Writing 101 days 14 and 15 and Chicago

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We are having a great time! Enjoying the sights of Chicago whilst Michael is at his conference. Did I mention that Simon and I went to the Shedd aquarium whilst Emma and Lara did the architectural boat tour, they loved it. The aquarium was so interesting and informative but I feel uneasy about having dolphins and particularly Beluga whales, such clever sensitive animals in a small space. Ribs at Carson’s followed, delicious as ever. Back to our hotel where Michael and I danced to the band in the Palm Court for a while, we enjoyed ourselves, whilst the Tango dancers took themselves very seriously and the Swing dancers swapped partners for each dance! Great dancing and great people watching!
Saturday started with a long walk to the beach and beyond, to the zoo. Is Chicago the only city with a free zoo? What a wonderful thing! So busy by 10am! We watched the gorillas for along time, fascinating but again a little uneasy about them being in such a confined space, but maybe they are safer there than in their natural habit. The jaguar was gorgeous, as was the lioness licking a bone clean, with her barbed tongue, which we read about!
We set off for Eataly, a fabulous shop/restaurant/providore, buying our picnic for the music festival at Rimageavinia. Onto the train, found our spot, got settled cracked open the prosecco and then the storm warning came. We got organised with bin bags for raincoats, but we had NO IDEA! From one moment to the next, the wether changed completely. Howling winds, huge raindrops, trees leaning, lightening flashing and thunder roaring. It was a reminder of the force of nature! We huddled under a tarpaulin but got soaked from the bottom up as the rain turned the ground to med and flooding! I have rarely been so wet! Sensible Simon sheltered I a building and was dry, unlike the rest of us! Eventually the rain subsided a little, we retreated, defeated! Back to our hotel with our soggy picnic!
Getting on the plane now, continued tomorrow!

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Writing 101 and my blog

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Writing 101 and my blog

Oh my, first world problem. It is hard to keep up with the blog, writing 101’and being a tourist with my family whilst in Chicago!
So, my husband arrived after a long delay and met me at Moto, a fabulous restaurant arranged by my lovely sister and ok brother in law (teehee!) where we enjoyed 8 courses of extraordinary taste sensations, not to mention textures! The most amazing was a course which looked exactly liked a hot dog but was in fact a sponge cake with a raspberry sorbet hotdog! And passion fruit on top which looked like mustard! I think it must be the most unusual taste sensation ever!
And then yesterday we had a great day. We went on the hop on hop off bus tour to get a taste of Chicago! Have to finish tomorrow as we are going out now! Writing 101 will have to wait!

Writing 101 -day 12 and the usual blog

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Today’s challenge is to write about something you found following on from the day 4 post of something you lost, or a loss you suffered. I didn’t deal with that, there having been too much loss in my life. But look what I found today, my family, only 3 of us as the Chicago weather has thwarted our plans for a happy family reunion at lunchtime! Michael and Emma sitting in New Orleans for hours as their plane was cancelled, ours and Lara’s was delayed but we got here eventually! Off for fabulous dinner now, hoping that Michael will eventually join me!

The usual blog plus Writing 101 – day 12

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The usual blog plus Writing 101 - day 12

The only constant in life is change – so the saying goes. I believe it’s true. Times change, people change, circumstances change and we are moving on. Next year will be a different year in Peterborough, new house, new students and new cognitive improvement exercises for Simon!
I had a great meeting with Mr Coppins (Matt) today reviewing Simon’s year – the hard work he has put in has resulted in great progress – one day I will do a post about the changes I and others have observed throughout the year and those that Simon has seen, if he approves of that idea! In the meantime I am just putting this out there – I am very proud of you, Simon! Which neatly brings me to Writing 101 – (Virtual) dark clouds on the horizon – write about a real conversation and the dark clouds alluded to in it. This conversation happened almost 19 years ago to this day and I can remember it so very clearly as I have rarely been so shocked and hope never to be so again.

