Mum Making Lemonade

Living with Cerebral Palsy 🍋🍋

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Egg-cellent Professor

Elin’s had a much better week this week after suffering some pretty prolonged Dystonia last week. It’s been so nice to see her so relaxed again. She did World Book Day last Friday not as Paddington Bear but as Veruca Salt from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. I didn’t think it would be as good but on the day she actually looked amazing!! 
We had a nice Mother’s Day with our first visit of the year to our most favourite place- the Zoo. It was good to get some fresh air and even though Elin’s dystonia was still plaguing her she had a good time being nosey and looking through the new clean glass in the penguin enclosure!
This week brought some sad news with the death of Professor Stephen Hawking. In his lifetime Stephen Hawking did much to dispel pre-conceived ideas about disability. The fact that his body was so affected by his condition, but his mind remained one of the sharpest in modern times, coupled with his spirit, humour and refusal to be a victim made a lot of people consider their own prejudices against anyone in a wheelchair I think. I was saddened to see a great deal of online debate about whether people should be saying he is now ‘free’ of his disabilities. Many disabled people themselves were very angry with this idea, as they believed it to be insulting. They argued it was his wheelchair and voice/computer that gave him freedom. Others believed despite his bravery and attitude in life you could never truly believe he wouldn’t have changed his condition in life if he’d been able- after all, they reasoned, who would really choose to live in such a restricted body? I was just left wondering why everything has to be argued over these days online and why people can’t just have their own opinions without feeling the need to justify them to strangers and get into heated debates via the web. I suppose it’s a very emotive issue and leads to complex questions about what you think about the afterlife. For my part I just felt sorry for the loss of such a great mind and man, but glad that he’d been able to defy early predictions about his life by doctors for so very long and that he challenged stereotypes on a global scale with such style. 
This is why when Elin’s school said they were holding an Egg decorating competition for Easter, we thought we’d pay homage to Professor Hawking with a topical entry entitled “Most Eggs-cellent Professor”.  I’ve never attempted one of these before but was quite pleased with the outcome, as was Elin!  She especially liked the fairy lights in the dark! She worked hard fingerprinting the planets and black holes and title plate. It was really nice to do some craft together. Results are announced next week but by the look on Elin’s face I think she feels like a winner anyway!
Have a great week folks, remember to “Always look at the stars instead of down at your shoes”
Ruth xx
Oh and Elin would like to wish the best Daddy in the entire universe a very happy birthday for Sunday! If the “Beast from the East” can hold off we are hoping to go out for lunch and maybe a nice stroll if her dystonia stays at bay.Either way I know Paul will be happy as long as he has his best friend by his side! (To clarify his best friend is definitely Elin and not me!! Ha!) 
 Playing with an Easter shaker Elin made at school 💛 Thanks for all you do best Dad EVER 💛

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

So why don't you work?

Yes, someone did ask me that outright once and then actually argued with my response as if it had anything to do with them and as if it was their sole mission in life to persuade me to go back to work.
Definitely fodder for a blog post, I thought.

A perfectly average week in the life of us (this is completely mundane information but multiply this by 52 weeks of the year and you get my drift)

Meeting 9:30am school w/Nurse.
Meeting 2:00pm w/Elin's Case Manager.
Scheduled phone call 4:00pm catch up and discussion of needs with Occupational Therapy.
Appointment at home 4:30pm Physiotherapy.
*No appointments!*
Drop off prescription at Chemist.
Phone Orthotist to check on boots progress.
Send email to Elin's case manager with links to upcoming equipment needs.
Chase appointment request with school inclusion officer via school.
Email Ed Psyche to confirm meeting at school next week.
Appointment 3:45pm w/new social worker.
Chase G.P as to why Medazolam medication still hasn't arrived.
Email O.T to confirm physio can meet here with her. Remember to phone school to check O.T can go in before this to see Elin at school.
Phone incontinence service to check when next delivery of nappies due (as we will run out if I miss the fortnight-before order date).
Pick up and check medications from Chemist.
Post Elin's updated school records to case manager.
Appointment 3:30pm Orthotist intermediate boot fitting.
Take delivery of Elin's feeds and giving sets for the month.
Drop off another prescription.
Chase G.P referral for specialist Dystonia appointment still waiting to hear about.
Appointment 3:00pm - Pick up Elin from school and take to Hippotherapy.

