Tag Archives: holidays

Surviving the Holidays

25 Jul

I wish I could write enjoying the holidays, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

We managed a fortnight away in the New Forest, at the place we usually stay, and I had erroneously thought this would be two weeks of calm relaxation and joyful days out. Sadly, there were numerous meltdowns and episodes of crying to go home, as both the younger ones struggled with the change to a new environment.

Thankfully, ponies came to the rescue. We stay on a working horse “farm” for want of a better word, and the yard is always busy, either with the the owners tacking up a pony for a Hackney carriage-driving lesson, or someone who keeps their ponies there coming to muck out and feed their charges. All the offspring love horses and the place is safe enough to allow them to wander off. If Small Girl went missing, she was always found either petting the nose of someone stabled, or hanging over a fence enticing a reluctant pony to advance with the offer of a piece of carrot.

One owner, Jeannie, who we’ve known for years, was grateful to have extra pairs of hands to cart bales of hay and help sweep up, and we really developed a friendship this summer. I hadn’t deemed it necessary to book a hack in advance for the kids, but it turned out that due to high demand, there was no way the younger two could get to ride, as they need to be led. They were very down about this until Jeannie offered a solution.

And so we became owners for a day! Teddy the Shetland arrived in a horse box and was unloaded into a paddock. The children were thrilled. After he’d had a quick chomp of grass they (with the help of responsible Teen Girl) led him to the yard for a thorough grooming, before he was led back to the paddock where they took turns riding him.

A lead rein and bareback is very different from a saddle and all the “proper” tack, and like this, the roles of the two kids were reversed. SB who generally has a good seat and seems confident in the saddle struggled to remain upright and seated, whereas SG who sometimes resembles the proverbial sack of potatoes on horseback seemed to find the challenge of bareback riding one she was more than equal to, and rode like she was born to it.

Teddy stayed with us all day, and was collected by Jeannie that evening, brushed till he shone, and having trotted for what seemed like miles up and down the paddock, but was probably in reality no more than several hundred yards. The kids didn’t miraculously turn into the calmest people on the planet, but their pony day went a long way to reassuring them that not everything had changed.

And after all the meltdowns? The day we packed the car to come home, SB looked around the empty apartment with a sad face and declared, “I hope we can come back next year.”

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Halfway There

28 Jul

Halfway through the summer holidays and we seem to have done nothing. Nada. Rien. And you know what? It’s been LOVELY.

Actually, we did go out once. The kids got dressed and everything. It was due to M’s uber excitement about her birthday treat which was to see Minions at the cinema. Oh yes, and we got a McDonald’s afterwards – yippee. <insert sarcasm> But they had a lovely time and that’s the main thing.

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I know I am on the lucky end of the autism parent scale. Every morning (unless we really have needed to go out) I get a lie in while the youngest two head downstairs, get a drink and make their own breakfast. They then lounge about in their pyjamas and watch a bit of TV. After half an hour or so, M makes me a cup of tea and B brings it carefully upstairs. I am spoiled, I know, and I am insanely grateful. I’d like to say that they continue being as adorable all day but obviously you’d know that was a lie, and it would be. However, the stress and anxiety levels have plummeted since the school bell rang to signify the end of the year, and it has been wonderful to watch.

My biggest challenge was not falling apart when I drove Teen Boy through to Aberdeen in the first stage of his World Scout Jamboree journey to Japan. I am so proud of myself for being able to hug him goodbye without howling, and for continuing to keep cheerful on the rare occasion he has had Wifi (and time) to send a quick Facebook message. To think that five years ago he had had a breakdown due to the pressures of a few days at his (then) new secondary school, and he basically lost 18 months of his life to depression and extreme anxiety (thank you – not – Aspergers), and now he is on the other side of the world having the most amazing time with his Scouting friends shows me just how far he has come. I confess to cyber stalking him through every social media I can use, and I am building up a nice little album of pictures for his return. Underground selfie1

This is a snap of him on what I think must be the underground system in Tokyo – photo credit to one Andrew Rosam via Twitter. As you can see, he is looking very cheerful. Doncha just love social media?

