Category Archives: Joseph

Don’t stand on the baby!

Anyone who has had children will have stories to tell about scrapes they have got into. The summer before last, my son Joe had a nasty fall. He had been playing in the garden, ran in without looking and cut his eyebrow quite deeply on the corner of a chair. He was in some pain but his screams shook the panic out of me as I had to calculate how to comfort him, how to get to A&E, where to take his sister and what to do about the injury.

I am a mum, so I got on with it. I even took photos. Even as my adrenaline kicked me into auto-pilot TLC I wished that I knew more about what to do. Some years beforehand I vaguely remembered having completed a couple of basic first aid courses, but this was real and immediate, the blood was actually dark and runny and horrifying; in the event my mummy-brain just gave up so I put on a brave face, ticked the boxes the best I could and tried not to blame myself too much.

In due course at A&E Joe was seen by some wonderful nurses and glued back together; today his scar has silvered and hardly shows. But I see it whenever he snuggles in close. For me it’s a reminder of when I didn’t know what to do to help my child.

 

Right now of course he’s fine and I’m so glad he’s over his little adventure safely.

I’m also pleased that I have a much better knowledge of first aid. It took me a while, but this week I got around to it, by attending a Mini First Aid course run by Ruth Wilson. Ruth is a friend of mine, so I set aside my fears and excuses and agreed to come along in order to learn more and to blog about what she does. Ruth has lots of experience in nursing, health visiting (the ‘good sort’) and child-minding, as well as having five children. She is calm and encouraging, conveying lots of useful and practical information in a thoughtful and interesting way, with plenty of humour in the mix.

You need humour if you’re going to learn about injuries. I don’t think I’d ever before been taught:

 

“don’t stand on the baby!”

…but then I don’t think Ruth had ever had to teach that before either. I do have a knack of bringing up rather ridiculous ideas and questions. It helps me remember.

(For the record, it is acceptable to stem blood flow from an open artery in order to save a limb by applying your full weight to a pressure point. I can picture a small medic standing on a big patient for this purpose. Not so good, however, for adults treating babies.)

Sbaby-and-child-first-aidome first aid may seem obvious of course. But what about the correct equipment for a home first aid kit, or where you should really keep it? I have not got any hypoallergenic plasters for visitors; that was a take home action point for me. And I took my car first aid kit out years ago and haven’t replaced it. Oops. I do have an app on my phone (Red Cross) since Joe fell, except I haven’t really studied how it works.

I guess most of us would think we have a basic knowledge of first aid. I can summon up the recovery position. Also, I do know what to do for a nose bleed and where I keep disinfectant (certainly) and safety pins (probably). But, for all the half-remembered ideas in my head about what to do in the event of an emergency and why I might even need safety pins, I have to admit I was lacking crucial knowledge and skills. How many of us are up to speed on what to do in the event of choking, burns, broken bones or shock? Once I’d stopped and thought about it I realised there’s not much of an excuse, really. Courses are widely available now and Ruth’s 2 hour mini first aid course is only £20, which is very reasonable. There are others, but the format of this one, which included her baby and child props for CPR and other procedures was very well thought through and friendly, with nine of us meeting in a church creche room.

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Not the real Tintin

Many, or perhaps most of my friends raise children or work with children. Even others, including teenagers and grandparents babysit. Adults runs clubs, groups and events for children and at these times most of us probably hope that someone else is the qualified first aider. Like me, you may not enjoy dealing with blood. But we also host other people’s children in our homes, mind our nephews and nieces, and are the responsible adults for those who live in our homes for a huge amount of their time. The times when they climb a bit too far, times when they spill hot drinks, times when they run into walls or trip and bang their heads.

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Or have their heads banged for them.

The others in the group seemed very keen to take lots of notes, but I wanted to remember everything I could. There was a lot to take in, and the course notes to take away did help, as well as being able to ask all sorts of sensible (and less sensible) questions. I’m now far more confident about when I would take a child to a doctor or to A&E and what order to do things in, in an emergency. I hope I never have to use CPR, but now I feel like I would be able to give it my best shot.

