Friday, 31 January 2014

Dear Matilda Mae

Dear Matilda Mae

Its nearly a year since you went to sleep.  The blogging community were in shock and they shared your tale in the hope of making some sense of it all.

That's how I heard of you, of your Mummy and Daddy and your big brother and sister.  Someone shared a link and I read of how you had gone to sleep and did not wake up.

Like many others, I cried for you although I had not met you. You were just a week younger than Little Owl, too young to go. Far too young.

Like many others, Little Owl has received extra kisses and cuddles, with thoughts of you.  The nights I laid with her for just a bit longer, thinking how lucky I was, and how sad your Mummy must be.

I continued to read your mummy's blog, and read about her pain, as she had to do the unthinkable and plan your funeral. But I also read older posts,  I read about the joy that you had brought to the family, of how much love had surrounded you, and the struggle your siblings had had just to come home.

It was the first blog I had ever really read. I had dipped in and out of blogs before, reading the odd post, but never really understood the story they had to tell.

Your mummy referred to you as a true "blog baby" and said that she hoped you would inspire others to blog, to share their stories.

And so you did, with your mummy's encouraging words a seed was planted. I read more and more blogs until eventually, I had the confidence to start my own.

So here we are, nearly a year since you went to sleep. So much has been achieved in your name, so many people still touched by your story.
Sleep well baby Tilda
Letters for Matilda Mae

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

I am home

It's so hard to describe the love I have for this place.

And by this place I mean Sangam.

I have spent pretty much the first two days within the grounds here, letting Little Owl find her way and adjust to the climate.
 The pool is icy cool (it is winter after all) but that didn't stop Little Owl keep asking to go back in!

Little Owl has been welcomed with open arms by all of the staff here, literally, many of them I have know since I first came here in 2002.  It's been great catching up with old friends and introducing them to my daughter.

Another person we got a chance to see was Tarabi, who lives just across the road (the road which is now 4 lanes wide, each lane made up of bikes, rickshaws, buses and lorries travelling side by side and darting around each other).
This is just one lane.  Note how the 'traffic' is going in both directions.  Now times this by four.
 The whole neighbourhood has changed, its developed a lot over the last 5 years, the houses have got bigger (they literally just add another storey or two on top) and the temples, church and mosque all appear to, if not grown, had a little bit more decoration added to them.  

It feels wealthier all round, which is maybe not surprising when you see the hug new development on the horizon, a high-tech complex housing some of the world's call centres.
Little Owl and Tarabi
Tarabi has been welcoming guest from Sangam into her house for many decades.  She used to work at Sangam but is now well into her retirement (and her eighties!)

I could write lots more about the little things Little Owl has been up to, the people she has met, but what I'm struggling to do is describe what this place does to me, how it makes me feel.

It is home form home.  Not the cosy cuddly sort of home, but a place where I feel just a little bit more like me.  I am somehow more complete when I am here.  See, I told you I would struggle...

India is an assault on all of your senses, the sounds the smells.... and yet within the walls of Sangam, its all just a little calmer.  Sure you can hear the call to prayer (I just love that sound), and the siren at the ammunition factory announcing the change of shift (its a sound that gets you inside somehow), and even the roar of the planes from he nearby airport and the constant honking of horns from the road... but its all just a bit muted from inside, like life is buzzing round furiously out there but within the walls of Sangam its just going a bit softer, a bit calmer and with a bit more love.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Flying with a Toddler

Well that was a lot easier than expected!  At every turn there was someone to help, directing me to shorter lines where there was extra people to help! 

We flew from Terminal 1 at Heathrow, which is all very new and shiny.  The first thing we spotted was a free soft play area!  Little Owl loved it and it had the added bonus of burning off lots of energy and building up a huge appetite, which was lucky because the kids portion at Giraffe was HUGE!!!

We were the first to board the plane along with a couple of other kids, including the little boy who we had met at the soft play.  We were incredibly lucky in the plane being so empty which meant we had 3 seats to ourselves!  I opted to sit next to the window so Little Owl could have things to look at.

She pointed at a plane that had just taken off and said "up".  I asked her if we were going to go up - she gave me a look and said loudly "no".  

Oh well.

It was half an hour before we took off.  Little Owl got a bit restless sat on my lap and I began to get nervous about our next flight as I had been told there were only 5 spare seats on the whole plane!

As soon as the seat belt sign came off,  I plopped Little Owl in her own seat and shortly afterwards she was given a cake and I supped on a glass of wine... this was better!  And that was pretty much it until we landed and Little Owl had to get back on my lap again which she did willingly and snuggled in for cuddles.

