26 Jun 2006

Birthday resolutions

It was my birthday yesterday. I had a lie in while breakfast was cooked, then we spent a relaxed day at home. Lady had drawn a beautiful card with a picture of her and me inside, and a mole wearing a miner's hat in a cave under us! Gordon baked a cake, his first ever, and very nice it was too. Duncan was anxious to try it. We gathered and sang happy birthday to me! Duncan covered his ears and with a very serious expression on his face, sang it as fast as he could. It was obvious that he considered the song a silly impediment to cake eating that had to be dealt with as quickly as possible!

Gordon had bought me a DVD of Curb your Enthusiasm; yeah! It's the funniest, most painful thing I've watched for years, and I've only seen a few episodes, so I'm looking forward to watching the whole first series.

In the evening, Gordon brought his Mum over and she stayed with the children (who were still all awake when we left) while we went out and enjoyed a great meal at a Malaysian restaurant.

I'd been pensive and low for a few days previously, and I went out for a run on Saturday evening to get some peace and think. I realised that I'm a bit lonely. I need more women friends. I want to travel more. I need to go out and dance more. So, I'm going to sort out a trip to New York to see my best friend from school days, while Gordon stays with the children. My Dad has also agreed to mind the children for 24 hours so I can go with Gordon to Dublin this Friday night. And I'm going to look for a dance class I can join, preferably Salsa! I've been so concerned with day to day stuff, that I forgot to enjoy some of the other things I have always enjoyed.
Oh I do like to have a plan!

23 Jun 2006

Lost and found

We're surprisingly organised here today. Lady is writing a letter to her very best friend in the world. Thomas is in his room playing with the wooden trains. Well no, as always, he's telling a story. Earlier he said, 'Get me the wooden trains because I want to tell a story called The giant boy and the other way of the tracks!' That title sounds a bit Harry Potter-like to me. He always refers to himself as the giant boy when he's playing with the trains.

Duncan is sitting on my lap, wriggling and singing and closely examining a Lego 'Magic Roundabout' sword he made. Some people don't even realise that there was a sword in the Magic Roundabout!

I'm a bit scratched. We had an incident with the guinea pigs last night. I took them out and laid them on the grass in our fully enclosed and Duncan-proof garden. Then I cleaned out the hutch. Thomas came to have a closer look at them and Crookshanks ran away towards our garden fence. I know now that Duncan-proof does not equate to guinea pig-proof! Crookshanks (she's the brown, black and ginger one, i.e. camouflaged) scooted under a gap into the garden next door; the unoccupied and overgrown garden next door. I climbed over the fence and spent about 20 minutes trying to find her and then trying to catch her. My forearms were scourged on all the branches and brambles and my left palm was jabbed by something so it looks like I've got a stigmata ;-)
The poor wee cavy though was frightened and I feel so guilty for putting her in that position. I placed her in the hutch with lots of apple and dandelions to make up for her poor treatment. My Dad said he'd build a proper run for them so I must get that sorted as soon as possible.

22 Jun 2006

Woes and cavies

Earlier in the week, I read on Action for Autism about an appalling article describing antenatal screening for autism. A UCL geneticist is applying to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to screen out male embryos, as there are thought to be 4 times more autistic males than autistic females. She wants to offer this highly invasive and very novel screening to families where autism had 'inflicted severe suffering'.
This is horrible is so many ways; autism isn't an illness, there is no way of knowing how any child will develop and anyway, you do get autistic women you know.
I looked at the comments on the Daily (hate) Mail site on this topic and was distressed at the horrible things people had written. I should know better than to read that stuff.
Thankfully, there is Ballastexistenz, where
every post is amazing, but this really hit home.

All this was getting me down and I was also full of woe, as I periodically am, at all the unremitting, thankless drag of cleaning and tidying and keeping a house in which everyone is dispensing toys and books and stuff into every corner, every day. I really need to get out more. I feel jealous sometimes of Gordon, stepping out into the world and making his mark in a very obvious and respected way. I think sometimes, this blog is the only way I exist outside my immediate family. Then I feel a bit guilty for thinking like this.

But it's not all doom and gloom round here. The children are on fine form. And we have 2 new family members; we picked up our 2 guinea pigs from the animal shelter on Tuesday. Lady has named them Daisy and Crookshanks, can anyone guess what inspired the later?!
They are the cutest wee things. They're still very nervous so we've left them to settle into their hutch and just stroke them when they are willing. Lady is very sensitive to their needs. Duncan however wishes they could chase him, somehow I think they'd run in the opposite direction.

