Tag Archives: Blogging

Birthdays, exams and an awards ceremony too

The last 10 days have been busy ones and I for one am glad to be heading into the last week of term, though the dawning of the school holidays definitely does not equate to any time off work for me this year. Looking back at my blog posts from previous years, it does appear that March and April are consistently a hectic time for us and this year was no different. World Book Day passed surprisingly easy, with M heading to school in his own clothes for his school’s Roald Dahl-themed day as he chose to represent “…a material witness at the trial of Goldilocks, Mummy…” in Dahl’s version of that well-loved Fairy tale.

We seamlessly segued from my 40th celebrations to M’s 11th birthday and onto my 4th blogaversary before celebrating Mother’s Day in fine style too. School presented its own challenges to both G and M, with homework tasks, concert rehearsals and posters revising the finer details of grammar and punctuation – fronted adverbials anyone? – filling our evenings and weekends. Next came 2 sets of exams: Performing Arts exams for both children with their Stagecoach school, followed just a few days later by M’s Grade 1 Cello exam, which I’m delighted to say he passed despite a persistent reluctance to give much more than a cursory nod to his daily practice. Continuing with the music theme, G performed with the school clarinet group at her school’s Spring music concert last week, whilst M is singing with his school choir at a regional music concert involving children from Junior schools across our county this week.

On top of all of that, we also managed to squeeze in a trip to London for 4 and an evening spent celebrating the success stories from this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards. Once again held at the Royal College of Physicians near Regent’s Park, the evening was a glittering event designed to recognise some of the fantastic freefrom products nominated this year and was a great opportunity to not only catch-up with friends from the allergy blogging world, but also try those tasty treats that had pipped their competitors to the winning post. Hosted by the fabulous Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, director of the FreeFrom Food Awards, with a helping hand from restaurateur, celebrity chef and awards patron, Antony Worrall-Thompson, the Awards were a real testament to the changes brought about in the Freefrom world over the last few years.

The complete list of winners from #FFFA17 can be found here, but the big winners of the night were Irish bakers, Bfree, whose Sweet Potato Wraps are impressively top 14 allergen free and won high praise from many of the judges for being “…enormously versatile, beautifully soft and pliable, a lovely warm colour and tasting delicious…” This year was the 10th anniversary of the FFFA and to acknowledge this remarkable achievement, nominations had been invited to recognise a Freefrom Super Hero from within the industry itself. There were 5 very worthy nominees, all of whom are, without a doubt, heroes within the Freefrom world, but there could only be one winner and the inspirational Clare Marriage of Doves Farm was chosen for her unquestionable dedication to the production of numerous flour blends that have transformed the lives of those having to bake freefrom.

It was a fantastic night and it was wonderful to be able to mingle with the crowds of fellow freefrom foodies, rather than negotiate them with a small child in a wheelchair as we did last year! G not only enjoyed helping herself to a number of the goodies on offer on the Winners’ Buffet, finding a new gluten-free favourite with Kelkin’s chocolate-flavoured teacakes, but also found the courage to strike up a brief conversation with her very own Super Hero, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, the creator of G’s gluten-free bread of choice, Genius. I can’t wait to see what the year ahead brings for the Freefrom industry and am definitely looking forward to #FFFA18!

Advertisements

New Year Resolutions

Two weeks into 2017 and, for some, their good intentions may already be beginning to waver as the grey skies, endless rain and post-Christmas blues sap away any enthusiasm that might have existed at that moment of pressure when they were asked by a well-meaning friend or work colleague what their New Year resolutions were. Love them or hate them,newyearsresolution you’ve probably got an opinion of them, even if it’s just that they’re not worth doing as only the very few manage to keep to their chosen goal.

Last year, Mike and I both had resolutions, though of very differing types and whilst I was fully aware of what Mike was planning to do, I set myself a goal that I chose not to share with anyone. Mike’s resolution for 2016 was to extend his previous challenges of giving up alcohol during Lent by trying to be dry every other weekend throughout the year. He sensibly took the approach that there would undoubtedly be occasions when he would want to drink 2 weekends in a row, so was flexible in managing it, sometimes choosing to abstain for 2 weeks before drinking for 2 weeks. It seemed to work well and he was delighted that he reached the end of the year having managed to stick to his resolution for the full 52 weeks.

