Sunday, 18 October 2015

51 things I learned from breaking my arm

So, I broke my left humerus on 1 August. This is what I learned.

1. Breaking a limb can be done in a split second. I was putting things in my car for a run to the tip, turned to go home, tripped, crashed into a wall, put my hand done and it was done. I still don't know what I tripped on.

2. Breaking arms hurts. Like, really bloody hurts. In fact, it hurt so much, poor husband could not get me up and had to call an ambulance. I've given birth twice and I'd do that again not to endure the pain I felt.

3. Gas and air is marvellous stuff. They gave me some in the ambulance and I remembered why I loved it so much when I was giving birth. I was GUTTED when they took it off me at A&E and wouldn't give me any more.

4. When you break an arm, they put a slab on your arm for the first few days. (I knew this anyway). It's a rough plaster on one side covered in bandages. Putting it on was the MOST painful thing and the plaster technician said I went white when it was done. I remember saying "please finish soon".

5. Putting a slab on can make things a lot more comfortable but not for every type of fracture. Nope, not mine.

6. Getting into a car right after you've been strapped up to the nines is bloody uncomfortable. Well, it is when you're getting into an Aygo.

7. Any movement at all after breaking an arm is torture. Standing was painful, sitting was painful. Lying back was painful. Bending over was painful.

8. It does gradually get better though. Although movement can still be painful, the overall pain (for me) went away about a week after. I haven't taken strong painkillers since that point, and I was only ever on dihydrocodeine. I didn't feel the need for morphine based pain relief and didn't want to have side effects when left alone with children.

9. Sleeping is a nightmare. If you can't lie back with broken arm, you either have to sleep propped up or in a recliner. I took the recliner option for about 6 weeks.

10. Sleeping in one position most of the night causes other problems like pinched nerves in your legs that set off shooting pains and numbness. Lovely.

11. Fractures of the humerus can be treated with a brace. This is like a plastic cast. Mine was custom made for me by the marvellous occupational therapist at Chorley Hospital. It took a whole hour. It's made of plastic mesh, lined with fluffy stuff and secured with velcro straps. It's removable but not in the early stages.

12. The first two weeks are the worst. Around that week, things will start to feel better, even if your next fracture clinic appointment, they are not sure if it's healing and you might after all have to have surgery.

13. Upper arm (humeral) braces are usually checked weekly by the occupational therapist, relined and they wash your arm. Occasionally, they remould it.

14. Ah, washing. The brace not being removable means you can't shower properly. Someone has to help you shower and then it's cursory. Say hello to greasy hair.

15. When you're first braced up, you feel extremely vulnerable when you are walking outside. I was and am still terrified of falling again.

16. A boil water notice just five days after you've broken your arm is a royal pain in the you know where. Especially when it lasts 3 weeks.

17. Breaking your arm in school holidays is not ideal for fun, but at least when your children are 10 and 9, they can help you a bit.

18. Frozen chopped onions, frozen garlic and frozen mash are bloody useful when you only have one arm to cook. I may never go back to normal onions.

19. Not all fractures take the same amount of time to heal. Mine is in a "tricky position" (I am sick of that phrase - apparently quite distal, which means it's low down) which means it's prone to not healing. But it is healing. Slowly.

20. Not being able to drive when you have a broken limb is very boring but also isolating. If you know someone with the same predicament, do pop round, offer to do things or take them places. They will love you for it.

21. Working part time from home in a flexible pattern makes it easier to keep working. Typing one-handed initially makes it very sloooow.

22. Being able to take your brace off for the first time is liberating and having a consultant tell you you can shower is exhilarating. The arm snow shower you start by taking it off is not.

23. And only more exhilarating is that first shower - even if you can only wash your hair with one hand.

24. It takes at least 3 of those showers to finally rid yourself of that underarm sweaty smell. Even though it's been washed weekly by the lovely ladies of the occupational therapy department. Poor ladies.

25. When your arm has been in the same position for 10 weeks, you will need physio to get back your strength and range of movement. I start this week.

26. Getting your hand and wrist moving hurts but only stems from stiffness so the pain can be endured. Prepare to start each day feeling like the stiffness has returned.