Just to record a new addition to Duncan's diet; oxtail soup. He loves it! He has also nibbled at bits of raw carrot, when we were pretending to be guinea pigs!

16 Jun 2006

Pigs, pants and now...peas!

I was reading to the boys yesterday, some Apple Tree Farm stories. They love these. Duncan was holding a new pig shaped eraser I had bought; it was his object of choice yesterday. He started telling me different words starting with the sound 'p', pig, pirate, puppy, Pippen, Percy and pants! He was very pleased with himself. Then his little voice was echoing every sentence as I read. Thomas was working out a few words for himself and labeled himself a great reader altogether! It's really nice that we can all enjoy books together now.

Something amazing has been happening here recently; Duncan has started to expand the range of food he will eat. He has always been a very fussy eater. When he was less than a year old, I took him to the paediatrician who diagnosed 'failure to thrive' as he was so low on the weight charts they use to monitor babies. (Those charts have since been scrapped for use with breast-fed children). But he was well skinny and I was always trying to maximise his intake of calories, especially fat and protein. For years he has eaten stuff like spaghetti with butter, cheese and tomato ketchup (and don't you dare try to blend something more nutritious into the ketchup!) and cereals with milk. Oh, and as much chocolate, cake and sweets as he could get hold of.

Now a few weeks ago he decided he wanted to try some fish fingers, having seen them on Charlie and Lola and he liked them. Then he saw Lady and me eating corn on the cob and reached out to try mine. I told him, 'It's corn, like on Pocahontas!' He said 'Home on the Range corn!' then he started to eat, loved it and now eats it every day. Wow, he's actually eating some vegetables! He has also started to eat peas and onions, having first tried them from my plate as he sat on my lap as I ate dinner. It's a bit like the way the other children tried food from my plate when they were weaning!

Now I need to go and help find 'Lego man,' that is, a 2cm high bit of red and yellow plastic. I reckon I spend about 2 hours each week looking all around the house for various very small plastic objects that Duncan has lost and desperately wants. I have regularly thought that if I could really perform just one spell from the Harry Potter books, it would be 'Accio', the 'summoning charm'!

15 Jun 2006

Aren't they great!

I wanted to post a few photos of the children. This one was taken at the farm. I love the look of caution and interest on Duncan's face. Note also the cool welly boots!

This was taken at the farm too, like you wouldn't have guessed!
She was so patient and gentle with the animals.

I bought a magnifying glass and they've all been going round the garden examining mini-beasts. As can be clearly seen here, Thomas is the only one of our 3 who inherited brown eyes from his dad. Don't know why the photo is on it's side though!
He has been coming out with loads of snippets of 'Thomas-wisdom' lately. He asked me if elephants turn into mammoths in winter, wanted to know the ingredients for making brioche this morning, told my sister that she had better start looking for a nice husband soon so she'd have someone to bounce on the trampoline with (what?!), started calling some sweets Gordon bought 'god-stoppers', told me I needed to go back to bed this morning as we hadn't had our morning cuddle (the one which makes him 'so happy') and said it was a 'very serious situation'. Is it any wonder I adore him?!

Here we have Duncan proudly displaying Zeebad and Brian from the Magic Roundabout. Zeebad has been accessorised by the addition of a natty black cape, made from a bin bag. Duncan is wearing a red scarf just like Florence!
They're so cute together!

14 Jun 2006

Katie McCarron

I wanted to write this post, even though other people (Abfh, Ballastexintenz, Rettdevil, Kevin and Kristina) have already said more eloquently anything I might say, because I wanted to reach people who might read this through the Early Years home-education ring.

I wrote earlier about the murder of an autistic child in the US. Many people wished we could know more about little Katie or see her photo, since the newspapers discussing the tragedy, focused on the crime and its perpetrator. All we learned about the little girl, was that she was living with her Dad and paternal grandmother so she could attend a specialist school while her mother and younger sister lived in another state where the mother worked as a doctor.

Only 10 days after the family reunited, the mother killed her child by suffocating her with a plastic bag. She admitted this to the police when she was arrested.

Many people then started to publicly try to excuse this murder, reasoning that 'a lack of services' may have lead to it.

Katie's paternal grandfather has since publicly refuted these ideas;

"I too am fed up with the comments from "advocacy" spokespersons. How can people pretending to represent the good of children with autism ignore the murder of a beautiful and dear little child.?When I see the lead in line "I don't approve of murder; but…" I just have to buckle my seat belt because I know, here it comes. The advocate goes on to virtually admit it is OK, or understandable because Katie had autism. If these people are "advocates" for people with autism I can't imagine what the "opponents" must be like."


