Friday, December 28, 2007

Look what I got!

How clever is she... This was the first year that I. wanted to buy something for me/us for Christmas, and thought about what she wanted to buy. I was just so chuffed with this, especially as I hadn't had any craft related gifts this year, but the fact that she'd thought I would like a knitting book made it a very special present indeed.

Christmas was a mixture of chaos, relaxation and good food. Yes, I did miss the kids who'd gone to the Isle of Wight to see their grandmother, and contrary to agreement I didn't get to spend much time with them on Boxing Day, but such is the life of a single parent and I had a good time nonetheless, both before and after they returned.

Unfortunately N. brought back a chest infection and is now on penicillin. He's not one to suffer 'man flu' though and was very chatty this morning when I took them back to J.'s new place. I. started coughing a bit as well, so fingers crossed that doesn't turn into anything similar...

We're off to Holland again in the morning, to celebrate New Year over there. It's my mum's birthday on New Year's Day and after all that's happened the last few months, I wanted to be there with her. We're taking the day ferry tomorrow morning early which means keeping the kids occupied for 6 hours (o joy), but it also means they'll get a proper night sleep on Saturday and we can go out on Sunday without them being shattered from the trip.

Mum's doing well. She had a minor setback last week, when the infection in her wound turned into an abcess which warranted a hospital visit last Monday. I felt horrible that she had to go alone but it wasn't anything serious, just something that needed sorting out. Apparently they were amazed by how well she's doing, just over a month after the operation. She's now got to keep it clean until it heals over; hopefully in time for our spa day next Wednesday. She still gets very tired and has to rest every afternoon, but she takes the dogs walking again and is talking about returning to her sewing classes, which is a good sign.

I'm slowly beginning to feel more at home back in my old life again. I'm glad we're going to Holland so I can see for myself how she is, but I feel a bit more settled back here and less like I want to move back to Holland. Sometimes, out of nowhere, the seriousness of the situation will hit me and I find it hard not to burst into tears. I watched ten minutes of Holby City last night while folding a load of laundry and had a huge lump in my throat which wouldn't be swallowed and my mind just reeled with memories. When I'm back in Britain next year and the kids are back at school and life is a little bit less chaotic, I'm determined to make something good come out of all of this, I know what it is too but I just need to take that first step...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Some knitting

This was supposed to be a blog about knitting and sewing too... I started this scarf ages ago, it was a free pattern from Knitting Daily, which I loved as soon as I saw it. I finished it off while I was in Holland, and I'm supposed to block it still, the edges curl in something chronic, but N. is a very grateful recipient and as soon as he noticed it was finished, he wanted to wear it. And you know how it goes, once it gets worn and you move onto different projects, you tend to forget about the last finishing-off bits.

Friday, December 21, 2007

O the luxury...

... of a heated house...

(actually, in the last three days we've also come to appreciate the luxury of a fleece stash!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


We've just run out of oil. I suspected I was low and ordered last week, when they said 7 to 10 days, but definitely before Christmas. I'd already cut way down on the heating, only switching it on when the kids were around, but tonight during supper, I suddenly heard the boiler splutter, so I switched it off and hopefully I won't have to bleed it when the new oil comes.
The kids are now both snuggled up in bed, I'm sat here in a cardigan and a fleece and a scarf, I can't get the blooming woodburner to stay lit, and I might just have to go to bed in an hour or so myself - just to stop the onset of permafrost...

Monday, December 17, 2007

A sense of normality

Strangely enough, even though I was very much looking forward to being back home and doing everyday things, I've felt rather out of sorts the last few days. Irritable. Stressed. Tearful. Homesick (for Holland). A larger than normal dose of PMT is probably not helping...
I suppose in a way it was to be expected. A lot has happened over the last few weeks and as soon as I came back, we went into another stress mode with the kids and me getting ill straightaway. Not a chance to catch my breath. And when I could, it seemed life threw back those events for me to work through.
The one upshot of it is that I realise why I feel a bit low, and that I know I'll gradually feel better again, given a bit of time. This realisation in itself makes it easier to bear.

This afternoon I managed to shake off the blues a little and got down the Christmas decorations. We'd bought a tree from my friend Ruth at the weekend and the corner where the tree normally goes, needed a little tidying, but after a bit of nagging the kids got on with it brilliantly and this is their result:

It actually isn't quite as bare as it shows on the photo, the lights are overwhelming some of the decorations.

I love this time of year for getting indoors, getting lots of candles lit and just feeling all cocooned. One of the things I liked in Holland was lights on the windowsills, they make houses look so inviting, so I followed suit and added a few candles to my own windowsill:

I like the way the flame is reflected on the window and back again. I light the candles most evenings and hope that it cheers passers-by.

I always know I'm alright if I feel like cooking. I'd been to a second-hand book fair in Holland and picked up a Dutch copy of a WeightWatchers book with menu plans for a year. I'd often wondered if the Dutch WeightWatchers system was the same, and you can never have too many recipes! Tonight I tried out the first recipe from the book, it wasn't a huge hit (in fact, the kids ate so little of it that I can have it for lunch tomorrow too) but not bad:

It's basically a spinach omelette, but ever so easy to make, and to make it a bit more filling I added some potatoes on the side. I will probably make this again, but then as a lunch dish on weekdays, as it's quite low in points and not very time-consuming to make.