And God willing, I don’t have to rush Joe to hospital again with another nasty cut. But if I did, this time I’d know about applying pressure to it.

Rather than telling you all the other things I learned and revised, I encourage you to make time to do a first aid course yourself if you haven’t done one recently. Mini First Aid have courses around the UK, if you find yourself looking after little ones.

And, whatever you do, please don’t stand on the baby.

 

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Mum…

I turn in my car seat and look at Joe. He is six and a half now, and one furtive ‘big tooth’ is pushing up behind his first wobbly incisor. His hair is a mousy scruff and his eyes curious.

‘Er, mum……’

‘Yes, Joe?’

‘Well, do you think, ink, think, um, do you think…’

‘Yes Joe? [spit it out, boy!]’

I turn back in my seat.

‘I have to keep driving, Joe. What do I think?’

‘Joe?’

‘Joe, you were asking me a question, what do you want to know?’

‘Oh yes, I know. Mum, do you think, ink, um… what’s that thing again?’

‘What thing?’

‘Do you think I have that thing?’

‘What thing Joe?’

He turns to the window and starts doodling on the glass with his fingers.

‘Joe?’

‘Joe, are you listening?’

He clearly isn’t.

‘Er, mum, do you think I have that thing, ing, that thing?’

‘What thing, mister?’

‘That thing where you get really, um, distracted*?’

‘Mum?’

‘Well, that’s hard to say Joe. I didn’t use to think that… ‘

Hmm. So now I need to investigate whether his levels of distraction are beyond the typical for his age. When I can get around to it, I mean. It’s most likely genetic in any case probably.

*He cannot pronounce ‘distracted’ and most likely said ‘extracted’, for what it’s worth. Other Joeisms include sumbarines, dymanics, and his favourite grace: ‘Ear God, Thank You For Our Food And AMEN’.

I should think he’s well in the running to be president some day.

 

Watching out

Seems like Joseph has got his eye on Christmas.

He recently pointed out to me that if he had a security camera he could find out what Father Christmas looks like. I think it is fair to say that we all already know what Father Christmas looks like, but perhaps he just wanted to catch the guy at work. He was genuinely excited about it. I was impressed that a five year old would think of that.

I pointed out to Joe that if he wanted a security camera the best person to ask would probably be Father Christmas. He is actually happy waiting a year for the results to come in, bless his little stockings minion socks. Joe hasn’t considered that his plan might not work, but so as not to snuff out that little Christmas sparkle I did not mention any of the many reasons that came into my head when he proposed it. I played the cool mum card. The ‘Ok, well, you’d better write him a letter’ card.

And then this evening, Joe got down to business and found a willing parent for spellings, because these things matter when you really want something (it wasn’t me) and came up with this:

Security camera letter

which had been printed and folded and put in an envelope with 55p he had found and labelled:

tofatherchristmas

So now I am wondering whether to arrange for Father Christmas to reply. I’m afraid to say I already took my 55p back.

In other news, the children did not complete Nanowrimo, but I did. It was exhausting, the month was incredibly busy and I am sure the writing itself is not proficient, but the beginnings are there and my next writing steps are becoming clearer. I have something to work with and am pleased with the progress I made.

 

 

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This month I am putting lots of other commitments on the back burner in order to blitz-write a first draft of my book. Between Monday and Friday I wrote over 12,500 words, and then the washing machine packed up and my presence has been needed at home. I missed Saturday entirely, but I am grateful for the chance to recharge. Writing is incredibly draining, even if you are well-prepared at home and in the task. It has meant being able to get a few more jobs done and to be more present at the village fireworks (rather a good show – over 5000 attending) last night and the Remembrance Day parade this morning (also a very good turnout).

