Sunday, 27 April 2014

Letter to a newly bereaved mother

Dear bereaved mother,

I heard that you, too, have lost your baby. The precious child that you have been carrying and loving for months has been born and died. You have empty arms and a broken heart.

Unfortunately, you are not alone. Other mothers have felt this pain before you and more will follow.

The fabric of your world has been broken. The ground has given way beneath your feet. All that you understood and believed in has been shattered. Over the coming weeks, months and years, you will try to repair and rebuild your life; it will never be the same...

but there is help. Among family, friends and people you do not yet know, there is love and support. You just have to look for it. Take the plunge and open your heart, whether to a counsellor or a support group or the Samaritans. Do not hold the grief and pain to yourself - it is too great a burden to bear alone.

Although it seems that life has lost its meaning, you can find a new purpose.

The family you dreamed of will never be realised. You may go on to have other children but there will always be one missing. I know it may seem insensitive now to talk about the future but, one day, there may be another baby. Perhaps more? Rest assured that no future children will ever replace the one you have lost or diminish the love you have for your lost baby.

Take time to grieve. Find inner strength and courage. Build a sanctuary in your heart to keep your baby's memory safe. There is hope and in time, if you feel brave, you may embrace the fear and try again.

Yours faithfully,
Bereaved mother

Monday, 21 April 2014

Food, glorious food!

My daughter loves crudités: peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and carrots. She likes breadsticks but is wary of hummus and other dips. She has tried smoked salmon, Parma ham and salami. She loves olives and sundried tomatoes. She has a 'thing' for Bombay Mix (but we have to make sure she doesn't eat too much because it has an undesirable effect on its way out the other end...)!

Left to her own devices, she would eat pizza or pasta every day. She prefers tomato-based sauces to creamy ones. She likes to put pepperoni and pineapple on her pizza. She likes minestrone soup and a roast Sunday dinner - crispy pork crackling and chicken skin being devoured using her fingers!

We cook from fresh ingredients almost every night and mostly eat Anglo-Italian food, inspired by Jamie Oliver, the River Cafe and Nigel Slater. We rarely have pudding, although we keep ice cream in the freezer in case our daughter asks for it.

When I think about my childhood favourites, I remember hogs pudding, German salami (with orange plastic trim that had to be peeled off) and pasta being macaroni or spaghetti. For special occasions, we had vol-au-vents with chicken filling! My mum cooked every night - usually a casserole or piece of meat with potatoes and vegetables. She always had a pudding of some sort - often fruit with jelly or Angel Delight.

There is so much more choice nowadays. My husband thinks he was in his twenties before he ate olives and cured meats and I certainly wasn't aware of several foods that are now staples in our cooking (such as pine nuts, pancetta and gnocchi) before I went to university. I wonder if my daughter realises how lucky she is to have such variety open to her?

I despair if she sits at the kitchen table and immediately decides she doesn't like what I've cooked before even trying it. We tell her: eat what you do like and leave the bits you don't (and encourage her to try new things before dismissing them). I cook at least one meal a week that is different, just to see if she will try something new. I usually do this after she's had a day at nursery, when I know that she will have eaten a two-course cooked lunch and afternoon tea and, therefore, will not be hungry for a full dinner at home. Often, I am surprised by what she will turn down or accept. Tonight, she turned her nose up at polenta but, at lunchtime, she demolished a salade nicoise.

I hope that she will continue to expand her palate and try new foods, that she will embrace cuisine and try her hand at cooking. I hope that she will learn about a balanced diet and enjoy healthy and less-healthy foods in appropriate measures. I hope that she will travel the world and be confident to eat things she has never seen before.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Climb every mountain

Last week, we went on a family holiday to Keswick. We rented a large house with my husband's family and enjoyed a week of outdoors activities.

We have been to Keswick on several holidays. All of us enjoy walking but, since my daughter was born, I haven't had as many opportunities to do big hill walks. My Lake District holidays have been limited to ground-level activities or staying at the house with a small toddler. This time, with my daughter being almost four years old, we were able to do much more and she certainly made the most of her holiday!

