Friday, April 18, 2014

The Healing Power of Nature

I knew upon waking that today was not going to be the easiest of days to get through.

Thoughts of Chelsea's ordeal at the hospital tomorrow already meandered through my mind no matter how hard I battled to make them cease.  The diet that Chelsea has had to follow since leaving hospital has been tricky enough to follow - no fruit or vegetables (including potatoes), no red meat, no nuts or dried fruits, no high fibre foods, no wholemeal foods, no jams or preserves with pips or seeds...the list goes on and on.  Trying to find a well-rounded complete meal with what foods were left has been a test, but of course I'm ever so thankful that she was able to leave and come home and the diet is really a minor matter, I've never let myself forget that.  By 12 noon today that little bit awkward diet was transformed into a clear fluid one. It has been so difficult to ensure that everyone else in the family has been well fed throughout the day whilst fighting with the guilt that Chelsea was unable to eat alongside.  She has been so wonderful throughout though, never once complaining.  I know it must have taken a lot to not fall into the self pitying woe me trap but I must say I have never even seen her take a single step towards it.

First thing this morning I had to go out to buy some goat and chicken feed to ensure we were covered for the bank holiday closures.  I would never usually leave it so late to stock up but I have needed to stay at home or very near to it in case of any signs of deterioration in Chelsea.  We use a local feed merchants a short drive away whose prices are really competitive and stock levels consistent.  Whilst were there we perused their plant section and ended up picking up a few fruit pots, flowers and compost.  If memory serves me correctly we purchased Blueberry, Raspberry, and Rhubarb plants but I may well be mistaken as we talked about many.

With the car packed to the rafters with our new purchases, we nipped to the supermarket around the corner to stock up on a few more items that Chelsea could have during her clear fluid task.  We also managed to pick up new summer canvas pump style shoes for Joseph, Callum, Tiegan and Taisia which was a pleasant surprise - 4 down, just one more to go as Amara isn't ready for shoes just yet.  I do so hate using supermarkets and would very much prefer to use the small local shops but I'm afraid quickness and convenience really was the order of the day.

Home quick sharpish to check on Chelsea and have a lunch of hot-cross buns, trying hard not to make it a mouth-watering experience for that one unable to partake.

The beautiful sunshine very much blessed us with its presence today and boy oh boy it was extremely welcome.  I'm not sure there is anything quite like feeling the warm embrace that envelops the soul and it appears that heavy woes of burden and stressful worries just melt away.  Taisia very much enjoyed feeling the warmth dancing upon her skin and she wasn't shy in showing it...






Oh how she held that little balloon with a grip so tight as she skipped and frolicked along the driveway.  A sheer joy to watch her basking in such simplicity.

Chelsea wasn't feeling too bad this afternoon although the powdered drinks she was instructed to sip were extremely unpleasant.  She wanted to lie down on the sofa and watch TV so we decided that we would take the small people out for a walk to give her some peace and enable her to sleep if her body desired.  Joseph said he would stay with her and phone us immediately in the case of any problems.  We would stay close, just venturing down the lanes, armed with cameras at the ready, aiming to seek out hidden treasures and enjoy a bit of 'other' family time.

It was a beautiful walk.

It would actually be really difficult to have a walk around our local area that wasn't classed as beautiful, we are so blessed to live here.


I carried Amara in the wrap sling and she snuggled in close and soon fell asleep obviously feeling content and secure against her mama's heartbeat.  There she remained until our walk was almost at an end, a good 2 hours later.

Whilst Amara rested others ran...


Climbed...


Studied...


Took photographs...


Talked to the animals...


Made wishes...

Gazed at beautiful skies...


Sought out tiny creatures...




Gushed in delight at baby ones...


Rode horses...


Admired the true surrounding beauty...







and well, just managed to look awesomely cute...



The mammoth walk tired us all out - even the dog - but strangely it also invigorated and enthused.

I felt as if my soul had been cleansed, fed, and healed.

We discussed so many things whilst strolling, made so many plans, answered so many questions and laughed so many times, I couldn't fail to be encouraged.  Our home-ed journey feels like it is taking on a whole fresh beginning this year with the older two heading for college in September and Taisia emerging with a real thirst for knowledge and learning.