It had been a long road and perhaps we should have seen the dark clouds on the horizon. I know the exact moment they came into being. When we were called into the back room to talk with the Professor of Neurology just as we had been told we could take Simon home the following day. Taking him home – those words were so thrilling to hear after the trauma of 18 days of our tiny boy in intensive care and 10 days in the recovery ward. 18 days with tubes everywhere, infusion pumps with medications trying to get his newly repaired walnut-sixed heart to pump regularly, so many things that could go wrong and did go wrong, a new and terrifying experience to us, spending hours by his bedside, such a little body on the big bed, willing him to stay alive. Taking him home – sheer joy dashed away only moments later.
The professor of neurology was clearly disturbed about having to have this conversation with us, indeed I would go so far as to say, if he could have avoided it, he would have. That probably would have been negligent so he didn’t. The CAT scan, of Simon’s brain, showed some profound changes – areas of white opacity all over the place, probably as a result of his prolonged low blood pressure post-operatively. The implication of this was completely lost on me, but not so for my husband, given that he is medical, though in another field entirely, I suppose that is not surprising. He had been researching the neurological signs that Simon was displaying, quietly terrified by what he found but not saying a word to me. The professor started out by showing us the CAT scan which meant nothing to me. He went on to say that whatever he said we should take with a large grain of salt as “cardiac babies” usually do better than he predicted – I still hadn’t really grasped that anything was untoward. He stated that the white opacities may have damaged Simon’s brain though to what extent he couldn’t say, they may lead in a moderate disability, say a difficulty with maths, or planning or maybe something more … hedging, hedging, not daring to say what he didn’t want to say, until my husband challenged him. “Ok, will he walk or talk by the time he is 5?”. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather, I had been so focussed, pouring all my energy into keeping this tiny boy alive It had never occurred to me that there would anything more once we had got him through those rocky days in intensive care. “I can’t say” he answered. “Remember the grain of salt” – it wasn’t much consolation at the time.
Those dark clouds looked so forbidding, coming straight towards us over the horizon. We had no idea what was in store for us, for Simon, for our family. But, you know, we have dispelled them. the sun shines brightly! I know because I just had a call from Simon “Mum, you’ll never guess! It’s hysterical, we are stuck in a tunnel in Canada’s Wonderland because there is such a massive storm outside! I’ll see you when it finishes!” Such excitement in his voice, such joy in my heart. There may be a storm out there but I see sunshine and rainbows.
We’ve all come a long way together, since that dark day in the back room with the professor of neurology. Slow and steady wins the race, we are still racing but we are almost there at the finish line.

Writing 101 – day 11 – my home when I was 12 (and the usual blog too)

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Writing 101 - day 11 - my home when I was 12 (and the usual blog too)

