Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017 and the first post of the new year.  This is my traditional Janus-like post where I look back upon the year just gone and the one that lies before us.

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Aye, Eye(?) Capt’n

The catch up of the Summer break continues, but this deserves a page all of its own.  One of the many things we had been meaning to do and Lucinda finally managed to tick off the list over the summer was to take the girls to the opticians.  Both Lucinda and I wear glasses so the chances that our children will need corrective lenses of some sort in the future is likely to be high.  As neither of the girls had ever complained about fuzzy vision and neither have any problems watching the television, iPad or reading we never thought of it as a high priority.  However two things changed our minds and hence why we took them to the opticians to have their first professional check up.  The first was that Éowyn mentioned that occasionally she sees flashing lights in the corner of her eye.  Obviously this concerned us and so we felt it was imperative that she received an appointment.  The second was a seemingly throw away comment on Amélie’s reception year check up.  All children in the reception year receive a checkup, it is a general all-purpose check up but at least it may highlight issues while they are still young.  Amélie’s report said that she may have a lazy left eye.  Not really knowing what this was, and it sounds innocuous enough, we dismissed it a little but thought that the optician would be able to explain it a little more.

Lucinda was unable to get both girls an appointment at the opticians at the same time so Amélie, that we were not so worried about, went first.  She covered her left eye and read the whole chart with her right eye – perfect vision.  Then the shock came.  She covered her right eye and tried to read the chart with her left eye and couldn’t even make out the first letter on the top line, not just a lazy eye, but a bone idle eye.  Amélie was upset and so was Lucinda.  We had no idea that her eyesight in her left eye was so bad.  She had never complained and it hadn’t affected her reading, indeed she is top of her class for reading.

Amblyopia (the medical term for Lazy Eye) is relatively common and occurs when one of the yes fails to develop properly and so the brain relies on the ‘good eye’.  It is difficult to detect until the child is old enough to have a sight test (around the age of 4) because the eyes are still developing. The younger a child is when treatment starts the better the chance of curing the condition.  The good side of amblyopia is that it is not a physical problem, as such (although an underlying physical issue can have caused the amblyopia in the first place), it is a problem with how the brain processes the images from that eye.  Therefore, it is possible to reverse the effects though non-invasive procedures.

The first part of the treatment is to be prescribed corrective lenses, to encourage the brain to use the eye because it will be receiving useful images.  Amélie was at the opticians and so she was measured for glasses and they were ordered.  The report from the optician was sent to the local hospital so that an appointment with an ophthalmologist can review the treatment and suggest treatments and exercises.  The most likely treatment will be patch therapy where the ‘good eye’ is covered with a plaster to force the ‘lazy eye’ to work.  This retrains the brain to start using the eye again and with the corrective lens in her glasses this should reaffirm that brain/eye connection.

Although Amélie is nearly six and thus may be a little older than is ideal for catching the condition, she is still young enough to respond well to treatment.  We are just waiting for the hospital appointment and our chat with the ophthalmologist to fully understand the next stage.

Obviously Amélie was upset but choosing two pairs of glasses cheered her up a little.  She is also concerned about the patch therapy (even though we haven’t started it yet) and whether the other children at school will laugh at her.  I told her that she would be a pirate princess and that she would be able to make up some stories about her adventures on the high seas.  This seemed to work but we will have to wait until she begins the therapy to see how that goes.  She has begun to wear her glasses though and being five and six years old none of the other children have bothered her about them.  They are all very accepting.  Let’s hope the same can be said when she starts coming into school with an eye-patch.

Lucinda and I have both been on a bit of guilt trip about it because we feel as parents we should have known.  I suppose one of the many gifts you are given when you have children is parental guilt.  We could have, and perhaps should have taken her to the opticians earlier in the year but the outcome would have still be the same, but at least she would be further down the treatment path.  We keep thinking should we have noticed.  She doesn’t have any problems reading or watching screens.  She can catch a ball and doesn’t show any lack of stereoscopic vision.  Indeed if it wasn’t for the opticians tests we still wouldn’t know.  I suppose we could have asked her to cover her eyes and ask her to read an eye chart but, and maybe we are strange here, we don’t have one hung on our living room wall.  All we can do is help her through this and ensure that she follows the ophthalmologist and optician’s recommendations and hopefully in six to nine months it will be just one of those phases that has no far-reaching consequences.  She has been through worse with her cow’s milk protein intolerance so she is made of stern stuff and she will no doubt come through this with hopefully 20/20 vision by her seventh birthday.  As always, I will keep you updated through the medium of this website.