The children have got into the spirit of Nanowrimo too. Joe has written a short story, which I am publishing here for you:

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(c) Joseph Robinson 2015

It reads:

Wos apon e ting thne was a Boi he was clde Joe he staivd up for a Spaiship (peje 1)

he had 2 frens he went too spais wiv his frens (pedije 2).

Here the story ends and we are left waiting for the next thrilling installment, hoping that maybe we can pre-order it on Amazung. I do detect a degree of autobiographical bias, but it is his first work of this length. I want to know more about the frens. What are their names? Did they help staiv up too? Was there a mutiny? When I find out more, I may get around to blogging that too.

Lily has also been writing a book on Mondays to Saturdays this month and is averaging over 100 words per day. I know this because she has been counting her words. On day 1 she didn’t know that you don’t need to number every single word:

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(c) Lily Robinson 2015

I’m not going to give you Lily’s entire story as it is already quite long. And also because it resonates with her own life and it has broken the fourth wall quite early in the story which is frankly quite weird. Despite being set a couple of generations in the future the main characters have already travelled in time to meet Lily and me. (Reading yourself as a character in a story written by someone else is quite a strange experience, I’ll admit). Lily is keen to reach 100 words every day, and yesterday I learned a new trick – sometimes it pays to just write ‘and then another few words’ to lengthen your sentence. She has no writing scruples.

So although I’m not Nanowriting on Sundays, I thought I’d blog a little while my fingers are in full typing mode. They’ve been missing the keyboard today.

After this month, I’ll take a pause and then take the manuscript apart in every way imaginable, working it over and over to get it to the kind of quality I need it to be. I am very excited to be able to do this and to show how passionate I am to get my book out of my head and on to the peje.

The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

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In a week when Saddleback or Blencathra in Cumbria went up for sale and this story appeared about a family of birds taking up residence in a letter box in Suffolk, we have been doing much thinking ourselves about homes and property.

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It has struck me that our human conventions regarding land and property ownership are somewhat absurd in the bigger scheme. I have long thought that being able to just be in a beautiful place is just as satisfying as – and much less expensive than – owning the place. I hope Saddleback will be sold to people who allow it to be entrusted to generations of walkers. Walkers from many places, booted, flip-flopped or four-pawed, of every description and brand of weatherwear. It will make very little difference to many of us who owns great spaces, as long as we still have the opportunity to be there, to breathe the air and to study the views, to appreciate the big and the small as if we never noticed them before. It is possible that a sealed bid from a malevolent faction could buy Blencathra outright and seal off the land from visitors, but part of the joy and beauty of such places is their accessibility to so many more folk than just those who manage and pay for their upkeep.

Animals do not recognise or need to comply with human property claims. In our garden alone, numerous claims could be made for the space. There are blue tits nesting on the wall, claiming their space this season and feeding their noisy young from what they can harvest around the area.

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There are two cats who spend their nights in a house on the street backing ours but most daytimes guarding their territory, which now extends throughout our back garden and right up to our back door. With all the front of teenagers they chase and tease bees and butterflies, slink behind plants and sit for hours, frowning. Clearly they are full owners of our garden in the eyes of the feline land registry.

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Then there are the guinea pigs, whose access to safe rectangles of garden on dry days makes them equally entitled to the land and its grass and dandelion leaves, not to mention their hutch, which they have almost exclusive use of. What’s an odd snail or spider to a herbivore?

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There is a comic robin who bounds up and down between the wall and the grass. He always looks like he’s about to get to the punchline, but he never does. Robins are territorial too. Timing is everything; I always forget the camera.

What about pigeons? Or gulls? Or the odd squirrel? Or the many many insects and spiders?

Taking it to another level, do the plants moshing out of their beds and jostling for life between the stones and gravel have a claim on the land?

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Perhaps, foolishly, we too could say we own it.

But we only have any rights to ownership under human conventions and then only temporarily. I prefer to think of everything we own as being on loan to us. We are guardians. Keepers. Entrusted with responsibility and graced with a journey of seasons and promise.