One way to make me feel better is to eat healthily and sensibly. Something that I hadn't managed for about 6 weeks, and it was showing. Today I got out my notebook and tracked what I ate, reduced my portions and upped the vegetable and fruit intake. As per usual, I feel totally ravenous now, but at least it's giving me back that much needed sense of control and normality.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Easily pleased

It was my birthday yesterday. Now this may be really childish and I'm sure at 37 it's about time I grew up, but I love my birthday. I'm not sure I like being 37, even though I don't feel much different from when I was 30 or 20 - okay, I'm a bit wiser, have been through a bit more, but I feel basically the same person as I was when I was 20. It's just the number that bothers me.
Anyway, that doesn't stop me being excited about my birthday. For about a week beforehand I will say to the children: whose birthday is it this week? I wake up in the morning and think 'there's something fun happening this morning' and then I remember: o yes, it's my birthday! I love getting cards. I love coffee and cake. And yes, I love getting presents. (I probably enjoy giving presents more, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy getting them).

Yesterday was the first day that we were all off to work or school for the first time in a week. I. and N. were feeling well enough to go back to school, leaving me free to go to the office for the first time in 6 weeks. It was great seeing the girls from the department, even though S. was in Holland, but I'll see her next week when we get together for a combined pre-Christmas treat/thank you from me for their support these past few weeks. The girls are always very good at choosing presents that you really like getting. This year was no exception:

I had had the knitting book from the library and told N. from work about it, but in the end it went back unused through lack of time. This was several months ago, but they'd obviously remembered and now it's mine. I want to make almost every single scarf and hat in there. If handknit items are not your thing, don't tell me when your birthday is.

In the evening I drove to B.'s house. When we'd been out for a Japanese meal for his birthday back in September, we had scallops in lemony butter. I'd enjoyed those so much that I said 'I want scallops cooked on your new Aga for my birthday'. The Aga had been partially installed a few weeks ago, but yesterday they came to finish it and lit it around lunchtime. It takes quite a while to heat up, but the top plates were hot enough to cook on. So we had prawns, scallops, potatoes and spinach.

O and a great bottle of bubbly white wine. I rang dad halfway through the bottle and he promptly emailed me with the heading 'you drunkard' ;-) (I wasn't drunk, just relaxed!)

Today I had N. and I. with me. We went to an eerily quiet park. Okay, maybe in this cold and with only ten days to go till Christmas, visiting the park is not high on people's lists. It was a watery cold day but with some sunshine peeping through, which made for some lovely photographs.

I hadn't had the chance to really celebrate my birthday with the kids yet, so what better excuse did we need to go and warm up in Starbucks? Tough choice between gingerbread and eggnog latte, the eggnog won. Yum.

Tonight I'm still getting some presents from B. A birthday is even better if you manage to spread it out over two days. And I suppose as I'm pretty good at playing an adult the rest of the year, I can be forgiven for being a bit childish about my birthday...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More yellow

This plant knows just how to cheer you up on a grey, cold, dreary winter's day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sea of tissues

Return to everyday life has been marked by the worst cold I can remember. And to top it all I. and N. are suffering the same (I'm sure my cold was kindly passed on to me by them), so we've spent most of today on the sofa, under a blanket, with the telly on.

Normal service to be resumed as soon as I can stop sneezing for longer than five minutes at a time!

Friday, December 7, 2007


Can someone please stop that storm that's raging in Holland today? If my ferry doesn't go tonight, I might just have to swim the North Sea to get back...

Thursday, December 6, 2007


- About finding lots of little, unusual presents for Sinterklaas and Christmas

- About discovering this place, a huge warehouse which sells creative wares to shops and schools at very low prices. They're also open to the public and as mum was quite tired, we only spent about 15 mins there, but I could easily have browsed for an hour. Might have to go back tomorrow to see if I can find some things for I. for Christmas as she loves crafting.

- About getting some great knitting yarn for some dish cloths

- About going out for a Portuguese meal tonight

- About my coffee swap box which should be waiting for me at home

- About finding a spinning wheel in mum's loft which she doesn't want anymore! (uhm, when will I find time to learn to spin?)

- And last but not least about going home tomorrow night!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A closed chapter?

Yesterday morning mum and I had to go back to the hospital for the results of the biopsy. She was supposed to have got them while she was in hospital and we're not quite sure why they took such a long time, but never mind. Anyway, after a long wait in the waiting area where we had to endure someone else's entire cancer history (boy was she loud!), we were seen by one of the surgeons who'd performed the operation. I'd already spoken to her on the day of the operation, when she rang me to say it had gone well, but hadn't met her yet. She was great, I said to mum afterwards, if I ever have to have an operation, I want her two surgeons: one of them was great to look at, the other was really kind ;-)
Well, to cut a long story short: we were told that what they found, was malignant (although we were pretty convinced of that already anyway), but they managed to cut it all out and the lymph nodes that were sent away for analysis, had all come back clean. She did say pancreatic cancer is a nasty cancer, but that this news was the best news they could possibly give her. Mum was just beaming, I had to swallow a big lump straightaway which I managed to contain until later when I rang B. to tell him. All that's left now is regular check-ups, next one in three months' time, with either the surgeon or her own specialist (an 'internist'), and then every 6 months. Not even CT scans, which surprised me, and no chemo therapy or radio therapy. Obviously if she feels unwell she has to come back sooner, but where the medical staff is concerned, there's no need for further treatment.
Mum was just bursting with energy afterwards. She collapsed around 3 pm and then promptly slept for several hours, only got up for supper and later for an hour to watch a bit of James Herriott.
This morning I'll be taking her back to her own house. She can still get very tired, but on the whole she's beginning to feel well enough to do a few things for herself again. I'm also meeting an old friend for lunch and I thought she might feel happier being in her own home rather than on her own in dad's house. I'll drop in on her on my way home tonight, to make sure she's okay, and over the next few days I'll take a backseat whilst making sure she's coping alright.
I haven't booked the ferry for Friday yet but have mentioned to the kids that I'll probably see them this weekend. By then it'll have been 3 weeks since I last saw them, and almost 4 weeks since I last saw B. Slowly my focus is changing from making sure mum is okay and can manage without me, to being a mum and girlfriend again. A colleague asked me what I was going to do on Saturday when I have the kids again, and said: 'sit on the sofa with an arm around both of them and just say 'mine mine mine?' which made me laugh but yes, they'll get the biggest hug they've ever had.

