Thursday, 31 March 2016

A day out on the East Lancs Railway

Ever since I had Monkey, Thursday has been my favourite day. It usually consists of Aquababies in the morning, dinner in the library, then Pramtime in the afternoon and usually a trip to the park on the way home if the weather isn't too awful.

Aquababies and Pramtime aren't on for a few weeks though as it's the school holidays. As Daddy Monkey is off this week too we decided to have a family day out.

Last time we went on a train Monkey seemed to really enjoy it so we thought she might like a ride on a steam train. So this morning we caught the tram to Bury to begin our journey.

The East Lancs Railway runs a steam service from Heywood to Bury. The main station and gift shop are at Bury - Bolton Street and there is also a transport museum opposite the station although we didn't visit this.

The staff were very friendly and were chatting away to Monkey as we got our tickets. The train is free for children under 5 but they still get their own ticket. This was great for Monkey who insists "Me big!" and sees no reason why she shouldn't have the same as everyone else!

East Lancs Railway tickets - including one for Monkey!
I would never think of myself as a train person but there is something quite magical about a steam train. I have to admit to being quite excited as it pulled into the station. All the noise certainly got Monkey's attention.

Our train arriving at Bury - Bolton Street

The ride out to Rawtenstall took about half an hour. Monkey spent most of the journey looking out of the window and telling us what she could see. She loved the sound of the whistle and watching all the steam go past and her face every time we went under a tunnel was brilliant.

On the East Lancs Railway with Daddy

We arrived in Rawtenstall at dinner time and had a picnic on the station while watching the train set off back to Bury. Then came the question - what do you actually do in Rawtenstall for 2.5 hours until it's time to get the train back? We were there because that's where the train went rather than any real wish to be in Rawtenstall.

I remembered a park I had visited there about twenty years ago and a quick google said it wasn't too far away so we headed there. They had a fab children's play area which was big enough for Monkey to feel big and grown up but not big enough for me to panic. She's always been quite wary of slides up until the last couple of weeks when she's decided she loves them. There were two here and she went on them both loads.

At the top of the slide at Whitaker Park

The most unexpected part of the day was meeting two owls - Tigger and Digger. There wasn't any kind of event going on there was just a woman walking through the park with one. She stopped to let us see him and told us she'd be back later with another one. We saw her again on her way out of the park with a smaller burrowing owl. We chatted more this time and she explained she had four owls that were part of a larger group that did school visits etc. Monkey has been very into owls lately and loved looking at them although she wasn't too sure about stroking them! Neither was I, although Daddy Monkey was much braver and gave Digger a tickle.

Monkey, Daddy and Digger the owl
We didn't take the pram or a carrier out with us today and I was so proud of how well Monkey managed. She's not two yet and only has little legs but she did so much walking. She really has no idea she's so tiny and still my baby. In her head she's big and grown up!

My big grown up girl
It's been a really lovely day and I would definitely recommend it. We tired Monkey out though. She just about managed the steam train back to Bury but fell asleep on the tram home.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Look in my Letterbox #9

It's that time of week again when we look at what's dropped through the letterbox of The Monkey House.

It's been a pretty quiet week post wise which I'm hoping is just due to it being Easter. I got three penpal letters all from the UK, including one from Elaine who always has the most gorgeous writing sets. Sadly I forgot to get a picture this time.

I also received a bundle of cards from Kerry. An Easter card for the whole family from her family, one for Monkey from her daughter who she writes too and this beautiful baptism card.

My faith is not something I talk about much on this blog, perhaps I should mention it more, but it is something that is very important to me. I'm very excited because tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, I am being baptised, confirmed and received into membership at my church. The card from Kerry means a lot because she played a big part in me finding my faith and returning to church. To hear her talk about her own faith was really inspiring and it's been lovely to have someone to talk to about my beliefs.

As well as her card from Lottie, Monkey has received a letter from her pal Ines in Spain and dairy free chocolates from the Easter Bunny (aka my penpal Ella). I was really touched that somebody went to the effort of finding something she could eat but unfortunately soya strikes again and she couldn't eat them. We've sent them off to the Switch Witch though - a friendly witch with a weakness for chocolate who will happily swap it for allergy safe treats!

I think Monkey's highlight this week has been a letter from Brooke. We knew it was coming as we saw this picture on facebook.

Monkey was checking the post every day and was so excited when it arrived on Wednesday. She LOVES Brooke! She's a big girl, and she dances, and she has glittery pens, and she drew her a picture. She thinks Brooke is great.

And so do I!

You see the thing I haven't mentioned about Brooke is that she has Cystic Fibrosis. She had emergency surgery at just four weeks old and has had to spend a lot of time in hospital. And yet she still has that smile and can make my girly smile.

Brooke is just one of the children who is part of Post Pals, a wonderful charity who aim to put a smile on the faces of seriously ill children and their siblings by sending them happy mail. It's a simple idea but one that works. And one that given my slight post obsession I had to get involved in.

