untangling this thing we call life…

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Just now, I made a gluten free chocolate mug cake!!!


It’s proper cake!!!  And it tastes yummy!!!

Happy days!


Little Man Tom is a survivor.

At the age of eleven weeks, he was diagnosed with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia: JMML.

Statistics for this childhood cancer are grim.  As near as makes no never mind to 0% without treatment.  50-60% with bone marrow transplant.  And that doesn’t take you into the post transplant journey (which doctors do not  talk about at the point of diagnosis).

We were so, so lucky.  Nine years on, it still takes my breath away that we saw the doctors we did, when we did.  That Tom’s Noonan syndrome was diagnosed by the haematologists at Great Ormond Street months before the geneticists agreed.  That their experience in this world of incredibly rare disease had led them to take risks: to wait rather than rush to transplant.  And then to apply that experience to make a judgement call on another patient.  they told us that they wanted to wait.  They thought that Little Man might be one of the very few children to stabilise.

Without the oral chemotherapy and the initial treatment he wouldn’t have survived.

With a bone marrow transplant, he may well have died (it’s a very very risky procedure).

He got the chemotherapy, we waited…  and waited…

Little Man Tom has a lot of other medical issues to deal with – he sees many specialist doctors at one of the world’s top children’s hospitals.

But he is nine years old, and still very much alive.  The leukaemia stabilised.

I am breathless still.

Nine years ago, today we were enjoying a supposedly happy healthy baby boy.  And yet, my maternal sixth sense was on high alert.  I had been nervous, anxious, on edge throughout my pregnancy, and this continued despite post natal checks.  I had nothing concrete to base this anxiety on, but something felt wrong.  I still berate myself for not acting sooner though I know full well that nothing would have been picked up before it was.

Little Man was taken into hospital on Halloween 2003, for observation due to failure to thrive.  Late that night we were called in, and told that the most likely diagnosis was leukaemia with an unrelated congenital heart defect.  Time has not dulled the emotional impact of that evening and I suspect it never will.

It is very difficult, after such an experience, to dismiss that maternal sixth sense when it buzzes.  I could list a considerable number of events when I have felt it again, put my concerns to the right professionals only to be “reassured” and sent on my way.  In each and every case, time has shown that my instinct was right.

Tom with a fraction of his Beads of Courage. Each bead represents a medical appointment or procedure…

So, I may be a little paranoid, I may be wrong.

But I am buzzing again.  And I hate it because after nine years of the buzzes being far from insignificant, they now spell worry quite quickly.

Little Man Tom is unwell.  He is smiley, and there is nothing especially noticeable about his behaviour.  My mother’s eye feels that he looks ill and rather gaunt.  Argh… I want to say scrawny, and that is exactly the word that was in my head two days before that JMML diagnosis.  With the word scrawny comes a level of fear that is hard to ignore or bury.

Common sense says that this is most likely autumn and winter combined with difficulties getting enough of the right nourishment into him.

Sixth sense wants to check his spleen and liver and get a blood test to check his white cells, monocytes and platelets…  I will be having a little feel of his belly this evening because that’s easy, non-invasive and may just give me a little peace of mind.

Sense has already sent an email to the feeding therapist which will hopefully get an answer tomorrow or at the least on Tuesday.

Asking the nurse to come and do a blood test seems over the top.. but maybe I simply need to phone her and talk to her about what’s going on.

My experience of childhood cancer is mild, almost innocent and almost fraudulent.

Nine years!!! I am in awe…

And yet here I am, nine years after diagnosis, about six or seven years since seeing a haematologist, and the fear of JMML is as raw when it re-emerges as it was back then.  Childhood cancer wounds, and it simply does not scar well.

I haven’t written about it this month of awareness, and I’ve experienced a little guilt about that.  But if anything, this post may be effective in a different way.  When we hear of a family affected by childhood cancer we can be forgiven for thinking that this will mean a dreadful, painful odyssey for the family, but that with luck they will get through.