Night Diary.
Elin wakes up usually around 2am for a change of nappy and sometimes a  change of sheets too.
Back to bed and pray Elin drops off quickly again.
Possible second wake up around 4:30am, may or may not go back to sleep.

Other appointments on other weeks in addition to those above include:
Cranial Osteopathy.
Dietician review.
Paediatric Neurologist @ Maelor.
Hips/Spine reviews @ Alder Hey.
Orthopedic Spinal etc review @Maelor.
ALAC wheelchair services.
ALAC Orthotics/Splint castings and review.
Specialist Dentist.
Movement centre @ Gobowen/Standing frame fittings.
Hand Splints reviews.
Home hoist and sling checks and reviews.
Occupational Therapy home equipment review.
WAV Vehicle repairs (chair restraints etc)
Bath repairs and review.

Please understand that none of the above is in ANY WAY a complaint. I am delighted that Elin has access to all of the above and forever grateful to all of the professionals in her life for their care and dedication to ensuring her quality of life remains the very best it can be. But I just wanted to share the reasons why I choose to *currently* not add 'work' into this mix, since if I am asked about it I annoyingly find myself struggling to justify my choices articulately. I think I feel guilty. I don't know why. Guilt for not contributing to society in some way? Guilt that I'm fortunate enough to have the option? I don't know.  Then I hate myself afterwards for caring so much what anyone else thinks in the first place. It's taken me a while to realise I don't actually automatically owe people an explanation of why I chose to give up a job that I used to love. This post is definitely not meant as a justification either, but I finally felt ready to honestly and openly share some of the reasons why, as a parent of a child with severe and complex disabilities, going to work doesn't really fit into my schedule at the moment and doesn't for many others. I did it for eight long years following Elin's birth and in the end I couldn't make it work (I made myself ill trying, both physically and mentally). Some people do make it work of course and they are AMAZING. For me right now, the kind of teacher I could be alongside the job of being Elin's Mum is not the kind of teacher I would want to be.  Teaching simply needs more dedication and enthusiasm than I am able to give, especially in the current educational climate (and I could write a whole other blog post on that subject believe me). I loved my job more than anything once upon a time and leaving a school I called home and a staff that were family was beyond difficult even though I knew it was 100% right at the time. It's taken me 18 months to be able to admit "I USED to be a teacher" instead of "I am a teacher" because of some weird misguided sense of shame I carry around about being unemployed. I was 26 years old when I had Elin, I was always going to go back to work full time after having her, I never questioned it. I had a career. I looked sneeringly down from my ivory tower of pregnancy on Mum's who didn't work- I couldn't imagine it (I hate that fact now-maybe that's partly where the guilt comes from). Things change. "Life is what happens whilst we are making other plans" as John Lennon so accurately observed. It will always hurt, always be yet another "Sliding Doors" moment in my lifetime, but I am soooo thankful I have had the ability to make this choice, which works best for us right now.
Perhaps one day things will change again. Learning to live in the moment (as a bona fide control freak and someone who likes to plan)  is something I've been trying to train myself to do for the last ten years. I think I'm slowly starting to manage it.
I used to be a teacher. Now I'm just Elin's Mum.
And I love it.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Happy Mother's Day to all the Mummy's out there if you work full time, part time or stay at home. You're all heroes. 



