Living with Cerebral Palsy 🍋🍋

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Mary Christmas!!!!

I can't quite believe it's that time of year again!! Merry Christmas, everyone! I have always loved Christmas but it's fair to say last year was probably one of the worst Christmases ever for many different reasons :-( We sort of stumbled through it and I survived on box sets (namely "Feud: Betty and Joan"- classic Hollywood camp glamour) and copious amounts of Bailey's. Fortunately none of that was anything to do with Elin and whilst Christmas 2017 set a bit of a precedent for some tough times in 2018, we have also been blessed again with an amazing year of good health for our girl. 
At the beginning of December though, Elin had an unheard-of week off school when she came down with what was essentially just a bad cold. Unfortunately it set of a bad pattern of dystonia which we had a bit of trouble controlling. Thankfully the dystonic cycles stopped just as quickly as they and started (just when I thought I was starting to lose my mind having to watch Elin go through it and just when we thought we may have to consider a dreaded hospital admission). Nothing like a bit of a fright with Elin's health to remind you how lucky you've been recently!!! Anyway her speedy recovery meant that Elin was back in school when the week was up, happily in time to rehearse for her final primary school Christmas concert.
You can imagine how we felt that Elin was undertaking her Year 6 school play. This is a school year of 'lasts' for Elin (last school photo, last visit to Santa's Grotto, last class party etc etc) and as I've previously mentioned I'm finding it difficult! However, I'm really trying to keep in mind that next year, her first year of secondary school, will be a year of 'firsts' and that is pretty exciting I reckon. So back to the play, the magnitude of which is difficult to describe. As parents of a child with PMLD we crave 'normal' parental experiences to enjoy because quite often they are few and far between. I've blogged so often in the past about what Elin's school Christingle and plays meant to us, I don't think I need to repeat myself again here- in a nutshell though, it's just so very emotional because ultimately it's the end of the year and as parents we are sitting there again, all feeling the same, thinking about our own personal journey's with our super-special children and also all celebrating how amazing they all are collectively. This is huge for us and difficult to articulate, especially after losing two beautiful little friends of Elin's since this time last year. The Christmas show is not only special because its such a joyous experience for us as parents of children with PMLD, but because it's reflective, too. That is the nature of the lives we now lead. 
Suffice to say we honestly didn't mind what role Elin got this year (previous gorgeous years have included a sheep, a penguin, an angel, a cowgirl and the star of Bethlehem!) But lets not mess about. Everyone knows in primary school life, the part of Mary is basically the 'King Lear at the RSC' of Nativity roles. It was a role that escaped me as a child and I'm still bitter to this day (I'm not kidding- Emma Bruce if you're reading this you robbed me!!)  Imagine our delight then, that following in the end-of-career footsteps of all the theatrical giants such as John Gielgud/Laurence Olivier/ Ian Mckellen et al - Elin would be ending her own 'run' of her whole school career at Ysgol Y Canol by playing Mary :-) So in other words, she was the Glenda Jackson of the show!!!
In a lovely parallel, Elin's little friends Dafydd, who joined the school at the same time as her and will be leaving for secondary school alongside her, played Joseph. As they entered to the song "Fools Rush In" by Elvis and then danced together (courtesy of their fab support workers and some nifty chair-action) there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Well, not a dry eye in the family, certainly!!! (Big sister Caitlin had very happily made it home from London in time to catch it!!) I was so thankful that Elin was in such a good place this week (she has been amazing) as we got to see her really enjoying her time on stage and we now get to treasure that memory for ever. I'm sure 'big school' will continue with school plays and Elin will get to flex her acting muscles again but it was lovely for her to 'exit stage left' on such a beautiful note, in a beautifully delivered show which focused on each and every one of her equally beautiful friends, with her own little school family surrounding her. 
Elin's boyfriend, Llew, you will notice, was a cow!!! The cutest little cow EVER!! (Photo published with kind permission from Dafydd and Llew's families)
Well as you can imagine this put us in the mood for festive cheer and we were lucky enough to have a wonderful experience last night again at 'Chester Zoo Lanterns'. It was simply quite stunning. The best year by far in terms of the lanterns and puppets. I LOVED that the interaction was back this year after a bit of a disappointing year last year. As the staff operated giant, lit up puppets or were dressed up, it meant that they could interact so much with Elin and she laughed from start to finish. She also sat better than she ever has done- not a whiff of the dreaded dystonia. It was, for big kids like us, magical and so gorgeous that Elin was able to get so much enjoyment from it. Some truly lovely memories were made there last night that we will never forget. 
African Plains
Elin leading the way with her special pink lantern
Giant Butterfly puppet was stunning- the operator was kind enough to flap its wings for Elin a lot which is why she is smiling here :-)
The entrance 
A giant racing snail! This reminded us of 'The Neverending Story'!
 The Giraffe puppet was my favourite- even though it got so close we were picking Giraffe eyelashes out of Elin's mouth for ages afterwards!!!!
 The Emu puppet nibbled Elin's hand!! Kept expecting to see Rod Hull ...
 We aren't sure exactly what these were but they were beautiful!!!! 
Elin in Wonderland!!!! Eat Me/ Drink Me?!?!
 A very funny White Rabbit!!!!
 This was a cheeky squirrel puppet who jumped all over Elin thanks to it's lovely operator! I loved that they took the time with her to really let her take it all in!! 
 Tunnel of lights!!!!!!
 These were kind of "Ombres Chinoises" rotating lanterns with forest silhouettes, lining one of the paths and they were just beautiful.
 What's a Christmas experience without a snow machine?!?!!!!!!!!