We don’t get through.  We learn to live in a different world, on a different path.  However “easy” the journey, however “successful” the outcome, we are wounded, and few of us will ever scar.  We just carry that wound with us and hopefully find a way to use it for some good.


Little Man, aka Godzilla, King of Destruction

In one long day spent with my two sweet if high maintenance home children, I had already experienced something of a rollercoaster with Sweet Girl.  The morning was a fabulous, wonderful high that I am leaving for last on this journey of three posts, because the third event of that day (now forty eight hours in the past!) is distinctly less pleasant.

So why revisit it?

It’s simple really.  It happened, it was a big event this week, and I’m hoping that by marking it I can make sense of what happened a little, and remind myself that things can improve as well as explode sometimes.  And in this instance, writing Thursday’s explosion gives me a marker in time to see how well we improve!

Little Man has an explosive temper.  I don’t believe this is part of his basic personality which is largely easy going and happy.  However, growing up with an older brother who is almost always angry and enraged, and a sister who is almost always anxious and intolerant is going to affect the most laid back person.  Add in the curve ball that is chronic illness and constant doctors’ appointments, tests, needles, treatments, therapies and an increasing awareness of being different to all the other kids in your school, and you have the ingredients for quite a lot of unhappiness.  Little Man Tom is a bright button, but he has learning difficulties.  Of what nature is far more mysterious, but I do know that his memory works in very strange ways, and that he has a very flaky understanding of the practicalities of life (compared with other kids his age).  With all these factors playing a part, he is a little boy with a VERY short fuse.

Thursday morning, following an amazing riding lesson, we arrived home for lunch.  While I was preparing this lunch which was by no means late, Sweet Girl and Little Man were playing.  She became quite considerably upset when he wanted to rename one of her teddies temporarily.  Sweet Girl had morphed into Queen B**ch, sotto voce…  Little Man does not do sotto voce, and so the first inkling I had of this fight was his loud, shrill voice yelling at her.  My attempt to a) separate them and b) help them sort out what was clearly a trifling sibling issue was thwarted by Tom’s about turn as he directed the full force of his anger and hurt at me.

Now… I am patient, and understanding.  It turns out, as often, that Queen B**ch was totally in the wrong, and his anger was primarily confusion and upset at her reaction to an act of kindness.  All of this was to come out much, much later.  However understanding I may be, I have very little tolerance of being used as a punching bag.  I have experienced this both literally and metaphorically at the hands of Eldest and Sweet Girl, and Little Man has now joined the party.  At no point have they ever seen me accept such behaviour.  There have ALWAYS been serious consequences.

And yet… here we are again.

I was able to curtail the lunchtime crisis and accepted the rather sullen sorry from both Little Man and Sweet Girl.  Queen B**ch had retreated in the face of my exasperation, and actually Sweet Girl is beginning to accept her inner Queen and therefore control her a little better.

Fast forward to the end of the day.  9 hours of solid, intensive, supportive parenting.  I love them completely, but I really needed a little bit of “me” time.  Given the last few days, I wanted to spend a little time at the piano in the hope of recapturing the glimmers of peace I had found there the previous day.  The Offspring were in the sitting room, apparently playing nicely.

For all of 4 minutes…

“LET GO!!!”

“IT’S MINE!!!”

Oh yes, dear readers, I got FOUR minutes of peace.  (Needless to say, not enough to find even a hint of a glimmer.)

Gentle, patient voice: “I think you need time apart, just move away, I’m coming”

More screaming.

Patient Mummy morphed, much as Sweet Girl had earlier.  9 hours, I spent with these two!!!  To cut a long and, let’s face it, boring story short, I spent 45 minutes shouting at them!  I don’t do shouting very often, it’s proved to be totally counter-productive.  But I had had it!

The facts:


Sweet Girl wanted to use a step-stool given to Little Man by Nanny.  He was not using it.  But on the basis that “it’s mine”, he became immediately aggressive and possessive about it.  Kesia reasonably wanted to continue using it and resisted.  Little Man morphed into Godzilla, King of Destruction and charged to take it from her.  Screaming ensued and I intervened.  So far, so banal: brother and sister and a good dose of stupidity.

