Friday, July 27, 2018

Gardening (and writing about it) for pleasure

Close up of a cluster of apples growing against a fence
If I've been a bit lax in my posts here, it's because I'm channeling most of my energy into my garden, and its subsequent chronicles at http://gardenofgaladriel.blogspot.com/.  It's focused on my gardening exploits, methods and philosophy--with a strong emphasis on food production.  I don't write much about myself or my family there:  it's all garden.

Still, I find it very therapeutic to document my successes and failures in the garden.  Well, maybe not too many failures!  But I sometimes almost feel a compulsion to write, and get it out of my system.  I don't think I have very many readers at all (and I think my only reader here on this blog is Partner), but I don't mind;  I'm not really writing for an audience, but for my own state of mind.  I'm passionate about gardening (maybe even obsessive?) and that blog is an outlet for me.

This blog?  I have written about my garden here in the past, but I've moved away from that in the past few years.  I suppose that is part of why I'm not updating here so often;  my creativity has become diluted without the garden.  What else do I have to write about?

I'm living my life, day by day;  going to work, keeping up the house daily, working on small projects like my knitting, or slightly bigger ones such as redecorating.  Many days are similar, and perhaps boring to read about--although I'm not bored living them.  I find a great deal of satisfaction in raising F, running the household, making and crafting, and putting meals on the table from good (homegrown, of course) food.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

One year on

A small flock of chickens on grass
It's been a year since our baby boy Teddy was born and died.  I'm not in shock any more, and rarely start crying suddenly.  I've heard people say it gets easier with time;  maybe this is true for some people.  The grief I have is still just as extreme:  it's just easier to compartmentalize.  I can stick it in a box now, instead of being helplessly overwhelmed.

That said, some things are more painful now:  I'm sensitive to death at the moment, for instance.  Our young rooster died suddenly a little while ago, and I found his still warm body under a tree.  I grabbed him, warm and soft, and held him on my lap, doing chest compressions for ten minutes at least, desperate to get him breathing again.  It was no good though:  he was gone.  That was really hard.
A little basket with several different colored eggs
Still, nearly all my days are good and I can focus on the positive.  It's easier to do this now in summer than it was in the dark, cold winter.  In the first few months after Teddy's death, I was able to keep busy out in the garden, and with household projects.  When it got too cold and rainy/snowy for outdoor work (from about November to April), I felt a bit lost.  Going back to work in February was initially tough, but helped me get through the last of the winter.

I've put a lot of work into my garden over the past year, and it really shows now.  We're eating loads of vegetables, including the last of the broad beans, plenty of peas, lettuce, carrots, turnips and chard--and there's lots more things to come.  We're picking plenty of berries, and are just finishing the sweet cherries (pie cherries finished a week ago).  We have four new season chicks bred from, hatched and raised by our own chickens. 

I think about Teddy every day, mostly happy and not too many sad thoughts;  as I wrote previously, I have no regrets about the choices we made and for that I'm grateful. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Stop snowing already!

A little boy posing with a posse of tiny snowmen on a garden bench
The snow family
Winter's been a bit colder than the past few years, although luckily we haven't had prolonged snow cover like the winters of 2010 and 2011, when I thought we had somehow been transported to Iceland.  But it's still been snowing far too much for this time of year.  It's nearly spring equinox and still snowing.

F had three days off school early this month because of snow, and consequently I had three days off work (my school in the next village over was closed two days).  He had two days of snowball fights and snowmen with kids on our street, but by the third day--a Friday with even more snowing--we were all tired of it. 

My garden plans are on hold too.  We've had a few nice, warmish days prompting me to get and do some jobs;  seeds have been sown, fruit and rose bushes have been pruned.  However, though March is generally a bonanza of seed sowing, most of it hasn't begun yet.  I did some parsnip seeds a week ago, but I don't know if they'll handle the snow and cold.

I'm also a little concerned about my almond tree, covered in little pink flowerbuds not quite open.  It's so close to blossoming;  I really hope it can hold on past this latest cold spell, otherwise we won't get almonds this year.  The same with my little peach tree--it looks like it's finally forming flowerbuds for the very first time and I don't want to lose the first fruits that I've been waiting for these four years.

Though to tell the truth, my main concern is that we don't get any more snow days off school!  Almonds and peaches and parsnips are little luxuries and I don't need them really.  Let's just get some spring please.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Life skills

My son Franklin is nearing eight years old.  I've been thinking about his future and what we are doing now to prepare for it.  For instance, he has a children's investment account which he will be able to access when he's 18, and we try to save a little for him each month.  But more importantly I think, are the life skills he learns now. 

Physical skills

I didn't learn a lot of these when I was a kid--I had to teach myself as an adult, and some I still don't really know.  The kind of skills I mean are basic cooking and housekeeping, easy home maintenance and repair, gardening, simple plumbing and electrics, pet/animal care, budgeting and saving, etc.  There are a lot of useful things, which in the past all children learned from their family/community--either from observing or from helping. 