27. Taking your brace off part-time is quite scary. Even though your children think you look "normal" again.

28. When you take your brace off, your arm feels solid. And weird to the touch. And that's not the dead skin.

29. With your brace on, some people will think you look like a stormtrooper.

30. People assume you were under the influence of alcohol when you broke your arm. This really pisses me off. I probably would either not have hurt myself had I been drunk or worse, caused myself a head injury.

31. It's easier to put clothes on when you've got your brace off. Except for doing up bras.

32. Non- wired bras are best when wearing a brace. Wired ones are rubbish when you cannot move your arm properly. You men are lucky.

33. When wearing wired ones again, having to undo it because your husband has gone to bed an hour before you is a challenge of Crystal Maze proportions. (See 31).

34.Your iPad will keep you sane. And so will late night sport when you're sleeping in a recliner and can't sleep. (Or is that just me? Anyway, thank you US Open tennis, USPGA, world athletics and world swimming championships).

35. Eating with one hand is messy. You will change clothes daily because of this. Even now with movement in my left hand, I can't fully get my left hand to my mouth but my weird brain, favouring my left, keeps making me put my fork in my left hand, so I have to swop to my right to shove it in. And loaded burgers are interesting.

36. When you break your arm, you become super-aware of others doing the same. Or maybe there is an outbreak of broken arms - I know 2 children with broken arms at present, and an adult with brace that holds his elbow joint in position. When we were on holiday in Devon, we saw two other women both with broken arms within half an hour at the same place.

37. Online supermarket deliveries are your saviour. Except when they introduce the carrier bag charge and don't supply it with carrier bags. Usually I wouldn't mind but I can't carry those big trays by myself. A bag full of stuff I can carry.

38 You realise how much packaging is bloody impossible with people who have problems with their hand and wrist. Ring pull tins are the worst. I can manage the can opener now.

39. Never ever take your arms for granted. 10 weeks down and although I can now use both hands, it is not perfect, I can't sleep in my preferred position (yep, lying on my left side), turning over in bed has to be done awake, and the break is not fully healed.

40. Yes, you can take a brace off before it's fully healed. Reading up on it shows you can get your arm moving and what the xray doesn't show is what is going on inside.

41. The highlight of your week(end) is a trip to the coffee shop, usually on the way home from hospital for the umpteenth time.

42. I'm better at frothing milk for a cappuccino with only one good arm. Weird, eh?

43. Fracture clinic can be the most frustrating and slow experience. Only once have people been seen to time. My first trip to fracture clinic took 4 hours, although an hour of that was having my brace fitted.

44. My children have hidden reserves of patience I didn't know they had. (See 43). They have mostly been stars except for the time Monkey said being asked to tie my shoelaces was "depressing".

45. The letters the consultant or registrar writes to your GP are hilarious. One of them refers to me as a "pleasant lady". My occupational therapist told me she was once referred to as "comfortably padded". I got off lightly.

46. Our local fracture clinic has a Costa attached to it. Useful although you can't hear them call your name.

47. Fracture clinic admin can be frustrating. They promise to ring you with an appointment time and then send a letter to confirm it. With a new appointment card every time.

48. Checking you in on arrival takes a lot longer than it should do and involve approximately 487 clicks and keystrokes. This may be an over-exaggeration.

49. People park in the drop off points at hospital. The clue is in the name, people. Jeeeez.

50. People on trains are very helpful when you've got this massive thing on your arm. Apart from the woman next to me who insisted on taking up so much space to send important emails and make confidential calls that my arm was right up against the side of the window.

51. You find out who your friends are when you are when something like this happens. Some have been nothing short of bloody marvellous. (You know who you are). Others have been conspicuous by their silence and absence. They too know who they are. Let's hope it never happens to them, eh?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday - the Easter holidays edition!

Nickie checked in with me on Saturday to see if I was OK as I hadn't blogged since January. Oops. Life just got in the way really - I'm working extra hours, the children have things most days and I keep forgetting on Sunday to blog a meal plan. Monkey turned 10 (heck!), I hurt my back (it's better now) and I went on a school trip to the Manchester Arena to take part in a Young Voices concert with Missy Woo.