Unfortunately, much as earlier in the day, Godzilla, King of Destruction showed once again his utter lack of control and turned his gaze and wrath onto me… wrong move!!!

Hence, forty five minutes of me shouting!

Sweet Girl had the good sense (only recently discovered) to stand in a corner of the room facing me and looking downcast and apologetic.  Godzilla, King of Destruction did not, and took forty five minutes to finally realise that this was a fight he could not win.

It was harrowing, especially after a day which had already drained me of all my parenting energy.  But I do think it was worthwhile.  As much as I have to take into account Little Man’s difficulties, fatigue and the problems that will necessarily follow the exhaustion of a temper tantrum, there are occasions when it’s important to let him know that he cannot get his own way by whining, or worse, fighting with Mummy.

I haven’t found a solution to help him.

I’ve used pictures, to help him understand the step by step nature of his arguments and emotional meltdowns.  I’ve used reward charts and consequences, warning cards and words, distraction techniques and relaxation techniques.

I’m no closer to feeling that he understands what’s going on.  And if he doesn’t understand it, I’m not sure how and if he can learn to change his behaviour or control his emotional outbursts.

At the moment, we know that he’s not well.  His weight is not good, and just by looking at him you can see he’s quite sickly.  He’s started throwing up again (hasn’t done that regularly for a good few years now), an he’s tired all the time.  He experiences headaches daily and we don’t know why (another thing to investigate).  Clearly there is a link with food, and I’m sure you all know of someone who becomes ogre-like when they need to eat.  But what is going on with Tom and food is anyone’s guess…

Little Man is not short of valid excuses for emotional rocky seas.  But as his mother, I cannot allow him to behave in ways which will cause him great harm long term.  Somehow, I have to teach him to deal with disappointment and frustration in a way that is socially acceptable.  I don’t feel that I’m very far along that path.  I’m trying, day by day, step by step.  And I’m ALWAYS open to suggestions.  Given the wide range of difficulties I’ve experienced already with Eldest and Sweet Girl I may answer with “done that”, or “no, that won’t work”, but mostly, I try and see if those suggestions can in any way be useful…

The last couple of days have been better.  I have cut off Little Man’s tantrums just as they are about to begin and although it’s been tough, they haven’t escalated.  I’m hoping that by marking this big one in time and in writing, I will be better able to help him navigate the next one!!

Map of "The archaic period in Greece (750...

Map of “The archaic period in Greece (750 BC – 480 BC)” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So… Yesterday’s first moment that I wanted to keep, to store, to share was all to do with Sweet Girl and this strange situation we find ourselves in.  She is not really in school, nor is she home schooled.  Much of my day is spent ferrying the children to and from school.  We cycle or walk in at about 8am to take Tom in, then come home.  At 9.30 we cycle back in to take Kesia in.  I cycle home and dash around trying to do the grown up things such as washing, cleaning, tidying, shopping, cooking.  I have started keeping aside one hour for me – which generally means knitting because that is the fastest way I know of to a moment of calm for me.  At 11.40 I cycle back to school to pick her up, and we cycle back.  Of course, if we’re walking I have to double the time it takes!  We’re are on our bikes once more at 3pm to fetch Tom from school.  And before you know it, the day is more than half over, with very little time to achieve much of anything.

And yet, in the last week we have begun to find a little routine of sorts.  Lunch is a calming moment where we sit together peacefully watching the Gilmore Girls – one episode only.  It’s a show I love (see this post), has the delightful characteristic of being totally unthreatening for Sweet Girl, and offers endless opportunities to discuss relationships, emotions and social skills.  It’s also charmingly “coming-of-age”-y, which is perfect for Kesia as she enters puberty.  This short hour gives us both a good transition from school (which is often stressful for her) to home, without piling on the pressure of discussion and conversation.