So, this is us. We’re not going away this summer (boo hoo) but frankly we do have a ton to do in the house, not the least of which is sorting through and chucking out loads of outgrown clothes. M has homework from her CAMHS sessions, which is to head out into the garden by herself for short timed periods and this is going pretty well. She needs a diversion, like the trampoline, or bubble blowing, but even back at Easter she wouldn’t have been able to contemplate doing this. I am hoping that B’s on-going assessments will result in an ASD diagnosis, which will give him access to the support he is definitely needing, and I am hoping above all that when they go back to school in three weeks that their new teacher will be an understanding sort who rises to the challenge of getting to know how my beautiful children tick.

Off to make another coffee and put yet more washing in the machine! It’s all go here.

Just send gin

18 Jul

Preferably Bombay Sapphire but I’m about 3 miles past the fussy stage.

You might guess, and rightly so, that the behaviours have been continuing. And boy have they!

It started well this morning – M decided to get up very early (i.e. she crept in for a cuddle then snuck back to her bed and then sneakily crept downstairs) and make her own breakfast. This could have been a disaster as she has to stand on a stool to reach the toaster but she made a decent job of toast and butter, and remembered to fetch herself a drink (I am SO glad my youngest two drink water by default).

I was lulled into a false sense of calm by this show of independence and was therefore not prepared for the onslaught of tantrums and meltdowns that followed. Luckily I had an appointment several miles away and E, my eldest, was earmarked to babysit, so with instructions that M and her brother were not to have TV, DVDs or the computer (seriously way too much screen time so far this week) I left, confidently assuming they would be racing around the garden in the gorgeous sunshine for ages.

How wrong I was. I got home to find that E had fed them their lunch – which appears to have been the only OK part of the whole day – and had given up on trying to get them outside. I thought “Huh, she just needs to be a bit more authoritative, I’ll get them out playing something in no time.” Yeah, well I nearly gave up too! Between the Olympic standard whining of B, and M’s absolute point blank refusal to engage with anything I said at all, I was losing the will to live. In the end I resorted to what I think of as my Army Voice (think sergeant major from a nightmare) and literally ordered them out by blocking the way back in.

It is astounding how many times a child can dream up an excuse to come back inside. I won’t list them all as some of you might want to sleep in the next year, but suffice to say the only way to keep them outside was for me to join them.

The good news is the lawn is now mowed and looks half decent. Extra good news is that the kids were outside for a total of about 2 1/2 hours – some much needed vitamin D in this oft dark corner of the planet. Astonishing news is that I managed to persuade M to help rake up some of the grass, and a very good job she did too, even though somehow *cough* the rake got broken off the handle. I was too hot and tired to investigate this breakage and am giving her the benefit of the doubt. Here’s a wee picture of her using the plastic rake part that still worked well enough to clear up the very last bit of grass.

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The latter part of the day went slightly better, especially as I gave M her usual Friday night cheese pizza for tea. Melatonin was my friend again (seriously no idea how I am going to be brave enough to give her a week off at some point!) and they are both asleep.

Please let tomorrow be a better day!

Just popping by

17 Jul

Busy time of it on Planet JustGoodEnough of late – been away for two weeks in lovely sunny Hampshire, and it’s taken most of this week to recuperate from the journey back. Or so it seems to M, who has taken to some annoying (to the rest of us) behaviour. There have been lots of refusals to do even the simplest tasks, lots of screaming, punching and hitting, and a definite backslide into comfort habits like watching baby programmes on TV and the computer.