Exciting times lie ahead I feel.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A full house once more....

It is so wonderful to have Chelsea home again.  The house is feeling complete again and I no longer feel as if I have a limb missing!   Obviously she isn't 100% well, it will be a long road to recovery and we are still seeking a diagnosis of the cause, but she is receiving lots of pampering and love and being at home seems to suit her.


I'm sure she will be rattling soon with the amount of medication she is needing to take...


but we do whatever it takes.

Although we have to stay at home a great deal, or at the very least remain close to home in order to keep an eye on Chelsea, it does feel as if we are slowly sneaking back into a routine and that is feeling really great.

Now we are not to-ing and fro-ing from the hospital, Amara is enjoying more quality time with mama again, and it seems she is rather happy about that...



Our caterpillars have arrived for our 2014 butterfly project.  Their rapid growth still amazes me!



Taisia has been enjoying playing the Ant Farm game...


and this morning she was chief egg collector and photograph poser...








whilst the guinea-pigs Topper and Nibbles posed beautifully as they came out for breakfast....


I've really enjoyed taking photographs again so I think I shall carry the camera around with me more.  If I've learnt anything from this experience of Chelsea being so ill, is not to take anything for granted and make the most of each and every day, something that I've often thought but it has been heavily reinforced.   I have learnt that it is also vitally important that I look after myself and that my own needs are met.  I didn't really realise just how important that was and I've always felt a little selfish to ask for 'me' time and do something I love.  I know now that if I don't look after myself and my own needs, I really struggle to fulfil my roll as a mama.  I feel emotionally drained, physically exhausted, and just generally running on low battery level.  I need to make time for me and for doing things I love and feel passionate about - photography, home-ed, website work, art, and nature :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

So what's the story....?

10am - Chelsea is still in hospital, but we are hopeful that she will be allowed home soon on the condition of regular outpatient attendance.  I just want my baby girl home - my first born - our home really isn't the same without her, there is a missing piece and it feels empty.  
We had a worrying couple of days with fluctuating heart rates, low blood pressure, and high temperatures.  Things are seemingly settling now which is such a major relief.  She has had a heart scan which at first glance looks ok but they want to study it further.  The results of the MRI scan show a slight inflammation of the intestines - later on today Chelsea is having a colonoscopy which will show more.  She is also expected to have a gastroscopy but not sure if that will be today. Due to blood inflammation she is having steroids in her veins which is making her mega hungry but she is unable to eat anything until after the colonoscopy   She has had a couple of days of being sick which has been put down to the Iodine solution she had to have for the MRI - a nurse suggested that she had been instructed to drink too much *sigh*.


11.45am - Ah, scrap all that.

Just heard that Chelsea can't have the gastroscopy or the colonoscopy today as planned - which means that the no food since yesterday lunchtime rule was for nothing.  Poor girl!  With the side effect of the steroids meaning she was feeling mega hungry it's been tough for her, but she knew it was necessary - now it appears it wasn't.

There is a possibility that she may be able to come home today on condition she returns on Saturday for the colonoscopy.  It's a puzzle because in theory she *should* be feeling really ill - with extreme pains, but there is nothing, she is almost feeling 100% well other than tiredness and a bit of weakness as she walks.    As her blood count is stable and the Doctor is going to be seeing her on Saturday he doesn't think she needs to stay in - he's just checking his notes and will be back - please please please, fingers crossed.


In other news, I've started the Run Double App - running for one minute, walking for two repetitions with a 5 minute warm up/warm down either side.  It felt really good.  I'm overweight for the first time in my life and I really don't like it.  I know it's post-pregnancy weight, but I feel really bleurgh about it. On the way home I stopped at our back gate and called to the goats - Poppy, Winston and Hetty all galloped over to see me from the other end of the field, followed by the three ducks running as fast as they could waddle, and two chickens - I love my animals so much.  

I've also done a bit of knitting for the first time in ages.  Actually it is the first bit of 'craftyness' I had felt like doing since Chelsea's experience.  My head just isn't in the right place for painting, I can't bring myself to pick up a paintbrush at the moment - I'm sure onace she is home that will change.  I'm knitting Amara a little cardigan, something I can do whilst watching TV when everyone else is in bed.   


