Cookies

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As you may remember, I have been dieting, all my life! I have always been a fatty, and I think I have tried every diet ever going. I think my weight has shaped a lot of my life, from the bullying at school leading to the vicious circle of comfort eating not helping the situation. As I got older, I made a life choice, that I either kept letting it control my life, or I accepted who I was, and therefore lived as me. The later choice gave me control over things, and I gained the attitude that if people don’t accept me for who I am, then it is their loss and not mine! I think this is why I get so upset at the level of bullying D get for his size, both from his peers and professionals that just assume he over eats, although one doctor does believe it may be genetic. I am very concerned that he doesn’t become obsessed by his size and let it control his life the way it has mine.

I suppose my biggest weakness, is biscuits. I love a cuppa and a biscuit. The more I try to stop this habit, the more I feel deprived and that’s when a biscuit becomes a packet of biscuits!

I am still trying to reduce my weight, as I want to live long enough to see my babies grow up. I have been following Weight Watchers on-line for a while, and I really enjoy it. It gives you the flexibility to eat food that is family friendly meals, that fit in with your life, and so you don’t feel like you are having to make several different meals for different people each day. The programme gives you a specific amount of points that you eat each day, and you also get an allowance for weekly treats. It is therefore flexible enough to allow for special occasions, and days out. The amount you can eat is actually quite a lot, and some days I don’t get near my points allowance!

By having this flexibility, means I can have myself a biscuit with my cuppa in the afternoon. As you know, I love baking, so am always trying new recipes, and turning ones I find, into healthier versions. There are a huge array of books published by Weight Watchers, and I have found many brilliant recipes from these. My present favourite recipe for biscuits, is one of theirs, and here it is.

Chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.
45g butter
75g soft brown sugar
50g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
70g porridge oats
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g chocolate chips

Melt the butter, and add the sugar, warm until smooth.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and oats, then add the butter mix, and the egg.
Fold in the chocolate.
Make into 16 balls and bake at 180c for 12 minutes.

I exchanged the butter for low-fat alternative, and the sugar for fruit sugar substitute, so it makes it a little less bad for you.    The chocolate chips can be exchanged for raisins, or other dried fruit, and they are also great with a little ginger or cinnamon added – in fact it is a very flexible recipe!

The flavour of them is lovely, almost coconut. Being made with oats, they are a nice eat, and while they are good enough to keep eating, one is totally satisfying.   What’s even better, is the kids also love them, so definitely a win win recipe.

If I can eat some naughty, that isn’t too bad, then I feel I am not missing out, but when I stand on the scales at the end of the week, I feel I am still being a good girl!!!

Report Time.

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School reports coming home was always a stressful time for me as a child. I always did my best at school, but being only a year behind my academically brilliant brother, meant that however hard I tried, it was never quite good enough. My parents never directly compared our school work, but the platitudes of being told as long as I tried my hardest, while he got praised for his constant success, was probably why I switched off at school – I did my work, but never pushed myself as I didn’t see the point if my effort wasn’t going to be recognised.

Yesterday was the day the boys reports came home. I had forgotten they were due, but should have worked it out, as consultations with the teachers – parents evening as it used to be called, are next week.

