The Murphy’s at Centre Parcs!

I don’t always want to talk about having had Cancer when Rory was a tiny little tot. I am (slowly) getting our lives back on track but all of these adventures I write about are as a result of me having had cancer. I’m sure that I would have been working my backside off as a Nurse had I not of been diagnosed and needed such gruelling treatment. So I am thankful everyday for the memories we have been able to make, from the day I was told I had cancer to this present day.

There are various charities out there who understand the financial constraints  a life threatening illness can have on families. They also understand the need for ‘normal’ family life, creating special memories and enjoyment due to the devastating  impact cancer has on life. Courtesy of The Willow Foundation I was luckily enough to be able to take Rory away to Peppa Pig World for a couple of days shortly after my treatment ended which I will write about in due course! I was even luckier to be awarded  a break away to Centre Parks last year by another incredible charity. This time I was taking my Mum and Dad (and Rory!) as a way of thanking them for everything they have done for Rory and I during such horrendous circumstances. And what a brilliant time we had!

Cycling through the woods, exploring, seeing baby deer, swimming, archery, building dens with Grandad, bbq’s and all just relaxing and enjoying life!

I usually take it that my Dad is a very wise man but Icould not get my head around him insisting we had to go further downhill (even though we couldn’t go any further) because he was reading the map the wrong way!!! Watching my very brave Mum go down a water slide as there was no other way down! Watching us all climb up onto our bike saddles in complete agony day after day, my bottom has never been the same since!

This was a break away to show my parents that I was well. I was strong and I was healthy. I no longer had Cancer. Time was going to be an emotional healer but physically I was as fit as I had ever been.  Sharing this experience with the people I love the most was just wonderful. Of course my parents deserve much more than a break away for all they have done and continue to do for Rory and I, but this is what I could do for them and I know they cherished being with us for such a happy, memorable holiday.

 

 

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River Dart Adventure …..

By now, you might have guessed that I love camping!

River Dart Country Park, situated within Dartmoor National Park, was our last camp of the summer season and it was by far the best camping experience we have had.

From the moment we arrived, Rory made friends. I am in total awe of his abilities to socially integrate himself when and where he needs to.

Having been traditional campers on our previous adventures, I decided to bite the bullet and make my life easier by having electric hook up! It is not a decision I took lightly but one I am so glad I did! I cannot function without my cup of tea in the morning and having my kettle with me was pure joy! I even bought a mini Raclette grill and made us delicious crumpets for breakfast. I am well and truly a converted electric hook-up camper!!!

This campsite had everything. We had a three night stay but we could have easily stayed a few more. The grounds were beautiful. This is definitely a campsite for the people who love outdoor adventures.

One of the highlights of the activities included in the camping price is the pirate ship in the lake, the lake obstacle course and toddler beach. I mistakenly left our wetsuits at home but Rory was happy to go into the lake in just his bathers and floatation vest. Luckily I did remember our beach shoes as they were an absolute must for going into the lake. Everywhere we turned in the lake, there were children and grown ups firing water pistols at anyone and everyone! It was a bit of a shock at first as the water was freezing! So off we went to the shop to buy Rory an inflatable spaceship with a built in water gun and a water shooter thingy for me! If you cant beat them, join them! It was fab!

There is also a wonderful woodland play area that we spent lots of time in. Tree houses, climbing rope nets, snake slides to name a few, kept Rory very happy and entertained. He also made me film him 100’s of times doing a miniature assault course!

I can’t wait to come back next year. And I hope a few of our lovely friends will join us. I’ll make you all a morning cuppa!!

Last call to Tenerife!

I always knew I wanted to mark my 40th birthday by taking Rory on his first aeroplane journey. Jetting off for a week in the sun would be just what the doctor ordered! But the thought actually terrified me!

Luckily my sister, her partner and my two beautiful nieces were coming with us. They arranged it all. All I had to do was pack and get to the airport.

I was given some money for my involvement in a Breast Cancer Campaign the previous year and I kept it under lock and key to be able to afford this magical holiday for us. An all-inclusive week in Tenerife here we come!

Rory packed his hand luggage with toys that would hopefully keep him occupied for the 4 1/2 hour flight. I am not the greatest flier, but flying with family would keep me calm and all would go smoothly, ahem!!!

Alarms were set and at 5am we set off. Now I assumed Bristol airport would be one of the easiest Airports to get to! My phone Sat Nav took me down all of the single track back roads in the pitch black. I was petrified! Never again! By the time we met up with our holiday party, that horrendous journey was forgotten as the squeals of excited children took over.