Once done with lunch, we embark on our afternoons.  We’ve been starting with our topic work on Ancient Greece, mostly because Kesia has been finding it difficult, so there is something of a “let’s get it out of the way” approach.  As ever, the biggest difficulty is in beginning.  She has a good amount of stroppy “I don’t want to do it” going on which I have made clear is simply not acceptable.  I dis ask her yesterday if she would like to go to her room and have her meltdown before beginning as I’d rather not witness it if at all possible!  That got her laughing and for the first time she did her reading in good time!  In typically obsessive Aspie style, she gets very frustrated if she does not understand everything she is reading straight away, or if she does not retain every piece of information immediately.  Her strategy for dealing with that frustration?  Shutdown.  Nothing in, nothing out.  We are slowly showing that when you learn something new, reading is step one.  The assignments that follow will consolidate that reading, and we call that studying!!!  Three exceedingly frustrating hours later (three days’ work), she knows a good deal about the geography of ancient Greece, the Minoan people (well, she knows that we don’t know much about them!!!) and the Mycenean people.  She also knows how to make bronze and how to cast a bronze sword, though we didn’t do a practical in that particular subject!

Making a bronze sword

Yesterday was especially difficult because the assignment asked her to do some creative writing… uh oh!!  She was to imagine she was a Mycenean soldier who had just received his bronze helmet.  How did she feel about it?  What would she say to the metal smith?  How would he respond?

I know many kids whose hearts would sink at the thought of such an assignment.  But I have to stress this was a very short piece of writing.  Knowing my darling daughter’s real difficulty with any kind of creative writing, with her inability to “put herself in others’ shoes”, with her intense need to be “correct”, I came to the table prepared.  I had plenty of alternate ways of doing this, even up to and including a time travelling Willy Wonka.  ( It does make sense, really!!  She had recently done a piece of writing describing WW, and felt she could use that as a starting point.  You had to be there, but honest, it was a valid way of doing the assignment.)

And then…

Then there is this strange, difficult, head banging against the door infuriating aspect of their personality (their:  Kesia, Zack, Darling Man… most people I know with Asperger’s have this to some extent…): “no”.  “I won’t”. “I can’t”.  “But the assignment doesn’t tell me to start like that, it’s your idea so I can’t use it”.  AAARRGGHH!!!!!

40 minutes of talk, waiting, cajoling, listening (to largely just squeals because she had lost the ability to speak at that point), getting a little cross, waiting, always the waiting, suggesting etc etc etc.

She completed the work.  The standard was not great, it was certainly not what anyone might expect from such an intelligent little girl, but it was done.

Now, all of this rigmarole might be understandable if I was forcing her to do extra work of my choosing. This is not the case.  She wants to do some work because she is incapable of keeping herself busy, will not take suggestions, and feels strongly that she “should be doing work because it’s a school day”.  She doesn’t want work from school because “it doesn’t fit at home”.  She herself asked me to find her some work to learn about Ancient Greece (though she is interested in the Gods and we haven’t got to those yet).

In the 40 minutes of maddening purgatory, I did suggest to her that we leave it for a while.  I didn’t want to give up on her, but I’m aware that we are trying to manage anxiety and that she was on the verge of totally losing control.  Glory be, was that the worst suggestion of all!!!  She was desperate to do the assignment!!!  She simply “couldn’t”.

Such is the nature of Sweet Girl and her experience of Asperger’s syndrome.

We followed Greece with some violin practice and music theory.  They were hard uphill work because she could not shake the mood she had got herself into earlier.  Once again, any suggestion of waiting, taking a break, doing something utterly different was met with desperation and near tears.

I’m glad to say that about five minutes before ending our work to fetch Little Man, she suddenly “came back”, and was wonderful and over the moon at what she had done.  She continued working when we returned from school and wrote her brother a letter, did some more music theory and some reading.

This is the rollercoaster I’m on with Sweet Girl.  Day in, day out.  How I love her!!!  And how I’m looking forward to her being in a school environment that can help her!!

