llywela: (seascape-rainbow)
Happy birthday to my beautiful niece, who is two years old today

It has been a very difficult two years. We were in court yesterday afternoon, hoping to secure her future - at the fourth time of asking. Her mother, my little sister, is very young and autistic with a moderate learning disability, and although she loves her daughter she has not been able to parent her full time, while the baby’s father is a feckless little flake with a possible undiagnosed learning disability, who has proved worse than useless. So my parents are raising the baby, who is bright and articulate and is thriving, but social services kept raising concerns about their age, as both are in their 60s - it was when a social worker stated that the baby was still young enough to be taken away and adopted out that we went out and got a solicitor and applied for a court order that would secure her future within the family

We have a plan. My parents are in good health and are wonderful with the baby, she is thriving under their care. My sister lives at home with them, and as they age and she matures, she will have every chance to begin to step up and take on more responsibility, gradually assuming full time care of her daughter - but if that proves impossible, if she can’t manage it, that’s where I come in. It may well be that my niece will come to me in the end - I am the backup plan. This is a family arrangement that we are all comfortable with, one that will result in the least possible disruption to my niece’s life.

We just needed someone in authority to agree. We’ve been in court four times now this year. The first two times were adjourned because the baby’s father didn’t show up, and the court wanted to give him ‘every chance’ to have his say. The third time, he did show up, but then the court legal advisor was dubious about my parents’ age and wondered if social services should be doing more to provide support, and she swayed the three magistrates, who decided that they couldn’t possibly make a decision, so referred the case to a judge - costing us more time and money and stress.

Finally, yesterday, we got to see a judge. The baby’s father did not turn up. The judge took exactly ten minutes to decide that the arrangements and plans we have in place are entirely sensible, pointed out that no one can predict the future, so the best we can do is put in place a plan for now, which is what we have done, and passed the child arrangement order that we had requested.

Finally! We can now celebrate the baby’s birthday without all this stress hanging over our heads!
llywela: (seascape-rainbow)
It's been ages since I posted here! I have a whole stack of photos from various outings over the summer, and kept meaning to picspam them, but somehow I never quite got around to it - so those will have to keep for a summer retrospective post or two down the line, because instead I am going to skip over those other outings and picspam yesterday, which I spent at the Monkey World primate sanctuary in Dorset with Ian, Mum, Chelsea and Layla-May.

Now, as a family we have followed the story of Monkey World for the best part of two decades now, as the goings on at the park are filmed for the telly - which both raises the profile of their work and also provides a steady revenue stream to keep the park going. But somehow we'd never managed to make the journey down there - at two-and-three-quarter hours, it's a long way to go and back in a day! But with the park celebrating its 30th anniversary, and Layla-May about to turn 2, we decided to bite the bullet and make the journey.

The date of the journey was chosen based on Ian's shift patterns and my annual leave availability, so we were a bit dismayed when the appointed day came and brought with it torrential rain. Still, undeterred, we set off on our travels, and took the rain with us for pretty much the entire almost-three-hour journey - but then, as we got close to the park, a miracle happened: it stopped raining at last! And it stayed dry for most of the day, despite every forecast having predicted steady rain for the entire day - it was gloomy and grey, to be sure, with a bit of drizzle here and there, but unlike Legoland a few weeks earlier, we managed to stay dry all day.

And Layla-May had a wonderful time, splashing in all the puddles in her welly boots!


Picspam continues behind the cut )
llywela: peacock in front of Cardiff Castle Keep (Castell Caerdydd)

Who needs Wonder Woman when you can have Wonder-Layla! Look at that face, that is the face of a baby who knows that she is magnificent. Just turning 21 months, she's as tall as a three-year-old and growing ever more conversational by the day, forming new sentences all the time and taking great delight in learning new words, the bigger the better. 'Tambourine', 'bandicoot', 'octopus', 'xylophone', 'humongous' - say a big word within earshot, and she'll have a stab at saying it. She can count up to ten, as well (except for seven, she always skips seven. And then gives herself a round of applause at ten). She laughs all the time, loves reading books and going for walks and playing with toy cars (and balls, and building blocks, and animals, and just about anything, really), and her favourite cartoons are Bing and Peter Rabbit, which she tends to get very emotionally involved with. She's nervous when Peter Rabbit is chased by the fox or farmer, and upset when Bing Bunny is upset...with empathy like that, this child has a bright fandom future ahead of her! She might even grow some real hair, someday.