I know she is struggling – the holiday itself prompted a lot of changes that she had to process – for her “just” visiting a new town is anything but simple due to the anxieties it provokes – and we compounded the issue by stopping overnight on the way home, but her behaviour is very wearing. I have tried non stop to get her outside to bounce on the huge trampoline in the garden but she is fixated on using the small indoor one, which is lovely in one way because when she’s bouncing she isn’t hitting out or screaming BUT very annoying if you are trying to read quietly and all you get is squeaks and boi-i-i-ings.

I hope that she will start to calm soon, there have been signs today as she willingly got dressed this morning (a nice surprise) and has been somewhat less confrontational to B. I found out today who her teacher will be next year (we were away the last week of term) and she seems pleased as she knows the person in question, so that’s one potential problem dealt with before it kicks off.

Now we just need to get through the next four and a half weeks in one piece. Wish us luck!

Idyll

6 Apr

IDYLL: – “An extremely happy, peaceful or picturesque period or situation, typically an idealized or unsustainable one”

The Oxford Dictionary definition of idyll. And one I am currently experiencing.

Let me explain. M is happy. Really, truly happy. Everything is right with her world. Her school has broken up for the Easter holidays and there is a fortnight of lazy mornings, relaxed rules around clothing, food and TV watching, and with the guarantee of a chocolate-fest at the end. Not forgetting her youngest brother has a birthday next week, more excuses for cake and fun.

However, the real reason for her contentment is that E, big sis, is home from university for to weeks. Sadly not the same two weeks as everyone else due to important classes the week before Easter itself, but no matter, the missing piece of our family is back “where she belongs”, lying around in her funky pyjama bottoms, enjoying the endless cups of tea and broadband, and dolling out cuddles and sisterly love in the form of listening to M read her school books and collecting her from school.

This is when I am happiest myself – I love all my kids under the same roof. It tears at my heart every Sunday during term time when R gets in his taxi that takes him back to his boarding school. And I am getting better at not turning into an hysterical mess when E goes back to uni. 

But for M, E leaving is just “not right” Luckily she can’t really remember a time when R wasn’t doing his weekly commute so although she is always delighted on a Friday evening, his departure doesn’t affect her in the same way as E leaving does. The anxiety that is part of her autism will not let her be convinced that E will be coming back again, and she pines for her sister. It colours every part of her life and she even finds it hard to park in a certain part of the local town for her dancing class as that’s where I took a photo of them wearing matching duffel coats and big boots – “it makes me sad Mumma” :

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So, I am enjoying my idyll and trying to push next Sunday afternoon to the back of my mind. That’s when E takes the train back to uni, and I have to console a wee girl who just won’t be able to process the concept of “not gone”. I don’t know why she can deal with other people leaving and coming back and not her sister, but I always hope that one day the pain will be smaller, and my cuddles will be enough reassurance.

Back to School Anxiety

19 Aug

Sorry I’ve not been on much recently, the summer holidays have got in the way.

My brother is staying for about 3 weeks – he is a builder and is doing a mammoth list of jobs in the house including installing a new bathroom! And last week we had two dear friends stay in our back garden in their caravan, so we were all very busy keeping out of bro’s way and entertaining our friends.

Anyhow, seven weeks has whipped by in the blink of an eye, and tomorrow is The Big Day. Yes, back to school. And M is not happy about it, oh no. Her ability to cope with even the smallest changes has suddenly gone right out of the window, and her temper is something to behold. I hate to say it but her brother has taken rather more punches than any wee boy should be the recipient of, but sadly he appears to like winding her up. Of course, he’s the first to come crying to me when he’s spent ages pushing her buttons and she suddenly snaps, but what two siblings don’t fight at that age? I try to keep them apart when I can but they seem magnetically drawn to the other.

I have tried to keep things fairly quiet since the visitors left, and as M finds comfort in familiarity I have been letting her watch more dvds than I would normally.  Left to choose by herself she would plump for the same film over and over until it became almost part of her life, but as I try to run a democracy there have been days when her choice wasn’t picked. 