Of course we're not sure this is a closed chapter. Yes the tumor was small and yes they caught it early, which is great. But we all know cancer is a horrible and above all unpredictable disease. For now though, it looks like I'll have mum around for a while yet, and it makes me feel very grateful.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Up and down

A tiring weekend for all of us.

Mum spent most of her weekend asleep. So much so that by last night I was beginning to wonder if her diabetes was playing up again, and took her to her GP this morning to have it checked, and make sure she wasn't anaemic either. Everything was fine and they reckon she's just overtired from the hospital, where you obviously don't get that much sleep - you don't go to hospital for a rest.
Apart from that she had trouble with her insides which prompted a visit to the doctors on call service yesterday morning for some 'drastic' action. Fortunately this had the desired effect and she's now on some maintenance medication until she's back to eating normally.
Today she seems a lot less tired, we got a bit of shopping after seeing the GP and went to her house to sort out the cats, and she's generally a bit perkier.

Spending time with three of us in one house whereas all of us are used to having our own place inevitably comes with tension. It's only for a few days but we're all going round walking on egg shells and more often than not I feel caught in the middle.

I'm beginning to feel very tired and ready to go home, yet mum's not really ready to be on her own and look after herself yet. I was planning to go home this Wednesday evening but think it might be a bit too optimistic, so I've postponed it for now to Friday. I know this is only 2 extra days but right now they feel quite insurmountable, especially when you have a little girl on the phone every evening asking you when you're coming back.

At least I have an evening out planned for tonight, and hopefully meeting up with another friend later this week.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Or recovery mode, or whatever you want to call it. Mum came home yesterday, had something to eat and has been sleeping ever since. She gets up for a toilet stop, has something to eat or drink and goes back to bed to sleep again. She does look very tired and seems to be in more pain than before, mostly because she's taking fewer painkillers than at the hospital, so I'm trying to get her to take a few more and slowly decrease the quantity. Apart from all that, I think maybe the emotions are playing a part, plus the fact that she can finally sleep uninterrupted - she seems to be in catch-up mode.

This morning dad and I went to Wijk bij Duurstede, a little old town about 30 mins drive from here. The drive there was beautiful, along the dyke along the river Rijn, very Dutch and picturesque. These three are my favourite photos:

The last one feels very Dutch to me. The windmill is open on holidays and you can buy flour there.
Visited a second-hand book fair and bought far too much!

This scene greeted me in Albert Heijn (supermarket) the other day:

One of the traditions for Sinterklaas is that children put out their shoe/slipper by the fireside in the run-up to the big day, and the following day they will find a little present. Albert Heijn used this to marketing advantage (I'm sure!) and lets children bring in a shoe, which they can pick up on a certain day. I took the photo for I. and N. as I probably won't be back in Britain in time to celebrate Sinterklaas with them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Coming home

Mum rang me at 9.30 am yesterday to say she can come home today. She'd been given the choice between today and tomorrow, but felt ready enough to come home today. So last night when I went to see her, I came away with a box full of flowers and plants, so we don't have to bring those today along with everything else she's collected over the last 11 days. We still haven't got the results from the biopsy, apparently she's got to come back for them so I've told them I'm over from Britain and would like to get them before I go back. It's been put on her file, so with a bit of luck they can fit us in early next week.

Yesterday was a grey, dreary day, with lots of rain and not a hint of sunshine. It started getting dark at about 2. When I drove the hospital at 4.30 pm, I drove through little old village with beautiful houses. Most of them had their lights on and everywhere there were candles lit. And though it was cold and grey and wet outside, those little lights were just heartwarming.

It will be a very different drive to the hospital today from the drive we took 11 days ago. It is great to go and pick her up while she's looking and feeling so much better and back to her old self. At the back of my mind is the inevitable question though: what next? Her recovery from the operation has been the most important aspect the last week and a half, but we're both aware she might not be out of the woods yet.

Today though I'm just going to feel relieved that she can finally come home!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Let me out

Someone's sooo ready to come home.... but no mention of a coming home day yet! So frustrating!
She's hungry, she looks back to her old self, she's pain free, she walks around, she gets into bed easily, o and she's getting bored - now if only someone would tell her she can go home! Hopefully this Friday...

I found Radio 4 on the radio while driving home tonight. I'd forgotten the feeling of not wanting to get out of the car when you arrive but you're in the middle of an interesting programme, hilarious comedy or riveting play. And when dad said I might be back home the middle of next week, it sounded appealing too. Not quite homesick yet but something is niggling inside me...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

what a difference a day makes

Like she was a different person!
I rang her this morning at midday to see how she was. They'd shortened the drain and she can now empty the bag herself. They'd taken the 'stitches' (staples) out, all 24 of them - yikes! Her diabetes seems to be behaving itself, no insuline shots at all today. And she'd had her first shower and washed her hair, and she'd had a coffee - first one in three months! She said she didn't really enjoy it, but with skimmed milk and probably rather bitter coffee, I can't blame her. Think a visit to Starbucks is in order ;-) She's got her appetite back (was eyeing up her neighbour's food and swapped her kiwi for my satsuma) and was just full of energy when I went in at 5. She was talking about doing things when I'm still here and she's recovering, she'd been reading all day, she was talking about gardening - the old mum had been missing for a couple of days, but she's back for sure! No mention of a going home date, but we're hoping Thursday, although it could well be Friday. She'd asked the surgeon about the results of the biopsy and he's chasing them up - we'd rather have them before she comes out.