In comparison, mine was a blog-based goal and one that I was secretly hoping to achieve and would monitor throughout the months to see if I was still on track to succeed. The one thing I love about the blogging platform that I use and something that really appeals to my accountant’s heart, is the statistics I can access and drill into on a regular basis. As well as showing me my daily hit rates and what posts are proving particularly popular, I can also compare and contrast my monthly statistics and averages since I first started writing nearly 4 years ago.  In my first 10 months, I achieved nearly 6,000 views, whilst the following 2 years saw me hitting the heady heights of over 11,000 blog post reads over the year. Last January I decided I wanted to break the 12,000 mark and set myself a target of 1,000 hits a month to reach it. Some months it was close with the lowest read rate being 1,030 in March, whereas other months were hugely successful including a 2016 high of 2,396 in August. My year-end goal of 12,000 was well and truly met and I can confirm Successthat I actually achieved over 16,000 hits in the year, something I never really thought possible when I started blogging in 2013. I haven’t set myself a NY resolution for years, so it was a fantastic feeling when I finally passed that last 1,000 mark in December and could quietly pat myself on the back.

This year our household has taken something of a mixed approach to the whole matter of resolutions, being firmly split between 2 distinct camps: those who do (Mike and G) and those who don’t (M and me). I’m not going to publicly share the resolution decisions of my loved ones at this stage in the game, though I promise to let you all know if they manage to achieve what they’re planning to do as and when they reach their end goal. As for me, well it’s not strictly true that I haven’t set myself a resolution, but rather a year’s goal that is to successfully juggle the new pressures of blog writing, awards judging, T1D managing, parenting and full-time working so that I can do enough in each area and hopefully fail at none. My focus is having to be sharpened at the moment to ensure that none of the balls is dropped and I guess only time will tell how successful I can actually be. Of course, I will undoubtedly share my progress on my blog.

How about you? Have you started 2017 with a resolution or goal in place? I hope that if you have you’ve managed to keep it so far and that you have continued success with it!

quotescover-png-83-1024x587-jpg-900x515

Allergy and FreeFrom Show 2016

I am so glad that we made the decision to visit last weekend’s Allergy and Freefrom Show at Olympia London as we had the most amazing day and made some great finds. The show has always been one of those lovely experiences for the children, where they have been able to try so many of the foods and drinks on offer, although we have constantly had to remind them that they can’t assume that everything is safe, even though so many of the offerings are. IMG_0645[1]This year was no different and G ate her way around the show, delighted to try some old favourites as well as the new products that we hadn’t seen before. It was understandably a much harder show for M this time than ever before, but he pinpointed on the map which stalls he wanted to visit and was thrilled that we managed to find some great new food options for him too. I am also extremely glad that we chose to take the wheelchair with us as it proved to be useful, not just for helping M negotiate the crowds flocking round each stall, but also as a receptacle for the numerous bags of goodies we gained during the day.

The day was also a great chance to catch up with some old friends from the blogosphere and allergy community, though this year I didn’t manage to make the bloggers meet-up arranged for the Saturday morningIMG_0647[1]. It was fantastic to see G and M recognised and welcomed by so many of these lovely individuals and they happily chatted away almost as much as Mike and I did. We spent some time at the Allergy Adventures stand, where Hailey and her crew of cheerful helpers were once again providing entertainment for the children in the guise of paper crafts and story-telling time, although they couldn’t persuade G and M to make the paper lollipops planned. Instead my pair went off-piste and created an array of paper lizard heads (M) and chatterboxes (G) to fill their time, some of which I think were left behind and not just stuffed into pockets and down the sides of the wheelchair.

Between us, we came home with a huge selection of new products for both children to try and I can’t wait to share their reviews of these foods with you, especially those that are not just new to us, but to the market too. We spent the entire day at Olympia, getting in when the doors opened at 10am and leaving as the tannoy announced that the Show was closed at 5pm  and I could quite easily have spent another day IMG_0651[1]discovering all those hidden gems that were tucked away in remote corners of the space. We had taken some safe food for M with us for his lunch as we just didn’t know what would be available at the site and G enjoyed a gluten- and dairy-free pizza from Schar that was cooked to order. The Show now visits 3 UK locations during the year – London, Liverpool and Glasgow – and I would highly recommend a visit if you get a chance to go. It is a brilliant day out for anyone living with food allergies and offers the opportunity to discover so many safe alternatives that often don’t make it to the High Street.