First flight over and done with, we went straight to our gate when we landed at Heathrow.  Time for Little Owl to burn off some more energy!  She headed straight for the stairs leading to the business lounge!  The very polite man on duty told her she couldn't go upstairs but in return gave her a Ferrero Rocher.  Little Owl was made up with that and did 3 laps of the airport to celebrate!

People were starting to gather near the gate and there was a couple of staff behind desks so I cheekily asked how many spaces were available on the flight.  I'm so glad I did as they did a bit of juggling and got me a spare seat for Little Owl!

So here is the big one - an eight hour flight on my own with a toddler...

It was amazing!

Having her own seat also meant she had her own TV screen which worked straight away, I found her cartoons and she was set.  She wasn't even that worried by having the headphones.  She did a bit of colouring in as she was given a colouring book and pencils by the Lufthansa staff, but that got discarded as soon as the food arrived.
This is the only place where Lufthansa let themselves down.  They provide 'baby food' which I was told was 'mush' but nothing for toddlers.  I was told it was because she was travelling as an infant but seriously - how long are purees used for?  (not actually sure as we did baby led weaning).  The staff were very nice about it, but they weren't allowed to give Little Owl a meal until everyone else had been served.

This wasn't really a problem as she's a slow eater and tucked into bits of my meal and then we shared her (different) meal when it arrived.  But it could have been.  They told me I should have phoned to arrange this before the flight, but the thing is I had - I had the very same conversation with their customer services earlier in the week, trying to explain that very few infants over the age of one would eat puree...

After the food was cleared away, I got Little Owl into her pjs (cheated by keeping her vest and tights on and put her sleepsuit over the top).  We then walked down to the back of the plane with her empty bottle which was duly filled with milk and then toddled back to her seat.  She sat watching more cartoons drinking her milk until she said "mummy" handed me the bottle and promptly fell asleep which is how she stayed until the lights were switched back on and breakfast was served!

So that was that.  I didn't use any of the stuff I have brought to keep her entertained other than one small book when she was having her nappy changed and her headphone which she didn't really use.

I'm just so proud of Little Owl, she really was on her best behaviour yesterday, charming everyone, and just coping with all the crazy stuff I throw at her.  

Love her so much!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

All my bags are packed...

...I'm ready to go....
Well almost.
A few last minute things to add but 'the list' that grew so long it multiplied into many expanding lists that continued to grow, is finally shrinking and combining with the hope of being one manageable list again.
I realised earlier this week that I had been in denial about having Little Owl sat on my lap for an entire flight. 
This was partly due to the fact that I kept checking the seating plan for the flight from Frankfurt to Pune and on the row where I was placed, there were only 3 out of the 6 seats taken.
However, I remember from booking that the Frankfurt flights from Heathrow were busy and that you couldn't book your seat until check in.
So I have checked in.
The flight to Frankfurt appears half empty but I think that's because people haven't checked in yet.  They appear to be filling the seats from the front as people check in.  I moved my seat from row 9 by the window to an aisle seat at the back in the hope that there might be a spare seat back there.
But its not all so hopeful.
The Frankfurt to Pune flight has got quite busy in the last few days.  There are a few spaces available but every window seat and aisle seat has gone and the entire row I am sat on is now full.
This is not good news.
Little Owl on my lap for 8 hours.
I have seriously been in denial about this!
My lap isn't the biggest, mainly because my legs are short and my belly... well you see where I'm going with this - the tray is not going to open!
I haven't been in total denial about flying with a toddler... I have plenty of things to keep her entertained, my kindle is loaded with CBeeBies programme and there are funky Penguin earphones for Little Owl to listen with, without disturbing other passengers.  We have coloured pencils and a notepad.  A box of plasters (was recommended instead of stickers as they can be removed easier than stickers).  A few happyland characters.  Books to read, books to look at.  Aqua doodle. And a few other bits as well.
I just don't see how I'm going to juggle all of these activities with a toddler sat on my lap, let alone, eat drink pee and hopefully sleep!
But nothing I can do about it now eh?  What ever happens on the plane, its not going to last forever, just 8 hours.  I'm now pinning all my hopes on Little Owl turning on her charms, flirting with the entire plane and doing what she does best - making everyone laugh!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Pink is for girls

As a child growing up with 2 much older brothers, I was determind not to like pink, even when I got married my bridesmaids wore blue - that showed them huh?