Now, I haven’t flown for a number of years and I wasn’t as aware of the travelling restrictions as I should have been. All of mine and Rory’s bags were emptied and half of the belongings left behind! Oops! My sister was also held up negotiating how much food she could take on board for my youngest niece. We still thought we had plenty of time once we were through customs and passport control, to have some breakfast before we boarded the flight. We went to get bacon rolls for us all, and my sister queued for some water to take on board. “Last call for the Tenerife flight …….” came on the tannoy. None of us had heard any previous calls or seen any ‘boarding’ announcements. To say we ran was an understatement! And the gate couldn’t have been any further away. Luckily my sisters partner ran on ahead whilst my sister and I weaved past people with our pushchairs!

All we had to do now was get three adults, 2 pushchairs, 3 children and all of our hand luggage onto the crowded bus that would take us to the plane! You know that judgemental look people give you, well we had a lot of them looks!!!!

Finally, we all breathed a sigh of relief as we climbed the steps into the plane. But oh no, there were no seats together and

children cant be separated from a parent! Guess who are holding up the plane again??! Rory and I were the last to be seated. Requests were put out over the loud speaker to see if anyone was willing to move to two single seats. You could just see everyone bowing their heads!! Eventually kindness prevailed, everyone was seated and we were flying! Our cold bacon rolls devoured in one go!!!

As I knew he would be, Rory was amazing! I had given him a real digital camera and he spent a lot of the flight taking pictures of peoples heads and the contents of his bag! He loved eating as many haribo sweets as he wanted to help with the cabin pressure!

And finally, after what seemed like forever, we arrived in Tenerife!

The hotel had three swimming pools, kids club, entertainment and most importantly unlimited wine and San Miguel! Due to my treatment and surgeries, I hadn’t been able to take Rory swimming very much. The smallest swimming pool was heated and Rory just wanted to stay in it all day. He definitely missed being in the water.  The times he came out, he lay on the ground as it was so warm! Everybody had huge inflatables for the pool. The first one he had was a crocodile. He loved it but poor crocodile deflated very rapidly. We were on holiday after all, so off we went to buy another inflatable. This time a giant crab! But the crab also came to an untimely demise! Poor Rory. My nieces dolphin lasted for the whole holiday. We decided that perhaps a smaller inflatable would be more suitable and luckily his third choice was an inflatable body board and that was just perfect! I don’t think I have ever been quite at peace as I was watching my son in the water, playing with his cousins, making new friends and just loving life.

I loved watching my little boy choose his outfits for the evening entertainment. He looked super handsome in his little shorts and funky shirts! Rory is a very sociable little boy and one evening he got chatting to an older boy of about 12. He was called Mickey. Now Mickey was one of the coolest, nicest children I have ever come across. He was obviously very popular and always had a bunch of children around him. He showed Rory some magic tricks and from that moment, Rory was obsessed with seeing Mickey. I had never seen him like this before. He would ask me every evening if we could go and find him. It was the sweetest thing because Mickey gave Rory his time and it really made his holiday. He still talks about Mickey today!

The one thing that I got upset about on holiday was the food situation. Rory has always had issues with food and eats very little. I had this crazy idea that by being ‘All Inclusive’ Rory could chose and be in total control of whatever he wanted to eat and all would be wonderful. Unfortunately I didn’t realise at first but having so much of a variety of foods, most of which were unfamiliar to him anyway, was far too overwhelming for my little boy. I’m ashamed to say that by the third day of hardly eating anything, I was ready to pour the very small bowl of spaghetti over his head. I was so worried about the heat and the lack of fluid and food he was consuming. It was so stressful. That was until I apologised to him about my behaviour over food and discussed it with him. Honestly, I know so much better! So we decided to go the local supermarket and see what foods we could get for him. We found familiar items like crackers and peanut butter! And every morning we would have a little walk to the bakery to buy the biggest chocolate croissant ever! He was having the calories I knew he needed, plus he would top up on anything from the restaurant when he fancied it. The day before we were due to go home, my niece was having a hotdog and Rory asked for one! “Yum, I like these” he said! ARGHHHH!

Watching my son dancing on stage with his cousins was just priceless to me. We both needed this holiday so much and to share it with my sister, my best friend and her family was just the best way to celebrate turning 40. I wasn’t even sure last year if I would even make it to my 40h birthday. This holiday was much more than I expected. Rory and I will always remember our first holiday in an aeroplane together and have incredible memories. It has given me the confidence to know I can take him by myself in future and I cant wait!

 

 

 

Love Bombing ………

The time it took for me to recover inbetween chemotherapy sessions, gradually increased. After my forth cycle which resulted in a hospital admission, my energy levels were far too low to contemplate going on another camping adventure. I had been in hospital for four nights, the longest Rory and I had ever been apart. We needed some special time together. I was always so worried about how my treatment would effect my son’s emotional development so I tried to make our limited time together fun. I was so focused on building memories for him incase anything happened to me, that I lost sight of the fact that all Rory needed was me. Us together, and we didn’t need to go anywhere for that.