I have noticed a big upturn in echolalia too this last week. Most notably the other day when she was quoting huge chunks of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on what seemed a never-ending loop. But she has also started what I think of as “immediate echoing” i.e. when someone says something and she almost instantly copies them, often under her breath for 15 or 20 minutes. I think she does this as a way of keeping track of what is/should be happening at any one time, as a self-reassurance, but when she repeats big parts of film scripts I am not entirely sure why. I suppose she is gaining some comfort from the memories of the pictures that go with the script and that way is maybe even retreating into a place she feels she knows.  I hope one day she is able to tell me about this process as I find it fascinating that her memory is apparently faultless. She even gets the accents spot on.

In a bid to keep the anxiety at a manageable level I had arranged to take her into school this morning, just for a wander about to check on what, if anything, had changed over the holidays. She was reluctant to go, but once we were in the door she was happy to skip about checking out the layout of the classrooms, and the noticeable lack of artwork on the walls. She had a double check of her separate desk in the library area, and a thorough look in her “den” which is her bolt-hole for down time if it all gets too much. I enjoyed looking at her puppets which I’d not seen before although I knew they existed. There are five of them, all with different facial expressions, and the idea is for M to use them if she is having trouble expressing her emotions. She likes the happy one best – good! Aren’t they a great idea?

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She seemed much happier after our short visit.  However, my plan to take them out for “a surprise” was met with tears and complaints of a tummy ache, sure signs of anxiety, so I had to tell them we were off to the cinema. We saw Despicable Me 2 and it was excellent. I had booked seats on the back row and this turned out to be a stroke of lucky genius – with no-one sitting behind us I didn’t mind at all when M sat on the arm of her seat, on the upturned folded seat, took off her shoes and socks, and then stood on her chair. She was hurting no-one and obviously needed the sensory input of moving around a lot. Even her weighted lap pad hadn’t kept her still this time but it didn’t matter. Another autism lesson learned today.

This evening was tough. M didn’t want to be strapped in a seat belt on the long journey home, she could barely manage to sit through dinner and although she kept saying she wanted cuddles she couldn’t sit still for one. Thank goodness for the miracle worker that is melatonin. She wasn’t as early to bed as I’d have liked but as she lay down without protesting too much I’m going to take it as a win.

Bring on tomorrow! By 2.30 the worst will be over and the first day back done.

Relaxing

5 Aug

Due mostly to internet connection issues (again!) my blog time has been very sporadic, but partly also as we have all finally relaxed into the swing of being on holiday.

Getting the older ones out of bed has been an effort to say the least. I know all teenagers love to lie in, and in fact their bodies are going through a new stage that throws their body clocks out of sync, but it is extremely annoying when you also have two much younger children and would like to start and end the day at roughly the same times.

To be honest we’ve not been up to much getting out and about. I think we’ve all needed just to chill. For the teens that means a lot of reading, Minecraft and texting (!), and for the wee ones Lego, Sylvanian Families and lots of drawing and colouring, interspersed with running about in the garden or on the beach, and some TV/dvd times.

We did a lot of tourist type activities when the grandparents were all here so in some ways that was like going away, so I refuse to feel guilty. I do however want to take them all to the cinema at least once, as that will be a lovely treat and some escapism.

M has been mostly fairly calm, she is so relieved not to be at school (even though she has been coping very well when she goes) that she is generally content to be at home with me in sight. Her anxiety levels shoot right up if I attempt to go out without her, for instance to buy food, that for the most part I have taken her with me. She hates shopping and finds supermarkets taxing to say the least, so it shows how much she wants to be near me. Sadly, her autism comes with a gigantic portion of anxiety with the greater percentage based around knowing she is near to me, but if I can reassure her I always try to, even though my “me” time has been almost non-existent since school broke up.

Here was yesterday in pictures. No 1 son, R, decided to tackle some of the garden and at the same time thought the little ones should be playing outside, so he became all assertive and dragged them into the garden. It all ended happily – tired children and a garden with a long overdue haircut.

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