Who 'them' are I'm not not so sure... And when it comes to pink vs blue I must admit to pink being far more flattering as a hair colour than blue has ever proven to be...

That didn't stop me feeling decidedly miffed when Father Christmas invited Little Owl to help herself to a present from the pink pile... I couldn't help but wondering what she was missing out of in the blue pile... especially when she got colouring pencils which could have been in either!

But then I got it when someone pointed out that little boys (as a whole) would be understandable upset if Father Christmas gave them hairclips and in all honesty, I think Little Owl would have been quite happy with clips (although not as happy as pencils cos pencils are the best right?!).

I remember playing with my friend's Castle Grey Skull as a kid and thinking how much cooler it was than My Little Pony cos it did stuff! Then I discovered Sylvalian Families and all was good again!

I've heard Marks and Spencers are going to stop marketing their toys at either boys or girls and I'm pleased. But then someone on Facebook suggested they should do the same with the clothes! Would that mean they had to stop selling dresses? With her lack of hair, I sometimes go to quite a bit of effort to make sure people know Little Owl is a girl whilst still looking funky, and well dresses just require less effort on that front!

I was worried that giving Little Owl a kitchen for Christmas was conforming to a stereo type, would we have done so with a boy? I would like to say yes but would I really? I comforted myself that it had been when Papa Owl was in the kitchen that Little Owl most wanted to join in.

This whole topic raised its head again this week.  I rarely wear makeup these days and so Little Owl was fascinated to see me applying some.  She stood next to me, looking in the mirror, asking me to put on her anything I put on myself. She's not an easy owl to say no to, so I pretended to give her eyeshaddow, blusher, mascara and lipstick, trying to convince myself that its no different to wearing black facepaint at bonfire... But I wasn't sure, I felt uneasy... That was until I turned round to see that Little Owl had got bored and had returned to playing with her cars!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Knitting Fridays

 My needles are empty.  All of them!
But they are all together in their new home!
Another of our Ikea purchases, I now have two Expedit to store all my 'crafty' bits!
These four shelves hold my knitting.
 The two on the left hold half finished projects.
Guess I either need to finish them or...
The yellow box holds my wool.
Thought I would have more than this!

 There's one other shelve holding my knitting books and patterns.

So there I am.  Now all organised and ready to do some more knitting.

Pity I don't feel in the mood.
Maybe its because I am packing my bags for India!

One week to go!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Tale of Fat Billy...

Now if you've been reading my posts recently or follow me on Twitter, you will have picked up on the fact that I am an Ikea fan.  I love their furniture for being so versatile, for its ability to personalise, and that you can plan and measure and pick from the comfort of your own home. 
A week or so before Christmas a large delivery of Ikea furniture arrived, including a book case, storage units and a wardrobe for Little Owl.  I was very excited and decided that I'd put the Billy bookcase together first as we needed to rearrange the furniture in the living room for the Christmas Tree anyhow. 
I enjoy putting together flat-pack furniture - its like Lego for grown-ups so it didn't take long to make the Billy, and I then asked Papa Owl to give me a hand to stand it up and put it in place next to the other Billys.  Well this is where it turned into the Chuckle Brothers with lots of "to me to you" and ended with
"push it back"
"it is back"
"it can't be..."
Did you know that Billys come in two different depths?  I didn't!

I was truly deflated.  Just sat on the floor, speechless!

I must have looked sad because Papa Owl put on his superhero cape and turned into "International Ikea Rescue", a few days later, on the first day of the school holidays, he got up before dawn, drove to Ikea and bought a Skinny Billy!

That's so much better!

And Fat Billy?  Papa Owl bought him a couple of doors and he is now proudly standing in what was an empty alcove ready to store all our rubbish behind his closed doors, and display our treasured possessions on his shelves!
 Papa Owl is my hero!

Monday, 6 January 2014

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree oh Christmas tree
We went to Westfield to buy thee
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
We went together, just us three

There were lots of trees when we got there
We couldn't find you, not hide nor hair
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
You just appeared out of thin air

O Christmas Tree oh Christmas tree
Papa Owl bought you for a fee
O Christmas Tree oh Christmas tree
There were some reindeer just for me
We took you home in the car
The journey really wasn't far
O Christmas Tree o Christmas tree
Five more minutes and here we are
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
Little Owl loved to see thee
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
She couldn't stop touching thee
Your boughs began to show the weight
we tried to keep you on the straight
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
Little Owl she couldn't wait
 O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
Little Owl wouldn't let you be
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
but she could only reach your knee!
 That's Christmas over for this year
We'd like to thank you for being here
O Christmas tree o Christmas tree
Its time for you to go from here

Friday, 3 January 2014

Knitting Fridays

ITS FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And what's best - Little Owl loves it!
I solved the neck problem, was a bit of a pain but I undid the cast off, counted the stitches and realised that I was 10 short, so I knitted another row, and just to be on the safe side, added another 20!  I then cast of looser than I would normally, and all was good!
Sewing the sleeves in was a bit awkward, again I had cast off too tight.  Never been a problem before, but I couldn't face redoing them, perhaps I should have. 
But now I have a completed jumper! 