So as you can see we had a ball, we were doubly lucky that there wasn't a drop of rain the whole time we were there especially given the day before and what the weather is doing today!!!! I highly recommend a visit for any children like Elin and it goes without saying any children (or adults!) in general! There may even be a few tickets left before Christmas :-)
In between these two lovely events we even managed to squeeze in our traditional Drake-family snuggle-on-the-sofa Christmas film afternoon! I can highly recommend "The Chrismas Chronicles" on Netflix for slightly cheesy but heart-warming festive fun!!!
There are four days left to go and we have one more treat coming up- we're off to see the Wizard!!! Tomorrow afternoon we will be taking Elin to the 'relaxed' performance of "The Wizard of Oz" at Storyhouse, Chester. Regular blog readers will know it's my favourite children's film of all time. I've had a love/hate relationship with stage adaptations because of this (umm - how would you EVER replace Judy Garland?!?? Its an impossible task) but I'm sure Storyhouse will do a great job. I've been volunteering at Chester's Storyhouse for fourteen months now and I just love the place- they can rarely do wrong in my book!! More than anything I just want Elin to enjoy it and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was getting a huge buzz out of taking her to see it, again a "normal" experience I hoped I'd have with my kids one day. Taking them to see "The Wizard of Oz". Well now I get to do just that. HOW amazing is it that most theatres these days have relaxed performances? I count our blessings each day that we live in an ever inclusive and understanding world. I will really try to update the blog when we have seen it but if I don't get chance prior to the big day I certainly will afterwards, promise.
In the meantime, wishing all you amazing blog supporters a wonderful holiday!! We are dispensing with tradition slightly for a change this year and staying in Wales for the festive period, which brings some lovely positives and some really sad negatives but I guess, at Christmas, sometimes you just have to admit ..
There's no place like home.
Merry Christmas, folks.
Ruth xx