Thursday, 1 March 2018

Elin's Diary #8

Last week was pretty uneventful really, as weeks go. But we like uneventful sometimes, especially after a busy half term! Elin had her usual appointments, but swapped Hippotherapy for Orthotics which was necessary but nowhere near as much fun. Boo! I went to London for weekend to visit family. Unfortunately, we think visits to family will have to be done this way (i.e in relay) for the foreseeable future. The journey down with Elin at Christmas was a bit of a nightmare. When Dystonia makes it impossible for her to sit, a five hour car stint becomes pretty impossible. What happens is that she ends up working herself into such a state that you just can't bare to put her through it. Red face, lathered in sweat, breathing even becomes compromised for her. It's awful (and scary) to watch so goodness knows what it's like for Elin. The last time we attempted the train down instead was a nightmare too so for now it feels like there isn't an easy solution. This is obviously really upsetting since a large chunk of our family live in London. We are still waiting for a referral to Dr Lin, Dystonia expert at The Evalina Children's Hospital and it can't come quick enough. Elin's seating issues have affected her life experiences for way too long (meaning forever!) and now she is getting big the issues are amplified tenfold. Simple things like going away for a couple of days as a family can be traumatic for Elin. It's a part of her condition I find hardest to accept. She so loves company and different voices and new experiences but it feels impossible to expose her to these things when she can't sit in a chair or be in a vehicle. We just have to live for the times when she can manage it, and there are times, I just wish it wasn't so inconsistent for her.
Anyway as I enjoyed a lovely night in London (it still blows my mind that I can be in London in a couple of hours from Chester- it literally feels like you've landed on another planet when you get to Euston), Elin played her Daddy up something rotten and kept him up pretty much all night. Oh dear! Paul always says he can never sleep when I'm not here anyway, I think he feels the weight of responsibility of keeping one ear out for Elin waking up (usually my job) but I think it does him good to know what it's like to be 'on call' all night! In fairness he is as wonderful early morning as he is hopeless in the middle of the night so this division of labour means I get a lie in on a Saturday and Sunday and in school holidays which I'm happy to trade for a full night's sleep the rest of the time. I really, really don't like early mornings!
So I got back from London on Sunday and Elin slept really well (ha!) then it was back into the school routine again except this time with the unwelcome guest, the 'Beast from the East' !! Yep, this week we've had snow falling snow on snow, snooooowwww on snoooowwwww and it really feels (as if it didn't before) like a truly bleak mid-winter.
A Dystonia free happy journey in the car to the Cranial Osteopath this week, complete with home made, hand knitted Giraffe hat!! Erm...not by me obviously. I can't even hem my own trousers let alone knit, despite being quite adept when I was around nine years old thanks to my Nan. I think I even made a blanket once. I guess the novelty wore off! Anyway the visit to the Osteopath was a big success, Elin loved it and slept ALL NIGHT afterwards. Worth every penny. We've also noticed she's been breathing better since her visits started in December too. I always err on the side of caution/scepticism when it comes to alternative therapies but I'm open to try anything because I just don't think it can possibly harm. Cranial Osteopathy worked for sure when Elin was a tiny baby and I think it's working for her again, in a gentle and subtle way. Anything that makes her feel relaxed is a bonus in my eyes. I think she deserves a bit of a pamper now and then!
Following this, the weather sort of went off-the-scale crazy. We started to feel like we were in "Dr Zhivago" each time we went out of the door (minus the cossacks). This led to Elin having a self prescribed snow day today and it's not looking good for tomorrow either...
Elin kept toasty warm inside the cottage!! I hate her missing school but in temperatures of minus five and roads to us covered in snow and ice it's sort of inevitable. Sometimes you just have to give in to the elements.
Being off school gave us time to try our "World Book Day" costume on. Elin's school isn't doing it until next week but I thought we might as well have a practise run. I'm glad we did! Her costume looked GORGEOUS ...but it was too small! Arghhhhh!! Also when you have a child that lies/sits pretty much all day a giant stuffed hood maybe isn't a good idea. Neither is a onesie (that's too tight) when you factor in nappy changes. So it's back to the drawing board for me (fear not I have an idea- Don't panic Captain Manering!!) but of course I have to share the photo with you because it's just too cute not to. I think someone special to us who might be reading this would love this costume in particular, such a shame it wasn't to be. You have to imagine it, of course, with a lovely vintage suitcase and a plate of marmalade sandwiches....
How sad that Paddington Drake wasn't meant to be! Tune in next week to find out what the more sensible alternative is (disclaimer: it's not as good). Damn you Cerebral Palsy and your costume restrictive issues! Still, we'll alway have this amazing photo and I got to spend the afternoon cuddling a real life bear so it's not all bad.
Hope you all have a great week, stay safe in the snow if you've got what we have!
Thanks for reading as ever,
Ruth x

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Half Term

Hurray for half term and lazy mornings! Elin has had a lovely week, she even managed to do some super sitting in her chair (and some not-so super sitting too of course!) so we're really proud of her.  The week kicked off very nicely with a visit from Caitlin who was home from Drama School in London to celebrate her 20th birthday.  Of course, Elin was absolutely delighted and had an added treat of actually having Caitlin putting her to bed, which she loved. I felt really sad when I realised that Caitlin wouldn't be there when she opened her eyes again in the morning, Elin just adores her so much it's hard to contemplate what her little mind is thinking when Caitlin is not around. I know that Elin very much lives in the moment and so I try to remember that but still, seeing them together and knowing they have to be split up again tends to make me a bit emotional! I sometimes worry that Elin is a bit lonely on the weekend or in school holidays with only Paul and I to play with.