After 12 long weeks of Knitting Fridays.
False starts.
Its finished!
What's next?  Little Owl has some ideas...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Out with the Old and in with the New

Well that's 2013 over with!  At first glances, I can't see that I have done much this year, and I guess that's partly why I started this blog so I could keep a record.  It was of course our first complete year with Little Owl in our lives, and what a pleasure that has been!
Here's what else I did in 2013:
So what's the plan for 2014?
I love new years, perhaps that's why I became a teacher as you get an extra one in September! I like the excitement of planning ahead, knowing that in the next 12 months life will have moved on for better or worse from where we are now and being an eternal optimist, I always believe the new year is full of new hope, and just maybe this is the year that I'll find the magic cure to make me the 'perfect 10'?
This year is different though. I just can't see where it is headed.  Partly this is due to the fact I haven't got a job, again. I know when I spoke about the new year in September, I was in a similar position and then BANG, within an hour I received a phone call and had a job to take me up to Christmas. I know this could happen again, or it might not. There are only 2 school weeks before I go to India and I guess I am struggling to get my head around starting a new job in such a short time. I think my new year might start when I get back!
But what is a new year without some resolutions? I'm setting myself a few which I hope to accomplish in the next few weeks before I go to India...
  • For Christmas, Papa Owl bought me Zumba Fit 2 for the Wii. Now I'm not going to claim to get abs like the dancer in the game but I think it might be feasible to have a dance every day until I fly? That's not setting the bar too high now is it!
  • I want to write more on this blog too, its been just shy of 5 months since I started blogging and with the craziness of December, I've got loads of half finished posts to do - so apologies in advance for the chrissmassy themed posts in January! Actually this is one resolution that I would like to carry all the way through 2014, write more and write better. Sometimes I find it easy to write, other times I struggle and I think it shows. But I like to know people are reading my blog, enjoying it and coming back to read more, so I need more content and that content needs to be good!
  • About a week before Christmas, we had a whole load of Ikea furniture delivered, I'd like to get it all made so I can get everything tidied away into them, even if its not fully sorted.
Have you set yourself any resolutions, either short or long term?

Itchy Feet

I love to travel, its part of who I am, what makes me me.  Ever since I took my first trip abroad without my parents at 13, I have always managed to get away somewhere every year.  That was until this year.  The hot summer (can you remember that?) meant that we made a last minute decision to stay in the UK for our camping holiday.  We had a great time but as the end of the year drew closer I just couldn't rest easy with the idea that I hadn't left the country at all in 2013, I mean, when you live an hour from Folkstone its just plain lazy!
So late on Sunday night after Little Owl was tucked up in bed, we booked ourselves onto Eurotunnel and set the alarm for 4:45am Monday morning, not sure why as Little Owl has been waking us up at 4:30 for the last week, and she didn't let us down!
Its been a few years since we have travelled through the tunnel, its just not the same as going on the ferry, you don't get that same feeling of leaving the UK.  Even on Eurostar you arrive at a station in a new country, but with the tunnel you are just shot out at the other side and if wasn't for your phone telling you that you are now connected to "Orange F" you could be forgiven for going the wrong way round the round-about!
The weather was shocking - in fact that was why we didn't go by ferry as we weren't sure our stomachs could take it!  It would have been lovely to explore a new town, find somewhere small to eat lunch but, well, we forgot to take a sling with us and with the clouds getting closer we hopped over the fence to Cite Europe!  They had some beautiful Christmas decorations up which Little Owl loved to look at, and when walking got too much we got her a 'car trolley' to ride in.  She loved that!
Sat waiting to get the train back home, passports in my hand, it suddenly struck me - I'M GOING TO INDIA IN LESS THAN 3 WEEKS!!!! Oh boy!
We also learnt another important lesson today, don't try to keep your toddler happy in the back on the car by giving her lots to eat, and then a pencil and paper to play with... you'll regret it when you hit those bendy roads joining Kent to Sussex.

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