First out of the bag was D’s. As one can only expect from him, it was a shining example of a little boy who gives it is all in class. I suppose having a teacher he totally worships makes a huge difference, but his ability to absorb information makes for a very clever little man. I do some times believe his cleverness is such that he has worked out if he keeps his head down and doesn’t show totally what he is capable of then he wont have to stretch himself too far. Luckily the teacher he has, gets him well enough to read the signs when he is bored or just not stimulated – well most of the time, as he still constantly complains how boring school is. When the first line of the report read “D is a quiet…..” Yes, I had to read that a few times, as it totally doesn’t describe the person that I talk to you about! Bottling his emotions and fears during the day, is what I suppose leads to many of his out bursts in the safe environment of home. It talks about his strong sense of right and wrong – this is so him, as there is little grey in his world, only black or white, and he hates to see injustice, although having said that, he is very unlikely to speak up if the injustice is against him! When it talks of his confidence in Maths, that is of no surprise as numbers are something he has always felt comfortable about. It was good to see him praised for his effort in gym class. Because of his size, he has often been put down about his athletic ability – including it being mentioned that it needed to be addressed on his P1 report, but he loves being active – in fact, he is rarely still, and the PE teacher that goes into the school has really motivated him to believe in himself. D might not be the perfect shape to be a great athlete, but if there was a gold medal for effort, then he would certainly be in contention for it. All in all, D’s report is kind of what we would expect from him. He is a little boy who while the words that sometimes come out of his mouth say otherwise, loves school, because he is, and always has been, a sponge for information – he doesn’t take things at face value, but needs to know they whys and wherefores involved. We are very proud of him.

Then I opened M’s report. School life has always been hard for M. He has had over a dozen teachers in the 5 years he has been at the school, until last year when he had an amazing teacher, has had little stability in his educational life. Last year though he had a teacher who wanted to learn about him, and wasn’t just teaching any child on the spectrum. He was therefore devoted to her, and wanted to be at school, to do his work, to be part of the whole environment of the classroom. It was magical to see. This year, as been a little bit of a sideways step for him, and I do wonder if some of it is to do with the children around him growing up and him still being much younger emotionally than his physical age. He therefore is struggling more than ever to bond with those around him. He has a couple of children he talks Minecraft with, and another child who has told he has to play with her – a relationship the school is aware of and monitoring, but there are no strong bonds. There are 2 girls in his class that I would probably say are the closest thing he has to friends, as they have known him for always and so wont take any nonsense from him, but also wont let any one give him any either, but they aren’t at his table, so it is understandable he feels alone. Having said all this, he is getting there academically. His report talks about his enthusiasm for project work, and how hard he works. I do believe he works hard, probably harder than many children, because he has so much to over come to just cope with being in the noisy, often random environment of the classroom. While M might not be at the stage that would be anticipated for a child his age in some of the disciplines, he gives it his all. I couldn’t ask for any more from him. It talks about how hard he works to follow the golden rules – he, like his brother, is a great believer in rules, and when he was younger, we often had to make things into rules to get them done, as rules were there to be followed! The learning environment may not be the most suitable for M, but he achieving academically, and I think that says an awful lot about him as a person. We are so proud of him.

With the teachers meetings next week, I am not sure what there is to say, as D needs to continue in the same vein, and just push himself a lot more, while M needs more support to learn to develop as a person and not just a learner, something we are working with the school already to try to instigate.

For now though I am a proud Mumma, and I think my clever babies will be getting a treat at the weekend to say well done.

School Assembly

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When I was at school – all those years ago, every school day started with assembly, some days in the main hall, others in your house – the school had 6 houses, each with 9 tutor groups.   This is apart from the lucky few who were excused on religious grounds, as hymns were always sung.

At the boys school, they only have assembly once a week, and this seems too much for them, as they complain about how boring it is!!!! For M it is doing something that is rather random, and extremely noisy in the hall. D will sometimes come home and say there was a talk about something interesting – but not that often!!

This term, each class is getting the opportunity to give a presentation to the rest of the school, and parents are invited to attend when their children are on stage.

M’s class did their presentation a couple of weeks ago. Their subject was “Don’t judge a book”, which was quite apt I think for M. He didn’t have a part, other than being part of the class group. I was unable to go to it, because D was off school unwell. M said it went ok, but that’s about all the information I got from him about it,

D’s classes were up last week. His term topic has been about Egypt, and so that is what they talked about. D’s part was to hold up a sign, that said 40 days later – the joke about this, is that both the boys always think it hilarious on movies when they see this sort of thing – The Lego Movie has some prime examples of this. D did say when the parts were being chosen, he was adamant he wasn’t going to have a speaking part, as he would be too scared.