This is what Paul came back with from the kitchen when I told him we needed a candle for Caitlin's cake!!!!!
Elin so enjoys company and especially being around children- which we saw yet more evidence of visiting our family in Yorkshire again this half term. At the start of the week we spent a lovely (but snowy!) couple of days with Elin's nephew, Gruff,  who you might remember from past posts :-)   Gruff is the son of Elin's big brother, Gareth, and his gorgeous wife Marianne. Gruff and Elin are pretty good buddies :-) Anyway this visit, Gruff was especially loving and Elin was especially happy about it. Gruff did not leave her side, whether he was 'brumming' his cars over her face, playing peek-a-boo with her, or basically just cuddling her to death. It was GORGEOUS!!

Gruff just playing  bit of body percussion on Elin!!

Big cuddles

When we returned from Yorkshire we decided a rainy Wednesday would be a good day to take Elin to the pictures. She hasn't been for ages and with here dystonia playing up a bit lately we weren't sure if she would enjoy it. Wow we were so wrong! She loved it and for the first time EVER she sat in her chair through the entirety of the film! We saw "The Greatest Showman" hoping that a musical would keep her entertained and it really did- I don't think we've ever seen her laugh so much in the Cinema!! She absolutely loved it.
Elin then had an important appointment on Thursday at the Movement Centre in Gobowen. This was an appointment following on from the one I blogged about at Christmas, to be fitted for a new standing frame which she will use for 30 minutes a day at home to do focused head control training. The frame fitted like a glove and Elin looked very straight in it which was lovely. However, we are having massive issues with Elin's feet at the moment. The tendons in her ankles are very tight and it's been increasingly difficult to get Elin's feet anywhere near flat. Her current splints and boots accommodate this curvature but do nothing to correct it. This means because she is so vertical in this particular frame the feet end up resting in a very bad position and the splints put too much pressure on her skin and cause pain and markings. She's basically standing on her toes :-(Staff at the Centre are going to work hard with physio's and the Orthotist at Wrexham to see if we can get some more corrective splints cast just for wearing in the frame, to encourage her foot to be more flat and in a better position. It was a shame we can't start the therapy in the frame straight away but we were all agreed the benefits would be minimal unless her position and comfort are paramount. 

 Elin also managed to visit her Great-Grandad and Great Nanny this week but I stupidly didn't get any photographs! Finally Elin has just been rounding off her busy half term chilling out in her room. We've seen some more good sitting in her house chair (and again, some not so good!) she has managed over an hour at least twice this holiday! Wow!
We even managed to find some time to paint Elin's nails an awesome sunshine yellow colour!! Better make sure we remove it before Monday, even though it does actually match her school uniform. Strike a pose, Elin! 
So, it's been a lovely holiday (even though I seem to have acquired a nasty bug- fingers very firmly crossed that Elin doesn't get it!) but I think Elin will be glad to go back to school on Monday for lots of fun with her friends. 
Just including this picture because of this amazing dress!! It was a Christmas present, what a lucky girl!!

Hope you all have a good week folks. Until next time.


