Saturday, May 28, 2011

Four and Fabulous

So Poppy is four. For so long she has been my little baby, and now - with a shock almost - I realise she is a little big girl (as she calls herself). Little because, yes, she is petit and pretty, and big because, yes, she is bold and beautiful. She spent her birthday in hospital having a biopsy taken of her stomach to confirm ceoliac disease. After the surgical team sang her Happy Birthday, they put a mask over her little face and as she stared wide-eyed at me, she went limp in my arms, her eyes slowly closing. As they lifted her onto the table, I wanted to hold on a moment longer, so small and delicate, so strong and determined, my heart sometimes can't contain the love I feel for her.
We pretended her birthday was on Saturday, and our little princess partied with her pink princess friends (some battles aren't worth the fight). She laughed and danced and ripped open presents. We got her a bike, the smallest we could find and she struggled and practised and persevered until she willed those feet to turn the pedals forward. She has always had to work harder, and try longer to do the normal things - get on the toilet, scoot and run, climb on the bed, keep up with us walking, riding a bicycle. But she is the most determined little big person I've ever known. Her first sentence was "I do it!" and she has never stopped saying it (despite being ill for the last two years).
Surgery confirmed ceoliac disease and so a new way of life begins for her. I will have to control everything she puts in her mouth. Every birthday party she goes to, she will have to pass on the cake and the buns and sausages and biscuits and crisps. It's going to be hard. I'm daunted by the massive change in our lives now (we can't even toast her bread in our toaster). But, I'll take a leaf out of her book. I will try and I will succeed.

She'll have to try harder than anyone else just to thrive. But she will. Because she is petit and powerful. She is dainty and determined. The doctors tell us we will start to see a huge change in her personality over the next few weeks once we cut all gluten from her diet - more energetic, sleeping better, improved moods, happier. And maybe, maybe, she'll even grow a little.

I find it weird to think the child we know and love so much is going to change - but it will be a bigger, brighter, bolder version of the same lovely girl.

Our little big girl is four, and no matter what else, always fabulous.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Birthday love

Today is my mum's birthday. As she lies locked in her body and mind in Belfast, for the first time in probably 15 years I won't be spending the day with her. Since I had children, she would come down to Dublin and I would take her to Avoca for lunch... we would while away a couple of hours nattering about nothing and everything, sharing each other's lunch, and always, finishing up with a 'goodie' with our cuppa. Then we would come back to mine and I'd throw a birthday teaparty for her with the girls. They would make buns and they'd sing happy Birthday till they were hoarse.

Then she would help me with Poppy's birthday party two days later, blowing up balloons, making marshmallow Top Hats, clearing up exhuberant princess spills and smiling at the mess a bunch of toddlers can make. Poppy will be four, and tomorrow's Princess Party (very important distinction!) will be her first without Nanna. Every 'first' cuts like the first cut - her stroke. A body blow, painful and bruising. The memory of last year so sharp, it cuts into the wound afresh.

But. Among all the firsts, there is also a comforting constant. The next day after Poppy, it's my Hubby's birthday. (May is the triple wammy!). He may be the one celebrating, blowing out candles and getting birthday cuddles, but I am the one that is lucky. I am the one with the best present of all....him. He looks after me, quietly, dilligently, without fuss. I've noticed him staying an extra 5 minutes in the morning even though I know he is so pressured at work, just to help me out because I'm struggling. He holds my hand in the dark of the night. He tells me dinner is gorgeous even if it looks like a bowl of cat food (lentil roast is not my forte). He doesn't take lunch so he can come home early on Monday to let me out to pilates, and never complains. He loves me. Simply and beautifully.

So I'd like to add a bit to my previous post - the sandwich filling. I am the filling. My girls and my mum are the bread. But he is the relish. He is the flavour. He is the part that makes it all worth while. Happy birthday hubby.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sandwich filling

This morning I sat at my mum's house eating breakfast. This no longer is a solitary, selfless affair. I turned to my right and spooned a mouthful of porridge into my baby, turned to my left and spooned a mouthful of Special K into my mum, and finally took up my own spoon and fed myself. One for Ruby, one for mum, one for me. These are indeed my 'sandwhich years' - so called because we are stuck in the middle of caring for elderly parents and young children, in my case looking after a recent baby and two small girls and my mum who was struck down by a devastating stroke. And when I'm pulled this way and that, I often amuse myself with the thoughts of what kind of sandwich I am today.

Most days I feel like a limp ham and butter - drab, boring and left on the shelf in a 24 hour garage, a little saggy and wilted and nearly out of date. Occassionally I spruce myself up, get inspired and turn out a rather saucy (but still not very exoctic) chicken and mayo. If I manage to really get myself together and prune bits of myself, I may even be a chicken and avocado. On days when I feel some sense of achievement, when more To-Do's are ticked than added to on my never-ending list, I am a double decker club perhaps. With a bit of sweet chilli dressing on the side.