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

One love

I've had a bit of a blogging hiatus lately. I've been chewing a few things over I suppose. Elin, you'll be pleased to know, is fine. Since my last post we've had a wonderful holiday in Anglesey and Elin's dystonia has, if anything, calmed down again. In reading over my last piece I realise again how everything can shift in an instant in our world, how mole hills can suddenly turn into mountains with the passing of a few days, or, perhaps more crucially , vice-versa. It is becoming a strangely common pattern for me that following a period of wallowing or self-pity (see aforementioned previous post) something will happen to make me realise how misguided my upset was. Not invalid, but misguided. Four days after I wrote that post bemoaning the fact that Elin was growing up, she lost another one of her friends. He was 15, a warrior and taken far too soon. His family are all warriors too and always have been. There is nothing on this planet that makes you freeze and take stock of your blessings like the loss of a child like Elin from a family like ours. It feels personal, it hurts beyond words, you feel desperate. The special needs family is a small one and in being so is close, supportive and endlessly understanding. We don't even need to communicate with words, often a hug says a thousand things, a smile betrays a thousand conversations never had. How can you look into the eyes of someone you see much less than your own family, yet recognise their soul?  
We are bonded together as parents of children with similar conditions, in dealing with the initial horror of a life changed and then gradually coming to terms with our 'new normals'. We have all been through the same patterns. The obliteration of any kind of post-natal joy, the constant stress from the word go, the fights for help, the hospital stays, the helplessly watching your child suffer, the worry, the equipment, the medication, the home adaptions you never believed you'd have to have, the blessing of every birthday, the sorrow of what could have been. We know one another because we are each other.  In the realms of our exclusive little world, in the family of parents we have become, bound by sorrow and despair and great joy that no ordinary parent could ever understand, we are all one person, one child, one family. So when one is lost, then we are all at sea.
Two weeks ago, amazing, fierce, beautiful, funny, strong, miracle-warrior Josh was lost. But never, ever forgotten. 
Two weeks ago my perspective was found. 
Goodbye Josh, thank you for all you taught us and will continue to teach us. Thank you for your smile, for your spirit, for your attitude to life, for your cheekiness, for your love. 
Nobody who met you will ever forget you, squashy. The impact you had on those around you was extraordinary, as the huge numbers of people queueing to say goodbye to you (and beautiful words written by family, friends and teachers) at your funeral paid testament to. You achieved in your short life much more than most people could ever dream of, just by being you. Love is your legacy. What an amazing legacy to leave behind. 
Rest in peace, little man.


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Growing pains

In the month when the clocks have gone back, I seem to spending an awful lot of time wishing I could actually reverse or at least halt time in general. Things are changing pretty fast around here. Or not. Maybe the changes have been so slow and so gradual that we didn't notice them happening. I don't suppose there is a Mum in the whole world who wouldn't tell you there her children have grown up too fast. This is hardly news. So why am I struggling so much with Elin getting older and bigger?
Elin seems to have sprouted lately. We are finding it really, really difficult to lift her and to manage her weight. Obviously we have the hoist for tricky manoeuvres at home, like bathing.  It's not being at home that is difficult though- it's everything else. It's when you are out and the dystonia dictates that she needs to come out of her chair, or she has an appointment or a therapy or you want to visit a friend's house. Try lifting a ten year old who cannot brace themselves or hang around your neck or help you in anyway. Its becoming really hard. Our backs, most days, are in agony.
Coupled with the growth spurt Elin's dystonia has made a weird return, in the sense that she now has random periods of complete stiffness/bending backwards. It's not as distressing for her as her all-over body dystonic storms thank god. But it's not nice to see her straining against her own body and involuntarily trying to bend herself backwards in two. It also makes her very difficult to handle. She's definitely not a baby anymore. I always knew there would come a day when Elin grew so big that we would have to start altering what we do, where we go and how we manage day to day life to keep her comfortable. Of course I did. But that doesn't seem to make the realisation, that this new chapter in our life is pretty much upon us, any easier. I want to stop the clocks, I want time to stand still. I'm not ready. I'm not ready for growth, for secondary school, for hormones and their effect, for Elin to embark on the pathway to adulthood and all that this means. I'm scared. I feel like screaming..
I'm not ready.
I don't know how to be ready and I don't know how to stop being sad about all the things that will gradually shut off to us as Elin gets bigger. I don't know how to stop being sad that I am sad about my daughter growing up, because of the implications for her and for us as a family. I don't want to be sad,  but I'm not ready not to be. We are both so acutely aware of these huge changes lately, it's a bit like going into shock all over again. I berate myself for not handling this well, before I remember what happened to us and to Elin was huge and that will re-surface now and then. As I watch my friends bring up their children in an existence more alien to my experience of motherhood than I ever could have dreamed of, I still can't quite believe this happened.
As we both grapple with this, there is one person who is taking it all in her stride with characteristic strength. It's the person who's face makes everything ok again. She is happy, she is healthy, she is here. She looks at us as if to remind us that changes can be negotiated, anything can be dealt with in the great scheme of things- just think back to ten years ago and all the changes since July 2008. Change? We can do change. As long as we are all together, we can do anything- what else is there???
Once again, we have to take our lead from you, miracle girl. One day at a time. Never give in, never look back and never, ever stop smiling. 