When I was young, my mother stayed home with us kids and did pretty much all the housework and cooking;  I didn't really learn how to do any until I moved out.  Though I eventually learned how to cook, I'm still not great at housework.  The more traditionally masculine skills, such as cutting firewood, I was not allowed to do (we were expected to conform to gender roles);  instead I was allocated caring for my younger siblings, something I didn't enjoy and has put me off childcare for life!

I want Franklin to know how to do many things (particularly without confining him to stereotypical roles), and this means letting him do those things--even if he does a terrible job at first.  To this end, he has his own regular chores including most of the chicken care, dishes twice a week, tidying away his own toys and books, and making his own school lunch.  He also helps me do laundry (sort, wash, hang, fold, and put away), sweeps and mops the floors once in a while, helps cook, changes his own bedding, and more. 

Emotional/relationship skills

Then there are less tangible skills which I hope Franklin learns, such as self-confidence, initiative and hard work;  and others like compassion, optimism and honesty.  I think he can learn these things only by example, and I try my best for him.  I let him know I trust him by allowing him do things himself, and try not to show him my own fears and inhibitions (sometimes this is hard).  I treat him with respect, and let him know I expect the same treatment from him.

I encourage him to make his own decisions, and I always try to tell him the truth, even when he asks awkward questions;  for instance, once he asked me why I killed our dog!  But I don't want him to think there are things he can't talk about with me, so I didn't get upset but explained about how old and sick she was and we took her to the vet to help her die so she wouldn't hurt any more. 

The goal

Basically, he's learning how to be an adult now, while he's still young enough and willing to learn--he's usually willing, though not always!  I hope he can grow up into a happy, well-rounded, well-skilled adult, capable and confident of taking care of himself.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Slowing down this winter

A simple holly wreath on a front door
Our front door
I made two festive wreaths this year, one for our own front door, and another for our baby Teddy's grave.  I collected some trimmings from our own holly and fir trees, and using some dark green yarn, coiled them into simple wreaths.  As you can see above, ours was just plain and rustic;  Teddy's was made from the fir branches and had some berries we collected around our garden (honeysuckle and rosehips) as well as some we found in the woods. 

We had our usual quiet Christmas, although some of us were/are under the weather.  I personally haven't got it (yet), but there's still time I guess!  Instead, I've got a bit of insomnia, which is also not fun.  I'm trying to get in a walk every day, and limiting caffeine.  Probably all the Christmas sweets and treats weren't helping.
A colorfully striped cardigan on a hanger
Crazy stripes!

We've had some snow and cold weather this past month, and I've been missing my garden time.  However, I've been doing a lot of my usual winter crafting, especially knitting.  I knit Franklin a very colorful striped cardigan (it has 11 or 12 different colors) and now I'm knitting a very colorful pair of socks, but in multi-colored yarn, so luckily I don't have to have 12 balls of yarn on the go, unlike the cardigan.  At least I only did stripes (easy), unlike the one I did for him for Christmas a year ago:
A hand knitted Christmas sweater showing a snowy village under the moon
Yup, I knitted this too--for Franklin for Christmas 2016 (still fit him this year too)
That one took me a while!  But I started early in the year to make sure it'd be finished in time.  The stripey one was just a couple weeks in the making.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The story of Teddy

The life and death of my son, born with osteogenesis imperfecta. My son Teddy, properly named Theodore Cassidy, was born on the 9th of June, 2017.  He died peacefully in his father's arms in the early hours of the 10th of June.

Pregnancy

Teddy was diagnosed with the most severe type of osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) when I was about 26 weeks pregnant, and we were told that he would have no real chance of survival after birth.  A difficult pregnancy became even harder after learning this.  I was given the option to terminate;  the law allows for termination at any stage of a pregnancy where there is severe mental or physical disability.  To be honest, deciding to carry on was a difficult decision, especially when I saw my baby's many broken and part-healed bones on the scans.  Knowing he would die anyway, and thinking he might be in agony made a very good case for termination.

After several weeks of consideration, I decided to carry on for my own peace of mind;  I felt I would regret making the decision to end his life, and I didn't want that guilt.  I also wanted to meet him and hold him while he was alive.  I still wanted him and loved him, even if he was going to die.

I, the medical team, and Partner all made a very detailed birth plan to accord with my own wishes and to cope with every possible outcome.  We signed what was basically a DNR for Teddy, and we asked that no invasive procedures be performed;  we knew that it would not save him and would only cause more broken bones and pain.  We only asked that Teddy be given pain relief upon birth, and that he not be handled or touched by anyone but his dad and me.  Although we asked if a C section would be an easier birth for him, we were told that he would have to be roughly handled in order to get him out--it would likely be just as traumatic for him as natural birth--as well as a harder recovery for me.
Pregnant woman standing in a garden

Birth

I requested the birth pool at the hospital to make Teddy's entry into the world as gentle as possible.  I opted to have pethidine during labor, as it would pass through the placenta, giving him pain relief as well.  My labor was fairly easy and Teddy was born at 11.59 PM, with Partner and one midwife in attendance.  He weighed just 3 pounds and was 13 inches long.  The only outward clues to his condition were his small size, and his arms and legs were shorter than normal, though not by much:  he looked like a little baby doll.