You see, none of it is really ours. God made it all, owns it all and has the final say, not us. He owns ‘the cattle on a thousand hills’ which is Psalm 50’s poetic way of saying that God tops any rich list and all we have is from Him.

Someone has made an offer on our house. We have put in an offer on another house, trusting that soon God will provide the home we need for raising our family. He has already provided a school place for Joseph against all reasonable odds in a full year group and a popular location, at some distance. Maybe we’ll be sharing our garden with plants, animals and birds. We hope we can share the new place for which we will be guardians with many friends and family for many years to come.

House-hunting Outside the Box

 

boxhouse

My dad calls it divergent thinking, but I suspect my need to think outside the box in any and every situation has been a large part of my mental health issues these last twelve months. If I have one thought it spreads like a firework. If I have a box of thoughts, I need plenty of space to watch all the fireworks.

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When I got very ill twelve months ago the fireworks fizzled and fell. I had to accept limitations and let go.

This letting go has not come about lightly: there are a dozen areas I would like to do more in, a hundred people I would like to help, a thousand things that need thinking through.

But I am learning to let go. Let go of ideals I cannot reach. Let go of people who hurt me. Let go of wrong self-image. Let go of anger. Let go of trying to ‘achieve’ to impress. Let go of turning up the heat. The cold never bothered me anyway.

I am now at a stage where I need to harness what is good and right about my divergent thinking. The instant creativity when I’m in a good place and Joe decides we need to make an apple tree from things in the kitchen, for example. Or helping Lily remember a new times table. Or finding a recipe for ingredients we already have in. Being academically thorough because it hurts not to. Little baby steps that indicate I’m heading in a good direction.

And I’m part of a great team. My husband is single-minded and inspires me to focus rather than diverge. As a result we now have a great ‘get the house ready for viewings’ system, including keeping things in sensible places, having empty drawers at the ready for items on surfaces and not panicking when the ‘wrong’ load of washing is doing as I know it will all get straightened out soon and that I’m going to be ok whatever the outcome. Just keep swimming, Lucy.

We are convinced that God’s purposes are driving our endeavours to relocate, so the emotional energy I have can be spent focused on practical and reasonable tasks. Today Joe and I got to toddlers; a wonderful opportunity to see friends and how things have developed in great ways there. Later this afternoon I showed the fifth couple in eight days around our house. It used up all I had left emotionally. Corners have to be cut elsewhere: manageable cleaning and tidying, efficient use of time, time off alone, not counting the calories, not stressing over what I cannot control. Improvements are evident in lots of directions, for which I am utterly grateful, even when pushed to my emotional limits.

One task I love doing is house-hunting, and I go at it with a combination of God-driven purpose, single-mindedness learnt from my husband and outside-the-box problem-solving techniques I can’t help but bring to the table. One of my sustaining strengths is writing and it appears that another is researching.

Cycle of Grace

Armed with access to the internet and a couple of clever spreadsheets, I review the houses that have appeared on our search radius on a frequent basis. They are constantly changing as we are moving to an area of short supply and high demand. A house we viewed at the weekend is currently in a bidding war and already at  £43,000 above the asking price, days after appearing on the market. We did not bid on it, as we cannot buy until we sell. But I am making sure I do my outside-the-box homework. Systematically.

Rightmove is the most useful of the property search websites I use, with their various search tools, floor plans, school distance maps, and invaluable Saved Properties feature. Zoopla is better for learning about sold house prices, with interesting heat maps and information on what sold in various streets if you are prepared to work through in detail when you are serious about a property. As we are searching within a target geographical area we’ve realised it also pays to get registered with local agents who send you information ahead of homes appearing on the market and to check their own websites, which update sooner than Rightmove.

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We like to know how long a property has been marketed, and whether the sellers have changed agent at some stage. While EPC checks on the energy rating are some use if they have a date, they are valid for up to ten years so weren’t necessarily produced for the most recent sale. We downloaded a toolbar from Property Bee (which uses Firefox) with a sidebar listing price changes and number of weeks on the market. Fascinating stuff. As our own house is proving to be a niche market, we know this doesn’t prove everything, but is useful to check out whether a property has not sold for some months, so that we can check why that might be and whether the vendors are willing to consider a lower offer.