So, my plan is done for the week and as I don't have work this week, I'm making myself write a blog. I generally plan on a Sunday so I can shop on a Monday but since discovering Asda's midweek delivery pass is £2 a month, I've been shopping online and getting a Tuesday delivery. That doesn't stop me planning on a weekend - it's actually better to do it on the weekend so I can get the slot I want.

As I'm off this week, as is the husband and the children, you will notice that there are a lot of easy meals. I make no apologies. I need a break too! I could make pizzas for The Voice final next weekend, but hell, I can't be bothered.

So, this is what my plan looks like this week.

Monday - Thai pork and peanut curry (made with leftover roast pork from yesterday)
Tuesday - Chorizo and butternut squash chilli
Wednesday - Chicken kievs
Thursday - Burgers and fries
Friday - Salmon and butterbean mash
Saturday - Pizza!
Sunday - Steak pie, mash and veg

Obviously, there are two weeks of school holidays over Easter. However, next week, the children are going away with their grandparents staying in a caravan for 4 days so I am planning that we might eat out a few times, so if I don't blog a plan next week, that'll be why. It may also be to do with the fact that April is year end deadline month for me at work and I get very, VERY busy!

Don't forget that Mrs M hosts the Meal Planning Monday linky here.

See you next week (maybe!)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday - the mid-January edition!

Er, yep, I'm late.

This week is busy - kids now have activities after school every night except Friday but thankfully, two days are after school activities so I don't have to pick them up til later. Cricket nets start again this week and I'm off to London Wednesday for the day. And at the weekend, assuming the weather is OK, we've been invited to a party in Huddersfield

So this is this week.

Monday - Sausage and mash
Tuesday - Slow cooker mac n cheese
Wednesday - Beans on toast
Thursday - Curried parsnip and pear soup
Friday - Chilli con carne
Saturday - Chicken chow mein
Sunday - Out out.

And although I missed blogging last week's plan, I just had to share this recipe with you. It's awesome (and no chicken!).

Don't forget Mrs M has the Meal Planning Monday linky over on her blog so do take a look.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Meal Planning Monday - the into 2015 edition!

Er, yes, I do have a blog. Yada yada, I've been off, Christmas happened. I meal planned but it didn't make it here.

So, this week, the kids are off and so am I. Husband is not - he's working every day except Thursday. We've (mostly) got rid of the Christmas leftovers after I made an awesome soup on Sunday with leftover veggies. This week is reasonably back to normal but we are continuing the tradition we started last year with having a fondue at New Year. This time, we're doing it New Year's Eve.

The rest of the week is fairly normal for a week of school holiday - nothing to dash to, a few trips to the gym. No fancy day trips or anything. And you won't find me shopping, the thought of all the traffic and stuff sends me cold.

Monday - Slow cooker chicken with cashews and noodles
Tuesday - Savoury bread and butter pudding (again in slow cooker)
Wednesday - Swiss fondue
Thursday - Slow cooker casserole and dumplings
Friday - Lamb baked sweet potato
Saturday - Vegetarian chilli
Sunday - Steak and chips

Don't forget to go visit Mrs M for more Meal Planning loveliness. Assuming I remember to link up, I'll be there too.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Meal Planning Monday - the breathing space edition!

Lord, it's been a month. (Nearly). Don't ask. Too much to do, too little time. From today, life gets a little easier for a while. Well, maybe. At least I have time to blog my meal plan.

Of course, an easier week doesn't mean we're doing nothing. Oh no! Parents' evening tomorrow, although I am going early afternoon. The children have stuff every evening except Tuesday (when I take them to the gym anyway) and Friday, when we do homework. Saturday, I've got cake club but determined not to get cakeache. Just no meetings in the evenings. No trips to London. No do three things in a day, going from one to another and just making it.

So this is what our week looks like.

Monday - Chicken chow mein
Tuesday - Kale hash
Wednesday - Curried pumpkin soup
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Cottage pie
Saturday - Baked potatoes with some kind of random filling
Sunday - Roast dinner

Don't forget that Mrs M has the Meal Planning Monday linky going on here. Join in and get inspiration from others!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Organic foods - are they worth the premium?