Friday, 12 October 2018

Rainbow bright

"The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow" said an inspirational quote I once saw on a wooden plaque hanging in a gift shop. Unlike some inspirational quotes, it didn't cause me to snort sarcastically and roll my eyes so far into the back of my head they almost disappeared. Because it's true, isn't it? The harder you've had things, the more you appreciate the good times. Well, this is definitely true of us anyway and basically the premise of this blog really, so I have never forgotten that saccharine but spot-on little saying.  I think as humans we instinctively search for justifications and answers to bad things that happen, so this saying fits in with that psyche. Today, it is as relevant to us as ever. Exactly three years ago we left Children's Ward after yet another admission. The nurses- who felt more like friends by this point- had made me the usual tea and toast in the morning, whilst I had groggily dressed inside our 'cube' room. The beeping of the monitors attached to Elin all night echoed through my memory like a never-ending reversing bin lorry that was flattening my sanity.
I couldn't, then, count how many times we had stayed over in hospital with Elin. I'd be interested to know actually. I do know that by the time she was twelve weeks old, we had spent seven of them in hospital. This set an unwelcome precedent for the next seven years of her life. It utterly blows my mind that there are some parents out there who have never entered a hospital ward with their child, such was the normality of the situation to us. First name terms with all the staff and a knowledge of the doctors rota's more accurate than their own (probably).  Let's not forget the ambulance rides and the times we were blue-lighted into A&E because that was LOADS of fun! Once, I did and ambulance call and run to hospital solo as Paul was away visiting family for the weekend. I didn't tell him until he got home because I knew it would ruin his trip and had to avoid his phone calls for 24 hours so he wouldn't guess where we were!! So even ambulance rides lost their vice-like grip of terror on us in the end. I suppose it's true that you can get used to anything if you deal with it long enough.
The thing is, one your child has been rushed by ambulance to hospital (normally because of seizures in Elin's case) and you have taken a call from the school to tell you to get there as fast as you can, it becomes very difficult to ever relax again. You are on high alert constantly. For years, the generic ring of a mobile phone in my proximity would set my heart pounding. I felt that my mind was always elsewhere. It was with Elin.
How lucky we were during this period to enjoy the care of the staff on Children's Ward. Some of these same staff, by the way, still follow this blog and even contributed to the stunning £1,400 we collected for charity in the name of Elin's 10th birthday. They cared about us, even in the malaise of the ravaged, busy, exhausted days working in the confines of terminally compromised NHS. These staff ( and the school staff too)  were the singular reason we made it through that period of time without losing our minds. I'm not sure if everyone that ever made a fuss of Elin on that ward, or greeted us with such open familiarity and constantly took time out of their day to reassure and look after us, truly knew the impact of their actions. It was huge.
So, three years ago today we were discharged from the ward after a bug/breathing difficulties for Elin. We left our favourite cube, waved to our favourite nurses on the way out (they were all our favourite!) and joked we hoped we wouldn't see them again too soon. We didn't. We haven't had a single hospital admission since then.
This luck is extraordinary, just like Elin. We were told quite categorically by a consultant at Alder Hey when she was four months old that Elin would spend a (short) life yo-yoing in and out of hospital and for a while it seemed like this may be the case. But it seems a different lifetime now, I can barely remember that feeling of continual anxiety. It's so freeing, to be able to release the day to day worry that we carried around like a weight on our shoulders. But, it's never quite far away either.  I don't think we'll ever feel that those days won't ever return because we are far too superstitious to assume. We know how quickly things can change for children as vulnerable as Elin. We can only hope, be thankful, once again marvel at the amazing strength and resilience of our little fighter and make lemonade while the sun shines. God knows life has served us enough lemons.
October 12th 2015. Last Children's Ward admission. 

