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Growing up

Children don’t come with a manual. All children are unique and have their own strengths and areas where they need encouragement. We love them, we protect them and hopefully they thrive. We then have to give them the skills to cope on their own. My Tommy D is four next month and starts school in September. I’m heartbroken, he’s my Tommy, he’s too little, he’s too young … and breathe grandma! We’ve given him confidence, he’s been surrounded by love and now it’s almost time for him to be in situations where we can’t protect him from stares and occasional cruel or unthinking words.

We’ve been stressing the positives. We talk about his little arm and always have done but I think he now understands that he is ‘different’. Yesterday he said ‘LJ hasn’t got a little arm she’s got 2 big arms’.

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On one of his school visits a child asked what was wrong with his arm and his parent replied ‘he’s poorly’ – we don’t want him to think he’s ill or not normal so we stress how he can do anything but he has to find his own way to do it. My friend Nina (@musicmind) talks about #tommydcan and he really can, he’s inspirational. I think maybe we have overdone the positivity as on meeting new friends at the playground yesterday his opening gambit was ‘I’m Tommy, you want to see my little arm? Shall we build a tunnel’  Long may his confidence last.

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Nursery told us last week that when filling his water bottle another child had gone over to Tommy to do it for him. Tommy explained that ‘I can do it myself, I can use my little arm look’ I love his ‘can do’ attitude (just as well as he know we won’t do things for him that we know he is capable of doing himself)

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I’m heartened greatly by the young people I meet and those who have chosen to support LimbBo foundation (@lbofoundation) – Darton GCSE Art students who illustrated our book, the pupils at St Catherine’s in Sheffield where the student council are looking at our book and working out how to share it, Pupils at Hoyland Common primary who were amazed at the videos of Tommy and working out how his 3D printed arm works. Students at Flamborough Primary who have chosen LimbBo foundation as their Summer project. We want to spread the word that it’s OK to ask, that Tommy is ‘differently abled’ rather than ‘disabled’

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He is the most loving child and as his grandma (mamma) I’m incredibly proud of him and his little sister who I think will be lost when he starts school.

Until them remember #iftommycan then so can you 🙂

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Tommy’s story – the book

The LimbBo foundation continues to develop. 3D printed arms, a planned day out in August and a growing number of people following us and supporting us. 1 - 4

Our book is now in print!! Huge thanks to the year 10 GCSE group at Darton and my friend Amie, their teacher, for their illustrations, Photobox for agreeing to a bulk deal and various people who are ‘testing’ these out in schools.

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I took Tommy into Darton to deliver their copies and for 10 minutes we experienced what fame must feel like. Tommy’s photo has been literally plastered around school for weeks and so as we walked down the corridor (lunchtime – major error on my part!) pupils from all years ‘high fived’ Tommy or just shouted ‘Hiya Tommy’ – he was as bemused as I was but it was wonderful. We went into the Art room where Tommy was greeted with ‘his’ display – ‘Look Mamma it’s me’ – what a day – priceless. If we have done nothing else we have educated pupils here that Difference is OK and something to be embraced.

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The book is for sale on our website and hopefully we can get this into as many schools and nurseries as possible.

When we started this charity we had no idea how much support we would gain – friends, family, colleagues and people who were strangers a few weeks ago.

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A special warmth for me is that my son (who started the charity with his wife) was a pupil at the school where I taught so many of the people helping us are his friends, people I taught years ago – good to see the #Kingstonespirit lives on.

We have a lot of work to do but these are exciting times – if you want to follow us we are on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook too.

Jane x

 

Overwhelmed with kindness

Sometimes you know you need help. You know what your skill set is and, more importantly sometimes, what it isn’t. I have never been able to draw or paint – it’s one of the main reasons I took up photography.

The LimbBofoundation has come a long way in a short space of time and we have many projects ongoing. The book for children was an idea that we needed help to achieve. I’ve written the story and I have friends helping me to shape it. We put out an appeal for an artist to help us. Amie from Darton asked the question ‘why don’t you get pupils to illustrate it?’ Never one to miss out on an opportunity (and we love a good project!) I went into Darton College  to ask for help.

I was encouraged that the pupils all said yes of course we will help but had no idea what I would get. I left them with lots of photographs and the story outline.

I walked into Darton College today and burst into tears! Look what greeted me.

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Look how amazing and how thoughtful. A whole range of skills, ideas, understanding and a sea of smiling faces. These pupils are year 10! What can I say? Education is about educating the whole child – not a cliche in this case, these pupils have empathised and offered their skills. PicMonkey Collage

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I’m not sure yet how or where we will get this book edited – but I do know that we WILL.

(any offers of help gratefully received!) PicMonkey Collage2

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, often people will help willingly but don’t know what you need. Thank You Year 10 x

FINALLY …

Tommy can use a camera by himself. For a couple of years I’ve been campaigning -aka ‘banging on’ and moaning about the fact that there is no such thing as a left handed camera.  (You will find several blog posts on here 🙂 ) None of the major camera companies could help – they suggested remote releases or apps …and whilst I know these work Tommy is 3 and wants to run around and snap what he sees not set up a studio type shot.