Now that the worst worry seems to be over, for now at least, I'm beginning to miss the kids and B. I speak to all three of them every evening, but it's not the same as being with them. I want to give them a cuddle and go to the park with them again, and I want to see what B.'s done to the house and cook him a meal and have a glass of wine with him. It'll be hard to leave Holland, but slowly there's beginning to be room in my head for my other life again.

Retail therapy

Stripes + Hema = irresistible combination

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two steps forward, one big step back

No chance of mum coming home this Wednesday :-(
Her drain had been leaking a lot overnight and she's suffered quite a bit of pain with it - the first time she's really been in pain. When the surgeon came to see her this morning, he put her on a fat free diet (apparently this helps to stop the wound fluid) and told her she won't be leaving till the end of the week at the earliest. They took out the last drip tonight, which means the big one from her neck has now gone and she should be much more mobile, were it not for the fact that everything feels bruised and aches, and she can barely move. She has trouble getting back into bed - I put the bed on the lowest setting and it took her five minutes to get back in, as everything inside her tummy seems to hurt. We went for a brief walk but she only made it to the end of the ward and back, and walked ever so slowly - she's less mobile than she was straight after the operation. Still no news on the biopsy.

On the positive side, she prefers the room she's in now over the old one. There's only two of them and the man in the bed next to her is very quiet. I rang her this morning and got him on the phone, and tonight when I went to see her he winked at me in recognition, so he seems nice.

On another positive note, all the travelling and trying to fit in work was getting to me a bit. I had a long chat with dad about it last night, and decided to change my visiting schedule. I worked for most of the day today at home, then did a bit of shopping and sorted out the cats and drove over to the hospital for 5 pm, which is official visiting time. With her being in a shared room, I didn't feel happy about staying all day either. It worked much better - I didn't have to worry about not getting my work done, the traffic was much better as it queues in the other direction, and she was more relaxed too as she'd obviously been worrying about my work too. So tomorrow I'm doing the same thing.

Shame not to have her back just yet, but in a way I'm relieved she's still in capable hands. It just feels safer.

O and I'm getting quite a lot of knitting done - must post photos of N's finished scarf, some socks, and I'm now knitting a pair of socks for myself and a dish cloth. And this morning I spoke to a friend who said she wanted to get back into knitting and could I get her started when we meet up - it's contagious!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not much longer now

She might be coming home on Wednesday! The surgeon who did the ward visits today, said they're still very pleased with her progress and tomorrow the drip with nutrition is coming out. This should make her a lot more mobile - when she's out and about now, she's walking around with a mobile drip which isn't particularly easy. Once that's out, there's only the drain from the wound left. She still gets tired very easily, we went for two walks today and by the end of the day she was shattered. She's also had to move rooms and is now on a ward with 2 other people, which isn't quite as 'relaxing' as having a room to yourself. Especially if you lie next to someone who sleeps most of the day and snores ;-) She also still eats tiny amounts and only very light food, everything else is just too heavy and doesn't agree with her. At least the blood sugar had come down a lot and no insuline shots today. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come.

It's a scary thought, her going home and not being within reach of the alarm bell and someone comes to see you, but it'll be nice not to have to drive to the hospital every day and having her a bit nearer.
I told her it was very inconsiderate of her to come home on a Wednesday - it's the fabric market in Wageningen which I really wanted to visit, and I'd already missed out on the fabric market in Utrecht last Saturday... But she wasn't too keen on my suggestion on leaving her for one more day ;-)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One step back, two steps forward

After yesterday's little relapse mum's doing much better again today. As dad and I were out today (I've got blisters on my feet from all the walking!!) I didn't get to see her till about 5 pm today, but she looks better again and was just in better spirits than yesterday. She'd spent most of the day reading James Herriott - a week ago you could give her a magazine or book and she'd put it down after a minute, not being able to concentrate and not really being interested either.

The hospital was eerily quiet tonight - all the clinics were closed for the weekend which made it much quieter, and during the weekend they have extended visiting hours too, which means the arrival of visitors is much more spread out over the day.

I'm going over for most of the day tomorrow - much as I enjoyed being out today, I couldn't help but think about her a lot of the time, and the only things I bought today, were two presents for her!

PS She's still not keen on having visitors, but loves receiving post. She has a pinboard at the end of her bed which has been slowly filling up and is beginning to look very cheerful. If anybody wants her address, give me a shout.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Isn't yellow the colour of new life? These are brightening up mum's room:

Backlash happened today. She was fine in the morning, but it was a chaotic morning due to having to move rooms because someone had died in another room, and they needed her room for privacy for the relatives. A few hours later she was moved back again, and in the afternoon she was shattered. She'd been for a walk in the morning and the physiotherapist said she could go without him if she wanted to later this afternoon. There's a little restaurant around the corner from the ward so I said we'd go there, but halfway through the day I realised it was far too tiring and she didn't even make it out of bed anymore. There was still progress though, she now only has a drip for nutrition and the drain for her wound, and she's eating 'proper', easily digested food, although she's eating very small amounts still. The tiredness can probably also be attributed to having the epidural taken away - she's still having painkillers but they're not as effective as the epidural.