The night before the performance, he was a state. He wasn’t happy at all. It was really upsetting to see how scared he really was. It makes you wonder how bad things would have been for him, if he had of had a larger role!   He did finally get to bed but it was hard going for a very upset wee man.

The morning arrived and he was ready for school super early – usually I am threatening to take him to school in his PJ’s as he is no hurry to get dressed! Hubby was working at home, so was able to come up to the school as well. The class filed in, and took their places at the head of the hall. Then the other classes came in, and took their places on the floor. M’s class was about half way down, and he sat at the end of the row, so he was almost next to his teacher. He then started flapping big time, and continued most of the time he was sitting there.   It  must be such a stressful situation for him to be in.

The presentation was excellent. D looked apprehensive, but smiled when he saw us, and we pulled funny faces at him to stop him looking took serious. The class was given a huge round of applause, as they all did very well.   I am sure all the parents were really proud of their ancient Egyptians!

Afterwards, the head teacher stood up to thank them. She then talked about next week being Autism Awareness day, and that it would be Onesie Wednesday – it is great that the school is making a big deal of it this year, as there are so many families within the school affected by the condition and last year there were only a few of us that took part in the event. Some P7 girls gave a talk about what autism was, and the whole time they were talking, D was pointing at himself over the top of his head – to many it may have looked like he was being rude or disrespectful, but instead, he was saying that they were talking about people like him.

Anything that raises awareness has to be a good thing, and if you can get kids talking about differences being acceptable and learning to get on with it, then it has to be a positive thing. I do hope the classes do use the day as a opportunity to talk about what autism means to the child that may be sitting next to them – I’m not saying out the children, unless they choose to talk about it, but having general discussions about the condition.   We will see what happens and if it makes life more comfortable for the children who are often not understood by their peers.

Dehydrator

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I have a new toy! Everyone knows how much I love my kitchen gadgets, but they have to be useful, and not just for the sake of it.

I have several friends in the United States, who swap recipes with me, and through them, I follow quite a few recipe sites from that side of the pond – even though it takes some brain work to translate some of the recipes!!! I had seen a lot about dehydrating food, and it fascinated me. My Mum had always been a preserve maker, and I inherited her love of the smell of chutney bubbling on the stove, but I had never come across the art of dehydrating to preserve food. The more I read about it, the more interesting it sounded, so that when I was given the chance to use a machine, I was more than excited to try it.

The machine came with no instructions, so it was trial and error, along with plenty of research on the internet. I started with something simple – and all I had in my fruit bowl. I did apple pieces, banana slices, and watermelon. I switched it on, and hoped for the best. I must admit to checking it far more often than I probably should have done, but it was interesting to see the changes occurring in the fruit. I again need to make another admission, and that it of testing it at various stages. Most of what I read said that dehydrating was that it is not an exact science, and basically what the books say are just guides to timing, and it all depends on your machine, and the room temperate as well as the moisture content of the food. There are therefore many things to take into consideration, it’s not just a case of switching it on, and off at the time it says on the recipe. It was very exciting when I decided they were ready. The apple was absolutely lovely. The bananas were still chewy, and so very sweet – D absolutely fell in love with these. It was however the watermelon that was the star of the show for me, as it was still a little sticky, and so it ate like a chewy sweetie – even M saying it looked like rotten flesh from Minecraft didn’t put me off! I then had to decide what to make next. I went with beef jerky, made with minced beef. It smelled disgusting, and in my opinion looked it too, but Hubby likes the shop bought stuff, so it was made for him. When is was a brown leathery looking sheet, I bought in the expert, and asked him to try it. He said it was lovely, and he would be honest if he didn’t like it! Next I tried making fruit sheets. Yummy! Banana or chocolate is really delicious. I think however the best thing I have made in it, or rather the naughtiest, is meringues. They were perfectly light and crumbly, just like they should be, but without the discolouration you get when you dry them in a conventional oven.