Have a wonderful weekend folks. Stay hopeful.


Friday, 28 September 2018

Wedding Belle

It seems life is full of milestones for Elin at the moment! 10th birthday, 3 years hospital-free (more on that in another blog!) and the final year of primary school to name but a few. Last weekend, she hit another one. First time being a bridesmaid!! This was a big one for me. It's just another right of passage that- all those years ago staring at a tiny baby on a ventilator in SCBU- I never even considered Elin would be lucky enough to make. I never realised how much I long for Elin to have ordinary little-girl experiences until they come along and then I can't believe our luck. It's an extremely fortunate position to be in.
It goes without saying how beautiful she looked and how proud we were to see her at my twin sister's wedding. She had a cold, had been up most of the night before and still managed a twelve-hour day in a completely unfamiliar environment with lots of voices and people she didn't know. What a trouper. She did minimal good sitting, but this was fine- I hadn't really expected her to sit well all day, it's sod's law after all (she had mostly done great sitting all week!!). I didn't worry about it. A few years ago we couldn't have even been sure she would make the day, certainly not last the whole day so we will, as usual, take small blessings as they come!!
Elin did manage to sit beautifully as she went down the aisle, pushed by my lovely Mum. I was so glad Mum had such an integral role in the service, that is, delivering the most important guest down the aisle!! Elin was followed by Caitlin and then me (I feel like I'm maybe a bit old to be a bridesmaid but I enjoyed every second and was grateful nobody tried to saddle me with the god-awful 'Matron of Honour' title!!) My photo's, by the way, are not great- surely the sign of a good day- far too busy having fun to get great pics!! That's what the photographer is for and we are looking forward to seeing the 'official' pics very soon! (I'm looking down in this shot presumably because I can't believe I have to stand next to a gorgeous 20-year old all day!!)
Caitlin and I had a ball being bridesmaids (a bit too much fun - I was still recovering on Monday and rumour has it Rosset Hall ran out of red wine that night!!). We shared a room in the hotel, as Super- Dad Paul brought Elin home in the evening once she had seen the night guests- we knew it would all be getting a bit much for her by then and Paul knew he would be dying for a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit! One of my favourite parts of the wedding was getting to spend some quality time with Caitlin even if she did lead me astray and make me do shots like a student!! It's completely her fault that I drank so much, honest!! Although if you can't drink a bit too much at your only sisters wedding then I don't know when you can :-) Caitlin sang at the ceremony and was, of course, brilliant. Regrettably we didn't get a video of her renditions of 'Fools Rush In" by Elvis, "At Last" by Etta James, or Elton John's "Your Song"-but suffice to say the registrar couldn't complete her tasks because she was so busy crying!! We were once again extremely proud. Elin was of course delighted to spend the day with her favourite person.
   My sister and her wife Katy looked absolutely stunning.  It was so amazing to see them both so happy and to share their perfect day. It was a joyous day, too, after some difficult times for the family this past year. I can't tell you how good it feels to know that your sister has found a life partner who is so awesome as Katy and who deserves her so thoroughly. Weddings are just such gorgeous, life-affirming occasions aren't they? Seeing all your nearest and dearest under one roof is truly good for the soul. The way everyone comes together to celebrate (in this case from as far away as Australia!!) and just pulls together to create a magical day for the special couple can't help but leave you with the warmest and fuzziest of feelings!! It makes you feel like everything will be ok. Love triumphs. Always.
Thanks to everyone who came and made a real effort to ensure the day was special, it really meant a lot. What I loved was seeing two families join together and just enjoy the amazing atmosphere that comes about when two people promise to spend the rest of their lives together. What could be better? On an even more personal level I think what Paul and I will cherish from the day aside from this is the image of Elin surrounded once again by such immense happiness and love. Tomorrow is twelve months since we lost Elin's little friend and cosmic twin, Ellie. We know how lucky we are. We take nothing for granted.
Have a great weekend, folks. May you always be as loved as a newlywed and as happy as an ageing,  drunken bridesmaid :-)
Ruth x


