Monday, October 22, 2012

Another birthday not passed

Last week it was Nigel's birthday, what should have been his 47th. I find birthdays really quite painful, especially as I get closer in age to the age Nigel was when he died. Signing cards to both of our girls from just me is never going to be an easy task, and I always find myself shedding a tear at writing just 'mummy' instead of both parents. Although I think my days of being mummy may soon be over, time instead to adjust to being just plain mum!

Sophie and I went back to her first choice secondary school today for a tour during the school day. We are probably not going to get a place in the first round, so will have to go to appeal, but I am resigned to this fact and so will be ready. I need to gather reports from a variety of agencies supporting Sophie's application. In theory it should go through, but it is always a worry. If only it was more straightforward, but there's nothing we can do, except move house closer to the school, which is not something I am either willing or able to do. This is our home, I can't see us leaving in the foreseeable future. So Sophie and I will be keeping everything crossed. We might drop lucky, but if not, the appeal is there for us to prove how important what this school offers is to Sophie.

In other news, we spent the weekend at Center Parcs with Sarah and Gem, the girls' cousins. What a great weekend we had, cycling, swimming, walking, and Alex and I did archery too. We always enjoy our weekends there, in fact we are going again in a fortnight with some friends. Usually we go with the Way Foundation, but this year it clashes with my weekend away scrapbooking. Sophie and I will go for the day on Monday to see everyone, while Alex heads to Hadrian's Wall with my parents.

Tomorrow, at the ripe old age of 37, I start speech therapy. I've been struggling with losing my voice for about 6 months now, and after ruling out anything too nasty, I discovered I have vocal cord nodules. My voice careers between normal and super husky, then back again. I have had to stop singing in my choir as I just can't. Speech therapy is the first step, and if that doesn't help, then surgery will be the next step. It was suggested that I tried to speak as little as possible, but as a teacher that isn't really going to happen is it!

On that note, time to rest my voice through sleep!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Onwards, upwards, or plodding along?

I haven't posted so much again lately, probably because I have found myself involved with so many different things. Then my financial adviser, Andy Tams, rang me to tell me that I'd had a mention on a financial blog by Louise Colley, who is head of protection sales and marketing for Aviva. Quite what that means, I have no idea other than she works in life insurance, kind of, for one of the companies which I had to deal with after Nigel died. Andy had given us very astute advice when we moved our mortgage after the initial deal ran out. I met him originally as the parent of a child I taught, actually I taught both of his children. I wanted to get financial advice from someone I felt I could trust, and so Nigel and I listened carefully to what Andy had to say.

Where would I be now without that advice? Well, I probably wouldn't be living here. It is everyone's dream to be mortgage free, and I have often shocked people who discuss this by commenting on the lines of killing off my husband to become debt free. There have been sharp intakes of breath through teeth on several occasions until people realise how dark my sense of humour is around death, and then they cautiously laugh with me. But the reality is that having no mortgage is actually only the beginning of financial security after the loss of a husband, wife, partner and so on. As I am sure you aware, day to day expenses, living costs and so on are considerable now. Without the extra insurance, which Nigel and I had never heard of before, I would definitely have had to sell this house and move to somewhere cheaper and smaller. Not a real hardship, but this is our home. Nigel and I chose this when it was being built, we moved here when I was 11 weeks pregnant with Sophie, and we grew our little family here together. To move out would break my heart at this point in life, so I am very glad that we can stay thanks to Andy's advice.

I remember thinking years ago when we bought this house that life insurance was such an expense, would we really need it? Of course the mortgage lender insisted on it, so we got it. Thank goodness! It is so easy to think that it will never happen to you. I thought that, and look, it happened to me. There is not a day that goes by when I don't think about Nigel. My grief seems to have been quite raw again lately, I have shed many a tear. Partly because I miss him, and partly because I am going through choosing a secondary school for our eldest daughter, Sophie. Nigel and I chose her primary school together, and he was so excited about taking her for her first day. Sadly he never made it to her first day, he died less than a month before. Still chokes me to think that he never saw that, or when Alex started too. We have two more open evenings to go to, and then we decide in what order to rank the schools. The chances are we won't get our first choice, so I am already planning the appeal which will be submitted. I'd love to be able to send both girls to independent school, like my parents did for me when I was 11, but I just can't afford it. If anyone has a spare £150K that they'd like to give me to cover school fees until the end of secondary school, please let me know!

Anyway, enough for now. Sleep is in order, work tomorrow. I am loving where I am now, my class are great, I have fantastic colleagues, and life in that sense is good. The only negative is a sickness bug which is working its way through school, last count 57 out of 400 pupils had gone down with it, plus 5 members of staff. Yuck. Please let it pass me by!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Getting over it...