This post has been brewing in my head for a while. I'm probably going to upset someone by posting it but I always try to be honest on this blog. It's about organic food.

I used to buy organic. I still do occasionally but only when it fits into my pocket. The simple truth is I can't afford it these days and so I've had to be pragmatic.Occasionally, organic is the same price or cheaper than non-organic products so it's a no-brainer.

My pragmatism has altered over time into a faint cynicism. The aims of the organic movement are laudable but the fact is, getting certified organic is expensive for small independent producers. I'm guessing there are a lot who follow organic principles but can't sell it as such.

This came about because Waitrose asked me to provide some recipes for their Organic Month in September and sent me a giftcard to go shopping for organic products. Unfortunately, my shopping trip was a bit of a disaster. But that is not relevant to the thrust of my post. And I do want to say that I LOVE Waitrose - I shop there a lot, although mostly for particular things I can't get elsewhere and top up shops.

What shocked me most was the variation in price - some things, like yogurt, were only a little more but milk was double the price for the same size bottle. Ostensibly, they are very similar products. Why?

The organic food industry is huge and we are sold the benefits of it. Meat production has better welfare standards.Everyone goes on about fewer pesticides. I used to be convinced that carrots tasted better, but what I bought was grown locally and delivered fresh to me by the grower. I fully accept now that it might not be the fact it was organic that made them taste better.

The health benefits are to me, not clear. I'm a big fan of Ben Goldacre of Bad Science fame (I heard him speak recently, he was great) and he's written a whole post on organic food and the FSA's findings that there are no measurable health benefits which you can find here. This echoes = and has informed - my own feelings on the subject.

One of the items I did buy on my shopping trip was an organic lamb joint as it was on special offer. When I cooked it, its texture was lovely but in terms of the taste, we didn't feel it tasted any better, but then it had been a few weeks since we last had roast lamb. Maybe that's the thing - the premium tricks us into thinking because it cost more, it tasted better.

If you are going to buy organic, I would recommend saving it for key ingredients like meat, poultry and eggs as they are a more ethical choice. Some things will never be organic - think seafood, think fish that is not farmed, think foraged items - so there is no point in looking for them. No-one will ever be able to eat 100% organically unless they restrict their diet. Waitrose has one of the most extensive ranges of organic items in a UK supermarket. A quick search of their online shop suggests they have over 800 items (including cat food?!) but that is still a drop in the ocean; supermarkets stock thousands of products.

The conclusion I have come to is this - organic food is a lifestyle choice and it makes money, a lot of money. If you want to buy organic, and you can afford it, by all means go for it. But if you can't afford it, then you will be fine and nothing bad will happen. It's more important to be able to feed your family.

(This post was inspired by an approach by Waitrose, who have a big range of organic products. They sent me a giftcard to buy organic ingredients. They also sent me a box of some organic products.)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Choosing secondary schools - the start of the journey

So Monkey is now in Year 5 (and Missy in Year 4) and we started the job of visiting secondary school open evenings in the area. Some people have expressed surprise at this but I am not alone.

The window of opportunity is narrow - applications open in September as the open evenings start, then close at the end of October. We've only just been to the last open evening although there are some next week. Had we been starting in Year 6, that would give us two weeks to make a final decision. If you want to arrange revisits, half term is last week of October so you only have a week to go back. A friend of mine is in this position - they only looked at a couple last year and is feeling the pressure a bit this year, no firm decision made and hurriedly trying to look at all the options and come to a conclusion.

Perhaps if you live in a town with only one choice of school, there might be no need to rush and you can do it all in Year 6. What I can't get over is the fact that although a school can look great from the outside, visiting it can be a completely different proposition and what if you don't like it when you do finally look? I know from when we looked at primary schools, the school I thought I'd love, I didn't. And one I thought I wouldn't, I loved. And that's what we chose. Our instincts proved right.