We've written to every child on the post pals site now and we're working our way through the siblings. All it costs is the price of a stamp to make a difference. Not every child will write back - some of them are too poorly or too busy with hospital appointments. We never expect a reply but it's lovely when we get one.

Please check out Post Pals if you can.

Waiting - and worrying

Monkey's not been well this week.

It's nothing I can really put my finger on. She's just not been her usual self. She always has a cough at night and sometimes a wheeze but this week it's been worse. I don't want to put anyone off their dinner but we've also had quite a few explosive nappies.

Although I never underestimate Monkey's allergies, I like to think I manage to stay quite calm about them. But this week I've been worried.

Luckily Monkey is under the care of the Children's Hospital and they are brilliant. Our dietitian is amazing. I can ring her whenever and know that she will get back to me. So ring her I did...

I phoned on Tuesday when she was in clinic but she got straight back to me first thing in Wednesday morning. Our consultant has retired but she's going to get a new one assigned and an appointment sent out asap. She also wants us to see an allergy nurse so we're waiting for that appointment too.

We're waiting. And we're worrying.

And we're one of the lucky ones. Monkey's allergies are diagnosed. She's under the care of a hospital. We have a plan of how to keep her safe, how and when (not yet!) any reintroduction should be done and what to do if she does have an allergic reaction.

But still we worry...

I can't begin to imagine how much we would worry without that support in place. Yet for many allergy sufferers, that's their reality.

The UK is one of the top three countries in the world with the highest incidents of allergy however according to Allergy UK there are only around 30 allergy specialists working here - that's one for every 700, 000 allergy sufferers!

Did you know?
  • In the entire UK, there are only 12 trainee posts for allergy, so that each year only two doctors complete their training as allergy specialists (National Allergy Strategy Group, 2013)
  • 50 per cent of children and young people suffer with one or more allergies (Punekar & Sheikh, 2009)
  • 21 million adults in the UK have an allergy (Mintel, 2010)
  • 90 per cent of sufferers could be managed in their local community. GPs receive little, if any, training in allergy and immunology.
  • With just 30 generic clinics in the UK, that’s one for every 700,000 sufferers.
Allergy UK are commited to improving care for allergy sufferers and their families. They have recently launched their nurses appeal which aims to recruit and develop specialist allergy nurses, strategically place them in communities and raise awareness about the reality of living with allergies.

Allergy UK is a charity that means a great deal to us. They were great when Monkey was first diagnosed and continue to be a great support today. We're really excited about this appeal and want to do everything we can to help. Monkey is currently fundraising with her free from picnic and we're hoping to host more events. She'd love your support. You can donate by text or by clicking on the link or support us by spreading the word. Thank you.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Look In My Letterbox #8

Look in my letterbox is a weekly linky over at Alice-Megan's blog. I've always loved this linky as I'm slightly post obsessed and I'm working hard to pass this on to Monkey. I'm excited to be linking up again now I am back to blogging.

I have loads of penpals and Monkey has a few. This week she got a new penpal all the way from Australia. She was very excited to get her letter and this lovely artwork from her new friend.

Pictures from Lily

She's also had her spring magazine from the Woodland Trust's Nature Detectives. They're always full of fun activities to get us out and about. This time we're particularly looking forward to making bluebells!

I've had letters from seven pals this week - five from the UK, one from Canada and one from the UAE. It's always great to hear from them and their letters make me smile.

I've also had new stationery - a gorgeous 
Cath Kidston writing set for me and a Rachel Ellen one for Monkey.

Allergy UK have sent us their latest magazine. This charity means a lot to us for obvious reasons so we always like to see what they're up to and what we can do to help. We're taking part in their Free From Feast again this year to raise funds.

A thank you - and a giveaway!

When I first started writing this blog, I wasn't sure anyone would read it. It sometimes felt a bit strange rambling away to myself but I found it helped to write down how I was feeling about Monkey and her allergies. We were still quite new to the world of allergies at that time and feeling overwhelmed by it all.

So really at first the blog was just for me. But then something amazing happened - people actually started to read it! I had nowhere near the number of readers of some of the larger blogs I follow but it didn't matter, I had readers!

Gradually I got more and more readers and whilst I still think of this as 'my little blog' each post got slightly more views and comments than the last.

And then I disappeared for six months...

I thought I'd be all on my own again when I came back. Surely all my readers would have disappeared and I'd be talking to myself again. But they hadn't. People were still here and still reading.

So me and Monkey wanted to say thank you. We thought long and hard about what we could give away but the people we know who read this blog like so many different things. And then there are those of you we don't know.

So we decided we'd make a gift basket based on the things you tell us you love. We can't wait to see who wins and get creative.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Easter in the Monkey House - Celebrating Allergy Style

Easter - it's a difficult one with allergies.

Part of me thinks that it shouldn't be. After all, we're christians so Easter should be about so much more than chocolate. And it is!

