Monday, 28 November 2011

I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards........

We have been looking at old photos and organising the computer files.  This one made me laugh.  This is one of our Burmese cats.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

School run subterfuge

Waif's school is about 4 miles from home.  As you, Dear Reader, will know if you have been reading for long, Waif often cycles this in the warmer months but I have vetoed cycling for November through to the February half term as it is too dark and dangerous where she has to negotiate London A roads.

We have near neighbours each with a son at Waif's school and they share a school run in the car.  It is also possible to catch 2 buses to school, or to walk through the park and then catch one bus.  The timings are basically as follows:

cycling:        10 mins
car journey:  15 mins (rush hour traffic and no short cuts across the park make this longer than cycling)
bus:              40 mins to an hour depending on waits  :-(    the first bus runs only every 25 mins so the wait is unpredictable but last month this improved as there is a new iphone app telling you when a bus is due.
walking:       about an hour
walking half way then bus:  about an hour

You can see why Waif likes cycling.

I have provisionally joined the lift share so that Waif can have a lift to school every day.  However, she has been refusing to take it and insisting instead on going by bus.  I have let this ride as I applaud independence and, in London, bus travel is free so it doesn't cost any more.  I still do my turn(s) on the lift share to reserve Waif's ability to get a lift any day she wants one.

Her logic is that she does not want to sit in the back of a car with boys who smell and that she does not know.  They do not in reality smell as far as I have noticed, incidentally, and seem like very nice boys.   One is in the year above her at school and the other is in the year below.  Ho hum, I have merely pointed out that she has no control who sits next to her on the bus..

I have been blind though, Dear Readers.  The Near Neighbour (NN)  I met on bonfire night told me that her anorexic daughter turned out to have been walking to school every day, whilst pretending to get the bus early for extra studying.  This is all about burning off calories.

Waif has been leaving for school at 7.30 even though she now has a new app for her iphone called Buschecker which predicts the arrival of the next bus and so her journey should have been getting shorter.  She has also been staying after school to do art, telling me that she will text when she needs a lift home, and then texting me to tell me she is in fact on the bus.

I told NN that I trusted Waif.  She cautioned me to check up on her.  I had not done that until this morning when one of my Older Daughter's friends arrived at our house for her lift with Older Daughter and remarked she had just seen Waif in the Park.  The Park is not between us and the bus stop.

Waif had been in a strop this morning for at least two reasons:

1.  I had made her scrambled egg and insisted she ate it with 2 pieces of toast; and
2.  her grandparents were staying and she has had issues with her grandfather who has in fact inadvertantly(ish) been quite cruel and hurtful to Waif, and is too "old school" to apologise and make up.  We are only just on speaking terms really although I am not sure he has noticed.

Anyway, whether it was Waif's mood that put me on alert, or just the tip off that she was in the park I am not sure but I threw on my clothes, grabbed Waif's bike from the shed and pedalled off after her.  I caught up with Waif probably 15 minutes after she had left home, trudging through the rain across the Heath half way to school.

Sigh.  I told her she was grounded and insisted she came home (I am not sure why I didn't let her keep going at that point as school was as close as home but I wanted consequences).

She knew she had been rumbled although she half heartedly said she hadn't mentioned the walking as she thought I wouldn't mind whether or not she was walking.  She knew that was a lie.  I explained that I was very hurt and upset that she had lied to me, and worried about her weight, and asked her to promise to be honest so that I can help her.  I will tell her tonight this is the moment at which I now insist on her accepting a lift every day after a cooked breakfast - I expect she will work that out for herself really.  We had a good chat on the way home with her agreeing that any weight under 50kg was much too little and that she would try to eat as much as possible until she was over that.  Her target weight is actually more like 56kg but that is for another day.  One step at a time.  In return, I told her that I was doing my best not to bully her, but more to help give her strategies and insight and she agreed that she did not feel bullied by me (rather surprisingly and I am not sure if that is good or not).

She admitted to also walking home on a few days.  This would mean that she was taking an 8 mile walk with a bag each day she walked both ways.

She did not want the indignity of meeting her grandparents back at the house so I went in first, organised a distraction, and then snuck Waif upstairs for the half hour before the grandparents left.  Waif and I then ate a second breakfast and I drove her to school.  Double sigh.  I feel so sorry for her.  I tried to talk to her about her worries (school entrance exams, her grandfather, boys.....) but there does not seem to be a specific link.  I wish there were a magic bullet.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Holidays in New York!