I've also been walking - a two hour walk last night.  Amara was sleeping already so she stayed at home with Lee, but I did have the pleasure of Taisia's, Callum's and Tiegan's company. It was such a joy.  We walked to the top of the hill and watched the beautiful sunset - I'm so annoyed that I didn't take my camera - not even my mobile phone.  We had the moon in front of us and the sun behind, gorgeous.

Callum hopped, skipped and twirled along the lanes, exclaiming that he loved living in the countryside which felt really special.  He went on to say that he loves the animals, watching the birds, viewing the stars, and the fact that the skies are so clear and easy to see due to no light pollution.  Taisia joined in the conversation saying that her favourite part of living in the countryside is the leaves.  Gotta love that girl.  


12.05pm -

Chelsea can come home today :D  Her blood count is stable and she is booked in on Saturday to see the Dr so he sees no reason why she can't come home for a few days and see how things go <3

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday...

And it continues.

Still no answers.

I live in hope that we are a step closer to finding the cause, but in reality I don't know if we are even half way there yet.

Today started with good news. Chelsea's excessively fast heartbeat (at rest) was reduced slightly and her high temperature lowered a little without the use of paracetamol - a first since her hospital stay.  She had to have an MRI scan just after lunch so was on a fluid only diet throughout the morning - but I was thrilled to hear that she had been allowed to walk to the scan accompanied; until today she hasn't even been able to walk the 10 yards or so to the toilet without a nurse protesting.  She said she felt fine walking (relief at the massive improvement!) but was shaking.  We hope to get the scan results tomorrow, but it could be Monday.  They are working on the Ulcerative Colitis theory as that is ticking most of the boxes at the moment.  More bloods have been taken today for more testing.   I hope that something becomes a conclusive diagnosis very soon and we can go forward with a treatment and control plan.

I find the not knowing any answers the hardest part.

It rather feels as if we are all headless chickens running around with a vague idea of  where the corn bowl may be but with no way of getting there.

I came away from the hospital feeling a renewed positivity.  Chelsea had been speaking well during our visit, animating her speech with arm movements like the Chelsea of old, and reaching out to hold a very happy to see her Amara for a cuddle - the signs of improvement were great although she is still oh so pale, so ghostly white.  Still a very grave concern is that her weight is showing absolutely no sign of gaining in spite of a healthy appetite and much eating of usually frowned upon by the medical profession foods.  The dietician is not at all happy and although she states that diet hasn't in any way been the cause of the condition, she made the suggestion that unless Chelsea puts on weight the consequences are well, they not something I wish to think about.  I'm not sure telling an ill patient who is eating all she is given, drinking all the special drinks she is told to (even though she cringes at the thought as they taste absolutely awful) and is clearly desperately trying to improve her condition that something beyond her obvious control could cause her death is really the brightest thing to do.  Nothing like piling on the stress and worry and I'm wondering what, if any, action should be taken about this - maybe a quiet word should be had in someone's ear.    

Once again Chelsea was told she is incredibly lucky to be alive and referred to as superwoman by a nurse reading her case notes for the first time today.  The haemoglobin count of 35 is, not surprisingly, difficult for some in the medical profession to get their heads around.

I am not sure that the severity of Chelsea's condition has entirely sunk in for me (or for her actually!) to be totally honest - it truly was (I am not saying is) life-threatening.  I find it difficult to come to terms with that, probably more so as Chelsea is very rarely ill - in fact I think it is 10 years or so since she last visited a Doctor and even then it was for what was diagnosed as 'growing pains'.  This is a full blown hit you in the face with a spade serious situation.  I'm just so so so very glad that the wonderful village Doctor went with his gut instinct and suggested a hospital visit that same day - if he hadn't of taken it so seriously, well, goodness only knows what we would be faced with today.

It has certainly been a wake-up call.

Never again will a day be taken for granted.

Never again will our family health be taken for granted.

Never again will I assume that it is 'just a bug' even if the symptoms fit with the one doing the rounds.

This evening came the disappointing news that Chelsea's temperature has risen again, so we are back to square one in that respect.  But we still have the hope that the scan results will reveal something and set us on the path of improvement.   I will cling to that.