Dad's taking me out of the house tomorrow for a day of relaxation, so I'm not seeing her till much later in the day. Hopefully she'll feel a bit better tomorrow. They're still very pleased with her progress and the words going home were mentioned. Still have a little way to go though, but when she started tidying up her little trolley this morning, I knew we'd taken another step on the road of recovery.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nothing much to report

Everything still going well. Dad and I went to see her at 11 this morning and she'd just got back into bed after an hour of 'activity': a bit of walking around. She sounded really tired but perked up a lot after an hour or so.
The gastro-nasal tube had been taken out as her stomach seems to be coping fine, and this afternoon she had a glass of yoghurt with a rusk crumbled into it, which she really enjoyed.

I bumped into her specialist in the afternoon and said thank you for acting so swiftly. She'd had blood tests done last Thursday and he said he'd almost admitted her on the Friday (rather than Monday) as he could tell from the test results that she was deteriorating. It's only now that she's getting better that I realise how ill she really was.

The only small problem so far is that her diabetes is playing up. This is quite common with this type of operation, it could settle down again or it might be something that she's got to live with from now on. She had a few insuline shots today and it's just a matter of wait and see.

We're hoping she can come home the middle of next week. She's then coming to stay with dad and me for a few days, I might go back to Britain for a weekend and come back here, but it all depends on how well she recovers.

I'm now trying to fit in work as well as visiting her - having to travel 2 hours on the train back home tonight hasn't helped my concentration and I think I might just call it a day and veg on the sofa with the remainder of my glass of wine!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Music to my ears

When she said 'but I don't feel ill at all' this afternoon!

More excellent progress today: when I arrived at 11, she'd already been out of bed and walked to her chair and back. The drip which was attached to her hand has gone, and this afternoon they took the oxygen away. She was allowed to start drinking clear fluids other than water and they turned off the tube which goes through her nose to her stomach, so her stomach has to get used now to having contents again. If her stomach responds well, that tube will go in the morning - leaving her with just one drip in her neck and the epidural. One of the weirdest things was the complete absence of itchiness yesterday - for 2 or 3 weeks she's been incredibly itchy (caused by the jaundice) and the first thing she started doing when she came round from the anaesthetic, was scratch. Yesterday it was all gone - just like that. Today she started again, but fortunately it was something to do with the painkillers she was receiving, and when they changed it, it stopped within an hour. We've been told to expect a setback tomorrow or Friday, which is quite common, but so far, the staff are really pleased with her progress.

She's just so much better in herself though - on Tuesday morning when she was still in ICU, she told me she wanted to go to a spa place we've been before, years back, as her skin's gone very sensitive and they have lots of whirlpools with calming potions and such. It was the first time in weeks that she seemed to be thinking about the future and look forward to it. Today she wanted to read a few of the catalogues I'd brought along for her from Britain. When she spent an hour reading the seed catalogue and choosing different packets of seeds, I knew I had the old mum back. And boy, does it feel good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Short update

I can keep it really short: she's doing really well. She's back on the ward, she's come off lots of drips, she's moving around more (in bed - she doesn't even feel much like getting out of bed) and she's drinking - which was one of the best bits today, as one of the complications can be a 'lazy' stomach which means you vomit all the time, but she's kept everything down. The other good news was that the surgeon who operated came to see us and said during the operation they sent off two lymph nodes for analysis, which came back clear. If they hadn't been clear, they wouldn't have carried out the operation (apparently it's one of the biggest operations they perform).

Because she's in a room of her own, the nurses aren't worried about visiting hours, so I stayed with her all day today, which made both of us feel better. It's tiring but I feel so powerless sitting at home - the first thing I did this morning when I woke up was ring the ICU to see how she was.

It's so great to feel so much relief after weeks of anxiety and worry....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tired but relieved

It took until 2 pm for the call from the operating theatre to come through, but when it did, it was good news: they've removed the tissue they wanted to. It was my biggest fear that they wouldn't be able to, so needless to say I felt extremely relieved. She was taken to ICU where I saw her while she was still asleep, although rather restless (she'd been intubated and wasn't keen!). I left to get something to eat and returned an hour later to find her much more awake and they took her off the ventilator while I was there, and the first thing she said was 'that was really bothering me'. I stayed with her for about an hour and a half, she seemed fine, was recovering as well as could be expected after 6 hours in the operating theatre, and fell asleep again by about 6, so I left her to it.
I'll go back again at the end of tomorrow morning, when they'll hopefully take her back to the ward where she'll stay for about 10 days or so, depending on her recovery.

I think I might sleep rather well tonight!

Waiting game

It seems from when mum first became ill back at the beginning of September, that we spend most of our time waiting...

The hospital has an internet cafe where I'm writing this blog entry. We had to be here for 7.30 am which meant leaving at 6.15 am as traffic is notorious in Holland and to get here you have to drive part of the route on one of the busiest stretches of motorway. We got here in plenty of time, to find she was first on the list this morning and by 7.45 she was all prepared and being wheeled downstairs. Saying goodbye was hard - especially as she heard me burst into tears and told me to be strong in the way she used to when I was small. The staff are great; mum will have a room to herself when she's back on the ward and they told me I could stay there while she is in the operating theatre. They've also put me on the menu list so I don't have to worry about food. I can't concentrate on anything though; I thought I'd manage to while away some time checking my emails and reading some blogs but I just don't seem to take anything in. I'm anxiously watching the clock and my mobile, although I'm not really expecting to hear anything for another hour or so. In a way I wish this waiting was over, on the other hand I'm scared of what they're going to tell me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

All change again

Just as I suspected would happen, mum got the date of her operation through yesterday - the first day I was here in Holland with the kids. I was due to go back on Saturday evening with them, but she's going to be operated on on Monday, and I wasn't quite sure I would make it back on time. And even if I had taken them back myself, the travelling would wear me out so much that you would have been able to put me in a hospital bed too on Monday... So now J. is coming over on Saturday and is using my ticket for Saturday night to take the kids back to Britain, and I can stay on in Holland.

