One of the things we’ve really enjoyed about California and specifically, our neighbourhood, is the opportunity to spend time in nice parks. We have a lovely park at the end of our street – there are always families there having parties, barbecues, playing sports etc. A few weeks back, our ward had a BBQ in the park and we got the chance to eat some good food and meet some new people. It’s also popular for fitness – there’s some outdoor fitness equipment there, basketball, tennis courts, joggers etc. Often people bring their own gazebos, volleyball nets, football nets, decorations etc. and section off a part of the park for their occasion. Because the weather is always lovely, we find ourselves there most weeks for a picnic and a play.
Last Sunday after Church, we wanted to take a drive somewhere. We made a picnic and had it in the car ready to go. We decided to drive to the Oakland temple to have a look around and have the picnic. The temple is really impressive – it has a unique architectural style and the grounds are beautiful – palm trees, fountains etc. There is a Christus statue in the visitors centre, as well as an interactive model of Jerusalem and a viewing area that offers an incredible view of the bay area, right over to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The children were so excited to be at the Temple and enjoyed the whole experience. Eve asked if she could say a prayer and knelt down quietly on the grass with her arms folded for a few minutes. The other children followed her lead. Maybe we shouldn’t have photographed a moment like that, but it was too cute to resist. Eve said that she felt really happy and was delighted to have said a special prayer at the Temple.
It seems like a long time ago now, but we wanted to put something up about our trip to London to obtain US Visas. We were under the impression form everything we had read that the children would need to be with us in person when we presented at the US Embassy, so we decided to make a short break of it. I’ve worked a lot in London these past few years and the children were always eager to hear about what it was like, so they were excited at the chance to see it for themselves.
Here are some of the highlights in pictures…
One of this highlights for all of us was a visit to the Natural History Museum. We knew the kids would enjoy this, but we hadn’t anticipated just how much. Joshua, in particular, was so excited, bouncing from one glass display to the next and shouting “Look! A dinosaur egg! Look! A sea sponge!”. We’ve noticed that Josh has a real interest in science and seems to retain scientific facts well and analyse things. We were thrilled to see all of the kids enjoying this educational experience so much, but especially Josh.
We were dreading the train journeys a little – 3 hours on a busy train with 5 little ones could have been disastrous. What’s more, for the train ride home, we had been booked into THE QUIET CARRIAGE!
We were really pleased though – the kids were amazing. They do seem to sense when they need to co-operate and we remembered back to our trip to Disneyland Paris a few years back where the kids, who were obviously quite a bit younger, following a flight, a train journey and a bus ride, walked a couple of miles through a Paris suburb, pulling their ‘trunkie’ suitcases, not complaining.
We explained that only whispers are allowed in the Quiet Carriage and to our astonishment, it worked! I’m pretty sure the Percy Pigs helped too…
As it happened, the children didn’t need to be there in person to obtain visas… after buying train tickets and accommodation for the whole family, waiting in line, then waiting some more, the US official who interviewed us opened with “You know you didn’t have to bring the children, right?”. Maybe we didn’t have to, but we were glad that we did anyway.
For one of our first days out, before Dave had started at Apple, we headed out to Big Basin Redwood Park to see some giant redwood trees. After a twisty drive through the Santa Cruz mountains, we arrived at the park, loaded Olive into the baby carrier and set off on one of the family-friendly trails.
We really enjoyed our time there – the children were keen to take photos of the trees, so we stopped for photos every few steps and they all took turns. Eve seems particularly interested in photography and takes good photos. The photo above is by Lucy.
I know she is still just a baby, but it really is incredible to me how Olive has shown strength, courage and determination through the whole process she has been through, having been born with bilateral talipes. Not only that but she has done it in such a graceful, gentle and peaceful way. She has had treatment for severe bilateral talipes (clubfoot) on both feet from being 10 days old. She’s been through weekly painful hospital visits where her feet were manipulated and stretched into new positions and put in casts each week. She’s been cut having the casts taken off. She’s had sore skin from repeated applications of friars balsam to try and keep those pesky casts on her legs. She’s had casts slip off numerous times, an operation on the tendon of each foot and now wears boots and a bar everyday for 23 hours a day. She’s suffered from very sore and broken skin on her feet from the constant wear and rubbing of the hard leather on her bare skin. Yet she has done it all without any fuss, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. In fact she is a very calm and serene baby.
In the grand scheme of things, talipes really isn’t a big issue. We are so lucky to live in a time and place where treatment is so readily available and our beautiful little girl has the hope of being able to enjoy things that I know I have always taken for granted. How lucky we are! We are not yet at the end of the road with her treatment. She may need more operations, she will certainly have to wear the boots and bar for longer but the end is in sight now and after a rocky start she is progressing really well.