I have booked for us to spend a week in the Big Apple over Christmas.  It will be one of our last family holidays as Older Daughter will be off to university next year  (sniff) and Easter 2012 will be filled with revision for both OD and Waif as they prepare for GCSEs and "A" levels.

I have the flights and accommodation sorted but still have the pleasure of arranging our itinerary.  I hope to include:

- lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Rockerfeller Centre

- going to the top of the Empire State Building

- visiting the Met

- ice skating in Central Park

- going out for brunch

- going to the Frick Collection

- catching a show on Broadway

- and a guided tour around Central Park on Christmas Day
hopefully in the snow!

Ok, I am off to book some of those things right now!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dilemmas Academic

Waif is a bright and determined young lady.  Lots of anorexics are - I guess it is the same determination and perseverance that allows them to take such control of their eating and also to work persistently.    You couldn't be a slapdash anorexic.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know that it began with her moving from her high pressure academic london girls' school to a gentler, local mixed school.  There were several reasons for this:  firstly, I was worried that fall outs with class mates was making her unhappy at her last school (she had a year dominated by a couple of really very nasty characters which had an enormous impact on the rest of the class), secondly I wanted to be close enough to supervise lunches if necessary (it wasn't, luckily) and thirdly because her old school dropped a very unsubtle hint that they could not cope with her, which I suspect meant that they were aware of their disastrous reputation for anorexia.  They certainly, for all their ultimate sympathy on leaving, made it difficult for the girls to eat.  aside:  I would love to campaign for schools to have a sacrosanct lunch hour, like hospitals are encouraged to do, devoid of meetings arranged, detentions given or information sessions during the time they should be eating, and that all girls should be able to eat even if they have forgotten their passes.

Roll on 18 months:  Waif is happy and settled in her local school.  She has a lovely set of friends whom she sees nearly every day after school, boys and girls alike.   Her teachers adore her.  The world looks bright.

Here is a picture break- 2 of our cats:

BUT Waif sees Older Daughter in her UCAS struggles - Cambridge is her top choice - and how every mark at GCSE and AS level counts.  Waif has begun to look to the future and has decided that she wants to go to Oxford,  the problem being that at her current school the academics are okay rather than excellent.  At "A" level next year, she will be in a class with students aiming at B and C grades as well as those aiming for A and A*.   One of her chosen "A" level subjects is taught by a whacky and inspirational teacher who has not achieved good grades for his pupils last year, sadly.  The upshot of this is that Waif has been looking around at Sixth Form options.  Last week she took the entrance exam for a prestigious central London girls' school, performed well and has been asked for interview on Thursday.  I suspect she did outstandingly in the Further Maths paper as she said it asked her for proofs.  She had never done a proof before but said that she got them all (!)  out.  I am not wholly surprised as she is a natural, even though she does not wildly care for the sciences.

Waif still looks to us for guidance and I am not sure whether to steer her away from a school move, or to encourage it...or to let her decide wholly alone.  I have tried to lay out some pro's and cons as I see them:  classes at Top School will be faster and more inspiring and their Oxbridge results are stunning.  On the other hand, she will not have any established friends there, and we agreed it took 6-12 months for her to make good friends at Local School, and she will not be singled out for particular attention in the way she will be at her Local School where the Head is very keen to groom his Oxbridge candidates in order to build up the reputation of the school.  Also, if you move at sixth form to a school with an established pupil base (rather than a sixth form college where all are new), you can guarantee you will not be the one picked for prefect, or Head Girl, or Head of Games or cut slack when you are ill as you are an unknown quantity yet to establish your good reputation - she is a complete teacher's dream so very likely to have some of those things at her current school.

And together with all of this, is the anorexia.  This she is less willing to discuss.  In my mind, academic success will bring her happiness and help her to be stable, but various friends have counselled me that Oxbridge is bad news for anorexics as it is so high pressure.  Top School also has its fair share of anorexics.