Monkey has been learning about the Easter Story at Sunday School, at ACTS and at Pramtime. She'll be at church on Easter Sunday to celebrate and rejoice.

Learning about Palm Sunday at Pramtime

But still....

Monkey's a toddler! And for most toddlers (and probably most adults!) Easter means chocolate. Everywhere you look at the moment there are chocolate eggs. They're brightly coloured and look like fun. Monkey has been very interested in them.

She can't have them though.

Dairy allergies rule out chocolate. Some supermarkets are offering dairy free eggs. Great! Except it's not so great when they're made from another of your allergens - soya.

I'm determined that the Easter Bunny will visit Monkey though. Allergies might make things more difficult sometimes but I'm never going to let them mean she misses out.

Books are always a hit with Monkey. I found this Veggie Tales Easter book which I think she'll love. Veggie Tales is an american cartoon that retells Bible stories for kids. Monkey has seen it a few times at church and enjoyed it. The book has american spellings which irritates me slightly but Monkey will love the glitter and sparkle on each page.

I also ordered a very cute dressing up outfit. The idea was that she could wear it for her baby ballet Easter party tomorrow but unfortunately it hasn't arrived in time. She's going to look majorly cute in it when it arrives though. We'll find somewhere to wear it even if it's just to nursery!

Pound shops have been great for little bits like chicks and bunnys. I even managed to find some Easter themed colouring books.

But lovely as all this is, I want my girl to have an egg. A real chocolate egg, just like all her friends will have. Step forward Moo Free! Monkey's had their chocolate before, it's made with rice milk and completely safe for her to eat. They've got three different eggs this year - 'milk' chocolate, honeycombe and chocolate orange - and we've got her one of each.

Hopefully she'll have a really wonderful Easter :-)

Sunday, 13 March 2016

New shoes and pizza

Today has been a lovely day. We've taken Monkey into town to buy new shoes. Shoes were a bit of a nightmare when she first started walking. Even taking into account she is small, her feet are tiny!

We eventually managed to get shoes that fit last November. They weren't proper walkers though, we could only get cruisers small enough. Given that Monkey doesn't walk, she runs everywhere, I'm amazed they lasted this long.

Monkey's very first shoes
When we got Monkey measured today her feet had grown. They'd still not grown enough for her to have whatever style we wanted but we could at least get proper walking shoes. They brought out everything they had in her size and Monkey had great fun trying them all on. She's slightly shoe obsessed and is probably going to cost me a fortune when she's older.

The plan today was to get a pair of t-bar type shoes and a pair of more boot type ones. They don't do the boots small enough though. We still needed two pairs though as she's doing so much walking/running these days. I liked them all so let Monkey choose and we came home with these.

All that shoe shopping is hungry work so we went for some dinner with Daddy, Granny and Grandad. Pizza Express might not seem like the obvious choice for someone who can't eat wheat or dairy but they are brilliant for allergies. We were a week too soon for their gluten free dough balls but when they arrive on the 22nd we'll be able to order a full three course meal off the kids menu that is safe for Monkey to eat. As she's getting older she's noticing more and more when her food is different, it's brilliant that her food looks the same as everyone else's. She certainly seemed to enjoy it today!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

We're Back!

Well, that went well....

Some of you may remember way back in October 2015 I signed up for the Blogtober challenge. The idea was I would blog every day in October on subjects provided by the challenge.

Some of you may also remember I said I was rubbish at challenges like this. Despite my best intentions I never seem to stick to them. If nothing else, at least I'm self aware. I lasted three days before it all went horribly wrong! I fell behind, and then I didn't want to post until I'd caught up, and then October was over, and then and then and then until here we are six months later and no blogging done.

So Blogtober didn't work for me and I'm never going to catch up but I miss blogging so now I'm back. No crazy promises about blogging everyday, just back to how I was before talking about Monkey, her allergies and all the fun we have together whenever I have something to say - just like I did before.

So what have we been up to over the last six months then? Monkey has grown - a lot! She's still tiny compared to most children her age and following the bottom centiles but she is on the chart and gaining steadily. She's 20 months old now and weighs 19lb 9oz. She's wearing age 6-9 months clothes.

Monkey in the park

Despite her still being small for her age she is definitely not my little baby anymore. She's moved up to the toddler room at nursery and is moving up at ballet after Easter. She's even going into the big pool at swimming in May. Calling her a baby results in me being shouted at and told "No! Me big!"

Health wise she's doing great. We have managed to successfully reintroduce apple and the plan is to do the same with pear. We're still a long way from being able to reintroduce the main allergens of dairy, soya, wheat and egg though. At our last dietitian appointment it was agreed that no reintroduction would be done until she'd had more tests and even then it would be done in hospital. It's a scary thought but I suppose its the best place for her to be if she does have a reaction.

I will talk more about everything in future posts but just wanted to get my first post back done and get back to enjoying blogging.