Where we live, there's an embarrassment of choice. In the district, we have 6 secondaries, all rated good or outstanding by Ofsted (I'll come back to Ofsted later). One is too far away, and two are faith schools, with one offering no chance of a place unless we had been regularly attending church since LAST year - yes, at the start of Year 4 - and could prove it. In the neighbouring town, there are 4 more, one outstanding, the rest good or heading that way. Three other neighbouring smaller areas have a school each and there are four others I could consider if I felt I needed to but are probably too far away. Oh my - that's seventeen! That's even before, as some are considering, private schools (which are not for us), or schools further afield - like a private school that became a free school last September.

Obviously, we have to consider if we have a chance of getting places, which is why the field is much narrower than all seventeen. There are so many faith schools here - I can rule out five immediately on that basis because we wouldn't meet the criteria and three more where we would have a chance but may not want to. Take away the ones we think are too far and we got down to five - two in the local town, two in the next and one other, all less a 5 mile journey from home.

The difficulty compared to primary is that dammit, the child has an opinion this time! The worry is that they will just try to choose the one that their friends go to. I understand that, I really do, but I know from talking to parents of older children, that although they don't realise this, they will probably have a totally different set of friends at 16 as they will at 11.

So, off we trekked to five open evenings. I've tried to keep Monkey on track and asked him to think about what he wants a school to be what the school would be like on a normal day, not when they are offering food in nearly every room. We went to one school where he ate sweets (lots), paella, shortbread, three different types of cheese, bockwurst, pain au chocolat (apparently seven bits, just to be sure), pretzel, stollen (two bits), croissant, orange squash, shortbread and lasagne. After tea!

I've tried to go with an open mind and have got better at planning our trips after our first when we unexpectedly arrived late due to traffic forcing a detour, listened to the speeches then only had about an hour to see round a large school (impossible, don't try it - allow at least 2-3 hours to see everything, especially if you want to hear the speeches). I'm very much into the "feel" of a place. This article, by a teacher, confirms I'm right to consider that. It's also why I don't just look at the schools at the top of the league tables or rated outstanding. Why? Although results tables are a guide, basing our choice next year solely on the results that will be published soon from summer 2014 doesn't seem right when Monkey will not be taking GCSEs until the summer of 2021, some seven years later. Schools can change a lot, for good or bad, in that time. And Ofsted? Well, I have my own views but it's hard to compare apples with apples when some were inspected recently and others not inspected for five years - again, a lot can happen in that time. It is just a snapshot of what the inspectors found on those two days. They are a guide but I won't let it put me off until I've seen it with my own eyes.

Getting a general feel for a place can be hard to do when there's a lot of people there at open evenings (and trust me, there can be LOADS; one was so popular, it created traffic jams) but we've been talking to the teachers, pupils and observing how the two appear to get on. We've also caught up with a few former pupils from the children's primary school when we've seen them to see how they're enjoying it.

The first school we went to see is our favourite. And you know what? We went to see an "outstanding" school last that I thought I'd like and I didn't like it that much, just like last time. Nor did the husband and neither did Missy, who has come to all but one. However, Monkey decided, having agreed with us, that the last might be his favourite after all! I think it was because there were an awful lot of people visiting who he knew. A lot of his friends are likely to choose there because of where they live. It's our nearest school but we are outside the priority area (for which read catchment) so our chances aren't as good.

We are planning a trip back to the first school (which we saw a month ago) to remind him what it was like, see it in the daytime and see the parts we missed on open evening. I'm certainly glad we are not doing this next year. Our second favourite looks like being a currently unfashionable school but was lovely, friendly and welcoming to visit. Monkey has also been there in the daytime on a school trip. We only went to the open evening because of this and were pleasantly surprised.

I think I'm coming to two conclusions - the first is to go to see schools, even if on paper they don't seem like the best choice and the second is to start at least a year early. If you're not happy after open evening season, you have time to cast the net wider before crunch time. Most schools are happy to show you around on a normal day. I'd ask why not if they don't.

And I've just thought of a third conclusion - you can definitely get open evening fatigue! I'm very glad they're all over but I least I have an idea of what's coming next year. I was going to say "know" but a lot can happen in that time.

PS If you are looking at grammar schools, you might want to start even earlier; some schools have open days in the summer term because of the need to take tests etc. At least check the school's website (and the local authority) for details so you don't miss out.

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