Mum's now getting quite ill, although I'm not sure part of it may be nerves - we met up with one of the nurses from the ward she'll be staying on, and had lots of info about her operation, which is more complex than either of us had anticipated.

In the meantime I'm also trying to deal with a very upset and anxious I. who's not coping well at all - I'm not sure I am coping well with her either!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

distraction techniques

I've got a hundred other things I should be getting on with, instead I'm drooling over this: Itty bitty hats, which I found via a link on Alison's blog
Just makes you want to go and knit a hat!

Monday, November 12, 2007


So much has happened in the six days since I posted I was about to go over to Holland again. Mum was referred to another hospital where we went last Wednesday, and within three days they had a diagnosis. She probably has a tumor in her pancreas. It's not certain it's malignant but in their experience it generally is. At the moment it looks like it's the only tumor and there are no secondaries, but only a biopsy will prove that for certain.
She now has to wait for an appointment for an operation, which will take place within the next two to three weeks. This is quite a major operation as they have to re-route gall bladder, pancreas, stomach exit etc. She'll be in hospital for 7 to 10 days, barring complications.
She was very down-to-earth about it herself, I think probably relieved that she finally knows why she's been feeling so unwell and that they can do something about it. I had more trouble coping, it was quite a shock even though my dad (who's a GP) had been telling me from the start that it could be serious.

At the moment I'm back in Britain, but only for a few days. I'm taking I. and N. over on Wednesday evening, mum's got a ward visit on Thursday which we'll do together, dad's taken the day off to look after I. and N. On Saturday St Nicholas arrives in Holland which I had planned to go and see with them anyway, so in a way that worked out well. We'll be back again on Sunday morning and then it's a matter of waiting to hear when she's got to come in for the operation.
Having said all that, last week we made so many plans and it all changed on a daily basis, so I wouldn't be surprised if these plans go different as well!

I'm feeling shattered, emotional, angry and powerless. She's my mum and I don't want to lose her just yet. I found it hard to leave her when I left on Saturday evening, but I've got a life here too, the kids and a job to take care off. I. was in floods of tears last night, I think it's mostly because she doesn't know when I'll have to go back again and then when I'll be back again - she hates insecurity and does fine as long as she knows what's happening. We had a long chat and she calmed down and seemed fine this morning, but it's another thing on top of everything else to cope with (read: worry about!).

Ideally I'd like to crawl under a duvet and sleep for a day, but it doesn't look like that'll be possible at the moment!

At least with all the hospital visits/waiting I'm getting a bit of knitting done - keeping my hands occupied seems to take my mind off things.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

and off again

Just had the phonecall from mum saying her appointment is through, she's seeing the specialist tomorrow afternoon for an intake consult. Some frantic organisation for an hour, but the ferry is booked for tonight. Only booked a single for now, if the next test is within a few days I'll stay, if not I'll come back to Britain and go back next week again. She was so relieved when I rang her to say I was coming over, so I'm glad I've booked it.

I'm going over so much at the moment, that tonight's trip was paid for entirely with frequent traveller's points!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A relaxing weekend

which was just what I needed...

After the emotional upheaval of last week I was feeling shattered. I came back Thursday morning, went straight back to work that day, and into the office on Friday. By Friday night I was so tired and it suddenly hit me that things could be seriously wrong. Up till now I think I'd been convinced it'd be something simple that would be sorted with a quick operation. I knew it could be something else, but I don't think I really believed that it was.

We went to Bonfire Night on Friday night but it was the last thing I felt like doing and I ended up being terribly grumpy with B. who wasn't quite sure how to deal with it. I was so tired that I fell asleep before he did, which is very unusual, I normally lie there listening to his breathing and then fall asleep myself.
On Saturday I had the kids and they're a great distraction. We went to the park, had an icecream, laughed at the squirrels, went to the market and stocked up on lots of fruit, and then had a treat at Starbucks. I stuffed the healthy eating/diet for one visit and had the Gingerbread Latte which was lovely, with a slice of Rocky Road. Was beginning to feel vaguely human again after that. I even felt like cooking again, so I got a load of fish on the market and made my 'signature fish pie' - it's so rich, it's got heart attack written all over it but boy is it nice (two types of haddock in fullfat milk with cream, plus cheesy mashed potatoes on top - it's an Ainsley Harriott recipe). Had a soak in the double ender bath at B's, then we had the pie and half a bottle of wine and another early night and a lie-in in the morning. B. had to go to work this weekend, he's been so busy these last few weeks that he can't fit it all in during the week so ends up catching up during the weekend. He asked if I fancied coming along for the drive, it was just east of Norwich, nice drive up there, lovely house, nice people, sweet dogs. I sat and read, chatted, knitted, cuddled the dogs and just relaxed. And when we came back at 3.3o pm, I suddenly realised I hadn't worried about mum for a few hours. And now I feel so much better and ready to face the new week. At some point I'll get the phonecall to say she's got her next appointment and when I left Holland last week, I felt sort of in limbo because of the waiting. Now I seem to have found my patience again and am ready to just take it as it comes. Funny how sometimes just ordinary things are just all you need to get you back where you want to be.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Back home but for how long?