I have decided to buy a book to learn more so I get a better idea of the range of things I can do with the machine. Oh, and I am so smitten with this whole process, that I have already bought a larger more powerful machine, which I think will be getting a lot of use!!

As somebody that isn’t really a lover of fruit, I am amazed how much nicer, and easier to eat it is when dried. I am sure it will mean I am more likely to hit my five-a-day target than ever before as I nibble on the apple chunks rather than look for biscuits! Hubby has been taking a bag of dried fruit with him to work for something to snack on through the day, and he says its lovely! D has been happy to tuck in, and I am more than happy for him to be snacking on this. M on the other hand is suspicious of anything new as far is food is concerned, and so hasn’t yet been persuaded of the benefits. I will keep it available for him, and hope that eventually he will give in and try it.

Now, what do I try next?

Piano time.

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Music was a really important part of my life growing up.

About the age of 7 my brother decided he wanted to learn to play an instrument. Not wanting to be out done, I wanted to learn too. My Dad was happy to encourage this, and got a second-hand cornet from someone he worked with. To start with we shared this instrument, and both got on really well. We joined the local town band, to learn more. They had an active youth section, and a great selection of instruments which we were encouraged to try. It seems to be the thing with brass players when they are learning, that they keep trying different instruments until they find the one that suits them! I stayed with the cornet for a while before moving to the tenor horn. I knew I still hadn’t found my instrument. My Dad decided to learn with us, and he learned the trombone. The band played at fetes and concerts, and rehearsed once a week. It was great fun. We were playing in a local music festival when I decided what my instrument should be, the flugal horn – I think it was more than the beautiful tone it makes, but that I saw someone with one draped over their arms, and I was smitten. I was able to borrow one from the band, and we fitted together. I had arrived at my musical happiness. My brother by this time had found the euphonium, but he later moved to the tuba. We continued playing with the town band, and also joined the local youth band. Music had become the thing we did extra curricular.

When I got to secondary school, I had regular teacher, who was also the conductor of the youth band we played for. I loved playing, and it became all I ever did. Like many people who play, I hated to practise, but luckily I was a good sight-reader. With the youth band, I was promoted to the senior band, and was able to join them on a trip to Denmark in 1979. It was a mad experience looking back on it now. A coach full of children driving through Europoe up through Germany to Denmark. We stayed with hosts families in Roskilde. It was a great thing to do, and even better to have repeated it 5 years later.

I started to learn the piano, and while I enjoyed it, I found difficulty working out the difference between my left and right hands! I think its to do with me being a lefty, and therefore much more heavy-handed on that side!  I enjoyed it though and kept playing and learning.

The exams you take in the music world, are called grades, and I quite enjoyed the work involved in preparing for them, as it is more than just learning the pieces, their was the theoretical, and the technical side too. The mid-level is Grade 5, and to continue further you have to take theory exams. Being a logical person, the theory was something that I whizzed through and gained distinctions through to Grade 8, the highest level.

When I came to choosing what I wanted to do when I left school, I basically had no idea what life was to hold for me. My brother was doing a pre-professional music course at college, and it sounded fun, so rather than think too hard, I enrolled on the same course. I don’t think I excelled because my heart wasn’t really in it. I loved playing, but it wasn’t something I felt was what I wanted for life. Through college, I went on a tour of the United States of America. It was an amazing experience, and one I would not have otherwise had.

I continued playing for a while after I left college, but with life, and work getting in the way, I soon stopped playing.

For a long time, I felt as if I had lost a lot of my childhood due to concerts and rehearsals. My friends were out having fun at weekends, but I always had somewhere I needed to be. Looking back on it now, I realise I had great experiences, thanks to it. My parents gave up so much time and money to let us participate, and we never said thank you for that!!!