I came across the concept of ‘love bombing’ through a Gentle Parenting group I was involved with. A method that would reset my little boy’s ’emotional thermostat’ by the offering  of ‘unlimited love and control’.

I explained to Rory the next morning that the day was all about him. We could do whatever he wanted. Go wherever he wanted. Eat when and what he wanted. He just kept hugging me! My phone was switched off and put in the cupboard  with my computer. No distractions. My son would have my undivided attention.

The first thing he wanted to do was pull out the sofa bed, make it all nice and comfy with a big duvet and his cuddly toys and have a picnic breakfast. We got party plates and made everything look special. I asked if he wanted to go anywhere but he just wanted to stay at home all day in just his pants!

I noticed everything about my little boy that day. He was and still is a joy to be around. The hugs came so frequently, he just wanted our skin to skin contact again. We played games, watched movies, made cakes and took a bath together. There was lots of laughing!

Our lives had been unexpectedly turned upside down but on this day all of my worries and fears came to a stand still. My son needed me. All of me. We reconnected on a much deeper level . He knew how much I loved him!

The next day I felt as though I needed to leave the house. The days following my chemotherapy sessions  were spent in a little bedroom too unwell to move or do anything. I wanted to go somewhere before I became a house prisoner again. I didn’t want to travel too far or do anything too energy consuming. So following on from our ‘love bombing’ experience, I booked us into a Premier Inn Hotel at Cribs Causeway in Bristol. Rory hadn’t stayed in a hotel before. He called it “the purple moon hotel”.

He couldn’t believe we had a TV in our room! He became obsessed with putting the key card in and out of the electricity box. It was like a disco in our room with the lights on and off! He had 3 baths! My little boy was so exited to be there. We put the music on loud and jumped on the bed, laughing at each others crazy dancing! I took us around the corner for dinner at Frankie and Bennies and savoured the moment. My boy and I. An amazing little team.

To this day when I ask Rory what he would like to do, he either says “stay at home on the sofa bed” or “go to the purple moon hotel”!

He had very little control when I was poorly, always needing to do what others told him to do. We have had so many ‘love bombing’ times where he has just been lavished with love and attention, where he has completely taken over the decision making. I’m sure these times have helped Rory to be the confident and secure little treasure he is today!

 

 

 

Fly me to Caerleon!!

I am some what of a cautious driver. Growing up in the country and now a City girl, I am used to most driving experiences. However, Caerleon in the northern outskirts of the City of Newport, is an absolute nightmare to get to!

It reminds me of all of the times I got lost every couple of weeks for the three years during my Nurse Training! My stress levels increase just thinking about the journey!

But I had heard of an interactive children’s event at ‘The National Roman Legion Museum’ that was taking place one bank holiday weekend and decided to brave the journey once more. Needless to say I got well and truly lost with no sat nav or phone signal. Luckily Rory fell asleep as soon as the engine started so I was able to curse and despair to my hearts content! After driving past the museum and having to go around the one way system once again, I finally managed to park. We had made it but I was already dreading the drive back home!  Rory woke up as soon as the engine stopped. He is such a brilliant traveller!

The National Roman Legion Museum was a lot smaller than I expected, but it had a lovely children’s role play area where I tried to get Rory to dress up as a Roman soldier. He refused! He was more than happy to play on the carpeted play area building forts and castles out of blocks and Playmobil with the other children. I took the opportunity to sit down with a coffee and look at what else we could do in Caerleon as I knew  the museum didn’t have enough to offer to keep my Rory entertained!

It was time to go outside into the small grounds of the museum where Rory was booked onto a session to learn about how the Romans lived. He made some kind of bread and cooked it on an open fire. The children were then put into teams to make a shelter using sticks and a canvas covering. The best bit for Rory was fire starting using a spindle and board. None of the children made fire but they all enjoyed trying! We had our picnic outside and after about an hour and a half of us being there, it was time to move on.

We stumbled upon the Roman baths on the way back to the car. It was a field of old ruins which Rory loved as there was lots of spaces to explore and trenches to hide in! The biggest surprise though was the Caerleon Amphitheatre. What an amazing site and totally unexpected. I sat on the grass watching him run around with the other children and rolling down banks. I felt as though I was in the ‘Gladiator’ film. I haven’t seen anything quite like it before. A spectacular setting.