Family Storytellers

FM-logo-new-07-15-copyDuring my judging stint at the #FFFA16 earlier this year, I got chatting to the lovely organiser of these awards, Michelle about the possibility of an ongoing working relationship between the organising body, Foodsmatter and 7Y2D. Always keen to promote my blog through any networking opportunities out there, I was as enthusiastic to explore the options as Michelle and eager to see where it might take us. One of the ideas we discussed was the introduction of a new diary looking at EC and food allergies on the Foodsmatter website and newsletter, to run alongside the well-established Coeliac and Allergy ones already there. Michelle proposed a different twist on the subject and asked if I thought G and M would like to write these regular entries to give a child’s perspective on life with food allergies. It didn’t take long for me to accept on their behalf, even without discussion, as I knew M in particular would leap at the chance to get his views out there, especially after his tube-feeding contribution to “Complete Nutrition” at the end of last year.

When I got home, M, G and I discussed at length this request and all its implications. Whilst both were as eager to agree immediately as I expected, I needed them to fully understand the commitment they were signing up to and reminded them that if they then decided to go ahead, I would be making sure that they kept to it every step of the way. I was keen to see G and M take up this fantastic opportunity for so many reasons and felt that with some focus they could really make something valuable of it. Both children are quietly fascinated by my blog and I have never hidden from them that I’m writing it or the reasons why. From time to time, one or the other will ask me to “..take a photo for your blog Mummy..” or “..will you be writing about this?..blogI know that M occasionally takes a peek at what I’ve been writing and G has expressed a passing interest in getting more involved at some point too. Writing these diary entries for the Foodsmatter newsletter would give them a voice to express and explore their own attitudes, opinions and feelings about life where EC and food allergies are ever-present.

However, I strongly believe that there is much more to be gained by them than simply sharing their experiences with a wider audience and, as important as that is, these other life lessons have great value and will teach them well for their futures. The original proposal was for them to work in collaboration to produce a monthly diary entry to be included in the newsletter. They will have to learn to work as a team, sharing ideas, taking turns to write it down and, most importantly, listen to and recognise the value in each other’s opinions. I stressed that there would be no bad or wrong ideas about what each post should be about, simply thoughts that might need discussing and refining without argument or insult. 284454_10151027743256123_703224883_nSome months their entries might be a joint effort and for others, one might end up taking the lead with little or no input from the other, The responsibility of monthly articles is theirs, and theirs alone – I will not be stepping in if they leave it too late or can’t agree on what to write.

Having committed to writing every month, G and M need to make sure that they meet their deadlines and have an article ready for me to review and send before the publishing date. This requires a level of organisation that, for the time being at least, I will be helping them achieve as well as gently nagging them if the deadline is creeping ever closer. I suggested making a list of possible subject areas they might want to cover in their diary entries and reminded them that preparing this would mean that they could, if either was so inclined, get a head start and make notes for a future piece, thus saving themselves stress and heartache when time is running short. Flexibility, of course, is key and ideas can be shelved for a future edition if something more interesting, or relevant happens that they want to comment on instead. After 3 years of writing my blog, I know well the difficulties of having little to say when I want to post a new piece and how having something simmering in the background is always a real blessing at those times.

Most excitingly for me is waiting to see just how their writing voices and styles develop over time. M, despite the challenges of his dyspraxia and dyslexia, has never struggled with his imagination and is able to dictate fascinating stories that are filled with his character and sense of humour. In comparison, G has always found literacy a difficult topic to conquer and despite her breadth of reading and extensive vocabulary, struggles to express herself in the written word. I’m hopeful that the experience of writing this diary will help them both achieve more than they ever thought possible when it comes to their writing skills. If the giggles that floated downstairs to Mike and me as they wrote their first piece together are anything to go by, they really will enjoy this opportunity and I look forward to reading more from both of them.