When we move to our present house, we were given a free piano. I started to learn again, and Hubby gave it a go for a while. I suppose at this point, I wish I had kept it up all those years ago.

D was interested in music, and so, like many parents, I put stickers on the piano with the name of the notes, and we started to try the basics. He learned to play one fingered, the theme tune of Star Wars, and then decided he didn’t want to know anymore. He has since got a cornet, and is learning how to breathe at the moment. There is no music coming out of his bell yet, but he can make a good tone.

I recently entered a competition to win a piano in the Pianist magazine. I entered but thought nothing of it, after all, the chances of winning were extremely remote. I received a phone call from the editor of the magazine, to tell me there had been over 2,500 entrants my name had been drawn as the winner. I must have sounded like a gibbering idiot as I gushed thank yous at her. She said she would pass my details on to Yamaha, who would contact me to talk about it. They did, and they said it would be organised.   This was a couple of weeks ago, and I was beginning to think it would never arrive.

Yesterday was the day that it was delivered. It is beautiful. I would never have that sort of money to spend on an instrument. The boys are as excited as me, and both have asked if they can learn properly now we have a proper instrument. I hope they enjoy it. I am so lucky to have been given this opportunity, as it could really make such a difference to the boys lives.   There is a lot of information about how music helps people with autism, I am hoping this may be true.

 

 

 

Sad day.

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It is 19 years today since my Dad died.     I don’t think there is a day during that time when I haven’t missed him and wanted to talk to him.

The year he died, it was a Sunday.   It wasn’t just any Sunday though, it was Mothering Sunday.    It might sound silly but it almost feels like there are two days every year that we lost him.

He died as a result of liver cancer, which was a secondary cancer from bowel cancer.

Detection of bowel cancer has come a long way since my Dad, and therefore more people survive  these days – there are plenty of places to get facts and figures about it if you are really interested but I can only speak from personal experience as I am not a doctor or expert.

My Dad was the type of person who was rarely unwell.   I can only remember a couple of times where he was too poorly to go to work.      The year before he died, he kept getting a sore tummy,  and it got bad enough for him to visit the doctors.     He was prescribed laxatives and told he was constipated.     He returned to the doctors regularly as the pain didn’t subside.   Eventually in the October they took him into hospital for tests.    This was a joke as he was put into a side ward, and basically ignored for a week before being sent home, having nothing done to him to find out why he was in pain.     Then about a week later, he was  hemorrhaging from his bowel.   An ambulance was called and he was rushed into hospital.    Two days later he had a biopsy and was given the news that nobody wants to hear, that it was cancer, and it was so far advanced that it had spread and his liver was barely functioning – the doctor had problems understanding that he had not been suffering as less than 15% function should have shown up something!    He was terminally ill.     It was frightening to hear.     He took the news the way he dealt with everything in life, in a practical manner.    He needed to get organised so as not to leave too much for my Mum to do when he was gone.    He was in hospital for a while so they could fit a colostomy bag.      He did get chemotherapy to try to ease his symptoms and give him a quality of life,  but it didn’t make any difference other than to make him feel terrible for a few days after each treatment.    Mum and Dad renewed their wedding vows in the chapel at the hospital.    Dad had become friendly with the hospital Chaplin during all his visits, as anyone who knew my Dad knows, there is nothing he enjoyed more than a good argument with someone who could parry with him, and what better subject than religion!   He asked her if she would conduct his funeral and she agreed to this.   She was a great character, stomping about in her Doc Martens!   He then set about researching funeral directors,  as he wanted someone who he felt would be best for my Mum.    His health went down hill very quickly.    It was almost as if his body gave up trying to hide how frail it had become.      He was on ridiculously strong pain killers and would often have amazing hallucinations – anyone who has been to my house may have wondered about a framed rather tatty Mickey Mouse poster we have at the bottom of the stairs, well, this was on the wall of the room Dad often slept in, and he would often talk to Mickey,  but he said he was sitting on the bed with him!   He was soon on IV morphine.  It was about this time that I think my Dad left us, but his body went on for another couple of weeks.