So, with that happening in the morning and with the Baguette that we didn’t think had a problem Lucinda was more than a little trepidatious to go back that afternoon with Éowyn.  As you may recall from the top of this page, Éowyn had complained that she had seen flashing lights in the corner of her eye.  This obviously rings alarm bells and the optician ran through a barrage of tests to ensure that there were no underlying causes for these lights.  After nearly two hours of testing the optician could find no problems with Éowyn’s eyes.  She has 20/20 vision and there were no physical reasons that she would have seen flashing lights and since it only happened once she put it down to one of those things.  She did caveat this with ‘Do not hesitate to bring her straight back if she sees the lights again.‘ something that I really don’t think that she needed to say to us!

So we wait with bated breath for the hospital appointment to discover the regimen prescribed by the ophthalmologist to hopefully restore Amélie’s eyesight to 20/20, but in the meantime there will be plenty of photos of our bespectacled daughter gracing the pages of this corner of the internet.  The photo below is from the day she picked them up.

Peace and Love


Amélie with glasses
Amélie with glasses

The Guinea Pigs went on holiday too!

I truly feel like I am spoiling you at the moment.  Two large write ups covering our holiday in Europe (and no, not the decades of EU membership) and now a third in just over a fortnight.  You should feel blessed.

So what brings the keyboard out again so soon?  Bookends of stories surrounding the holiday that I thought best sat outside the holiday write up itself.  With work being manic before I went on holiday (and indeed has been doubly so on my return, hence the delay in this triptych of essays) there was not time to squeeze in an update before we left, so let me make amends.

So last we spoke of more mundane activities the football season had just drawn to end and I was hoping that work would calm down.  There was a lot to do before going on holiday and I knew that would mean some long hours but was hoping for some quality sleep.  All three children are relatively good at sleeping.  Ezra may wake early, and then go into his sisters’ room and tries to wake one of them up (usually Amélie, because she sleeps on the bottom bunk) but the nights are usually undisturbed.  That first night after the final day of the season (or not the final day of the season as it turned out, due to a bomb scare at Old Trafford) I only managed half the amount of sleep that I usually get.

We put the children to bed as usual but around 2100 we heard Ezra crying.  He doesn’t usually cry so I went up to see what the problem was but couldn’t rouse him.  Thinking it was just a bad dream, tucked him back in and came back downstairs.  As we went to bed Ezra was crying again, Lucinda went into him and he woke complaining of a tummy ache.  We tried to calm him and gave him some Calpol but it wasn’t comforting him.  Then he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Daddy, you take me to the doctors please.‘  There was such a level of earnest pleading in his voice that I could not refuse him.  It broke your heart to hear him pleading.  All sorts of horrible things went through our minds and so I wrapped him up and took him to the walk-in clinic (there is no local A&E any more it has been replaced by a walk-in clinic).  When I got there it was closed.  It is only open 0800-2200 and by this time his was experiencing bouts where he was screaming in pain.  So I got him back into the car and hot-tailed it down the motorway to our nearest A&E.

St. Peter’s hospital in Chertsey is where all three of the Baguettes were born and the nearest A&E department.  In addition to the standard A&E department St Peter’s has a separate paediatric A&E department.  I was surprised how busy both A&E departments were when we arrived but in fairness we saw a triage nurse very quickly but it was a couple of hours before we saw the doctor.  Ezra was much calmer in the hospital, he had occasional bouts of pain but was probably a little tired not to mention over-awed by the occasion.  We were directed to a cubicle to wait for the doctor so I popped Ezra on the bed and as the doctor came in to ask me what the symptoms were, Ezra had fallen into a deep sleep.  This allowed the doctor to give him a full examination and thankfully it was nothing that was part of the many scenarios that had been running through my mind.  He simply had constipation which had caused his bowel to go into spasm.  So painful yes, but some paediatric laxatives would cure the issue.  It was nice to know that it was nothing major but I could have done without 3 hours of sleep at the start of such a busy week!