For a taste of their contributions so far, you can read their entries for March and April here:

The diary of Galaxygazer and Marvin

And if you enjoyed those and want to keep reading on a regular basis as well as other great articles, you can sign up to the Foodsmatter newsletter here

 

World Prematurity Day 2014

premdayHow time flies.  A year ago I discovered – a day late – that November 17th marks World Prematurity Day; this year I’ve contributed to an event that will help bring awareness to this occasion.  During the year I have joined a FB group that is dedicated to those babies who spent time in our local NICU and the stories of their survival against all odds are amazing to read.  This morning, the support network run there for NICU parents, held a coffee morning for those currently living on the unit, which was accompanied by a board displaying photos of past NICU graduates, including G and M.  The request was for “Then and Now” photos to share on the corridors of the unit to celebrate how far they have come and to give hope to those starting their journey.

20131118_191352

The statistics are staggering.  Around 15 million babies will be born prematurely around the world this year, 60,000 of those in the UK.  In your average classroom of 30, there are likely to be 3 young people who arrived earlier than expected, some of whom will have slipped into a different year group and are now amongst the youngest in their year, rather than one of the oldest.  In one way or another, these youngsters will have challenged the doctors and nursing staff who dedicate their lives to caring for preemies, continued to strive to grow and succeed and will go on to do much bigger and better things than was ever imagined at the start.

Mike and I will be forever grateful for the amazing care that was given to both G and M during their time on NICU and feel privileged to have met such wonderful, caring medical staff whilst we were there.

20140809_222723

They’ve come so far since their NICU days

 

The psychiatrist’s couch

The thing about blogging is that, as well as sharing our experiences with others and maybe helping those who are facing similar journeys, it has become a form of cheap therapy for me.  I can pour my heart out into my words, delete those that needed to be said, but not shared and publish the rest for the world to see and comment on.  For those of you who know me well, you will understand that I’m not very good at sharing when I’m struggling with life, even to my nearest and dearest, and yet I can express my emotions through a few deft strokes on the keyboard almost without pause.

blogging

My Mum, who I know will be reading this and rolling her eyes (and yes, the phone-call will come later), frequently says she doesn’t understand the need to share everything with the world at large which so many of us do these days, be it through blogging or social media such as Facebook or Twitter.  Is there an easy or obvious answer to that why?  I can’t comment on why others share the most intimate details of their mundane lives, but I know why I do it.  I have a story to tell and life experiences to share.  When I started my blog I couldn’t anticipate how many people would read and follow my musings, but as I approach the 2,000th view of my blog, I am flattered that people have read something that has resonated with them.  I know that some posts will be far more therapeutic for me than interesting for you, my reader, and I thank you that you’re prepared to bear with me and keep on reading.

The rest of today’s post is very much in that vein as life with M is proving difficult right now and I need to lie down and share from the psychiatrist’s couch.

Couch

Since M’s relapse back in April, we have been waiting for his system to settle and for things to improve and return us to where we had been at the start of the year.  Our GOSH appointment in May had reassured us that his gut would repair and they spoke positively about the possibility of trialling one of his forbidden foods and even reducing his medication over the next 6 months.

Unfortunately, life hasn’t turned out that way and instead we are caught in a downward spiral and seem to be sinking fast.  Our weekend at Legoland was a real step back to where we had been and much nearer the beginning of our journey then we were happy to be. As well as the return of multiple soiling accidents with chronic diarrhoea, M has suffered from stomach cramps, overwhelming tiredness, fluctuating appetite and blood in his stools.  He is obviously struggling with his emotions and frustrations and is just generally out-of-sorts.

My conversation with our ever-wonderful dietician last week confirmed my inclination to speak to M’s gastro team as we really need to get him back on track.  I was worried that we would be asked to remove something further from his already restricted diet, but the registrar told me that that wasn’t the way forward right now.  Instead, we are introducing another medicine into the mix to try and suppress the reactions he’s experiencing and are being sent to our local hospital for an abdominal x-ray.

There are no easy answers to this problem for the time being.  We don’t know why his small body has  gone back into hyper-drive in response to the food allergies and we are feeling helpless in our inability to regain some semblance of control.  If the x-ray is clear, which we’re expecting it to be, then the next logical step is another set of scopes, but that isn’t an easy decision to make because of M’s problems with anaesthetic.  We also know that we still haven’t removed the possibility of moving M to the elemental diet from the table either and that seems like a daunting prospect.

The one thing I have learned from the wonderful families we met through FABED is that we’re not on our own and that however hard the next step might seem to us, there will be somebody else out there who has walked that path before us and will hold our hands along the way.

tea

What’s more, a cup of tea or coffee and a chance to escape the EGID world, even for half an hour, is great therapy too.