On a different note, the fella and I continued our current theme of castles by paying a visit on Saturday to Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire - a much shorter journey than to Powis the other week!


So, this is Chepstow Castle, which sits atop a cliff at the edge of the River Wye, right on the border between Wales and England. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain, dating to 1067 - having conquered England the previous year, William had to consolidate that victory by guarding his borders, and the Welsh border was a particular problem for him!

Picspam and tour continued behind the cut - click on the images to see them full size )
llywela: (seascape-rainbow)
It has been a very long few days, celebrating the 21st birthday of the Small Sis


I feel old now! Ian and I took her to Alton Towers yesterday. Three and a half hours there and then back again, but it was totally the right day to go, a term-time weekday, overcast and a bit chilly - there were no queues for any of the rides, we just went straight onto everything. Even I did most of the big ones, some of them twice!

Today...there was less fun stuff going on, Mum and Dad and Chelsea had to be at the magistrate's court, because Mum and Dad are applying for a child arrangement order for Layla-May, which will give them joint parental responsibility, which is a really long story that I'm not up to going into right now, but it's been bubbling along for some time now and will continue to do so for a while yet, as the magistrate adjourned the hearing for eight weeks while CAFCASS do a report, and anyway, Ian and I took Layla-May out for the day while all that was going on, and she had an absolutely lovely day with 'Doh' and 'Ina' (last week it was 'Ani' - one day she will get all of Ian's syllables in the right order!). We went to Dyffryn House in the Vale of Glamorgan - it's only 20 minutes or so by car, and the weather was glorious, not a cloud in the sky.

Layla had a lovely afternoon. She spent a lot of time playing with dandelions, learning how they work


She took her turn sitting on the old stone lions, just like everyone else in the family before her


She practiced going up and down steps


And up and down, and up and down, and up and down some more! She also had soooo much fun splashing in the fountain in the Pompeian Garden - she does love water, so very much


And then we spent ages watching bugs and leaves floating about in the newt pond, but she wasn't allowed to stick her hands in that one, and because I told her so many times not to go in the water, she started saying it for me! "No-no, Lay, don't go water!" So cute!

We also took some time for a little rest


We are getting more and more sentences these days. "No, I not sleepy!" is a particular favourite. She also cracks baby jokes - she'll lie down and say, "I go sleep," followed by fake snores, which is hilarious if you are only one! She is almost 20 months old, taller than some two-year-olds, with a rapidly growing vocabulary. She's very happy and well-adjusted, which is all thanks to my parents, really, for providing her with such a stable home and a loving upbringing, while her parents take it in turns to flake out. Chelsea is back onto a relatively even keel at the moment, so now Jamie has vanished into the wind. Maybe one day things will settle down a little - here's hoping, for Layla's sake
llywela: (Cymru-CastellCaerdydd)
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus i chi gyd!

llywela: (Layla-May)
I have fallen off the radar a bit lately - things have been slightly manic! But over the weekend my little niece celebrated her first birthday, so let us mark the occasion with a birthday post.

To celebrate, we gathered on Saturday at Cefn Mably farm park with a few small cousins, and Layla-May had her very first pony ride, petted animals and played on the swings and slide.


For the birthday itself, on Monday, we went out for a family meal, and Layla ran all over the restaurant making friends with everyone she met.


Then back at home, there was the ceremonial opening of presents, which was both very exciting and very overwhelming for a little one.


A tea party followed, and we learned that Layla-May really, really does not understand this whole 'singing Happy Birthday' thing, that's just weird! But she LOVES chocolate cake.

