Sunday, 29 March 2015

Shuffle Fail

So, I was happily holding forth on the importance of education, using the example of a Sudanese refugee who had fled with her books (while Pickle was trying to eat her breakfast) when I felt my point somewhat undermined by Killing in the Name segueing into Another Brick in the Wall. Shuffle, sometimes you disappoint me.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Broken Shells

So, six weeks of injecting hormones and thousands of pounds later (keep breathing Lunar; just breathe and mention your shop), my good friend and neighbour drove me to the clinic to welcome one of my snow babies home. 

Sitting in the waiting room, my phone started to sing. Two missed messages, both from the embryologist asking me to phone her. I had a cold couple of minutes to wait before she led us into her office. No snow babies. No transfer today. Both protective shells had broken in the freeze and the thaw and those precious cells inside now had no hope of life.

As she spoke, my own shell cracked open and a chill draught touched my heart. You might not have known, though. I calmly listened to her explanation, asked sensible questions, insisted on the earliest possible date for the next step and left with smiles and thanks for the staff, because I didn't want them to feel bad. I'm very good at taking bad news. (I actually cut short the commiserations of the nurse who rang to say Thomas had died because I needed to be with Pickle while she had breakfast.) Life just goes on. Except for when it doesn't.

Halfway down the corridor some tears found the exit and I stopped for a hug. We talked in the car about what I could do next, but my brain wasn't really engaged. At home, I sat on my bed and just stared out the window for half an hour, no thoughts or emotions, just a subtle adjustment to the new world order. Then I had a nap and made Pickle's tea. It was the next day, glancing up at myself while brushing my teeth, that I really cried.

I will try again, but first my body needs a month to let this batch of hormones go and be ready for more. And I need this time to be ready for more too. No-one said it was easy and they were all right.

But it is a lot easier for having my girl with me. We are leaving love notes for each other to find,

spontaneously charging each other for hugs

and enjoying the sun when it shines.

Pickle has made progress in her career as a paleontologist, excavating fossils including a chick in its shell and in the process learning why paleontologists traditionally work outside:

There is always hope.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Trying Again

I am trying again. I am busy injecting myself, taking pills and supplements, drinking herbs and changing patches in a second attempt at creating a baby. (This is how you do it, yes?) IVF is perhaps not for the sane-hearted. You really have to want this so badly you are prepared to put yourself (and, in my case, the five-year-old I live with) through a brief menopause (waking up thinking, Why is my house so damn HOT?), then extreme PMT (be warned: this is where I am now, although mostly I'm just weeping rather than shouting) and all manner of undignified scans (although I love seeing my amazing insides on the screen). So, some time in the first half of March one of my snow babies (frozen embryos) will be brought home to my womb, hopefully to snuggle in safe and sound (which is what didn't happen last time). After the transfer is the epic two-week wait until I can do a pregnancy test.

It is a good time to be making a baby. The flowers are coming out; we have had a couple of days of strong sun; long-tailed tits are eating fatballs outside my window; a red admiral is against the pane; and my friends are having babies, just to prove it really can be done and Pickle wasn't some kind of fluke.

Not a fluke, but still a miracle which dazzles me every day. And so many days... Pickle is five now. Five whole years. We went to a puppet show at the theatre with one of her friends and had a little party at our house, with games and balloons and party food and the splendid diplodocus cake her Gappy had made with her (to Pickle's design).

Her actual birthday was a school day, so we stopped on the way home for hot chocolate, then a lot of present opening.

I hadn't expected Pickle to be at school on her birthday because I didn't think she would be going back after half term. She began in January, then quickly became really ill and missed the bit when her friends who'd started with her became confident. She hated it and was miserable for a long time. Holding to my belief that she would love school if she could get over this first insecurity, while constantly wondering if I was just putting her through hell for no reason, has been the hardest thing, apart from getting us through without Thomas, that I have done as a parent. There is such a strong desire to make her happy and I could have done that so easily. I could have quit at any moment and decided she wouldn't go to school. Pickle would have been delighted and I would have been very relieved. I came very close so many times, but held my nerve. I had seriously thought about home schooling, at least for the first few years, but her school has allowed me and other parents to send our children part-time. Pickle goes three days a week and enjoys it. She often doesn't want to get out of bed and she hates to be rushed getting ready, but she is full of good things when she comes home and is proud of what she is learning.

We do some home schooling still, but I'm happy if that happens in an informal way and trips out definitely count. Recently we went to The Eden Project with friends. The girls loved dressing up.

I failed to interest Pickle in some great sculpture.

We saw lots of wonderful plants and listenend to an accordian-playing storyteller with a beautiful throne.

In the tropical biome, the children took their tops off and discovered they could cool themselves by slathering cold mud over their bellies. They looked wonderfully feral but my camera couldn't withstand the humidity so no pictures.

So, my girl is now five. I am walking a very wobbly hormonal tightrope. A month from now I may be pregnant. Thank heavens for spring!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Day of the Dreads

Thomas died three years ago today.

Gappy, Pickle and I and a couple of friends went up our hill to the Dada Lump. It's not as obvious as it once was, but still makes a good seat.

We lit a little fire (Thomas always made a fire) to burn some special things.

We ate (another of his favourite passtimes); even Pickle who is still too poorly to eat much.

 Treasures were hung in hedges and buried in the earth, but my favourite thing was this:

I hung all my splendid dreads, wool and all, in the branches of the hawthorn tree which grows above Thomas's head. He always wanted dreads, so now he has mine.