I've posted about this before, but I thought I'd revisit this old chestnut of a saying. I have lost count of the number of times I've been asked if I've got over Nigel's death. I've reached the point in the journey that is widowhood that means I can just take such comments on the chin and get on with it. In the past I have smiled when someone has said it and muttered in my head about it, and then had a weep later.

I can honestly say, it is NEVER about getting over it. More about getting on with it. Life is nothing like I planned it, well, there are some aspects which are but not many. I fancied getting married in the year 2000, and managed that, marrying Nigel on July 29th that year. We had a fabulous wedding day, just how I dreamed it would be apart from the rain. But then we are in England, so the weather can never be guaranteed, now can it!

I also had it in my head that I wanted to have had my children by the time I was thirty. Married at the age of 24, to a man 10 years my senior, I knew that I wanted to have a family with Nigel as soon as possible. I still can't quite believe that we were so lucky to have both girls with relative ease. My pregnancy with Sophie went smoothly, with her birth being quite traumatic. She was a poorly baby, spending her first 24 hours in special care, and then having treatment for rhesus disease back on the ward in a side room with me. Alex's pregnancy was difficult, and she too was poorly initially, but soon was well enough for us to go home a week after her birth.

At this point, I was 28 and thought everything was panning out nicely. When Alex was 5 months old, we took her to Portugal for her first holiday abroad, just as we had done when Sophie was 5 months old too. Whilst on this holiday, we bought into our timeshare, bagging our family a lovely holiday every summer for the foreseeable future.

Fast forward to August 10th 2006, and there I was, 30 years old, mother to a four year old and a two year old, and in an instant I was a widow not a wife. I really can remember that moment when the paramedics told me Nigel had died like it was yesterday. I didn't speak Portuguese, but still I knew exactly what they were telling me.

Since then, I've tried to take things as they come. There have been massive challenges, highs, lows, good times, situations I could never have imagined even in my worst nightmares. I have clawed my way out of the deepest darkest places, and got on with living my life with my two girls. I am getting on with it, ignoring those people who thought I could never manage on my own instead of part of a two parent home. I know from my own experience as a teacher that my girls are considered 'at risk' because I am a lone parent who has gone through considerable trauma.

Here's my beautiful eldest daughter. She was only 4 when Nigel died. Now she is ten, and I am filled with pride at how she has grown up into such an amazing young lady. Scary times ahead, as she will be moving from the safety and comfortable environment of her primary school into the big wide world that is secondary school in September 2013. Together we will decide which school to apply for after the summer holidays. When I was last time choosing schools, I did it with Nigel, and we definitely made the right decision when choosing primary schools. I am sure Sophie would have been fine wherever we chose, but the school she has been at since September 2006 has definitely been good for her.

Alex was only 2 when Nigel died. Her memories of her daddy are limited, and there have been times when she has struggled immensely with that. Her grasp of numbers meant that she suffered a painful realisation that Sophie had 4 years with Nigel, whereas she only had two. It broke my heart to hear her sob when she worked that out for herself. How do you explain to a child that their daddy loved them just as much, but because they were the younger one he only knew them for half the time? At that time, Alex was suffering with painful ear problems, and it was not until after Nigel died that she got the surgery she needed, and turned from a night time screeching banshee into the gorgeous girl she is now. Like Sophie, she has blossomed too. I wish her daddy could see her now.

Where are we now? We are getting ON with life, a family of three. Happy, most of the time. Still feel sorrow that Nigel is not here, but it is not all consuming like it used to be. We will never get OVER it. I think we're doing a pretty good job of it. Not perfect, but then, what is perfect? Can anyone ever achieve that? Some people think they can, and so look down on those of us who are further from it than they think they are. I muddle on through, and the muddle is pretty impressive at the moment. Roll on 20th July, when school is out for summer. My full time contract ends, and I go on to 2.5 days a week from September 1st. So many parents dread the summer holidays, but for us it means actually having time to spend as a family. And that is GOOD.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The journey continues...

Once again life is rushing along. It seems like a never ending treadmill again lately, I quite fancy jumping off sometimes, but alas that isn't an option! The photograph above is from the Women's conference at my church, Cherish, and it is a reminder to all women that they are beautiful, no matter what they are going through in their lives. I took my lovely friend Liz along on Monday evening, she is a friend through scouting, and it was great to bring her to my church for the first time. The conference has been fantastic, already it is as if the preaching is aimed directly at what is going on for me lately. I know it isn't, not personally, but it fits so well with the various things that have been happening.