Friday, 9 February 2018

Elin's Diary #7

Just look at this little beauty all snuggly in her winter Aran jumper! Lately I have been catching myself staring in complete shock at how big Elin is getting. It makes me feel so proud that she is so well, healthy and happy as she slowly approaches her 10th birthday. It also makes me panic. I'm not ready for her to be bigger, or older. I worry about what this means for her. I know she has years and years left of schooling before we have to think about what happens when she is no longer in full time education. But the last 10 years suddenly appear to have passed in the blink of an eye. Caitlin was 20 yesterday (coming home for snuggles with Elin this weekend) and believe me it feels like she was 10 about a week ago!!  Paul is great at not thinking about things until we absolutely have to, but I am a bit more of a worrier. I also hate change, so it's difficult to think about Elin growing up from a child into a teenager without having an element of fear underpinning my pride in the amazing person she has become. I guess I also have to think about just how far she has come in those 10 years too, though. The difference in her now to when she was a baby is incredible. She has developed and improved in ways we never thought imaginable. So from that angle, the next 10 years are also potentially very exciting. That's what I have to remember when I feel scared. 
As well as looking forward this week I've also been looking back a bit! This is a photo of Elin with Alfie. Alfie is the son of one of my oldest friends and one of my four fab flatmates from Drama College in Edinburgh. Laura and I hit it off right away when we met back in 1999, both of us hundreds of miles from home and sharing a black sense of humour, a love of cheap fizzy wine and an obsession with the Spice Girls (I know, I know, don't judge me it was the 90's!). Anyway Laura was able to visit last week from Stratford where she and Alfie are living with Alfie's brilliant Daddy who is currently performing with the RSC, a bit closer to us than their permanent base in London, so we could finally introduce Elin and Alfie, which was just lovely. It's so weird when one minute you're holding each other's hair over the toilet bowl after an over indulgent student house party and the next minute you're children are getting to know each other!! Elin is one lucky girl to have so many people who care about her in her life. 
In terms of actual activity this week Elin hasn't been up to much outside of school, what with the weather deciding to be apocalyptic again. She took her traditional Valentines balloon into school for her little boyfriend Llew and enjoyed making a snappy green crocodile baguette! She's also been enjoying some painting and listening to sensory stories. The above picture was taken today at her weekly horse-riding session at the Clwyd special Riding Centre. Paul and I were super impressed today as she had been pretty dystonic in the car on the way, so we wondered how much benefit she would get from today's session. But as soon as she was on the mechanical horse she totally relaxed and settled into it's rhythm once again which was so lovely to see. Today the physio worked on getting Elin's hands into a nice relaxed position and we were thrilled to see how well she did! Her hands stayed like this for the duration of the session, so good progress was made again. 
Well today marks half term for us! We are looking forward to seeing Caitlin tomorrow when she pops back home from London for her birthday and then we are going to visit family in Yorkshire for a couple of days. After that, Elin has a couple of appointments (one important one at the Movement Centre!) so I know I'll have a lot to update with next time. Until then, thanks for reading and have a great week! 

Ruth xxx

Friday, 26 January 2018

Special Delivery

Christmas came today! Either a little late or super early, depending how you look at it! Exactly one month to the day that I should have been opening my Drake-family Secret Santa present, it arrived in the post. It was worth the wait!! Let me explain.
Some time ago, around about the time that certain gorgeous Drake babies began arriving and turning what was already a rather large family into something about as epic as the Lannisters, we decided Christmas was getting a little much in terms of present swapping. So we thought it'd be easier of all the adults in the family only had to buy one gift for one other adult in the family. That way everyone could save their reserves of money and energy for spoiling the children :-) We have a 'Secret Santa App' (how very 21st Century!) which each year emails you to tell you who you have to buy a present for. Then, we exchange these gifts when we all manage to get together (usually Boxing Day). It's great and works really well.
This year mine wasn't quite ready on Boxing Day and today, it arrived. Of course by now I knew who it was from, by process of elimination. It was actually brilliant to get a belated present in miserable January. My Secret Santa, or Adam has he's known to us, smashed it out of the park.
By now you have probably guessed it had something to do with Elin or I probably wouldn't be sharing it here. Adam had spent hours formatting this entire blog and photographs into a book. A beautiful, stunningly made, hard-cover book. Featuring everything I have ever written about Elin starting in 2009.
Wow. Just wow.
"Mum Making Lemonade Collected Works 2009-2017"
I can't believe I get to read my whole blog from the start in print instead of on a screen. The way Blogger works makes it quite difficult to read the blog in order, it's something I've never done (and never had the time to do). I'm so excited to read things I had completely forgotten about. I know there will be little achievements of Elin's, things she has overcome, hard times and amazing times that I have not thought about in years. It's literally Elin's whole life in a book, a record of every significant event this far.
This is one of the many reasons I started the blog when she was 12 months old.  I didn't want to forget anything that happened, bad or good. I treated it and still do of course as a diary, which I guess is all a Blog is really. To now have the first 9 years of Elin's life in print sitting on my coffee table is a dream and something I absolutely never would have got around to doing myself. I know it must have taken so much time and thought to create. Predictably I did A LOT of ugly crying when I opened it and will probably do a little more as I make my way through it. 
It has really also helped to remind me why writing is so important to me. With this book I know I'll be able to see the incredible arc of what we have been through with Elin over the past few years, from the immeasurably difficult to the breathtakingly wonderful. It's really, really, helpful to remember that sometimes. Now I have the first 9 years of Elin's life chronicled to treasure forever. No computer crashes or inability to use a laptop in my old age will stop me being able to reminisce about the incredible life of our miracle girl. That is priceless.
I hope Adam is ready to create Volume 2 for me in another 9 years time! 
I'm a lucky girl and an even luckier Mummy. I think it's one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.
Thanks, Adam. 
Merry Christmas  :-)