Thursday, 23 August 2018

Reality Check.

 Sometimes, during the 'new normal' of the life you have cultivated as a parent of a child with quadriplegic cerebral palsy,  you get smashed straight in the face with a wave of grief and nausea when you least expect it. In my experience, this happens less and less the older your child gets, until you almost forget your 'new normal' because it has morphed into what is now just 'normal'. This is a euphoric state that you could only dream of when you embarked on the new life, the one you didn't choose- the one that started when your baby was born not breathing. Back then things felt that they would never be the same again, the world collapsed. It's life Jim, but not as we know it.
But things slowly and painstakingly change, they get better. Does time heal all wounds? Or is it what you do with that time that does?
I know we are lucky. Elin is doing well and that has changed everything as she has grown in the last ten years. There is reduced stress when you are no longer having to call an ambulance to deal with seizures regularly, no longer yo-yoing in and out of hospital. You start to forget to worry. Then you stop worrying almost completely. Life becomes settled, there is a status quo. You can even go out for the day without putting your phone in your bra which you used to do daily (so terrified were you of missing a call from school/home/babysitters) Sadness about what happened to Elin rarely surfaces, you are now just getting on with your new life as though it had almost been meant to be.
But then, a little face-smash occurs. A little reminder. Don't get comfortable, things could change and they do. Recently, two things happened in the same week to contribute to one of these moments. Firstly, another one of Elin's little friends passed away. This is something that we will never get used to, will never stop halting us in our tracks and will never ever stop hurting. There is nothing more poignant to remind you just how precarious life is for our beautiful, vulnerable children. Elin's little friend, who used to attend her school, did not have the same condition as Elin, but she had the same vivaciousness, bravery, cheekiness, mega-watt smile and ability to make everyone around her fall instantly in love with her through her beautifully expressive eyes and face of pure sunshine. She had the same family- a mummy and daddy, sibling, grandparents and wealth of people who cared about and loved her all around her. We know each other, our families. Even those we've never met. We share a common ground nobody else can understand. So a loss like this is devastating for all and we will never forget these children who so richly deserved more. It hurts beyond words.
Secondly, Elin had an appointment at Alder Hey about her hips. She has these appointments annually and in truth I mostly completely forget about them from one year to the next. Her right hip is sub-flexed, meaning it is coming out of it's socket. This is totally normal and in fact, common, for children of Elin's age who don't weight-bear. One year when we went it had even popped back into it's socket a bit!!! I've never really been too worried about it. But this time, it had protruded a little further. The consultant had a student in with him, so perhaps his candidness this time was centred around that. He was using us a teaching exercise. He basically let us know that we could expect Elin's hip to come out of it's socket altogether some point in the future. This could be the near future or take years to happen. When it does, it may cause Elin massive pain or discomfort or not bother her at all. At this point surgery would be considered based on her pain levels and handling issues due to the socket being out of joint (changing nappies and things can become very difficult). The surgery, he explained, was not easy and entailed weeks and often months of recovery. Incase his medical student was in any doubt about this procedure, the consultant began to remonstrate about the risk of death during such surgery. SERIOUSLY! An operation that she may or may not be having possibly one or ten years down the line!! Slightly unnecessary I felt but then as Paul reasonably pointed out to me afterwards, we do ask a lot of questions too. He probably thought we wanted the big know..since we asked for it! Some things I'm better off not knowing until I need to though. It really bothered me. It reminded me entirely of Elin's vulnerability, the unfair nature of her condition- the way we are powerless to change certain things about her path.
Why do we have to think about these things? Why will we one day have to decide whether to put Elin through a big, nasty operation or not? Why will we have to watch her in pain? Why are we damned if we do and damned if we don't?? Why do we have to make these decisions and then deal with the consequences when some parents will not set foot through a hospital door with their child in their entire life? Why did this even have to happen? Why do these things still take me  back to the day Elin was born as if it happened yesterday and begin my struggle with what happened all over again?!!???
Who knows. Not me. But I have to accept that knowing families who lose their children and dealing with difficult decisions are just part of our life, it is how it is. This doesn't mean I have to accept them as normal though, because they never will be and the day they feel normal would perhaps be the saddest and most heartbreaking of them all.
So maybe we all need a little face-smash now and then, if only to serve as a reminder of where we are in time, or rather, where we've not yet got to.
Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you have to just cut them up and put them in a gin and tonic.
Have a great weekend folks, this face will be my positivity -you're welcome to use it as yours, too :-)
Ruth x


