Mixed in with all the stress and terror of the past two weeks of dealing with Charlotte’s ill health, there have been pockets of very precious moments, as we all sought to find the beauty in our day to day life.
In the midst of worrying about Charlotte, I had noticed Thomas was struggling. He is a boy, and whilst I think he probably shares what he is feeling much more than most boys, it is always a little harder for me to get to the root of any issues he might be having. He had been a bit grumpy and short tempered, and I had been watching him for weeks, and chatting with him but it wasn’t until a week or so ago that I realised he was anxious. Not in an illness kind of way, but never the less in a wholly unusual kind of way for him. Once we’d figured it out, he was then able to verbalise his worries for his future, his worries about lock-down, his worries about Charlotte, his worries… He couldn’t sleep and was constantly tired. He just wasn’t finding life easy.
I chatted with the rest of the family and we decided to throw him a ‘We love you’ party. We do this whenever a family member is struggling. The main purpose is that the person we throw it for is reminded that they do not need to do this thing called life on their own. The first time we did one we made a huge sign saying ‘We love you!’ and stuck it onto the wooden beam in our dining room ceiling. It has stayed there ever since as a reminder that everyone in the house is so very loved.
The other purpose of the Love Party is for us to buy/make gifts for the person that show we recognise the struggles they are having, we take them seriously and we are here to help. For Thomas, we tackled his sleeping and his anxiety. I spent hours sourcing special gifts for him, whilst everyone else wrote ten things they loved about him on small pieces of paper to go in his ‘Love Bucket’ (a mason jar labeled ‘Thomas’ Love Bucket!):
I tackled his sleep first. I bought him some natural supplements called The Restored (5HTP, Magnesium, Montmorency Cherry, Chamomile Natural Melatonin), Dr SALTS Dead Sea Bath Salts Sleep Therapy with Lavender and a weighted blanket which Charlotte has and loves and is really useful for calming the autonomic nervous system down. I also bought him some noise cancelling sleep-earphones which are a simple soft eye mask with in-built ear-phones that help promote sleep by cutting out any light and allowing the wearer to listen to the sounds of the oceans or rain-drops, as well as an ocean lava lamp with jelly fish.
I also knew he was struggling in the mornings, not having slept, and as his job is now carried out through lock-down from his studio at the bottom of the garden and his prayer meeting is an early call, I thought his own coffee machine might come in handy. I found one which made a few cups at a time and keeps it warm until needed. It also works on a timer, so Thomas could prep it the night before, ensuring it was ready in time for his prayer meeting.
I got him his own blend of coffee so that he didn’t nick mine 😁
As Corona and the lock-down were the main reasons for his anxiety, I figured the best way to lessen its impact was to give him less time to mull things over. Books are always a good call in our house so we gifted him with three: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Simple ways to Keep the Little Things from Overtaking Your Life; Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and the first young James Bond book in the series which are all about Bond’s days at Eton. I also bought Trumpet for Dummies…
I had a plan, a devious plan…
I thought a hobby might be good for his anxiety and for the quick passage of time, oh and a goal during lock-down is always a good thing…
So I bought him a trumpet!! His reaction was priceless! The reason I chose a trumpet is that I didn’t think even my son would take himself too seriously playing an instrument which at best sounds like an elephant’s mating call! (actually, don’t quote me on that, I have no idea what an elephant’s mating call sounds like, and if it does sound anything like Thomas’ first few attempts, it’s a miracle the elephants have existed for as long as they have!)
Lillie had designed and printed out a favourite Bible verse, Psalm 16 v 8 ‘I will not be shaken for He is right beside me’:
And his girlfriend made a recording for him, which none of us listened to, just him privately, which really moved him. Becca gave him a huge hug just after he’d finished:
I don’t know that it has all been down to his ‘We love you’ party, but he is in a much better place, is sleeping better and is finding the trumpet to be (and I quote) ‘the most frustrating instrument to play in the world!’ He he he…
Becca has also been reacting to all that is going on around her, so we have all tried to step up and spend more time with her and give her Grace where needed. Gary spent the morning with her over at Granny’s painting a table and bench with her, Lillie had a fun filled ‘date night’ with them on Friday night playing the most hilarious game of Jenga and dancing together to some well loved ‘toooons’!
I spent a morning with her shopping, and whilst there bought the ingredients for some gingerbread, as she had been nagging me to create a gingerbread house. She then spent a delightful afternoon baking. We have been reading the biography of the Wright Brothers together – this is a longer chapter book and begins with their childhood. In it their mother helps them to design a sledge, first on paper and then helps them put it together. Her motto was always make sure the drawing is right and then measure twice. Becca was quoting this to me before she designed, measured out with a ruler, cut and baked a flat roofed ginger bread house all by herself. After they had cooled down, she asked Abs to make a Santa sled from card, whilst she made up different coloured icing and painted it onto her biscuits:
She was at this for about four hours, and produced the most wonderful scene, and best of all, had a relaxing stress-free time creating it:
Didn’t she do a great job? And it tasted yummy, and was almost all gone in three seconds flat:
The rest of the household were at their various activities dotted around the house and garden. Abigail, who wants to bake when she is older, is enjoying her book all about setting up and managing a small baking business:
Lillie, still recuperating from the very stressful two weeks with her twin’s health, listens to an online lecture for her uni snuggled up in a patchwork quilt:
Charlotte is back to her ‘normal’ pre-seizure self. The consultant said that often once a patient realises they are not dangerous, the seizures tend to calm down on their own accord, and this is certainly what we have found. Whilst they haven’t stopped altogether, they have definitely improved in terms of both frequency and strength. Charlotte is back to her normal schedule, working in her office on her courses and her writing:
Look at how relaxed she looks! This parenthood thing is such a roller coaster of emotions…but this makes it worth it all. Thank God for mum paying for us to see someone privately – I can’t imagine how long we could have gone on not knowing whether the seizures were dangerous or not.
Thomas, as I mentioned is working from home at the moment, and spends most of his time in his studio, even on his days off:
He has made it into a really special room and genuinely enjoys every minute he spends there – it was such a great addition to our garden:
There is no doubt about it, this week has been really hard. But we are all in a great place now. Charlotte’s health is not life threatening, and everyone (and I do mean everyone) has had their own mini breakdown over the stress of it all and it now feels like everything is starting to go back to normal.
That said, what is normal anymore?!