottering; reading, planting and cooking. My herb garden is in and looking so lovely.

This spot under the kitchen window is perfect for a wee herb garden. It's sunny, sheltered and now that it's been dug out and filled with compost and bark the perfect place for tasty herbs. I've been growing herbs from seed on the kitchen windowsill. So the chives and thyme are pathetically weedy.

Previous experience has taught me that they won't stay like this for long. With this in mind, I've done the sneaky with the mint. I've left it in the pot and planted it like this. I'm hoping that this contains the roots so that it doesn't completely take over. My first herb garden ended up a mint patch and this bad boy will be closely monitored.

Sunday morning was beautiful and sunny. I got to admire Saturday's efforts while drinking coffee in the garden for breakfast. I love that sat on my patio no-one can see me. I can drink coffee in the garden in my jammies. Well I can on the 4/5 days a year that I wouldn't drown or catch hypothermia.

After a long and leisurely breakfast it was time to beautify and titivate for the Cushion and Cake Tea Dance.

An excuse to put on a posh frock is always appreciated.

The tea dance was lovely. Afternoon tea and dancing with my favourite girl. What more could I ask for? I managed to be very well behaved and didn't just stand in the middle of the dance floor spinning and swishing my petticoats. Tempting as it was. I do love to twirl...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Malteser justification

Missing - one mojo. If found please return to the human sloth slumped in 'her' armchair, binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and probably snacking.

I was doing so well with cutting out sugar. I was loving writing lots and blogging away. I'd even been reading up a storm, powering through the books.

Then I stopped. 

I didn't get distracted and move on to something new. I've just entered a semi-comatose state.

I blame g. He's buggered off on holiday without me. He's actually on an intensive training course down near that London. But let's face it anywhere with food you don't have to cook yourself and no children is a holiday camp.

Me, bitter? I have no idea what you are talking about.

So while he is having a lovely time sending me what's apps of white deer in the grounds of the spectacular estate he is slumming it in. I am keeping the home fires burning. Keeping our child alive, dog walking, house stuff and the vain attempt to stop devil puss decimating the local sparrow population. Sometimes all at once.

This morning I went into the kitchen to get smudge breakfast. It ended in multi-tasking. 

I prepared a nutritionally balanced breakfast for my child - yep opened the box of frosties poured into a bowl and added milk, whilst educating her on avian biology using the sparrow remains on the door mat as a learning aid. I disinfected the floor, made a packed lunch, set the washing machine to wash the door mat - again! And combined washing the other bits of dead sparrow off the dog, who rolls in the bodies, with giving the garden a water. 

I didn't get any breakfast. I made myself a smoothie to drink on the way to work but forgot to take it with me and it spent the day making a lovely dark ring mark on my TV unit.

Is it any wonder I'm not feeling particularly energised or invigorated? These maltesers aren't a snack they're medication. I'd still be sugar free if I could buy valium in Asda!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


The Reading Residence

This weekend my sister had her first baby. A beautiful, healthy wee boy. She was over the moon to be pregnant and Alexander has been loved since he was a line on a pregnancy test stick. Shona will never be able to tell you the moment she fell in love with her son. Her love grew, as he did, in her.

Adoption is different.

When we were readying ourselves for parenthood I read everything I could get my hands on. From dry, technical essays on attachment disorder to tear jerky adoption stories on the user boards of Adoption UK. One thing I read over and over again was that it takes time to fall in love. Not to expect to feel a bond immediately. It could take weeks or even months and that this was ok.

We met smudge for the first time at her foster home. Social Work had scheduled a week of introductions for us to get to know each other before she came to live with us. The first day we were to spend a couple of hours with her. When I walked into that poorly lit, stuffy living room I was prepared to not feel very much.

I was completely unprepared for the way I instantly felt for the cheeky faced, tatty haired wee monkey. She was sat on the floor and turned to grin at us as we walked through the door. With that grin I was lost.

We only had a couple of hours with her that day. I got into the car and sobbed. Already she was my daughter. Why was I leaving my daughter?

I've loved her a little bit more every day since then. She is rude, cheeky, stubborn and stroppy. But love is blind so I only see my funny, cuddly, kind, warm, compassionate and beautiful daughter. My favourite, just don't tell her Daddy!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Review - Clan of the Cave Bear

Clan of the Cave Bear is the first of the Earth's Children series of books.  They've been on my to read list for ages, but then which book isn't?  I liked the idea of pre-historic fiction and had heard that Jean M Auel brings our very early ancestors to life. 

So why was this such a difficult book to review? 

I enjoyed it. I liked the story. Ayla is orphaned by an earthquake at 5 and found close to death by a neanderthal medicine woman and adopted. The book follows her childhood with the neanderthal clan of the cave bear struggling to adapt and survive as an outsider. Ayla is Cro-Magnon so looks, thinks and behaves very differently from her family.

In the pursuit of 'what happens next' I can forgive most things. But that is not to say that they don't bother me. My main irk was the overly long and frequent descriptions of plants. Sometimes gathered for food, sometimes for medicinal purposes. I couldn't help but feel that this was Auel's need to show just how much research had been done. I am now quite confident that should I ever fall into a wormhole and end up in the Ice Age I at least won't go hungry.

I am in no position to judge how accurately she has portrayed day to day neanderthal life. I'm a little ashamed to admit that the sum of my knowledge may have been gleaned from the Friends episode where Ross and Rachel 'sleep over' at the museum.

But I was often left wondering how such complicated 'conversations' could be taking place without words only using hand gestures. But if you can suspend belief for a wee while and enjoy the ride it is good fun. 

I took it back to the library feeling glad that I had read this one but with no great desire to read any more in the series. And then left the library with The Valley of the Horses the 2nd book in the Earth's Children series because my need to know what happens next is just too damn strong!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Singing in the rain

I live in the West of Scotland. There are loads of benefits including friendly people, Glasgow shopping eating and outing, house prices that negate the selling soul to the devil deal. But one of my love to hate things about living here has to be the rain.

This morning at school run time it was biblical. If frogs had started bouncing off my umbrella I wouldn't have even raised an eyebrow. But I was cheery enough. Despite the logistical issues of carrying an umbrella, holding a dogs lead attached to the pulliest most disobedient dog ever and dragging a very dozy 8 year old to school without her walking through every puddle en route.

Cheery enough to merit the catty comment of one of the other school run Mums - there is no creature more evil to her contemporaries than a yummy mummy. Her ire appeared to have been provoked by my not entering a depressive state when seeing it was raining. As I squelched up the field with the dog it got me to thinking that I like rainy days. 

Despite smudge's firm belief, I am not the Wicked Witch of the West. I won't melt on contact with water. But just incase my daughter knows something I don't I do take some precautions.

Good wellies are absolute must. Especially if you intend to take full advantage of those puddles, I know I can't resist a splash. As I have the calves of an East German shot-put champion I am a big fan of the Hunter shorts. I got mine mega cheap in TK Maxx but would happily pay full price for them. They are comfy, strong and unless you decide to wade across a stream which is deeper than it looks very watertight.

I get bored carrying umbrellas but have yet to find a properly waterproof coat that I don't detest on sight. So in order to alleviate the boredom of carrying it there has to be an added benefit to my umbrella. This morning it was bright orange to counter the grey skies. I'd really like a rainbow one but until I can grow out of leaving them on buses, trains and in cafes I'm going to stick with my free ikea one!

But THE most important thing to remember to keep happy in the rain is to leave your eyeliner flicks and mascara for a drier day. Lets face it when your umbrella blows inside out and the stupid dog is feigning deafness again do you really want to look like this?