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Elin in Edinburgh

Let me start this post by saying my heart is Welsh. But my soul, I think, is most definitely Scottish.
Almost 20 years ago I boarded a train in Chester, got off in Edinburgh and fell in love. Totally, completely and utterly head over heals in love with the city. I was auditioning for Drama School and I knew as soon as I arrived that it was the place for me. Lucky, then, that Queen Margaret's University College accepted me and along with nine other girls and ten boys we became what would be the B/A Acting class of 2002. This was the start of my love affair with Edinburgh and it hasn't ever really ended.
Everything changed in Edinburgh, as I think it does for most people between the ages of 18-21. I became the person I am, I grew up. My time at drama school, in the end, didn't give me a career (disclaimer: I was probably a bit crap) What it gave me instead was not only a million life lessons I would not have otherwise learned but also a friendship group that would become a family. Flatmates that ended up being like sisters (warts and all!) and as a whole a group that I will care about and continue to spend time with until forever. Two of us even got married and had children together!!! To summarise, those three years shaped who I am and gave me the time of my life, even if I didn't always know it. It's the reason I can't go back without crying when I see that familiar, unbelievable skyline and architecture to make you drool. It's the reason we chose to get married there in 2005. It's my spiritual home and it's the reason my soul is undeniably Scottish.
So all that being said, it stands to reason that I have wanted to get Elin up there pretty much ever since she was born. Until now it just never seemed do-able. The travelling put us off, the five hour drive not especially attractive when dealing with a dystonic Elin and then there's the getting about. City breaks are a risk because it literally depends on Elin's dystonia whether the break is amazing or really stressful. This year, something forced our hand. Caitlin has just completed her second year B/A Acting at Italia Conti and the year group were taking two shows to the Fringe. How could we not go and see her? It was meant to be.  We decided it was opportunity not to miss and we booked and held our breath.
I CANNOT explain to you without sounding like a lunatic what it meant to me to finally get Elin on Scottish soil. As if that wasn't emotional enough, I had Caitlin performing in the Fringe 18 years after I performed there with my own year group. Everything just felt like a beautiful, delicious full circle and it was amazing. More than that, Elin sat. Yes, read that again. She sat. In. Her. Chair. For HOURS. All the way up in the car (five hours and only one wee stop-which for me was an utter miracle- but then I did restrict my fluid intake from 7pm the night before!!)
Then, she sat around Edinburgh for two days solid. Now it wouldn't be Elin if this had been a 100% successful sitting rate, so on Wednesday she did strive to remind us who was boss- how sad! But travelling home again today she was perfect. I can only conclude the magic of my magical, wonderful city rubbed off on her! It truly was fantastic.
Edinburgh was absolutely buzzing. Especially the Royal Mile, where we were staying. It was jam packed with the most amazing street entertainers/theatre and Elin just loved it!! On a different day this would have bothered her immensely but not this week. She absolutely lapped it up, especially anything musical. When Caitlin's group did some street theatre to promote their play, she thought she had died and gone to heaven!
Caitlin's show was excellent as we couldn't have been prouder. This is a photo of Elin outside the venue they performed in (she couldn't see the show as it wasn't suitable but I don't think she minded because she got loads of 'Caitlin time' regardless)
 Taking a flyer from Caitlin-in-costume on the mile!!!