Not only my stolen bike but also the rain thwarted my plans for today – I really wanted to bike to the zoo at least, and if the weather was cool, and if Simon was cool (I’m so funny!), to Lakefield but no! So, instead we sorted, packed and moved the last of our things, did bits and pieces, changing our address at the bank, took a picture of the stolen bike to the police station (they weren’t in the least bit interested, even though they asked me to bring one in). That was enough, we had a Lion King movie marathon in the afternoon! Great animation, great lyrics and great escapism!
The Ashburnham Ale House was our choice for dinner, taking Andrea and Jonathan to thank them for all the Friday nights and good times we have had at their house this year. My smokin’ trout salad was delicious as was the beer! Simon enjoyed his ribs – anything eaten with fingers is good as far as he is concerned!
Walking back into our apartment with nothing on the walls to make it our own is quite shocking – so bland, as Simon observed. The photo illustrates our card wall, all the cards we brought with us and have been sent whilst we were here. That decoration for us was the difference between a home and a house.
Which leads me straight to
Writing 101 – day 11. Describe your house when you were 12 – vary your sentence lengths.
It is so clear to me although, funnily enough, I am not sure what time of year it was when we moved there. A very modern square, townhouses, seventies. Our house was on the outside of the square, overlooking the road and on the other side of the road the beautiful large detached Victorian houses, with their semi-circular drive in and out drives, sash bay windows on the ground floor with, I was sure, magnificent drawing and dining rooms, Upstairs, Downstairs basements where the kitchens were full of kitchen maids and a fiercesome housekeeper cooking whatever was fancied Upstairs, gracious bedrooms on the first floor and on the second floor, attic bedrooms for the servants, although in reality more likely for the children, and a huge garden behind the house, hidden from our view. Our modern house was so unromantic by comparison, straight up and down, a front door by the garage door was the fa├žade to the world, into a narrow hall, stairs to the right, study to the left, which lead through to a small garden and a laundry at the end of the hallway. I had no idea how luxurious it was to have a separate laundry. let alone a garage! Upstairs to the kitchen, all mod-cons. A Sink-erator which we thought was brilliant – no smelly rubbish, it was all gobbled up and disappeared into the pipes below, although the occasional teaspoon wreaked havoc. There was a hatch from the kitchen to the dining room – so seventies! It seemed the height of convenience to have a hatch to pass the dishes through and not have to walk the few feet to the dining room. Another modern feature – the dining room and sitting room interconnected! We didn’t sit much in the sitting room, other than to watch television, at that point we only had one television and we all watched it together, which is entirely unimaginable for today’s 12 year old! But that was the way it was. The velvet sofa and armchairs, the dark coffee table and the nest of tables, all so clear in my mind, opposite an alcove in which there was the built in unit with cupboards on the bottom, a fake fireplace in the middle, above a beautiful mirror with shelves on each side, the Meissen shepherd and sherpherdess which my mother most treasured being in pride of place. Upstairs again, first coming to the spare room with another seventies feature, the sink in the bedroom, along the landing past the airing cupboard, then the main bedroom, with its white carpet, flowery curtains and ensuite bathroom, it seemed to me the epitome of elegance and sophistication, Would that I could ever have such a room! Upstairs again, into a square landing, four doors leading from it, one to my bedroom, one to my sister’s long narrow room, one to the “playroom” – I’m not sure that we ever played in there, I know I spent a lot of time studying at my small desk and probably almost as much time looking out of the window into the square below, and one in the bathroom. A fairly typical house of it’s time, our home. Who Knew? A home. A house. A killer design.

We came, we shopped, we accumulated!

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We came with 4 suitcases some nine months ago. We are leaving for the summer with 4 suitcases and this is what we have accumulated in the meantime and are leaving behind in the basement of our new townhouse!cader lofts, packing 008 We tried hard not to accumulate stuff but somehow we have accumulated a great deal! Some was given to us, some found by the side of the road, some bought at thrift shops and as for the rest… I don’t know!
Two days of sorting and packing with Simon keeping me focussed and we are pretty much done! This afternoon we are off for a late barbecue and swim with good friends. For tomorrow, my plan is to have a day cycling, somewhat thwarted by the unfortunate disappearance of my bike last weekbut I can borrow one from a friend. On Tuesday Simon is going to Canada’s Wonderland with a group of Arrowsmith students – he will definitely avoid the “High Thrill” rides and stick with the water park. Whilst he is having some well deserved fun I will put the final touches to our move out of our apartment and maybe meet a friend for a beer or an ice cream!
Happy Father’s Day to all the Canadian Dads out there!