I held and cuddled Teddy in the pool;  he was calm and not distressed at all.  He only blinked a little and snuggled up to me;  he didn't cry.  To me, he was perfect and I loved him with all my heart.  Partner took him once I got out of the pool, and held him skin to skin, covered in a warm towel;  Teddy passed away quietly not long after.  He lived for just about 15 minutes, though his official time of death was one hour and 36 minutes after birth.

As we had planned earlier, the hospital provided us with a cooled mattress pad called a cuddle cot, so that we could keep Teddy with us the rest of the night, and hold him if we wished.  Because he was kept cool, holding him was like holding a sleeping baby:  soft and relaxed.  I washed him and dressed him in a tiny onesie I'd bought, and a knitted matinee jacket and hat I'd made;  I wrapped him in a lacy shawl I'd knitted.  In the cuddle cot, I covered him with the patchwork quilt my mother had made when I was a baby, and which I'd covered Franklin in too.
Close up of a knitted matinee jacket
Two stripey knitted hats
Detail of a knitted lace shawl
The next day, along with Franklin, we went to Martin House hospice to stay for a week with Teddy, using their cuddle cot.  We were able keep him with us the whole time while we arranged for his burial;  we even took him for short walks around the hospice grounds several times.  Being at the hospice meant that we didn't have to worry about the small things like meals and chores or dodging friends and neighbors;  we were able to spend time as a family, loving Teddy for the little time we had with him.

Burial

On the day we buried him, we drove him from the hospice back home, to show him  our house and garden and chickens.  After I picked some rose petals to scatter on his grave, we drove on to the burial site.

We buried Teddy one week after he was born, in a wicker basket woven specially for him by a local basketmaker.  He was buried simply and privately, with just his parents and brother in attendance, in a natural cemetary where the forest and meadow meet.  He was buried with things we made for him:  the clothing and shawl I'd made, a necklace with his name made by his dad, and a little wooden airplane Franklin made.  We laid bouquets of wildflowers picked at the hospice.  My beautiful baby looked as though he was only sleeping;  Franklin read him a bedtime story before we lowered his basket and buried him ourselves.  We scattered the rose petals and a handful of wildflower seeds on his grave.

Memories

Now that the grief is not so raw, I can safely say that every memory I have of Teddy is a happy one.  I had a positive birth experience with him;  because we had met with hospital staff beforehand and written a very specific plan, my wishes were followed throughout.  My memories of the week we spent with him at the hospice are also happy, even though it was an intensely sad time.  The hospice was a cheerful place, set up for whole families including siblings (Franklin loved it there).  I'm so happy we had him with us for the entire week--I was able to kiss and cuddle him whenever I wished, right up to his burial. 

We have visited his grave every week since we buried him in June, to lay flowers  and to walk the meadow and meditate;  Franklin brings a little story to read at Teddy's grave.  We will always love our sweet baby boy and we're glad we had him, even though it was only for a short time;  I don't regret any of the choices we made.   He will always be a beloved son and brother;  we will never forget him.

If I were to give advice to my past self it would be:  make happy memories, starting right away.  Before birth, talk out loud to your baby, read to your baby--love and be proud of your baby.  You will have memories no matter what, and how much better to have happy memories than only sad ones.
A family portrait with parents, a young boy and a newborn baby

Monday, September 25, 2017

Decorating the living room

Many family photos, both on a wall and a table
Photo corner
This year we've been repainting and reorganizing some of the rooms in our house.  We have a small semi-detached house (which means we share a wall with the house next door).  There is a living room and kitchen/dining room downstairs, with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.  That's it--unless you count the very small entryway and understairs cupboard. 

In January, Partner installed new laminate floorboards over the old exposed wooden floor in the living room, making it both warmer and brighter in there.  We repainted later in the spring, covering up Franklin's old crayon marks;  it's now a pretty powder blue (a few shades lighter than the previous sky blue walls).

We also repositioned the pictures on the walls, and got some more of our photos out of the albums to display;  I've been searching the charity shops for new photo frames and have found some good deals!  As a result, we've got a lovely corner with many photos of our family.  I actually have more photos to frame and hang--the corner's not finished yet. 

I'm on the lookout for a nice wooden dresser or sideboard to replace the rickety old bookshelf and tv cabinet which share another alcove--a secondhand (i.e. cheap) one from a charity shop would be perfect.  And maybe another rug for under the piano, complementing the seagrass one under the sofa.

I'm not really good at decorating, or house stuff in general--I'm more interested in gardening!  But I know what I like and that's good enough.