It's a long journey from Bristol to Keswick, mostly along the motorway. We travelled mid-week, which meant the traffic was lighter. Supplied with jelly beans as prizes, we played I-spy and back-seat-boogied to songs on the radio. We broke the journey at Trentham Monkey Forest, where we had lunch and a nice walk around the monkey habitat.

Over the winter, we have been training our daughter up to do some long-distance walking and she can now manage 3 miles or so without too much complaining or asking to be carried! So, our first day in Keswick involved a walk around Derwentwater. Not the whole circumference (that's about 9 miles!), just the section from the Lodore Falls Hotel to Hawse End, at which point we opted to take the launch boat back to Keswick.

On the back of our success with a low-level walk, the next day, we decided to take our daughter up a mountain. We drove part-way up Latrigg and then walked a mile to the summit. At the top, we took one of our trademark 'Come On!' photos with our daughter as the conqueror, for the first time. She felt on top of the world and says that climbing a mountain was her favourite part of the holiday!

We had a rest day next, on which we went swimming and played in the park.

The next adventure was another flat walk, from Keswick via Portinscale to Nichol End Marine, where there is a delicious rock bun cafe. The walk was only a couple of miles but my daughter wanted to catch the launch boat to Keswick, rather then walk back. It rained in the afternoon, so I took her to the little cinema to watch the Muppets movie. We shared a huge cone of popcorn!

By this point, we were getting close to the end of the holiday, so we decided to have a day out at the zoo. We went to the Lake District Wildlife Park at Bassenthwaite. It boasts over 100 hundred animals from A-Z but it was a bit chilly and some of the animals sensibly opted to stay in their huts! The highlight for my daughter was the opportunity to stroke a rabbit. (She has been asking for a pet rabbit for ages and we've been holding out, so when she was able to sit with a rabbit on her knee and stroke its ears, she was delighted!)

On our last day in Keswick, we went swimming again and walked around the lake to a small pebbled beach, where children were dropping stones into the water. The sun shone and it felt quite warm, so we stopped in Hope Park on the way back to the holiday house, ate ice cream and played mini-golf.

Throughly rested and refreshed from our break, we set off back to Bristol the next day. We stopped off at the Rheged Centre, near Penrith to do some craft activities and buy some lunch. The journey home was fairly subdued - two of us slept, whilst Daddy did the driving!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A handbag!

Every six months, or so, I have reason to clear out my handbag. Each time, I stare in amazement at the ridiculous accumulation of rubbish I find inside and vow to keep my handbag tidier (and lighter) in future. Inevitably, I fail...

Today brought another clear-out. I have treated myself to a new bag in honour of my forthcoming birthday. It's a funky green satchel with far less volume available than my previous handbag.

When I emptied out the old one, this is what I found:

  • purse
  • A5 diary (contains everything I need to know!)
  • mobile phone (needs charging)
  • house keys and car keys
  • Sands locker token
  • swipe card for work
  • swipe card for nursery
  • two opened travel packets of tissues
  • two Oyster cards (one mine, the other from work)
  • mini London A-Z
  • sunglasses (in case); 
  • glasses (in case) - normally kept at work; 
  • swipe card for gym, locker token and gym notebook (even though I haven't been to the gym in about 3 months...)
  • vanity mirror
  • 'personal bag'
  • lip balm and lip gloss
  • mini tube of handcream
  • alcohol hand rub (for emergencies!)
  • hair bobble and hair clip
  • fold-up travel hairbrush
  • travel sickness bands
  • iPod and earphones
  • voice recorder, pitch-pipe, name-badge - all related to my hobby (barbershop)
  • three biros (two black, one blue)

(Not to mention the cupcake and two pieces of flapjack that I brought back from the lunch at today's meeting in London!)

I'd like to say that at least half of this stuff has found a new home but, alas, the majority has been declared 'essential' and moved into the new bag! Better luck next time...