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My son (obviously fed up of my moaning ) decided to sort it out for Tommy. With help and advice from friends, a 3D printer, lots of patience and a determination that #Tommycan take photos – the ‘LimbBo Cam buddy’ was created.

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Tommy can hold it easily in his left hand and still press the shutter – he literally squealed when he used it in a cafe and saw what he’d taken. So much so that people came to talk to us and ask what he was using.

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We can now have mama and Tommy camera sessions and he’s so proud of his shots. If you know any child who would benefit from this please contact https://www.limbbofoundation.co.uk/ and we can point you to the design which Adam has made ‘Open source’  . If you don’t have a 3D printer but have a child with a limb difference that would benefit then please get in touch.

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Just goes to show there ‘is always another way’ (@ITLWorldwide) and we can celebrate what #Tommycan do 

Sewing outside the lines

I’m reasonably new to sewing but health issues have forced me to slow down for a while. I need to have projects on the go, I need to create, I need to experiment. I attended a free motion embroidery class which led to the creation of ‘not the norm textiles ‘ with a friend and a series of portraits.

I then decided I needed to be able to sew straight lines which I found a lot more challenging than free motion. I made tissue holders (loads of them)- four straight lines and that’s it – result!
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I progressed to simple pouches/purses – definitely a bit hit and miss with the zippers 😂. I spent hours on Pinterest and worked out how to sew bags, tweaked the patterns and made most of my Christmas presents.
I’m not good at reading Instructions or following patterns – i.e I just don’t do it. Having worked out a basic bag pattern I decided to create a bag using just
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There are no rules I just put scraps of materials over one another and sewed, I used random machine stitches, different angles and whatever scraps I had. It was amazingly liberating, no pins, no straight lines no worries! This can then be cut to a rectangle and used as the front of your bag – here’s my first attempt at scrappy quilting aka sewing outside the lines.
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The kindness of strangers

I’m going through a difficult patch -‘It’s your age’ and ‘you’ll grow out of it’ were phrases my mum often used to say to me. At the moment they are making me smile as I definitely feel that my age and getting older is having an effect. I suddenly seem to have developed various minor ailments which have resulted in doctors visits and subsequent hospital visits. I’m ok but struggling. I’m fine but shattered.
Yesterday I had a biopsy on my tongue – yes it was scary and yes it was painful but due to the kindness of strangers I managed. I was on a day surgery ward where no visitors are allowed. At first we all sat in rows in our own little bubble of worry, expectant faces lifting every time a nurse or doctor appeared.

Gradually we began to chat and form our own little support unit, the elderly lady next to me squeezed my hand and said ‘good luck love’ when I was called. Complete strangers supporting each other.

I know I’m naive but I didn’t realise I would have to go to theatre – I lay there in my gown having my ID band checked and began to shake – sheer nerves. The nurse held my hand and didn’t let go until there was someone else to hold it. I daren’t open my eyes as they cut off a section of my tongue and stitched it back together, but all the time the nurse held my hand and squeezed. I felt safe and cared for, this was above what they are paid to do but that hand just held on and got me through. We talk glibly about giving others a helping hand but I will never forget their kindness.

My new friend reappeared in recovery and we chatted- I was happy to be able to return her kindness and find her husband to tell him how she was as I was released before her.

I can’t eat properly, I’m drinking copious amounts of coffee but am smiling at the kindness of strangers and thanking my lucky stars for our NHS x

Outdoor learning just in the garden

Tommy and LJ love our garden, they love Mamma’s greenhouse (Tommy has been calling me that since he began talking and couldn’t say grandma). We are learning so much by playing outdoors just in this small space.

I wanted to share some free and inexpensive  ideas for developing your garden and using it for fun learning

  1. I’ve left a patch of grass ‘wild’ to encourage butterflies and bees. It looks very wild now and the grasses are almost waist height for Tommy and LJ. They love walking through this and feeling the different textures as well as looking for butterflies.
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  2. Seeds – I saved seeds from poppies, sweet peas and foxgloves last year and we planted these earlier this year. They understand the sequence of plant pot, soil, seeds, more soil, water and writing a label and can now plant seeds with very little help.
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  3. We won a book on Toppsta called ‘Bee and me’ this is a stunning book all about the friendship between a little girl and a bee. It arrived with a packet of beautifully illustrated seeds. Obviously we planted theses and nurtured them ( toppsta is a site where you can look at book reviews and recommendations but can also win ‘ giveaways- well worth a look)
  4. As a result of the above we now spend a lot of time looking for ‘buzzy bees’ and talking about pollen and flowers.
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  5. I caught Tommy outside with his camera taking ‘photos of flowers like mamma’
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  6. We allow the kids to fill up the bird feeders and that’s one of the things they ask to do now.
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  7. Tommy has a digger with a bucket on the front and we collect small items to fit in, leaves, feathers, stones all the while talking about big and little
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  8. We listen for sounds – I could have cried when Tommy said ‘listen to the birds singing’ -Tommy particularly likes aeroplane spotting.
  9. We have picked tomatoes from the green house and eaten them outside ( I have stressed he must always ask me first before eating anything!! Paranoid grandma.)
  10. Tommy uses the hosepipe to water the tubs and we are gradually learning what is the correct amount of water – we’ve had weeks of too much water to get to this stage!