Happy birthday, Layla-May
llywela: (flower - bluebell)
On Bank Holiday Monday my sister - the older one, who lives near Maidstone - had the bright idea of a family gathering at Westonbirt Arboretum, which is not quite halfway between our homes but near enough. Meeting there has been a tradition for almost 20 years now, ever since Deb moved out and baby Chelsea moved in and we all met up at Westonbirt for Chelsea's first birthday, which is in early May, bluebell season. That first year, when Chel was about to turn one, she insisted on walking the whole way around, because she loved being on her feet, and we took photographs of her sitting in a field of bluebells. It became a birthday tradition - another year, another bluebell photo...although not always at Westonbirt. But this year Deb wanted to meet, to see Chelsea for her birthday and take another photo of her in the bluebells, this time with her own baby on her knee. So despite the dodgy forecast we got in our cars and headed to the Arboretum, and it wasn't so bad at first, a bit chilly, a spot of drizzle, we met and had lunch...and then the heavens opened.

So no bluebell photo this year, not at Westonbirt at any rate. But today Chelsea and I took Layla-May to St Fagans, and two days have made all the difference in the weather, for it was glorious. And we then happened upon a bank of bluebells that we weren't expecting to find there - too good a chance to pass up!

So here is Chelsea Leigh in the bluebells on May 3rd 1997, aged almost 12 months:
1997-05-03 Chelsea.jpg

And here is Layla-May in the bluebells on 4th May 2016, aged 7-and-a-half months:

randomness

Mar. 14th, 2016 07:36 pm
llywela: (Cranford-boating)
Took a Mother's Day walk around Cosmeston Lakes near Penarth last week - crisp and clear, it felt properly spring for the first time this year. Plus, pretty!


Poppy and Alfie being cute


Yesterday I had an injured magpie in the garden - I was out pottering around in the sun, the bird was cowering in a corner behind my biggest pot, and I ended up spending most of the afternoon chasing the cats away from it! Mr Huntsman Alfie got bored and wandered off pretty quickly, but Poppy, who has never caught live prey in her life, remained fascinated and kept going back to edge in close and stare at the bird, like she thought if she stared hard enough it might walk into her mouth. I honestly thought I was going to find a sad little corpse out there this morning, but it seems to have recovered and flown off overnight. Either that or something else had it - but there's no evidence of a violent struggle, so I'm going with the happy ending theory!

Layla-May's future is decided: she is going to be a Time Lord! Here she is modelling her best First Doctor expression


Also: more cuteness
P1130818.jpg P1130817.jpg P1130810.jpg
llywela: (Xmas)
...and everyone was ill. That's how it seemed, anyway!

My older sister, Deb, had a lumbar puncture on December 22nd, somehow still thought it would be a good idea to drive all the way from Maidstone to Cardiff on the 23rd, had to spend three days lying flat in a darkened room to recover, and then carried on down to Cornwall to visit her husband's family, so we barely saw her really. And my younger sister, Chelsea, had to go to the doctor late on Christmas Eve - the doctor was actually leaving for the day when we rang, but came back just to see her! Turned out, the cold she'd been battling for a couple of weeks at that point had turned to an ear infection, chest infection and sinusitis, and her 'good' eardrum had already perforated. So she spent most of Christmas Day virtually comatose - and was terribly upset to miss her baby's first Christmas. She's still ill now, over a week later. Lots of other people had colds as well, and then just after Christmas Layla-May also caught the cold, which promptly turned to bronchiolitis, so on New Year's Eve she had to go to the doctor as well!

So much sickness and contagion all around - I've managed to avoid all lurgies so far, keeping my fingers crossed it stays that way!

On the bright side, Layla-May managed to have a lovely first Christmas in spite of it all - she had exciting new toys and lots of cuddles. What more could a three-month-old ask for? She's a very happy, contented baby - even now, while she's ill and coughing up phlegm, she's still trying hard to smile at everyone she sees, bless her. The doctor couldn't get over what a happy little thing she is even though she's ill. And so chatty - heaven help us when she starts to figure out actual words...