Monday, 22 January 2018

Elin's Diary #6

I have just realised in my last blog post that I forgot to mention something else that can help beat the January blues- making plans. I made a conscious effort last week to try and pull myself together a bit and this largely involved making plans (and drinking wine whilst making plans). I'm feeling extremely lucky to have so many lovely people in our lives that we can do fun stuff with. As we approach February I'm definitely feeling brighter and able to focus on the positive again. Perhaps if the sun would just come out and the snow would leave for good we could pretend January never actually happened at all!?
Elin's been doing really well. She's basically had no issues at all health wise. Even the dreaded dystonia issue backed into the shadows a bit last week and I actually got out to a  couple of appointments with a lovely relaxed Elin in the back of the car . Here she is enjoying the thought of going to her Cranial Osteopathy
Of course being Elin this wasn't fool proof and we still had some pretty 'stiff' times this week too. But school report better sitting and standing so maybe things are on the turn. There was a strange episode on Friday night where Elin got really, really dystonic right before bed. Paul was in London for the weekend and for the first time since I remember I got a little bit anxious about what was happening with her and at what point I would have to call someone. She literally went like a plank and got pretty 'locked in', straining against herself, really awful to see but not entirely uncommon, except this time it lasted way longer than I've ever seen it happen. You can usually break this kind of stiffness with positioning. This time nothing was working so I reached for the final weapon in my armoury- Calpol. I wondered if something somewhere was giving her pain. Anyway the magic calpol kicked in and her body relaxed and I breathed a sigh of relief as she was finally able to sleep. I still slept on the futon on her bedroom floor though. It's strange the sense of overwhelming responsibility that comes when you're by yourself and Elin has a weird episode and you can't bounce thoughts of what to do off someone else. You start to doubt yourself and lack confidence. Once again I'm left in total awe of single parents, especially of children with any kind of medical condition, they are total heroes. I know I sometimes take the constant support I have from Paul for granted and perhaps vice versa. We are very lucky. 
Apart from Cranial Osteopathy, Elin had Hippotherapy again this week and loved it just as much as last time! She even did a bit of tummy riding in a sort of Annie Oakley stunt position which was pretty funny to watch and even funnier for Elin. So glad she has the opportunity to experience this, I'm hoping one day she might progress to a real horse but I guess we'll have to see. 

Aside from this it's been a fairly quiet week for Elin, other than the excitement last Monday of taking delivery of a brand new bed! Apparently Elin should have had a profiling bed some time ago so it was great that we were able to get one so quickly after raising our concerns about her lying on a flat mattress all the time (it's hard for her to manage her secretions and there's only so many pillows you can put under her head. Her bed was beginning to look like the one in the Princess and the Pea!) Anyway she loves it and so do we. It doesn't have the big built up sides that the last cot-bed had so she can see out of the window and the whole room looks lighter because the sides of the bed aren't blocking the light from the window. Result! Elin also loves going up and down on it of course! She's had lots of giggles making use of the mechanical back rest and foot rest in the last few days! I feel a lot better that her head and shoulders can now be properly raised whilst she sleeps and hangs out. 
So actually some really nice things have happened this week. Although the snow was very unwelcome this weekend, as being home alone I felt a little trapped with Elin being unwilling to take her out either for a walk or in the car, especially given the dystonia on Friday night. But we did our best to amuse ourselves and had some lovely visitors. It all helps. I also managed to get out for an hour to help celebrate little Ellie Wheeler's birthday. As some of you know Ellie was Elin's friend and she passed away in September. I wrote a blog post about her at the time, she had such an impact on our lives along with her family, she was amazing. Well her incredible Mum, Annie, had a tea party in her honour this weekend. There was a beautiful lit-up tree with some photo's of Ellie dangling from the branches and guests were encouraged to write messages on labels and tied them to the tree for the family to keep.  I thought it was a beautiful idea and I was stunned at the bravery and dignity of Annie in managing to organise such a touching, appropriate tribute to Ellie on her birthday weekend. 
Of course it gave me a lot of perspective, too. How easy it is to forget sometimes what we have to be thankful for. This is what I thought as I played with my girl this weekend. It is easy to forget, but we really mustn't. 
I can't wait for February to start. New month, new outlook. Happy New Year (February is the new January!)
Thanks for reading,
Ruth xxx

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