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If a house looks promising, I like to familiarise myself with the area. Nothing beats driving or walking around in person, but some useful sites for getting extra information from a distance are Google Maps (especially with Street View and to check distances and routes by car, foot, bike or public transport, which may impact upon the children as they get older), Bing Maps (for Bird’s eye views of the location from North, South, East and West) and the Environment Agency‘s pages on flood risks from rivers and elsewhere. Online regional planning information is useful to determine the scale and dates of development for a property, currency of local greenbelt, the year the street was built and an indication of whether extensions of one sort or another might be granted. Wikipedia is a surprisingly good source of information on village life if there are links to local community websites as well as history of the area.

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I have learnt a lot about school catchments (including relevant high schools) from Cambridgeshire’s education admissions website, and we applied for Joseph’s school place based on data we picked up online as well as a couple of visits. If he should not get any of our three choices, we will be able to find out quickly where there are spaces in both his and Lily’s year groups for September so that they can be together if possible in another local school. Ofsted reports and data tables tell you a certain amount, as do schools’ own websites, but going around a real school and meeting staff there, as well as learning about schools from local people where possible are much more fruitful. We have also taken a keen interest in location and websites of churches in the places we’ve been looking at, as a strong community church will have a big impact on us as a family and we’d like it to be not too far to travel to. Hakuna Matata, as they say.

So, lots of things to keep this divergent mind happy in a useful way on days when I want to crawl into my mindspace all by myself and shut the door. When we are moved I know what my next project will be, as I am preparing a book. However, I cannot write a book and move house and raise a family at the same time. I have learnt to let go and focus on what is best. Freedom within fixed constraints allows me opportunity to thrive and feel useful. I am moving from the first quadrant in the Grace Cycle (Acceptance) to the second (Sustaining Strength). I am allowed to write. I am allowed to research. I have a value and a purpose, and I feel like a room without a roof.

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Quote

Shell

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Sugar: You collect shells?
Joe: Yes. So did my father and my grandfather. You might say we had a passion for shells. That’s why we named the oil company after it.

Brilliant writing. Fantastic delivery by Tony Curtis, mimicking Cary Grant in Some Like It Hot.

I love a great joke.

Words are great.

Words are not always what is needed, however.

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Which is why these shells spoke to me this week. They were a gift from a wonderful friend on a beach in Albania and remind me of our time there. They are beautiful homes for tiny, insignificant creatures. They are engineered to be strong so that the little molluscs don’t need to be. I love how they combine art and maths. Creation and evolution. Grace and freedom.

This week we are making huge family decisions and several centre on identity and belonging. Location. Careers. Finances. How much to sell for. Value. Cost. I am out of words. I am pretty much out of numbers too.

But I am not out of feelings. I still feel the ache when my son gets a high temperature. I still grieve when my husband’s company mess him about for the umpteenth time. I still reel when my daughter’s school require three non-uniform outfits in the space of eight school days. I worry for others in my family going through big changes. I tremble as the inner anxious me faces the enormity of spending money on a house – a bunch of rooms – while others struggle without. I don’t want a grand place. But I do crave somewhere we can each be who we are truly meant to be. To grab hold of the dream and live it. We feel called to a particular spot and convicted in the need to move there, from a place of love and great memories and super friends, to a place where our names are only known to a few and where we need to forge our passions in a brighter furnace. Engineering. Writing. Ministering to students, immigrants, parents, young adults, those with needs. Enabling. Connecting in community and church. Raising our family. Living the adventure of Love we set out on together ten years ago by enabling each other and growing stronger together. It will come at a cost, but not doing this would certainly cost us more.

Thank goodness for Grace, tying it all together so that there is sense and purpose when we might otherwise give up. This season of brokenness has also been a season of refining and focus.

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