Overall the whole experience has been a good and uplifting one. It has taught our whole family a lot. I remember doing some lessons with the children last summer as part of our Mum’s summer MTC. I was heavily pregnant with Olive and we already knew she had bilateral talipes (we found out at the 20 week scan), though we didn’t know how severe it was. I taught the children a number of lessons about disabilities. We are all different and have different bodies, sometimes we can see those differences and sometimes we can’t but we are all of worth, are all important, all deserve to be treated with kindness and all have valuable things to give and contribute to others. I remember the children tearing up a bit when Dave and I explained that the baby we were going to have would have feet that were a bit different. They were so sad. Not because they would love her any less, perhaps the opposite actually. They feared other people would laugh at her.
Since Olive has been born I have only once (last week actually) encountered someone laugh at her. A boy who I thought was really old enough to know better, and I admit I did have to quench that mother’s rage which flew up inside me. Luckily none of that rage escaped my body and I was able to smile and move away! On reflection though, I know that boy didn’t mean any harm. It was a naturally reaction to him. Infact I do know that he does suffer from an ‘unseen’ disability. He wasn’t trying to be rude or hurtful and I need to have as much patience towards his reaction as I expect others to show kindness towards my daughter.
We have had lots of genuine, inquisitive comments from little children too. They normally go along the lines of “what’s that thing on her feet?” I normally give a straight forward, simple explanation which they are very happy with and let them have a good look. Dave however, usually tells them it’s a hover board just like Tree Fu Tom’s!
I think as a family, we are all slowly learning to be a little kinder, more understanding and patient, more aware and inclusive of others. Obviously we can always do better, but experiencing talipes in our family has been a good experience for us. We do feel extremely fortunate that really, Olive’s condition can be corrected with relative ease.
Unfortunately there are parts of the world where people born with talipes aren’t able to get this relatively simple treatment. This is so sad!!!
‘Global Clubfoot Initiative’ is a great resource to find out more about this. It links and supports charitable organisations who are trying to help those affected with talipes, who don’t have access to treatments around the globe. You can click through to learn more about individual charities helping on the ground in different parts of the world. The stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
The most frustrating aspect of receiving Olive’s diagnosis of Talipes (primarily at the 20 week scan but then confirmed at birth) was the lack of information given to us. Once Olive was born and her treatment journey began there was great support for her and us, but there was a clear gap and strong need for more information throughout the duration of the pregnancy. Despite being one of the most common birth defects (affecting approx. 1 in 1000 births) the medical professionals dealing with me at the time didn’t know much about Talipes or what treatment might be involved. I had to do my own research on the internet – risky business people! We did however, come across STEPS. An excellent resource with the information parents really need to know about Talipes.
Watch this space for a post on Olive’s first (real) shoes…
On our way home from Achnagairn, we split the journey up and stayed overnight in Kinross. Just before we left Achnagairn, we went over to the lodges to say some more goodbyes. Olive was sitting on the grass on a patch of clovers. Marian fished out something from her mouth. It was only a four leaf clover! What a perfect note to end the holiday on as we look towards new beginnings for our family. A good luck token. Well done Olive!
During the journey to Kinross we spent time in Aviemore enjoying ice creams in the sun and playing in the park with Oma, Opa, Julie and Ray. We indulged in a carvery meal at Perth and ended the day with bedtime stories with the Brass’s who were next door to us in the travelodge.
On Saturday we had a quick stop at Holy Island. The tide was out so we drove along the causeway and pointed out the monastery to the children. The car parks were packed full so we turned around and made our way to Bamburgh. I couldn’t resist getting a few snaps of these wildflowers which covered the ground by the causeway. It was such a beautiful sight, especially on such a perfectly sunny day and with such lovely views over to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh. I have a weakness for fields full of flowers! It was a beautiful sunny day and we planned to spend it on the beach.
We had the best time on the beach. We’ve always loved Bamburgh, it is such a quaint seaside town, full of history. The splendour of the imposing castle against the natural rugged coastal landscape is breathtaking, particularly when the skies are clear and blue and there is a heat haze on the horizon. I love that you have to cross the village green and then climb over windy sand dunes to get to the perfectly still and calm beach that stretches as far as the eye can see.
The incredibly organised packing of clothes and things for the start of our holiday failed me (as usual) on our way home. We made do with odd items we could easily pull out of bags that were within reach and headed to the beach with our many bags and babies. It’s not easy to negotiate the soft sand of the dunes when hands are full and there is a baby in a buggy! Eventually we found a nice spot and the fun began.
The children enjoyed running freely and chasing the tide, building moats and sand castles, digging holes and paddling in warm pools of water. The beach was so empty that we could easily keep an eye on them.
I loved running up and down the beach taking a ridiculous number of photographs, trying to capture the perfect moments going on and the happy feelings I had. It’s a hard thing to capture such deep feelings on a photograph especially when you are such a novice. The perfect shot alluded me, but i did get lots of snaps to remind me of the day.
My favourite moment of the day was helping Olive dip her toes into the sea for the first time. I can’t even describe the joy of seeing her plant her straightened feet in the soft sand and seeing the gentle waves roll over her toes. Her expressions moved between serious concentration, awe and pure excitement! I love that little girl. I love those feet. I can’t wait for the day when she stands on her two feet unaided, when she walks and runs and jumps. I hope to see the good she’ll be able to do with those feet in the future as she wears them out serving others.