Well, our little Rose turned three today - I can hardly believe it. I honestly don't know where my baby has gone.
Her birthday didn't get off to a very good start - she was sick twice yesterday (once in my car - yuck) and generally didn't feel very well at all.
When she woke up this morning, she was still pale and her nose was streaming, but she wasn't feeling sick any more, and was soon clamouring for a piece of toast.
Despite looking a bit grotty, she was so excited that it was finally her birthday and her streaming nose didn't stop her having a fabulous time.
She had loads of lovely presents to open, and was absolutely delighted with everything - she kept saying to the world in general: 'Thank you, thank you - I love my birthday presents...'
The postman brought even more parcels, and two more friends delivered presents during the day, so she had a really wonderful time.
She was a bit sad that she couldn't go to playschool as she'd chosen a cake to take and share with her friends there, but we've promised she can take her cake and wear her birthday t-shirt when she goes back next week, for a belated celebration.
She really had had such lovely presents, and has had so much fun playing with everything.
We all sang happy birthday to her at teatime and she blew out the candles on her cupcakes (repeatedly...) which pleased her no end.
And she's very excited about tomorrow - Nanny is coming, and it's her first proper birthday party! She and seven little friends are off to Café Junior for a couple of hours of fun, so I'll be sure to take some pictures.
I've attached a few pics of the birthday girl - you'll have to ignore her pale snottiness - she had a fantastic day, and keeps telling everybody "I'm three now! Three. I'm a big girl. Next time I'll be four!"
Rosie and I went to toddler group this morning at the church where Will is buried. There are some enormous horse chestnut trees there, and we usually scavenge around when we go to take flowers for Will's birthday to find a few conkers to put on his grave.
But today, as Rosie and I were walking out of the gate, there were showers of conkers tumbling from the trees around us, and a carpet of them under our feet - some like coppery jewels hiding in the grass, others still in their spiky cases.
Rosie put a few in her pockets, and I promised her we'd come back soon with Charlie.
We picked him up from school this afternoon and the first thing she told him was about all the conkers. Much to my surprise (I'd wondered if he might be getting too big for conkering!) he wanted to go straight up to the churchyard and find some more.
We flew home to fetch a couple of bags, then headed to the church in the warm autumn sun.
It was so lovely to see the pair of then scampering around, picking up the conkers on the ground and stamping delightedly on the shells to get to the conkers inside.
I still remember going to Mayer Park with my mum when I was little, taking a basket with me, and collecting as many conkers as I could carry.
Even now, there's still something magical about cracking open a conker, knowing you're the first person ever to see that particular one!
I hope, when Charlie and Rosie grow up, and maybe have kids of their own, that they'll look back on these happy, golden times together, like I do on my childhood.
Having said that though, I'm still not sure quite what I'm going to do with the two massive bags of conkers sitting on the hall table...
(I forgot my phone so I couldn't take any pics, so here's one of them playing with Gig, Charlie's guinea pig the other day!)
As well as being Will's birthday yesterday, it was also Rosie's first afternoon at playschool, or 'Little School' as she calls it.
She has been itching to get there for months and months, and was so excited when she realised it was finally September. She's been counting down the sleeps until she started - which is quite complicated when you still have an afternoon nap as well as a night-time sleep!
She'll be going three afternoons a week, from 1-3.30pm, although she started at 1.30pm yesterday because it was her first day, and it gave all the other kids a chance to settle down before she made her entrance.
She was so excited at the prospect of going to playschool "I'm going on my own - without Mummy" and kept telling me what was going to happen - that I'd drop her off, give her a kiss, wave bye-bye and then pick her up later once she'd finished painting/playing in the sand/colouring/singing/jigsaw puzzling and all the other fun things she had lined up for herself.
We pulled up at the kerb and she was off like a rocket, striding up the pavement towards the school gates. I told her to wait for me, and she turned round indignantly and told me (again) "But I'm going on my OWN to Little School!"
She was quite peeved when she realised I actually had to escort her into the building itself...
She said hello to the teacher at the door, marched straight to her coat peg (which has her name and a picture of an ice cream cone on it!) and hung up her jacket.
The teacher - who also taught Charlie when he was at playschool - told me that she'd seen Charlie that morning, and he'd made her promise to send Rosie outside when the school's playtime bell rang, so he could see her and talk to her over the playschool fence!
Anyway, my confident little pickle handed her red toy car over to a different teacher, to go on the 'Red Table' - each week they have a different theme for the table, and the kids all take suitable things in from home to show their friends.
And then, she was off, up to her elbows in the sandbox. She paused in her digging just long enough to give Pete and me a kiss, and then was straight back to her sand, without so much as a wave or a wistful glance!
We made our way out of the door, and left her to it!
A couple of hours, and a very quiet, uninterrupted cup of coffee later, and Pete, Charlie and I went to pick her up.
She came skipping out of the door when her name was called, clutching an armful of paintings of people (her favourite thing to draw/paint at the moment...) and so excited to tell us all the things she had done - playing in the sand (obviously!), bouncing on a space hopper, painting, play doh, cutting, sticking, hugging Chas over the fence, singing a song (apparently about ten beans, which involved clapping her hands on her knees...) and having a snack and a drink.
The verdict? "Little school was really, really fun, Mum!"
She goes back for her second day tomorrow, and she can't wait!
So proud of our grown up little Rose!
Sometimes when I picture him, he's the warm, peach-cheeked baby I held in my arms a dozen years ago.
Other times he's a tall, serious, sandy-haired boy, heading for his teenage years.
I so wish I had been able to watch him grow.
We held Will for the 15 precious minutes he breathed here on earth, and for twelve hours afterwards.
I have held him in my heart every minute of every day since.
My eldest son. My firstborn.
His life and death made me the mother that I am today.
I wish, that day, 12 years ago, that I had been able to see just a glimpse of where my life would be today.
But as the nurse wheeled Will away from us, tucked snugly in his little crib, it truly felt like our world had ended, with the future stretching ahead of us, empty and unknown.
But as we visited Will's grave today, and I hugged Charlie and Rosie close to me, it reaffirmed what I now know to be true - Will's birth and death was not the end.
He was a truly special beginning.
Happy Birthday beautiful boy. You are so loved. xxxx
Nothing better than a quiet afternoon doing jigsaws... especially when it means I get chance to do my ironing (which has been piling up because the iron broke at the weekend!)
PS Rosie has discovered the joy of hair ribbons! :-)
Welcome to Charlie's News! Charlie was born on November 5, 2003, minus the left side of his heart - a complex congenital heart defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He had two open-heart surgeries in his first five months, and had his third stage Fontan completion in March 2010, aged six-and-a-half.
Charlie's heart is special - but not as special as he is!