Part of why this holiday felt special was that it was a big moment for Caitlin (first public/fringe performance), Elin (first time in Scotland) AND us (we finally got to be up there all together. Last time we were in Edinburgh with Caitlin she was about six years old and Elin wasn't even a twinkle in the IVF doctor's test tube).
Cockburn Street- one of my faves. Kookie gifts, vintage clothes, film memorabilia, books, records..gorgeous cafe's, cobbled street, stunning buildings..ahhhhhhhh this is my Edinburgh! To round off the sentimental tourist-bit, we took Elin back to the registry office we got married in 13 years ago. It's now a fringe venue with flyers and dodgy graffiti over the door- but show me a place in Edinburgh that isn't during the festival. 
You will notice our raincoats. This is because it's Edinburgh and when in the past you've walked out of a bar in open toe heels to a foot of snow (and zero chance of a taxi) that wasn't there when you went in, you come to expect the first heatwave since 1976 will not necessarily have penetrated the Scottish border. So you pack raincoats....and you need them. 
Elin does not care about the rain!!! It didn't last long anyway :-)
Another of the great, awe-inspiring marvels of the Festival is the amount of events on for children. SO much to see and do. It was wonderful to get Elin to her first Fringe show "Bubble show: Milkshake and the Bubble Flower". If there's one thing Elin loves, its bubbles..and there were lots of BIG bubbles in this! 
It was a kind of mime/circus show crossed with..well..giant bubbles, lights and music!! Of course, she loved it and so did we :-) Paul and I also got to a couple of shows as we took it in turns to put Elin to bed in the hotel- Paul's favourite was a musical he saw with Caitlin about Henry V111'S wives called "Six"- bonkers but amazing apparently!! My favourite was a one-woman show about a relationship break up I saw with my Scottish pal Nicola- also bonkers but amazing!! Pretty much describes the Festival in general really!! I love it. 
So that just leaves us with the meeting of Elin and the other children from the class of 2002, at least those that are still in Edinburgh and not away on holiday this week anyway! (You guys we SORELY missed) My Uni friends were absolutely amazing in organising a suitable venue and taking time out of their lives to come and see us. For a couple, it was the first time they had ever met Elin and Caitlin and so more emotional moments ensued!! This is when I had a true understanding of the relationships we forged together all those years ago. I was so, so touched by the gathering and it was all because of Elin. Because they get it, what it meant to us to get Elin to the city and what it will always mean. It seems incredulous to me that one second you're falling out of a bar at 2am into a snowy street and clinging to each other as you whimper your frozen way home...and before you blink you are introducing your children to one another. Not everyone is this lucky I realise, not everyone will have this from their Uni days. I have it and I treasure it and am so grateful for it. If I could use the word "blessed" without vomiting I truly would. 
I think that pretty much concludes my Summer 2018 holiday blog post. I honestly didn't have big expectations of our Edinburgh visit in terms of it being a holiday, I didn't know how a city break would suit Elin and I thought it might be a bit stressful. As it was, it far exceeded my expectations (if that wasn't clear by now!). Now my very best memories of Edinburgh aren't just from the past,  because this week we got to make some new ones. Brilliant.
"We didn't realise we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun"
                                                                                                    Winnie The Pooh.
Have a great weekend, folks. Thanks as always for reading.

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