Funny how that simple act of blogging colours the rather more tangled act of living.  As I  move from dawn to dusk, I have the privilege of being followed by my inner writer.  The result is a brighter spotlight on those moments that have their rightful place in my long term memory.

Today, there were three of those moments that deserve their space in this, my artificial memory bank.

My previous blog, Daily goings-on was instrumental in keeping my sanity while going through a very traumatic time with Eldest.  I had a need to document something which was truly painful and almost surreal in its details… almost as if writing my life made it fact.  I have misgivings sometimes, as I tend to write my heart into these “pages”.  All the gory details are laid bare for all to see, for all time.  But it is true, it is truth and hiding it would not change any of it.  So in my heart and mind, I feel I am honouring those I write about even when what I write is hard to write, hard to read.

Three years later, I am in a similar position with Sweet Girl.  I am stronger than I was then, I know more, I have more experience of “the system”, Asperger’s syndrome, broken children.  So rather than turn to my screen as some do to a glass of wine at the end of a hard day and empty my mind and my heart of all the pain of that day, I can now make a considered decision…

With that rather more sane attitude come some delicate questions.  Should I respect Sweet Girl’s privacy?  Am I deluding myself that speaking of difficult times with as much love as frustration represents an “honouring” of sorts?  How much, how little to write?  And at the end of the day, what am I doing with this blog?  We tread a fine line here between journalling and documentaring!!  It is something deeply personal, yet we open it up to public criticism, not only in the now, but far into the future.  My biggest and most important question: will my children understand, accept, forgive what I have written?

That said, we talk!!  As much as puberty is a frequent and utterly open topic of conversation as the two older children enter that interesting period of life, their disabilities are ALWAYS open for discussion.  We have no tolerance for excuses based on disability (see the tantrum post of this series – I’ll add a link when I’ve written it!!!), but we also expect each other to make allowances for difficulties experienced by each member of the family.  So… I blog!

Kesia, my Sweet Girl is only attending school a very short amount of time each day.  She has managed at most a couple of hours, and we are trying to deal with her anxiety by not forcing her into anything too uncomfortable.  It’s a difficult path to tread, but given that she desperately wants to attend school, I do think it’s the right option.  Last term, she was running away from staff, hiding, and screaming around the school building, utterly out of control and in the throes of (I’m not diagnosing!!  just being a mum) a mental breakdown. This day in day out for weeks and months.  It just couldn’t go on.

So this limbo is where we are.  Which leaves me with a young girl at home most of the day.  A very bright young girl, who wants to be at school but “can’t do it”, who wants to learn but can’t cope with the idea of school work being brought home (it doesn’t “fit”), who cannot tolerate boredom but finds it impossible to decide what to do, and cannot accept suggestions…

After three weeks of this suspension from “real life”, I was beginning to find it very difficult to maintain the emotional balance that Kesia needs, so I made a plan.  I’m finding myself half way between a school mum and a homeschool mum.  It’s far from idea, but at least we now have a chance to find some sense of purpose, achievement and satisfaction in this rather strange situation.

In dealing with my lovely Aspies, I have learnt that there is very little point in trying to impose a timetable on them.  The rigidity is almost guaranteed to cause problems (conversely, a lack of structure assures failure as well).  So thanks to an idea poached from a fellow blogger, I made a post it for each task I wanted Kesia to complete this week.  The result was a wall of post it notes, that she would then move as each task was completed.  Sweet Girl has taken up the challenge with enthusiasm, and asked if she could do a project on the Ancient Greeks.  A few hours scouring the internet and I found just the right thing for her at minimal cost:  Simple Schooling.

All set on our new plan, we began Tuesday!!  And what was to be a simple post about today has taken up most of my evening, to the point that letters are beginning to dance…. The first of my “three posts for today”  will have to be continued in the morning!

Music Note Bokeh

Music Note Bokeh (Photo credit: all that improbable blue)

I’m standing quite quite still, because there’s a feeling that if I move this fragile thing I’m glimpsing from the corner of my spirit will disappear.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s come out from hiding quite suddenly without warning and is standing in the wings like a young wild animal.