Waif is up to some of her old tricks:  breakfast is now a minimally small bowl of bran flakes and a piece of dry toast.  Lunch yesterday was a small bowl of soup and a piece of bread.  She SWORE to me that she had eaten cake at Costa and a good supper at a friend's house but sometimes she kids herself.  I am working up to getting her on the scales to check my fears.  She DOES look thin but then I met a fellow runner yesterday who sees Waif at the gym who reckoned she just looked lanky.  I have lost the ability to judge.  One thing I am certain of is that she has become defensive and grumpy which I remember all too well from the time 2 years ago that she was rapidly losing weight :-(

In conclusion, the ONLY thing I care about is Waif's wellbeing and happiness.  I know these all hinge on her eating properly and maintaining a healthy body.  What I am less clear about is whether this will all follow on form academic success (which will make her happy).  I am inclined to encourage her to stay at Local School where she is loved and cherished, and to grab the opportunities afforded to her for academic enhancement should she want those.  Local School does, after all, have some Oxbridge success.


Sunday, 6 November 2011


I feel like we are bullying Waif  :-(

After a few months of all getting on well, and having a lovely time, we are having tears again at mealtimes.  My poor lovely Waif who is always so gentle with me.

My gut instinct is that meal times are NOT a good moment to discuss anorexic issues - how upset we are that Waif has lost weight, how she will be going back to the Maudsley at this rate and how we need to weigh her.   I feel that if someone is upset, then the last thing they want to do is eat.  Gosh,  even"I" didn't  feel hungry after listening to that.  I reckon firm encouragement is the way to go.  H, on the other hand, says that he does not see Waif at any other time and do I expect him to go and find her some other time to talk to her about it (um, yes, actually).

H refused to let Waif take her pudding to eat in front of the TV, even though she was upset and nobody was enjoying the meal.  Poor Waif looked distraught.  I told her that she should sit at the table as Daddy wanted her to.  I then suggested that she just eat half at the table and then take it away elsewhere.  Sigh, this does raise issues of conflict - I want to support H on disciplinary and child issues but it is tough when I fundamentally disagree with something that he suddenly comes out with as a diktat.   But I recognise that he too is trying to help and I do not have the monopoly on being right.

Still, the main thing is that Waif had a good lunch in the end.

I have not even addressed the issue of disallowing Waif from cycling to school from tomorrow.  She is not going to like me at all.  I know that she is okay if I drive her to and from school every day, but is adamant she won't be part of a lift share with 2 "smelly" (actually very pleasant and not smelly that I have noticed) boys down the street.  I think I will compromise on this one and drive her myself even though a lift share would save me several hours a week.  I will have to explain a little to the other mothers as they will think I am very rude driving in without their boys when I am going that way anyway and they both find it difficult to do the school run as they work......  Mind you, the boys are 15 and 17 and there is actually a bus that even Waif is quite happy to catch.  I don't want her on the bus though as it requires an extra half hour and I am worried that she might actually be walking to school in that extra time (Near Neighbour said that was what her daughter had been doing under the guise of leaving early to do extra school work).

I wish Waif had not lost weight again.....  our lives are all so much happier when she is eating well.  Hers especially.

Feeling more positive

Waif had a piece of toast for breakfast.  I was out walking the dog, and asked H to ensure that Waif ate properly.  When I got back, Waif took me off into another room and told me that I had to get Dad off her back.  Apparently he had barked at her "What else are you going to have?"  I explained that we needed to make sure that she ate enough and we didn't want her getting ill again and that she is much too thin, and H is only concerned for her but that perhaps her father could ask in a different way.  I suggested I cook pancakes as Waif had chosen a pancake mix at an upmarket deli last week where H had told each daughter they could spend £5 as they wished.

We did the same.  Older Daughter bought sweets, I bought duck liver pate, H bought french finger biscuits that reminded him of his childhood and Waif chose pancake mix.  H had tried to dissuade Waif, saying it was very easy to make pancake batter but she had been adamant.  Anyway, this morning she said she wanted to "save" the pancake mix.

Older Daughter was cooking a variant on french toast - a luxury version using croissants and caramelised apples.

 Waif claimed she didn't like egg.  I suggested a banana but the skin had black flecks.

Waif ended up agreeing to eat a small yoghurt.  Blimey, this could be a long haul.

I am planning roast pheasant for tonight but Waif has already announced that this is "not her favourite".  This could well be code for "will not eat it" so I have a back up lasagne.  Does anyone else hate cooking?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Reality Check

We went to a fireworks party tonight and a very good friend of mine (little wave to friend) confirmed to me my worst fears - Waif is looking awfully thin.  It has been half term and Waif and I have been spending lots of time at the gym, although, to be fair, she was sitting revising on Tuesday whilst I swam.  There again on Sunday she cycled there, ran 7k, then cycled home.  Meanwhile she has lots of reasons not to eat - the carrot cake has had the icing smudged, she forgot to have toast for breakfast, she has gone off all the ice creams I have in the freezer etc  I have let things slide, I realise.  I have handed over control before she is ready.  I have been wilfully blind because I DON"T WANT HER TO BE ILL.