Graduation, hugs and Writing 101 – day 10

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Graduation, hugs and Writing 101 - day 10

No post yesterday as Simon was so tired at the end of the day so I got myself comfy on my bed with my trusty (ha!) iPad and laboriously typed out the blog and just as I was almost finished it simply disappeared – not even into drafts on WordPress – just gone! All that work, gone in a flash! And Friday the 13th had finished as it was past midnight as it had taken so long to type!
Starting again, on the laptop this time and I hope nothing untoward will happen!
Yesterday was Graduation Day for many of the students at Arrowsmith in Peterborough and what a special day it was. The students so happy, their families and the teachers so proud of what they have achieved. Jill shared with us some of the reflections of the graduating students, their thoughts about how they had changed, the progress in reading, writing, maths, and the increased confidence academically, and perhaps more importantly, socially, all of which will help them in the next stages of their lives. They wrote so movingly and with such insight, it was inspiring and I hope I can share some of their words soon. One of the former Graduates spoke of his gratitude to the teachers, and his Mum, explaining that he wouldn’t have graduated high school this very week, without having attended Arrowsmith. He is heading off to university in the fall and that is something he never expected or hoped (if he had dared to hope) to do. I have never been to a Graduation, at any of the many schools my children have attended, where the students and teachers hugged so much – it was lovely to see the bond between them. Many tears were shed!
Onto lunch, lots of hugging and good-byes, more tears and even more during the Talent Show which followed, as well as much laughter. It was tremendous, showcasing the various talents of the students – all sorts of hidden talents were revealed, from beautiful singing, skipping (jumping rope), harmonica playing, a talk filled with baseball facts and memorabilia, a clever movie by the Lego club to heavy metal, a great movie by Ben, and a magic trick performed by Simon! I was so thrilled to see him up on stage, continuing on undaunted even when one of the teachers (one of the teachers, not a student!), at the beginning of his trick, shouted out the number of the card that he was revealing at the end of the trick by magic! To see the growth in his confidence and how comfortable he is in his own skin is wonderful – that doesn’t seem an adequate word, it is so much more than that – I am thrilled beyond words! He has come such a long way this year, thanks to the Arrowsmith programme and his dedication and hard work – I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.
Then we went to another end of the year party, back to Julie and Menno’s and so we found ourselves back at the beginning, having come full circle, as the first potluck we went to, on our first weekend in Peterborough, was at their house. This put me in mind of the TS Elliot quote

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

This time though we weren’t the newbies but sharing more good times with friends who, it feels, we have known for a long time, so it was the same, but different – Simon swimming and me chatting. More hugs, more goodbyes and onto Friday night – the last one for this academic year and possibly the last one, depending upon Johnathan’s plans for next year. If he heads off to Ottawa to Uni, then, on the weekends he comes home, Saturday may be the new Friday! What a wonderful institution Friday night has been, I have shared so many interesting conversations with Andrea usually accompanied by delicious cheese and always by a glass or two of wine! Simon will miss Friday nights – something he has looked forward to all week.
So, that was that – an academic year done! Now we are packing up and moving all of our bits and pieces to a townhouse which is a little nearer Arrowsmith, which Simon will be sharing with Amanda, one of his fellow students, and I will spend more time at home next year, coming and going from time to time.
I was reminded that I had written I would reveal an exciting secret about Mr Coppins – I had forgotten that (obviously!) so here it is- Mr Coppins, (well, his wife actually) had a baby girl! Mabel is thriving and Mr Coppins looks little more tired than he previously did! I am sure that he is looking forward to the long holiday which is so well deserved.
And now for Writing 101 – day 10. The assignment – write about a favourite childhood meal. Straightaway the very particular smell of ginger sponge came into my mind – I have no idea how it came about but every Saturday we would have ginger sponge and custard as our pudding at lunch time. The softly spicy smell of ginger sponge would waft through the house whilst I was upstairs doing my homework for the weekend, I think that smell represented freedom to do my own thing as after lunch I would head to Kensington High Street to the library which was my special place or to potter through the shops, the groovy Biba being my favourite, four floors of fabulous design and fashion. The flavour and smell of ginger sponge signals a time of no responsibility and a time of plenty of time when I could do what I wanted, when I wanted – perhaps that is why I have never attempted to cook it myself as those days are long gone!