I don't know how long they'll last; I expect birds will make good use of them for nests.

The wind may take one or two, possibly for miles.

Or they may just dangle about, confusing the fat and happy sheep.

The hundred trees, planted by Thomas's wider community and lovingly tended by his father when he visits Pickle and I, are flourishing. It is a good place, this land which holds the Dada Lump. I am very grateful.

Pickle was tired and cold, so we blew kisses to Primrose and Fey, who also lie up here; put out the fire in the traditional manner (a very quick way to warm one's cockles) and headed for the nearest pizza.

It has been a tough day, but also it has been just right.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

For the Benefit of Humanity

For the benefit of humanity, Pickle and I have undertaken some research and the results are very interesting.

Two ill people can acquire the energy to walk to the shops, buy what they need and walk home by first eating the following:
chocolate brownie, icecream, jelly, chocolate mousse - ideally all together in a bowl, and fast.

However, it is imperative that the larger of the two (who will carry the shopping plus the smaller one at some point) also has a coffee immediately before departure.

Should the two ill people also attempt a meeting with the smaller one's teacher on top of shopping and all that walking, their only hope is that someone gives them a lift home from the last shop.

Unfortunately neither of us are now sufficiently ill to continue our research as planned. We share these results in the hope that others can build on them and one day ill people will not be restricted to sweating in front of screens, eating ever weirder combinations of what is left in the cupboards.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Weight Loss

Like many people, since Christmas I have been carrying a little more weight than I would like. Today, I shed several pounds, and this is how I did it.

I have, for a while, had big red dreads. They were cool in a white-girl fluffy kind of a way and I really loved having big hair after a lifetime of despicably obedient head girl-type hair. However, dreads weigh quite a bit once they get long. And when they're wet, they weigh a lot more. Turns out, if you wrap a ton of wool round them, you risk breaking your neck every time you get out of the bath.

Life in general has been getting a bit heavy lately, so I chopped them off. First I cut them down to the wool or a couple of inches from my head so they stuck out in every direction.

I had a bath (without endangering my neck) and used lots of conditioner. My hair hasn't seen conditioner for four and a half years.

Then I pulled apart the dread stubs, using  quick unpick when I met with resistance. The result was a very eigthies wig effect.

I tried hair wax for the first time and it was so much fun!

But I didn't like the feel of it in my hair, so I washed it all out and looked like Marilyn Manson instead.

Having had a very happy day, the real joy came when I realised I can now wear Pickle's amazing hats!

I feel bear-headed!

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Other Side

Well, a splendid new year to you all. Whether you turned with the sun or the calendar, here we all are, safely on the other side. It's much sunnier here. And, as we are past Christmas, I can now show you one of the name signs I made this (no, last) year:

I had a little exhibition in the local cafe, as I have for a few years:

and autumn came in exceptionally splendid colour:

We, very sadly, had our last day at Forest School. Pickle climbed trees (of course),

then the mums had had enough of the freezing cold and we went into the hut to make clay pots,

and dress up as a ram.

When we thought all the fun was over, we found an excavator in the car park!

We were all (mums definitely included) sorry to leave, but luckily at home we have the best toy ever - a washing machine box (note 'cat flap' onto sofa):

Pickle's final day at her superb Montessori nursery came and she was a gender-bending Jack Frost in their Christmas play:

Tip for parents here: it takes a VERY long time for liquid eyeliner to come off a child's face. About a week, in fact.

And then, after all that picture-door opening and day-counting and decorating and wrapping and card-making... it was Christmas! I think last year Pickle couldn't anticipate so well, but this year she really struggled with the waiting. But it was all worth it. She spent the first 24 hours in her dinosaur onesie and was kept in a constant state of delight with presents and lights and music and treaty food and all manner of rules (I love a rule) relaxed.

We spent Christmas morning together, just the two of us, for the first time. I had been worried it somehow wouldn't be special - wouldn't feel Christmassy. This is linked to my suspicion that just Pickle and I aren't enough people to really feel like a family. Basically, I feel there should be more squabbling and a complexity of dynamics. I thought a lot about the last time we were home for Christmas, in 2010:

but was rescued from my secret maudlin thoughts by Christmas dinner with our wonderful neighbours and an afternoon of more presents, much food and some ridiculous fashion attempts with a fibre-optic lamp.

And throughout all these doings, I have been through my first cycle of IVF. I never really believe things will be as tough as people say, until I do them and discover, yes, this is really tough in every way. As well as the emotional double-whammy of doing a really intense thing while injecting yourself with hormones, I had a bad reaction to some of the drugs (OHSS if you're in the know) and it all got a bit scary at the point I couldn't quite take a full breath. I was put on extreme rest (an older, and old-school, nurse gave me a proper scolding about what I had been doing (which I thought was resting). She actually wagged her finger and told me I was not allowed out the house or to stand up much at all. This became boring within minutes but I was a good patient and I'm fine... but no baby. It was amazing watching (on a screen, obvs) the little embryo being squirted into my uterus (twice, in fact, as it accidentally got sucked back out!) and the doctors were excited about the quality of my embryos... but it just didn't snuggle down and stick. 

So, this month we go again, but without the drugs which made me ill, because I have two little snow babies (frozen embryos) waiting for their chance at life. And such a beautiful world to welcome them into:

When gorse is in blossom, love is in fashion:

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