I came back this morning from taking mum to hospital. She's had her test done to check why she's been so jaundiced for the past 8 weeks (had an endoscopy). It was quite a shock seeing her, she was much more yellow than I'd imagined, and much more ill too.
The test was done at the end of the afternoon and as it was under heavy sedation, she had to stay in overnight for observation. When the blood test came back clear on Wednesday morning, she was allowed to eat again and then discharged.
In short, we still don't know what the problem is, the only thing they've ruled out now is gallstones. Which makes it more likely it's more serious, and the specialist she saw this afternoon for her follow-up appointment, said they think it's something to do with her pancreas. She's been referred to a more specialised hospital, where she'll go in the next 7 to 10 days. I'll be going back over again to go with her, especially as she'll probably have another, fairly similar test.

It was both good and frustrating to see her. Good, because I hadn't been able to see her since she'd become ill, and frustrating too as I realised how ill she really was and how little I could do - I wish I could help her out with shopping, cooking, a bit of cleaning, so she can rest. She manages pretty well on her own, but it's the one occasion where you want to help out and you can't.

There were some fun moments too. I managed a little bit of shopping before the hospital, I managed a load of knitting, and the best bit was when I arrived back at the port and checked in, to be told I'd got a free upgrade to a 'comfort class cabin'. I'd booked a standard, one person inside cabin which is absolutely fine when all you do is sleep on the ferry, but this was a very welcome surprise at the end of two very tiring, emotionally draining days - I don't normally have a telly, toiletries, fruit, crisps, wine and chocolates in my cabin, and nobody normally tells me that the fridge needs to be emptied and that if I can't finish it that evening, to put the rest in my suitcase!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Half term

A week of fitting work in around the kids

scarily high bills

annoying bureaucracy

and cleaning

but also cooking
cold weather = candles and cosy fire

a day at the zoo

lots of knitting (yes I managed to finish the second sock, just need to graft the toe stitches which I'll do this afternoon - I can't believe they're finally off the needles!)

and meeting old friends (I. and her greatgrandmother, who's 90 and whom she hadn't seen for almost 2 years)

Off to Holland this evening. Fingers crossed by the end of the week my mum will start to feel a bit better...

Monday, October 22, 2007


Cooking is one of the things I really enjoy. However busy I get, most days I make time to cook us an evening meal, although I cook very different things for B. than I do for the kids. B. is a dustbin who will eat anything, is actually a very good cook himself but also a very grateful recipient as he doesn't give himself any time to cook. N. and I. are a lot fussier, I'm sure as most kids their age are!

Tonight's supper went down fairly well though.

This is leek and potato soup (from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course, which I got as a birthday present when I turned 19 and still use on a regular basis). It's probably one of my favourite soups which I make throughout winter when leeks are in season. It's easy to make, it's pretty and it tastes good. O and it's low in calories!
We usually have cheese and herb scones to go with it, which comes from Baby and Child Vegetarian Recipes. I bought this book way back when I was weaning I. and it still comes out from time to time. I should use it more often as the kids always seem to like what I make from it.

For dessert we had apple crumble. I made one for B. and me last weekend as they have an apple tree laden with fruit at the moment, and as N. regularly asks for crumble, I thought I'd make some for the kids too. We ended up making it all together, I. mixed the crumble, I peeled the apples and N. cut them up in small pieces. The topping was half wholemeal flour, half porridge oats, and the fruit was just Cox's and a bit of cinnamon. Made some custard to go with it which went down well. A real seasonal meal!

Talking of seasons, I receive a weekly e-mail from here. The website has links to recipes, we've had the bramleys with beer and walnuts, and that was very good. It's a very informative site if you like to eat food when it's in season.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Yay, a tiny bit of progress! I met up with three friends for coffee this morning to celebrate one of them turning 40. She's got a snazzy coffee machine and lives on this big farm with plenty of room to roam around. In other words: 8 kids running around getting rid of some energy outside, giving their mothers some time to have a bit of a gossip...
I suddenly thought if I really pushed it, I could finish this sock for dad before I go over to Holland in ten days' time. So I sat and knitted while we chatted. And got a fair bit done. It'd be so good to get these out of the way and move on to something else - I want to knit some socks for ME!
My friend's boy ran past, took one look at my knitting and said 'mum, I want to learn to do that' (this is the same boy who was over here earlier in the week). I'd already rung my mum to ask if she could find him anything so I can teach him after halfterm. Not sure how his dad feels about it ;-)

On another note, what sound is much better than a 5 year old giggling at a Kipper video?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

enough to do and getting nothing done

Why is it that I get so much done when I have lots of work on, and do nothing when work's quiet? How come I can think of a hundred fun things to do when I'm bogged down with thousands of words to translate, and can't think of a single one when no work comes in?

I had an evening 'off' tonight. I had several things I should have done, and several things I could have done. I didn't do any of them. I thoroughly dislike myself when I'm at a loss like that. It's not boredom, it's just restlessness.

Progress on N's room is frustratingly slow. The walls are done now, two coats of turquoise paint and it doesn't look too bad. I'm not sure about the colour but N. loves it. Next is the woodwork and yesterday I started cleaning and sanding the window. Only to find all the putty was coming out too. So instead of painting, I'll be on a hunt for putty this weekend. B. is going on a shopping trip for house supplies anyway, so with a bit of luck the putty will fall into his basket too. So instead, I painted a shelf. Now the walls need touching up again. Argh. Some days I wish I'd never started this redecorating lark. But then I tell myself that one day it will be all finished and I will actually be quite pleased with myself for doing it.