Before life became the ball of tangled yarn that is my familiar, I sporadically experienced panic attacks.  They came and went a little like summer storms: sharp, sudden, violent but ultimately brief.  In the midst of the panic it was almost impossible to imagine a state of being that did not include the drum of a heart beating wildly, that bitter metallic taste in the mouth and the feeling of riding a wave of fear so huge that it threatened to engulf me.  But soon enough, it was over.  And once gone, it became difficult to imagine why and how I could have felt that way.  Thus is the nature of the panic attack.

Yesterday, I played the piano.

I’m still standing in the wonder of this, and I’m doing my best to simply experience it.

This afternoon, once the children were up showering I found the time to give in to the pull of it once more.  All day, two things have happened to me.  First, a nameless draw, a pull to go and sit at the piano, play and just be.  There are no words associated with this either positive or negative.  It just is.  It hasn’t happened to me in years.. and years.  Second, a very conscious, very wordy thought:  what if I can’t play anymore?  What if yesterday was a fluke?  What if I scare it away?

I don’t know how to express the difficulty in overcoming that second voice.  Sitting at the piano was easy enough.  Playing happened.  Not quite as fluidly as yesterday, but it happened.  I was able to quiet the voice in little flashes.

And in those flashes, something quite wonderful happened.  I think it’s called peace! (what do I know?… it was good!)

What struck me afterwards is that my life now is in many ways one big, long panic attack.  Fear and Anxiety are two companions that I live with day to day.  They don’t exclude Happiness or Joy, and I can honestly say now that they don’t make life intolerable (they did, a few years ago, but I’ve been working!!).  But I don’t think any moment goes by without Fear or Anxiety lurking somewhere in the background.

Today, I was playing.  A simple sonata by Beethoven, one of my favourite Preludes by Bach (F minor, BWV 881) [oh my, I even referenced music… good golly green giant!!!], a Nocturne by Chopin.  I’m trying not to play pieces I “know” so that my brain doesn’t get in the way too much.  New pieces are “allowed” to have mistakes.  The Bach is an exception.

The pieces aren’t important in themselves.  The point, today, is that as I was playing, I experienced some infinitesimally small moments devoid of fear and anxiety.  Isn’t it funny that as I have typed this, the words themselves have lost their capital letters?

I’m living a funny old time today, yesterday.  Change, positive change of a very profound nature seems possible.  I have no idea what to make of it, and I am trying very hard to simply let it happen.  That over-analytical mind of mine needs to keep quiet!!!

There’s something about my playing and the kids too… but that’s even more mysterious than what’s going on in my head, so I will have to keep listening, watching, experiencing until I find out more!

My words today are serendipity (Cafe Casey, thank you for yesterday!!), and epiphany…  I’d love to share your serendipitous moments, your epiphanies…

Just over eight years ago, I first met Miss Above and Beyond.

Eldest was just about to start school, and his soon to be teacher had taken the decision to visit each child in their home before the beginning of term.  This was in the pre-diagnosis era, and all I knew was that I had a wonderful, quirky, headstrong and (let’s face it) odd little boy.  We baked cookies and practised saying hello and offering the new teacher a drink and cookies – yes, it was important to practise because none of these skills came naturally (nor do they still!).  I’ve forgotten the precise conversation, but needless to say, his quirkiness was unmissable.  Miss Above and Beyond was lovely, smiley, kind and immediately made me feel that I could confide and trust in her – happy Mummy!

Two weeks into that first term, Eldest was placed on the special needs register, and Miss Above and Beyond had already spent some time with him putting in place a number of strategies to help him navigate school.  A poster with “Zack’s Rules” was on the wall of the classroom to his delight (and other parents’ horror), picture timetables were in use etc etc… : all the strategies you would expect to find in an autistic classroom though I did not know it then.  Throughout that year, we had many incidents to deal with, and the one thing that kept school manageable and tolerable was that teacher.  She “got” this little boy, understood that despite his intelligence he had very real difficulties and was extremely vulnerable.  Where dinner ladies feared him, she saw him for what he was – a little boy.  I strongly suspect that she shielded me from the minor incidents, dealing with them herself.