There was a horrifically distressing moment when the patient in the next bed to Chelsea passed away today.  Words  just cannot express the thoughts in my head.  My thoughts and prayers are with the family of that lovely lady and for all those struggling with illness right now, including my own gorgeous daughter.

I just want her well.  I just want her home.

Friday, April 11, 2014

And so it goes on....

Chelsea is still in hospital.  They are no closer to figuring out what is wrong with her although they are testing for a couple of things that fit some symptoms but not others.  The numerous consultants she has seen have declared she is a mystery, nothing fits the jigsaw and quite frankly the question "How are you still alive?!" has been uttered many times.

It's scarily serious and we had no idea..

New developments include a very high temperature and today's little gem to throw into the mix - a heart murmur.  Her BMI stands at 16 when it should be nearer 25, her weight loss has been dramatic and the cause is still unknown - frustrating.

I wish we had some answers.

I know that Chelsea is in the absolute right place, but still I want her home.   The house just doesn't feel right without her and the family is incomplete.

I know that the hospital staff are doing all they can, their absolute best.  But it's so difficult seeing your child look so ill and suffering, to not be able to walk even 10 yards to the bathroom and to be receiving blood transfusions and all manner of tests and routines.  It's so difficult, and like any parent I so so wish I could change places with her and take it all away.

But that's not possible, so I have to do all I can to be there for her, travelling to and from the hospital (an 80 minute round trip), ensuring her needs are met and she is given all she requires.  It's tough.  With a 6 month old baby and a 3 year old also needing their mama, it's tough.  The other three children are a little more self-reliant and less in need, but they still need to know that they too are important.

It's tough.

Life can get tough, it can push us and test us and force us to increase our limits and find strength in areas we never thought existed.  We have to deal with it, almost embrace it, and make things work.  We have to find a way of surviving.   I am trying so hard to juggle so many plates and give my all to everyone - Chelsea in hospital, my husband working oh so hard, baby Amara, 3 year old Taisia, 8 year old Callum, 12 year old Tiegan and 16 year old Joseph, along with a house to run, dinner to cook, essentials such as milk to buy. My family need me, as I need them.  We will get through this, dragged along, kicking and screaming, but we will get through this.  The guilt can be all consuming, but we must not allow it.  I am worrying that my other children are suffering, that our home-education is suffering - you know one thing that kept me beating myself up?  It's Easter holidays for schools - we are allowed a break.  I didn't think that after all this time (11 years!) home-educating, that thought of doubt and not doing enough "learning" would have even crossed my mind, but it has.  When weakness shows, those little voices gain access.

After spending the day at hospital yesterday, I was so so tired. Mentally exhausted and physically aching. My brain whirring with medical terminology, facts, figures, tests, results, ifs, buts and maybes.  I wanted to go for a walk, just a short one, but I needed fresh air and nature.

I needed to be surrounded by beauty and wonder...





I needed to be with things that make me smile...



Dear Winston goes from bucket to bucket to see which contains the nicest goodies (of course they are all the same!).

and I needed to be with things that I love....





Oh boy, I did feel better, I needed that break.  I needed that feeling of normality.




Wednesday, April 09, 2014

When life throws a curve ball...

So yesterday didn't really go to plan.  Actually, the script was read, torn and shredded.

Some of you may know that for the past few weeks Chelsea hasn't been feeling very well.  In fact,she has been feeling bloomin' awful.  It started almost three weeks ago with incredible paleness of skin, dizziness and extreme fatigue.  We thought it was just a bug, there is an awful lot of them going around after all and the symptoms matched many, so we left nature to it.

Yesterday I thought enough was enough.  There was no sign of improvement and actually I think things had worsened a little.  A trip to the Doctors was in order so it was arranged for the afternoon.  We went along (at one stage I was worried we wouldn't even make it to the car, she was so weak), and the Doctor did his stuff. He asked a million questions, he did many checks.  He looked concerned.  He suggested that we should go to hospital, immediately, that evening.  Blood tests needed to be done and he wanted the results as soon as.

Gulp.

We arranged baby, toddler and child care, and headed off to Exeter hospital.  Chelsea was hooked up to a monitor and her heart rate was 140 at rest.  Her haemoglobin level in her blood was a jaw-dropping 35. The normal rate for a woman is 115 to 130.  The doctor said Chelsea is only the second lowest level she has ever seen - the other being a 32.  