Last Tuesday was parents' evening at the kids' school and I had a friend's oldest boy over to save my friend a trip to school. He's practically the same age as I. (8, almost 9) but a totally different child. I. loves reading and writing stories, L. is into motorbikes and is 'building an extension' in the garden (his dad's a builder). He also likes cooking and last time he was here, he left with printouts of three recipes. This time he saw me knit on dad's sock and he was *fascinated*. He wanted to know all about it, then grabbed I.'s knitting off her and had a go. When he got home, he took his mum's sewing box and tried to knit with two darning needles. I think I know what I'm getting him for his birthday in January!

I'm off to Holland for a few days after halfterm. Mum's got to have an endoscopy and I want to be with her in the hospital, especially as they're keeping her in overnight. She's been ill for a few weeks now and for the first time I've found it hard to be living in a different country and not being able to see her, to see for myself how she is. I. and N. are staying with J. and seemed fine about it - N. wanted to know if I was going on the night boat and sleeping on the top or the bottom bunk... I'll miss them. I've not been on the ferry on my own before, normally I have two excited children and bags and bags of luggage with me, or B. who tells me all the technical details of the ferry, checks out the plumbing and discovers the bathroom of the cabin now has underfloor heating. Anyway, in November we're still going over for Sinterklaas, all being well with mum, so I'll look forward to that.

PD day here tomorrow, and half term next week. What's the chances I'll get even less done?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

coffeeswap three questionnaire

1. Whole bean or ground?

Definitely ground - beans would end up in the back of the cupboard!

2. Fully-loaded or decaf?

Preferably decaf, but when I'm out and about and fancy a coffee, I tend to have 'fully-loaded' which is fine too.

3. Regular or flavored?

Mostly regular, as the flavoured ones tend to taste a bit artificial. Having said that, I love vanilla flavour and vanilla and coffee seems an irresistible combination to me!

4. How do you drink your coffee?

With hot milk, no sugar

5. Favorite coffee ever?

I don't think I have one... I remember a particularly atrocious coffee at McD once!

6. Are you fussy about your coffee or will any old bean do?

Definitely getting more fussy but it's more a case of 'o I like this one' rather than knowing what bean I'm drinking.

7. Favorite treats to have with your coffee?

Probably the rocky chocolate type thingy at Starbucks, or 'stroopwafels' (Dutch biscuits, they're waffles sandwiched together with syrup, you lay them on top of your cup and the syrup starts to melt - mmmm!)

8. Anything else about your coffee preferences?


9. Yarn/fiber you love?

Anything natural.

10. Yarn/fiber you hate?

Anything synthetic.

11. What's on your needles?

A pair of socks for my dad (see previous post), Sitcom chic and a cabled scarf for N., my 5 year old.

12. Favorite colors?

Blue in every tone and hue. I love the colours of the sea.

13. Allergies?

Have you got a few hours? ;-) I used to suffer badly with eczema, although since the birth of my youngest, I'm a lot better. I'm still allergic to most pets and dustmites, and often have a stuffy nose.

14. Anything you really love, really don't like, or just need to get off your chest?

Really love: my kids, my partner, the house he's building, knitting, having time for knitting...
Really hate: intolerance.

And I think I've gotten everything off my chest in this post ;-)

Friday, October 12, 2007

no knitting or sewing

Work has been very busy this week, much as usual. Every time I make a few plans to either knit, sew or possibly do some house cleaning (gasp!), an email will come in asking 'have you got time for this for tomorrow' or 'do you think you can possibly work extra this week?'. After an inwardly 'nooo!' and a deep sigh most return emails start with 'yes of course...' I'm not complaining, but it means when I have a little bit of free time I'm torn between desperately needing to do some cleaning or sitting down and actually relaxing - that is, if I still know how to do that!

I had to rip back the second sock I'm knitting for my dad. In February we went on our annual trip to Lyme Regis (my dad, I. and N. and I). This year for the first time in ages it was actually quite wet, windy and cold, and I noticed my dad wearing quite thick socks. His birthday was in March. I thought, optimistically, I'd knit him a pair of socks for his birthday. Ha! At this rate he'll be lucky to get them for our next trip! I've had to unpick these socks so many times, it's unbelievable. And it's not as if I've never knitted a pair of socks before, and it's not as if it's a very complicated pattern (garter rib from Sensational Knitted Socks. Either way, I keep making mistakes, and stupid mistakes, which means I've got to rip back. This time I was halfway down the foot when I noticed this sock was using up more yarn than its mate (who's feeling decidedly lonely). I counted the stitches of the cuff. And again. And AGAIN. Okay, 8 stitches more on the second sock than on the first. For three seconds I wondered if dad would notice. Then I pulled all the needles out and ripped. Again.
I have cast them back on again and have done about 6 or 7 rows of the cuff, but not had time for much more. I thought about forcing myself to just knit this one until it's done, but I know I'll get bored with it and not do it at all. I just want to get on with other socks by now!

On the decorating front, I managed to fill a few more holes last night and put the second coat of base paint on the wall in the alcove. Basically I can now put the final paint colour on. B. is probably off to work tomorrow, so I might drive back home and see if I can do the whole room in one go. I'm sure it'll need two coats and I'm also sure I'll end up going back to B&Q for some more paint, but so far I've only managed to do one wall at the time - it'll be good to get a bit more done and see a bit of progress. I'm getting fed up with tripping over Playmobil in my room and having to share my bed with a dozen teddies.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

As if I didn't have enough to do yet...

I have resisted starting a blog for the simple reason that I didn't think anyone would be interested in reading about me. The internet seems to be full of blogs written by people like me and how would I be able to add anything meaningful to that? But, I greatly enjoy reading blogs, and it seems to rub off, so here we are... I don't even really know what this blog is going to be about yet, although it will be mostly knitting, sewing and cooking related, and at least it'll be a place to easily show the things I've made. I'm sure some other subjects will creep in from time to time!