Fast forward two years.

[The intervening year was a metaphorical bloodbath of trauma culminating in Eldest being removed from school and embarking on three years of homeschooling.  Miss Above and Beyond was no longer his teacher, nor did she have any power to help him during that year.  Dark days.]

Lucky me!!  Sweet Girl would be starting school with Miss Above and Beyond.  It was a very different picture:  Kesia was angelic (though the occasional “Kesia strop” became legendary very quickly), eager to learn and please, very intelligent and had a touch of vulnerability as a result of her home life which frankly only made her more endearing.  This was a wonderful year of celebrating successes.  It was also a year in which Miss Above and Beyond showed her true colours.  Opening her classroom doors to both boys when I came to volunteer, she showed a keen interest in Eldest’s progress and encouraged him to help out or play with the other children.  He was much more comfortable with younger children than himself, so this proved to be a really positive experience.  She was always interested in what we were doing at our homeschool, and loved to read Zack’s stories or look at his pictures.  She even listened to his endless plans to build a flying car (at age 6 he had decided to build such a vehicle, which would be propelled upwards by several high powered hairdryers.  Further hairdryers positioned on the sides and back of the car would give steering control…  the lectures were lengthy!).

For a mother who had become terribly isolated as a result of her child’s disability, this interest and care in what we were doing was invaluable.

The year passed very pleasantly, to be followed by a third child starting school with this inspirational teacher.  Third child, third entirely different picture.  Where Eldest had to be coaxed into doing anything at all but was extremely capable, Sweet Girl was already looking for reading books in the Junior library during her first year at school, and Little Man arrived with considerable difficulties speaking.  I’m sure parents of more than one child are already with me in the bafflement of producing such utterly different creatures from the same basic ingredients!!!

The mark of a successful teacher, I think, is to be adaptable.  To be able to gauge a child’s strengths and weaknesses quickly, then address those in as individual a way as is possible given that you have thirty children to teach.

Miss Above and Beyond gave each of my very different three children a start to schooling second to none.  And in each case she did this with professionalism, deep care and personal interest.  Not only that, but she is able to address me as  Zack’s mum, or Kesia’s mum, or Tom’s mum, with no apparent difficulty.  Underneath those labels, I am obviously the same person, but when dealing with any one of my kids, I become a different kind of tigress.  Miss Above and Beyond adapts to this, for which I am truly grateful.

These few paragraphs cannot do justice to the difference she has made and continues to make to my life and my children’s lives.

And now, eight years later, changes are afoot.  Not least, I can see the end of primary school.  Chances are that by this time next year, there will no longer be a member of our family there.

And Miss Above and Beyond will also have different priorities as she begins her own family.  At this point, I find myself at a loss for words.  I am so happy for her I could burst, and seeing her put herself first is very exciting.  How we will miss her, of course!!  But it feels like a new chapter rather than an ending.

Because Miss Above and Beyond is one of life’s very special people.  She will never stop caring, nor will she stop doing everything in her power to help.

I don’t think words exist to crystallize all I would like her to know… so I’m knitting (oh yes… mad knitter alert).  Into my knitting goes all that is in my heart, so it seems only apt to knit for Miss Above and Beyond.  Bamboo, because it is so soft and easy to wash.  Sock yarn, again because it is soft and light but ever so cosy.  Blues and greens, because Miss Above and Beyond has never been a frilly girl,but with a touch of fantasy from that amazing fluffy yarn.  And a dash of red, just because life mixes things up a little every now and then.  A baby blanket, because those are useful, and useable every day.  Not too big, so it can be used in a pram, or later as a cape…  And a simple checkerboard pattern to give the blanket a gentle flow.

It’s not much, but with every stitch is a wish for good days and happiness, for strength to deal with bad times and with the blanket comes a whole barrowful of love.

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