In other news, I have a new job, in year 4 at a school not far from here. It is in a different education authority to Leeds, so it has been interesting adjusting to the differences. I would never have realised just how different things could be, but they are! I am enjoying being there very much. Last week we had a Diamond Jubilee themed week, and we did lots of different activities around the Queen's 60 years on the throne. My class, along with one of the year 5 classes, decorated almost 700 buns to sell to the rest of the school. It is the biggest school I have worked in yet, over 400 pupils, so the buns were all eagerly snapped up in no time at all.

I have also been spending more time with some fabulous friends I met through WAY (Widowed and Young). This is me with Christine, I went over to our mutual friend Thelma's for the weekend just gone, and as it was Christine's birthday on Friday I baked her this cake. It was delicious, and looks good, even though it was surprisingly simple to make. Next weekend we are off to Manchester to hear Coldplay. I love their music, so it will be great to hear them live. Their song, 'Fix You', always brings on an emotional reaction, here's hoping all the WAY members I am going with manage to get through it without falling apart completely.

This was what met me when I arrived at Thelma's, two bonkers ladies with flags in their hair!!

And finally, it is almost scarecrow festival time again here in the village. At beavers last week we made these two ready for our entry. Last year we won but I don't think we will again. Our scarecrows are always excellent, but it there are always so many great ones. The festival is on Sunday 24th June here in Gildersome, worth checking out if you are local.

Other than that, life is mostly good. Riding the rough with the smooth is part of it all, I think most people experience that! It is half term this week, Alex has gone to my brother's with my parents and Sophie has gone to Cornwall with her best friend. Alex is due back today, Sophie is away until the weekend. It is strange being alone in the house. Lovely getting some time to myself, and also quite eery at times. Today is about cleaning the house, doing boring things like laundry and all that!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Our Egyptian Odyssey

We finally made it to Egypt this year, after having to cancel last year because I'd been so ill. The girls were very excited to be visiting a new country, and also a new continent as we'd not been to Africa before.
Sophie about to snorkel in the Red Sea

The holiday was arranged with a group of friends I made through the Way Foundation. All of us had been widowed under the age of 50. I love going away with this group of friends, we all get along so well, and it does all the kids good to see that they are not alone in growing up without one of their parents. But equally, I find it quite emotional to be with this group of friends, as we would never have met if our husbands and wives were still with us. It reminds me how much of a gap has been left, whilst also showing how the three of us function so well as a family unit. I doubt myself as a parent far too often, as I have to make the decisions for two of us, carry out the role of two people. I have plenty of family and friends around me ready to discuss things with me, but it is not quite the same as discussing it with Nigel, is it? Still, we make the best of it.

Alex on the beach at Makadi Bay

The week was spent mostly in swimsuits, with warmth from the wind provided by the royal blue WAY foundation hoodies seen in two of the photographs. It was not as warm as in previous years, or so I am told, yet we still managed to thoroughly enjoy ourselves. I drank lots of cocktails, the favourite amongst our group being a sunrise. We ate food from all around the world in the restaurants at the hotel, the Bedouin being the tastiest meal of the week.

Me wrapped up ready to head out into the desert on a quad bike

I went out on an excursion which was riding a quad bike into the desert, riding a camel and then riding the quad back again. It was fantastic. We laughed so much, and shook every bone in our bodies going over the hard packed, ridged sand. As soon as we got back from the excursion, we headed straight for the pool to cool off, and started on the cocktails. My oh my, what a mistake. Well, not a mistake really, as it was enjoyable, but I've not been as drunk as that in a VERY long time! I ended up asleep on my bed at 5pm, not good! The girls just took themselves off to another room to watch a DVD in the end. Bad, bad mother. Hey ho!

Coming back from holidays always leaves me feeling a bit blue. This time, however, there was no time to, as both girls were having ENT surgery the Friday after we came home. Alex had T tubes fitted. These are like longer lasting grommets (ear tubes for my US readers) because her ear drum had healed after her last set of grommets in 2009, allowing the glue ear to return. Her ENT consultant had hoped she would grow out of it, but she has not reached that point yet, so he suggested she have the T tubes. She did need them, as her hearing was depleted again. It was even affected to the point that her learning was suffering in school. Any slight background noise left her unable to hear what her teacher was saying, and the T tubes have rectified this.

Sophie had her tonsils removed, as she has been really quite ill with chronic tonsillitis for too long. She coped very well with the surgery, although she did need to be given codeine as well as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Two weeks on and she is almost fully recovered. Her throat is a bit sore when she eats from time to time, but she knows this will pass. We are a tonsil free house now, so I'm hoping it means better health for all of us.

And finally, in other news... I have a new job. A term long contract teaching a year 4 class not far from here. I've met them and they seem like a good set of kids. Paid until the end of August which is a total bonus! They are having whole class sessions on a Tuesday learning to play the French horn, that should be fun......