On its own, The Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon wouldn’t have qualified for a day out for us. But with the combination of the Museum, Roman Bath ruins and the Amphitheatre, we had a brilliant day out in Caerleon. It was definitely worth the stress of finding it and fighting rush hour traffic on our return journey back into Cardiff! And what’s more, it was all free!

 

 

‘Remembering’ at Cardiff Castle

One of the great things about living in Cardiff is that as a resident you actually own a tiny piece of Cardiff Castle! And for a small annual fee (£5) you get to have your very own key card. This means you can come and go as you please without additional entrance fee costs. I love it!

Cardiff Castle is absolutely beautiful with many things to do and places to explore in the safety of the grounds. And being right in the centre of town makes it so easy to get to with a toddler in tow. One thing I must say and find totally unnecessary is the ‘Birds of Prey exhibition’. These poor owls are shackled. They should not be there.

On this particular day, the grounds were being prepared for a ‘Remembrance Day Memorial’. Rory was almost 3. Death was a subject that we had already began talking about. I was a little unsure of how much to tell him but his curiosity made me delve into such unknown territory that I just hope my responses were age appropriate. He always surprises me though!. We once came across a small dead animal and Rory asked me why it wasn’t moving. Thinking of the potential  upset I would cause him if I told him the truth, I told him that the animal was probably sleeping. Only to be told “no it’s dead, absolutely dead I’m afraid mummy”! Since then, I have always been as honest as I can about everything!

It was beautiful and peaceful to share this special Remembrance with my son. I could see in his face that he had some level of empathy. We took our time and I read out some of the names of the deceased whilst trying to explain why we honour and respect the people that went to war and never came back. I cant even begin to  imagine how all of the mothers felt waving off their young sons to go to battle, never to return.

I am truly grateful to all of our troops who put their lives on the line for us. They are the most courageous and bravest people. I hope to continue to teach my son about how we got to where we are today. But most importantly, how we must never forget.

 

 

 

Where it began: The 1st Camp!

Rory was 2 1/2 years old. I had just had my first cycle of Chemotherapy and it took 11 days for me to feel like I could function properly and look after my little boy without help. I had 10 days before the horrible cycle would start again and I wanted Rory and I to do as much as we could together. Building memories. Taking photographs. Showing him places and experiences in case I wouldn’t be able to do them in the future. In those 10 days our feet didn’t touch the ground!

Camping has always been a passion of mine and I was desperate to take Rory on his first camping trip. Obviously I wasn’t in the best shape health wise and most people thought I was completely bonkers to go but once I get an idea in my head there is no stopping me!

I had seen an advertisement for an Adventure Park in Brecon that was doing a weekend camping  advent. Brilliant! Brecon was easy to get to and not too far in case we had to come home. Plus it had everything in the day time to entertain my busy little boy. There was also going to be outside evening entertainment and games, and much to my secret delight, a ‘One Direction’ Tribute band!!! What more could anyone ask for?!

Our camping pitch overlooked the beautiful Brecon countryside and we started to set up out tent. Rory was in charge of the mallet and bashing in the pegs. He loved it! Once I had inflated our camp bed and made our sleeping area all cosy, Rory was so excited. He took off all of his clothes and got into bed arranging all of his toys how he wanted! We had our peanut butter sandwich lunch and once I managed to persuade Rory to get dressed, off we went to explore.

There was so much to do, inside and out. Soft play, tractor school, animal petting, boats, bob sleigh, sand, playground, trampolines.  As the afternoon progressed Rory joined in with the football and dancing games in front of the entertainment stage. Again, I sat back and marvelled at how confident he was at making friends and how happy he was. All I ever want is my Rory to be happy.

There was a young girl in charge of the games and Rory took such a shine to her and wouldn’t leave her alone. She made such a lot of fuss of him and I was so grateful as by now my energy levels had diminished and I needed a little rest on the grass. It was a wonderful day and the evening drew to a close. I am so glad I didn’t have to drive back home as we were both exhausted. We snuggled up in our tent, top to toe in thermals! We read stories and chatted about our fantastic day!

Rory managed to sleep most of the night. I however, realised I had forgotten to secure the Guy Ropes. Our camping pitch was exposed to the elements and the wind was picking up! I didn’t get any sleep! But who needs sleep when you are camping in a beautiful part of Wales with the only sounds being of nature and your little boy sleeping. Absolutely perfect.

These memories are what got me through my next Chemotherapy session. Knowing that I was counting down the days before I was well enough to embark on another adventure with my boy. And boy have we had some adventures!!!

I vaguely remember paying something like £25 for the camping and entrance fee as Rory didn’t have to pay for either. It was such a bargain!

So a big Thank you to ‘Cantref Adventure Farm’ in Brecon. After that adventure I knew that everything was going to be ok and that I was strong enough for all of the fun in the world!