One of the first blogs I ever wrote was about my mum making a tuna sandwich and my astonishment at the length of time it took her. She was always telling me to slow down, and often when I'm running around like a headless chicken I think of that blog and what it led to. It was spotted by a magazine who printed it, and so began a good working relationship, which continues now. The vast majority of my blogs and my published articles have not been about the filling, but about the bread that supports me - my mum and my children. I may be the taste inside (boring or exotic) but they have been the strength on the outside, keeping me together.

I may be in my sandwich years, caring for my loved ones at either end of the age spectrum, but they have been and are my bookends, my bread, my boundaries, my inspiration, my proudest parts, my best parts, the parts I write about, the parts I need. What kind of sandwich am I today? I hope a very well made, slowly made tuna sandwich to make my mum proud.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's the small things

Poppy was born tiny and drew gasps of gorgeousness with her small, compact, perfect form. She was snug, sweet, and sassy. Clothes draped her little figure with concern, always a year at least in size below her actual age.... as I was shocked the other day to realise, Ruby at 6 months was comfortably wearing an outfit Poppy wore for a photo on the wall when she was 13 months old. But cutesy became concern when we realised small and sweet was one thing, but too tiny to get on a toilet aged 3, too small to get a bike for her birthday, too small to get up on the bed aged nearly four was actually a very big thing instead. Other things made us worry too - her popensity to go to the loo a lot, and constant complaints of a sore tummy.
We took her to an Endocrinologist who confirmed our fears - she barely makes it onto the centile chart, and is way below the range she should fit into as our daughter. Big needles went into her wee arms and blood was taken for nurmerous tests. An X ray was taken of her left wrist which told us that despite the fact she will be 4 next week, she has the bone age of a two and a half year old. Apparently this is good. She may be four and look two and a half, but she has the potential to grow. The not so good news is that something is delaying or stopping her development. She is 'failing to thrive'.
That 'something' appears to be Gluten. Ghastly gluton apparently is poisoning her - although she has to have a biopsy to confirm but it ticks all the boxes. So, for starters that's bread, pasta, cereals, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, processed foods, sweets, and pretty much most things except fresh fruit and veg (which thankfully she relishes). Once she's confirmed to have Coeliac disease she begins a life-long avoidance of all mainstream foods. Frankly I'll do whatever it takes to give her the best diet I can, but all I can think about it eating out, going abroad and worst for her - having to avoid buns, cake, crisps and pasta at parties and forever question what she eats. But, if it gets her healthy and well again, we'll do what we have to. Unfortunately we've been told it'll take upto 12 months to get the biopsy done. Twelve months during which we have to continue to poison her, continue to watch her pain, continue to flush away her nutrition down the toilet with her poo as her body can't process it properly with gluten in her system. Twelve months? Are they mad? Needless to say, we'll be taking her abroad if we have to. She's small and sweet, and snug and sassy and smiley and sensational. She has character ten times her height, and no matter what happens now with her size, she'll always, always, always be our perfect package.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Scooter Girls

Growing up happens in stages. Little steps lead to giant discoveries, incremental instalments ignite monumental growth. Take the walk to school. Last year when Daisy started playschool, this involved two toddlers and one double buggy ride a mile and a half down the road. As the year progressed, Daisy walked to the lights before getting in the pram, while Poppy reigned supreme in her heightened position in the buggy like Lady Muck, her sloth a convenient decoy for my annoyance at her slowness. By the summer term though, I had Poppy (kicking and screaming most of the way it has to be said) walking to the lights, and Daisy to the main junction, about a mile. And I pushed them the last half mile, baby rocking in my tummy, already in the swing of the school routine before she was even born.

The new school year started last September and fresh and frisky targets were set. Poppy now walked to the main junction, Daisy three quarters of the way, my new baby swinging in the carrycot under the pram, born but still being rocked to sleep by routine. Poppy still talked the talk and got to play Lady Muck, but only if she walked the walk first.

After Christmas, the new goals stretched before them - Daisy the whole mile and a half, and Poppy to one street past the main junction. I invented games to keep them from noticing, we watched the seasons play out in the cherry trees and gardens we passed, saying hello to the trees like old friends we've come to know so well.

And now, Easter holidays over, the summer term begins, and it all changes again. Daisy and Poppy now scoot the whole way, while I (jog) to keep up, Ruby no longer asleep for the commute, but reigning supreme as Lady Muck, awake and alert, eager to get out and creep those first crawling moves. In no time at all I suspect, she'll be scooting too, and the trees will wave their branches hello in the wind as she takes her place on the walk of life.