None of this is rocket science I know but I’ve really started to learn about the joys of outdoor learning as I have been privileged to work with Juliet Robertson ( take a look at her blog there are so many ideas on there!)  on two of her books Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths ( both by Crown House ). I now think about the language I use and can see joy in the kids faces when we lay on the floor to look at a green caterpillar or Tommy asks what the berries are on the tree. I love it when they are excited to see starlings feeding their young or when LJ makes piles of pebbles. Yes they get dirty and my hosepipe is Tommy’s favourite toy but they are outside playing and learning to love nature which has got to be a good thing 

We did buy some items, a magnifying glass which meant we could look closely for caterpillars and bugs, children’s gardening gloves – they were £1 a pair at a local hardware store, smaller watering cans and the children’s first book of birds from The RSPB.

The (tongue in cheek) grandparent’s guide to indoor play areas

Tommy and LJ love ‘Play Valley’ and a trip there instigates almost mass hysteria. Never underestimate the pull of brightly coloured plastic!

It occurred to me yesterday that there are pearls of wisdom ( tongue firmly in cheek) I can pass on to Rookie grandparents

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  1. Footwear – never wear shoes that have laces or are difficult to get on and off. By ‘difficult’ I mean you must be able to just step out of them at a seconds notice to race after your charges. I know you will usually take them off when you get there but the same rules apply – no 2 year old is going to sit and wait patiently whilst you untie your laces!
  2. Clothes – nothing ‘posh’ nothing restricting – it may be years since you climbed to the top of a huge slide but once your grandchild runs up those squashy stairs and totters at the top – you will have no option but to scramble after them.
  3. Ball pools – may look empty BUT always assume there is a child hidden under the balls (99% of the time there is) so do not allow your grandchild to dive in head first
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  4. Do not assume you can sit at the side sipping your latte in a leisurely fashion – get that fitbit on and realise the only way to cope is to get in the middle of the melee and follow your grandchild within grabbing distance.
  5. Food – you are usually not allowed to take your own food but there will be an enticing ‘bag’ option. Do not even think about trying to steer toddlers into the healthier option, pick your battles – they are never going to go for a banana when there is the option of chocolate. Give in gracefully and eat half of it yourself.
  6. Don’t underestimate the fearlessness, agility or speed of your grandchildren. I am still cringing as LJ (who is 19months) pushed a 5 year old down the slide yesterday as she was sitting at the top too scared to move and was in her way!
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  7. Change their nappies before you go – they will create such a fuss if you try to take them away from the coloured plastic for something as mundane as a nappy change.
  8. The machines that require money for a ride are always ‘broken’ well that’s what I always tell my two – having once made the error of saying one ride only each …
  9. Always smile encouragingly and sympathetically at a grandparent who is trying to coax their toddler to leave – it won’t make a difference but hopefully someone will return the favour and smile in sympathy with you when it’s your turn to leave.
  10. Take your phone or a compact camera – the smiles and joy are worth all the aches and pains you will have tonight – and reliving it over a glass of wine in the evening will make you smile.
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A break through …

The lack of left handed cameras is frustrating, as is the lack of understanding on the part of major manufacturers. However, we are undeterred and yesterday saw a breakthrough for us.

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We were in a cafe when Tommy put his camera onto the table and looked at the live view screen, he shook his head and said ‘can’t see you mama’ He was actually trying to line up his shot! I am so incredibly proud of him. He usually balances the camera on his little arm and presses the shutter with his left.

JMH_1252  Later on I put my own camera away and realised I was thinking about tripods in the wrong way – he doesn’t need a proper size one just a miniature one. I had a very small gorrilla pod and attached it to his camera – we then laid on the floor – RESULT – look at this photo of LJ – Now look closely in the bottom right hand corner – total fluke but you can see myself and Tommy in the reflection in the cooker. Its not an ideal solution but it’s one we are going to continue to experiment with.

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#tenfingersareoverrated #luckyfinsrock

Taking air quality for granted

There was an interesting article published in the Guardian today saying that 300 million children live in areas of extreme pollution.

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It made me think about the little things I saw in Shanghai last week about how pollution is a part of a school’s daily life in China.

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On the front door every day is placed an update about the atmosphere that day with a green/amber/red rating and any additional measures that need to be taken. As you can see here this was a green day – lots of rain that week so the air was quite clear.

The school has ‘pollution days’ where it is not possible for children to attend in the same way that in the UK we sometimes have ‘snow days’ and the school has to close.

In the grounds there is a large white tented structure which is used on amber days to allow the pupils access to outdoors whilst still being protected.

It was a little strange to see people wearing masks around school and in workshops but it’s just an accepted fact of life.

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I’ve been for a beautiful autumnal walk this morning at my local RSPB and it did make me think how much we actually take for granted.

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