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

Brrrr....

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.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

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

Storm


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

Excited

- 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

Hibernation

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.