Quite scary stuff.

She has been kept in over night and we are off to visit her shortly.  There is talk of a necessary transfusion but they need to source the cause.  At present they are baffled beyond bafflement.  We are hoping that she is able to return home to us today but that is a big ask.

I shall update later with the latest news, but for now please forgive me if I don't respond to messages.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Branch Out World

Have you seen the picture book explorers series by Branch Out World over on Currclick?  I was fortunate enough to be offered one of their files to explore and review with my crew by creator Helen - a home-educating mama herself.  I liked the idea so much I chose another file and paid for it.

The two files that I chose were Greyfriars Bobby and Stone Girl, Bone Girl.

Greyfriars Bobby is a factual based story about the love of a Skye terrier dog called Bobby for his master 'Auld Jock'.  Based in nineteenth-century Edinburgh, the story relays how Bobby and his master are inseparable, and how for fourteen years after Auld Jock's death, Bobby resides near the old man's grave and makes his home in the cemetery in Greyfriars Kirkyard.  The local people were so touched by the bond between the dog and his master, that Bobby was took to their hearts and was loved and cared for throughout his time at the graveside.  Today a life-size statue of Bobby still stands in Edinburgh, with people remembering the loyalty and devotion of the dog and commemorating the bond forever more.

Stone Girl, Bone Girl is a story based upon Mary Anning - probably the world's most famous fossil-hunter.  As a young girl, Mary found a fossilised sea 'monster' as she explored along the Dorset coast.  It was the most important prehistoric discover of its time.

Branch Out World offers immediate to download after payment files through the Currclick website. They come in PDF form so are in an easy to read and print format.  Upon reading through the first few pages of one of the files I noted that it is suggested that the book is read and digested every day over 5 days and daily themed activities are undertaken.  I liked that idea.  Offer easy bite sized chunks and small study time slots, and it doesn't feel like 'work' to my lot.

Details in each file are given as to what additional extras that may or will be needed, such as other books that compliment the book well and supplies for baking or art, and ways of recording work are suggested.

The PDF files are very easy to understand and work through.  Each day is clearly highlighted and you can see at a glance what is expected to be done.  The files are cross-curricular, covering a range of subjects.  For example, on Day 1 of Greyfriars Bobby we looked at the Geographical location of Edinburgh.  We found Scotland on the map and talked about it's capital.  We coloured in the Scottish flag (supplied in the file) and discussed terrain and what Scotland is famous for, including their famous festivals.  We researched famous people, dead and alive, who stemmed from Scotland and talked about historic events, using the internet to find further information.  We then went on to create a poster to publicise Scotland from a touristy point of view and the older ones created a brochure.

Each day follows a different theme, making the study interesting and well-rounded.  Each file covers everything from the artwork in the book through to fictionalising a true story, from mathematical work through to science.  I found it really took all of the effort out of ensuring all topics were covered, I like lazy and this is lazy.  The work has already been done for the user and although it could be argued that you could spend the time to put your own study together, personally I think paying a couple of pounds for a file that I can just print out and use as preferable, my days are already filled to hectic as it is - anything to lighten the load.

The suggested age to use the files is stated as 5 through to 10 but personally I used the files outside of that age range.  My three year old enjoyed the mapwork, learning about volcanoes in the Greyfriar study, trying the art techniques suggested in the Stone Girl file, and making the Skye Terrier Cake and Dorset Apple Cake!  My 16 year old son wants to have a go at making the curiosities box out of wood instead of the easier option given of cardboard, and enjoyed creating the tourist brochures and researching the Ichthyosaurus.  My 12 year old daughter enjoyed pretty much all of the activities and certainly didn't feel as if they were aimed at younger ones.  Basically I believe the 'work' can be adapted for a wide range of ages and can be simplified or increased in difficulty to suit age and ability.  The only thing that I could see as being a problem for the older ones, particularly those without younger siblings is if they deemed the book itself as 'babyish' and simple.

I will definitely be purchasing more of Helen's files in the future and look forward to seeing what titles are added in the future.

Branch Out World can be found on Facebook here and there is a group to support and encourage those users of the Picture Book series that can be found here.

**This review was meant to include a few pictures but Blogger isn't playing nicely in the upload department at the moment**