Midweek it was a ‘Stay and Play’ opportunity with Amélie’s class.  Since Lucinda had her wards on a Wednesday I took the opportunity to spend the first 30 minutes of the school day with Amélie and her class.  It was a good opportunity to see what they get up to at school and have a detailed look into the things that they are doing and have been doing recently.  There were the usual toys for them to play with (including Lego and Stickle Bricks – I haven’t seen Stickle Bricks for ages and remember playing with them at school when I was about the same age) as well as a table to learn maths, a shop and a table set up as an Indian restaurant, where they had a taste test the previous week.  The 30 minutes seemed to go quite quickly and I said goodbye to Amélie before reluctantly rejoining the adult world.

The first weekend after the end of the football season and the last before our holiday was quite busy.  It was Lucinda’s birthday mid-week and so we decided to have a little get together for some of her closest and oldest friends (oldest as in, known the longest rather than physical age!).  We had planned on this being a barbecue but as per the summer of 2016 so far it was threatening rain and relatively cold, so the barbecue was left in the shed and we made do with a buffet.  It was also the day of the F.A. cup final and so after an afternoon on genial chat we gravitated into three separate groups.  The kids were all off playing upstairs, rehearsing shows that they put on for us later that day; the boys were huddled around the television watching the football and drinking beer while the ladies sat in the garden drinking wine and catching up with gossip.  A good time was had by all and we decided that we do not host enough get togethers and have promised (to ourselves) to try to rectify this in the future.

The next day saw mommy left at home while Daddy and the Baguettes heading north up the M40 to West Bromwich and Nanny Fran.  We were obviously going on holiday, the next weekend and so needed someone to look after the guinea pigs.  Unfortunately, no one in the area could come round and look after them in situ, so we asked Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz if they would look after them, and they thankfully said yes.

The plan was that all five of us would head up to nanny Fran’s in the S-Max and it would all be nice and easy.  However, the S-Max decided that it would display an engine malfunction light and was booked into the garage for the following day, therefore it was down to the trusted Civic to make the journey.  Now a Honda Civic is a mid-sized car but the guinea pig cage is anything but and it was only just possible to squeeze the cage, their food, sawdust and hay, the guinea pigs themselves and the Baguettes in.  There was no room left for Lucinda.

It really was a flying visit with a drop off and a couple of hours rest and refuelling (us, not the car) before heading back home.  We had a week before our holiday began but Toffee and Frazzle were on theirs.

We returned from holiday on the Monday and thus were unable to go and collect the guinea pigs off theirs until the weekend.  The week saw the girls return to school, what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday and my return to work and over 4,000 emails.  I had deliberately not looked at any of my emails while on holiday (and I had informed everyone that I was doing that) hence why my inbox had bloomed.  It was a wise decision despite the pruning that is still required because it meant that I wasn’t tempted to keep checking my phone every five minutes and getting frustrated that I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t completely out of touch though and I had told everyone that I would be taking phone calls and text messages – which I did on every day (bar one) that I was in Italy.  That sounds bad but a quick phone call is so much easier to deal with than the saga that an email chain can become.

The weekend quickly came and Saturday saw the five of us in the S-Max heading to Nanny Fran.  We stopped at our friends in High Wycombe on the way for lunch and a catch up.  It may seem weird to say but I actually think that the guinea pigs missed the hustle and bustle of the family and the Baguettes had missed their pets.  It was some much more comfortable heading back down the motorway with the guinea pig cage in the S-Max than it had been on the way up to Nanny Fran’s in the Civic.

Life’s now settling into its usual routine for the Baguettes for the last few weeks of the academic year and as this update is a little belated there will be another in a couple of weeks to get you up to speed with more recent events.

Before I leave a quick shout out to my Auntie Margaret who is waiting for heart surgery to repair her aortic valve.  Get well soon and when you are up to it we’ll come down for a visit.


Peace and Love