This is Little Miss Claus with me on Christmas day, exhausted by the tiring business of opening presents and laughing at everyone:


And a very poorly Layla earlier this week, still laughing her head off at me blowing raspberries at her (best joke in the world)


Also over Christmas, visited the Ice Kingdom at Cardiff's Winter Wonderland - the sculptures were beautiful!

llywela: (sunrise-treeoflife)
Layla-May is growing like a weed!



Three guesses who bought the bib in that last picture. I felt we should begin as we mean to go on!

ETA: one more, because: adorbs.
llywela: (Drom-Beka-smile)


Chelsea and Layla came home from hospital last night - Chel was so happy, she was almost singing! She's felt like she was in prison, stuck in hospital.

We lifted Ruby - the little cavalier King Charles spaniel - up to have a sniff of the baby, and she was very perplexed and intrigued. I don't think she'd realised humans could be so small! She was fascinated to note that this tiny new human smelled of all her own humans - and then she tried to lick Layla's face, so we had to pull her away quick!

I will blog about other things again eventually, I promise!
llywela: (flower-blossom)
Like mummy, like daughter:


Chelsea Leigh and Layla-May!
llywela: (birthday balloons)


Layla-May Rose was born at 3.11pm today, weighing in at 8lb 5oz, and I am at last an aunt!

Chelsea has had an absolutely awful time of it, my poor girl. She was taken in for inducement on Wednesday afternoon but for one reason and another they didn't actually start the inducement drugs until after midnight. She dragged through Thursday and Friday in slow labour and then was taken up to the delivery ward overnight on Friday when her waters had broken to be put on a drip to speed things up. It was not an easy delivery, complicated when she developed a high temperature through the morning. They wanted to send her for a c-section, but she had to be seen by about three different anaesthetists, who all came to the same conclusion: that general anaesthetic was not an option as it would not be possible to intubate, because her already narrow airway was slightly swollen. And that freaked her out more than she already was - she was adamant that she did not want surgery, convinced she would die if she did. So they gave her a high epidural (twice because the first one didn't work properly) and a spinal block, in case the c-section was necessary, and took her to surgery for an episiotomy because she couldn't deliver naturally. Then to complicate things further, the baby's shoulders had twisted, so she also ended up with a 3rd degree tear that had to be repaired.

But Layla-May was born in the end, and is very cross and hungry and already pulling all the same faces we saw her making on the 3-D scan!

Both Chelsea and Layla now have a slight temperature, so are being given a broad spectrum antibiotic and tested for infection - they'll probably have to stay in for a few days, we'll play that one by ear.

So. Welcome to the world, Layla-May!

(Images above taken in Recovery - baby only 3 hours old and not even dressed yet! So very brand new!)
llywela: (me-tot-specs)
Well, my niece is due one week tomorrow, but could arrive at any time now, so just for the record, here's her mum. First of all a rear view - not so different from before:


...but then she turns around looking like the side of a house!


And a picture of the happy expectant couple, for the record:


Chel is still not very well and has been into hospital four times in the last week and a half, but they are holding off on an inducement as the hope is for her to have the most natural delivery possible, given the givens. She's with the consultant again this afternoon - so we'll see what happens there!
llywela: (BH-calm)
So my baby sister got engaged last weekend and now I feel really old. She's a baby. They're both babies! Chelsea is 19, Jamie turns 20 next week - and baby Layla is at T-18 days and counting, head engaged, could decide to put in an appearance at any moment.

Later stages of pregnancy proving difficult. The midwife last week was querying gestational diabetes, so Chelsea had tests for that which proved negative, but while she was having those tests she mentioned that she's been extremely itchy and that worried them, so she had more tests which showed that she has obstetric cholestasis, which is not good because it basically means that the liver is beginning to fail and it can cause stillbirth. Chelsea's doctors aren't too concerned just yet, but she has to be monitored closely and be on standby to raise the alarm if the itching gets worse, if she begins to manifest certain other symptoms, or if the baby stops moving. So they're playing a lot of Celine Dion at the moment, because that's what Layla responds to best! Any other kind of music sends her to sleep, but as soon as Celine Dion comes on she starts bopping!

So, that's going on at the moment.

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