It was midday on Sunday 17th March when his body finally gave up.   He died at home with me and my Mum with him.   We had called my brother to say time was short, but by the time he got there, it was too late for him to make peace with his Dad.

I was amazed at how much there was to do after someone dies.   The doctor called everyone who needed to be informed immediately.

Dad had been a great believer in organ donation and he had made it very clear of his desire regarding this.   However, because of having had chemotherapy all they could use were his eye lenses.   I do wonder if he would have had the treatment if he would have known this to be the case.

Dad wanted no flowers, but money to go to the local cancer unit.      The chapel at the crematorium was heaving,   My Dad was a person everyone knew, and so many people came to pay their respects – this actually made me slightly angry that they made the time for the funeral, but it would have been so much better to have spent some time with him during his last few months.

Some people came back to the house afterwards, and it was a lovely celebration of his life, as people talked about his life and the things he loved.    I think he would have approved as we laughed remembering him, even though plenty of tears had been shed.

Life goes on.       He is missed, but the volume in which he is missed, is a sign of how much he meant in life.     The boys may never of met him, but they know him through stories and conversations.    I think he would have been a doting Grandad.

I love you Daddy xxxx

Happy Mothering Sunday

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Today in the UK it is Mothering Sunday,  or Mothers day as it is more often called.

It is often overlooked that today is actually a christian day, because like so many other things, commercialisation has taken over and the historical reasons are forgotten.    This Sunday is the midpoint of lent, and it was, so I believe, the day many pastors at small churches were given the day off.   This had two consequences,  firstly the gentlemen in question visited with their families,  and secondly, their parishioners went to the larger churches to worship, the mother churches.   So this is why we call today Mothering Sunday.

Having said all that, you can’t take away the lovely idea of celebrating the relationship of mother and child.   We shouldn’t need a special day to tell her that we love her, but most of us get caught up with life to the point we don’t always make the time to tell her what she means to us.

I think anyone who has read anything I have written about my Mum, know how much of a pain in the bum I feel she can be, but with what she has been though in the last six months, she has shown strength and dignity in a really drastic change to her life.     She winds me up, she makes me angry, she make me want to scream at least once every day, but she is my Mum, and I love her.     When I moved to the other end of the country to marry Hubby, it was clear she couldn’t be left by herself, and so moving her with me was just the right thing to do.    Now I am her full-time carer, and although I feel put upon sometimes, I also feel, for all she has done for me, it is the least I could do for her.

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The  boy made cards at school, and neither could wait to give them to me.   They are lovely.   While it is something they are made to do in the classroom,  it is still so much nicer than some massed printed profit making thing from the shops.     Hubby went out with them yesterday, so they could choose a present for me.    I have a beautiful potted chrysanthemum.    Then at about 7am, I was given some sweeties, a box of chocolates,  and a packet of Haribo Super Mix – D said he chose them as they are the ones with the jelly babies I like, but him and M will eat the other ones as he knows I don’t really like them!   Generous to a fault my kids!!

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My Mother-in-law and I may not be very close, but she is my Hubbys Mum, and my boys Granny, so she is important to me.     She may have had problems with me taking away one of her boys, but hopefully giving her 2 wonderful grandchild has more than made up for that in her heart.

Whatever you do to tell your Mum what she means to you, make sure it is from the heart, and you don’t have to wait until next Mothers day to tell her what she means to you.   If your Mum isn’t still with you, then smile as you remember the good times, because she will always be in your heart.

Hubby and the boys are cooking lunch today, which I will really enjoy, but it will mean tomorrow will be spent cleaning the kitchen!    Oh well, enjoy it while it lasts!

All Mums should be celebrated, so have a fabulous day.