Perhaps it is laziness?  Watching and controlling each and every meal is a chore, and Waif will cheerfully volunteer to relieve me of the burden but tonight I had a reality check:  for the first time, I had a proper conversation with a near neighbour and long time acquaintance whose daughter I knew also has had anorexia for several years.  I had drafted Near Neigbbour an email when I first found this out a few months back but never sent it for fear of intruding or upsetting her.  But tonight we both ventured onto the topic and it turns out that she knew about Waif and I knew about her 18yo daughter.  Her daughter is now attending day treatment at Bethlem and their whole family have been through the mill.  Near Neighbour gave me some strong advice that I need to take back control.  I need to cancel Waif's gym membership until she is a healthy weight and I need to take her straight back to the Maudsley.  She said to make the most of the pre 18 period and even post 18 to pull the strings that we still have - university fees etc will not be paid in the absence of a healthy weight.

I am going to start tonight - Waif is out at fireworks with some lovely school friends.  They all met earlier at our house (my hubby and I were out at a different party).  I had left lasagne and garlic bread but, on my return, discover it untouched.  I expect Waif's friends are starving!  Last night, Waif had her boyfriend round and I had left them fillet steaks and chips (well, I had left the chips in the freezer but they are 15 and 16yo so are capable of cooking) and those too had been left untouched.  i am 100% certain that BF would have wolfed them down if Waif had offered them.  I have put the lasagne in the oven and will be ensuring it is eaten when they all return.

Sigh, I am a pathetic mother because I can't for the life of me remember if Waif is about 47kg, or 37kg.  I think it must be 37kg  :-(    I have wilfully forgotten.  I need to check back in this blog and to get her on some scales tomorrow as soon as her friends leave.

I am also going to put my foot down about cycling to school.  Waif, despite protestations, and unless she can give me further and better particulars, will have to accept the lift share that is going with 2 neighbours with teenaged sons at the same school as Waif.  That way I know she is not walking to school and she can leave 30 mins later than if she were catching the bus so that there is more time for breakfast.

In my opinion, the Maudsley discharged Waif too soon - they bought my husband's insistence that he too was very thin when he was a teenager, and it hadn't done him any harm.  I expect he was thin (he was) but this was not from lack of appetite but because he grew rapidly to 6ft 4 at boarding school where food was restricted.

Near Neighbour has been participating in a research project on anorexia and has been told that there is an epigenetic link between pregnancy trauma and anorexia.  She, it turns out, was rescued from a burning house at 7 months pregnant.  My life has been more mundane but I did indeed go through a trauma of sorts when pregnant with Waif - my husband became worryingly ill (we both suspected a brain tumour) and temporarily lost the ability to talk and was about to resign his job leaving me as the sole breadwinner whereas meanwhile my employer (of whom I was the only full time married woman member of professional staff out of about 60) was disputing my right to maternity leave, pay and customary accommodation and basically told me that they did not want to employ women as my husband should keep me.  This sounds trivial but actually I had visions of being unemployed, homeless and with a baby, toddler and disabled husband.  Thankfully, everything worked out in the end but there was definitely stress.  In fact, at about 7 months pregnant, we did hit a crisis as Hubby was rushed to hospital needing emergency surgery - with me (5ft 2, petite, heavily pregnant) trying to get him (in serious pain and unable to walk unaided), together with a reluctant 2 year old, down the stairs to our flat and to the hospital as quickly as possible - the GP on the phone said I had to go to him so that he could decide whether H needed to go straight to hospital (after one look, he confirmed that H did indeed need to go straight to hospital).  The GP said point blank that he did not do home visits.  Looking back, I should have called an ambulance.  At the hospital, H was given morphine and a bed to lie on, before emergency surgery.  I was not offered a chair (it was not really about me at that point), and then collapsed.  Anyway, I wonder if there is a connection or whether everyone, if asked, could point to some traumatic event in pregnancy?

Still, the past is the past and all I care about is the future, and getting Waif back on a healthy path.  She wil be back in the next half hour so I am off to cook  :-)