"When they start using a disability as an excuse for murder and say it is understandable, I go well beyond anger. When these “advocates” speak of the pressure that a care giver is under 24×7, I don’t disagree with that. But my son and my wife were Katie’s care givers for the past 20 months while Katie attend a special school in North Carolina. They not only held up to that pressure but they treasure every moment they had with Katie and are devastated by her loss. Since they lived it and loved it how can anyone use that pressure as an excuse."

Mr McCarron was generous enough to let us know a bit about his beautiful granddaughter,

"I would like to say something about Katie. Some newspapers have reported that this was done to end Katie’s pain; let me assure you that “Katie was not in pain”. She was a beautiful, precious and happy little girl. Each day she was showered with love and returned that love with hugs, kisses and laughter. Katie loved music; she would fill in some of the words in children’s songs as my wife would sing along with the CD that would be playing, their own version of “karaoke” . She liked to dance, she loved to do the “hooky poky”. She loved being in among flowers and tall grass. She would say “I like grass”. She enjoyed the zoo and because of all of the drills and flashcards she could identify the animals. Which I thought was pretty amazing for such a young child. She was also the only little child in her non-autistic play group that could identify an octagon. My wife and son had a party for her the day they heard that from the teacher."

Mr McCarron made some photographs of Katie available to people who wished to view and use them in a respectful way.

Many of us on the Early Years ring have or know children who are not 'standard issue'. We make every effort to help and care for our children. Raising children is hard work and we're often exhausted but we need to keep being real advocates for them. We can tell people that it isn't any less wrong to kill a person, just because that person has a disability.

12 Jun 2006

Happy Birthday Duncan!

Duncan was 6 years old on Saturday.
Wow, six years since that magical night when he popped out (you know what I mean!) just ten minutes before midnight, six years of getting to know and understand each other. He is the most amazing and beautiful child. He really keeps me going; I have to move fast to keep up with him! But I have learned so much and am honoured by the better understanding I have of what makes us all human, since having my special boy.

We celebrated in an appropriate manner by driving to a nearby countryside park which has a miniature railway which Duncan enjoyed so much, he went on it twice.

We gave him a great Captain Hook pirate dressing up outfit earlier and he'd put it on straight away, then ran to his dressing up chest to find the toy hook and pirate hat he got on a previous birthday, but hadn't worn much till now.

The second day of celebration was on Sunday when we had a party at home. Our friends came over with their boys and we were joined by all the grandparents. The men got busy building a barbecue (as Gordon had only bought it that day!) and then did a bit of manly cooking over coals, while I stuck some sausages in the oven for the poor, starving children who were getting fed-up waiting! We were all well fed and watered eventually.

It was a lovely, sunny day and we all sat outdoors. The children took out the paddling pool, and after the men again did their duty with the pump, Gordon scooted out to the shop to buy a hosepipe so we could actually fill the thing. Meanwhile, Duncan came out with a glass of water which he tipped into the pool. He then jumped into the pool, splashed about for a while,'cause he had to test it, right! Then he went back inside saying to himself 'not enough'. He added a few more glasses, testing it each time! They had such fun when the hosepipe was finally fitted and switched on, well, my Dad did anyway. He was chasing Duncan and Lady around the garden with the water!

I took out his birthday cake and everyone gathered to share it. I asked Duncan if he wanted us to sing happy birthday and he said, emphatically, no! Fair enough. So we just said happy birthday, tucked in and that cake disappeared fast.

It was a grand day.

6 Jun 2006

Sunny days

It's been sunny here every day since Friday, which is very appreciated in this corner of the globe. I cleared out all our clothes, putting a few bags of winter clothes into storage and filling more bags with stuff for the charity shop. Our wardrobes are much barer and brighter.

We spent much time in the garden today and there was a lot of trampoline bouncing and bike riding. Duncan and I sat on a rug playing with a toy Fizz for a while. Duncan had her eating grass, which we laughed at. Then he decided to engage me in a game of 'chase-kiss'. The rules are simple, I run after him, then I kiss him! He just loves to be chased, especially if I climb into their playhouse and follow him down the slide (which was just not designed for grown lady hip widths!). He has much more energy than me though and I was glad when we just lay on the rug together for a while and cuddled.

Thomas continues to love Cbeebies on TV, especially a bizarre show called Lazy Town and Underground Ernie, an animation about London Underground trains. Guess who else likes that one? Do you think there will be a whole host of merchandising to hide from our little collector?

5 Jun 2006

Things that happen

I took the children to W5 on Thursday where we met my Dad and my 9 year old niece who was staying with them for the weekend. We all had fun, though I was slightly freaked out when Duncan ran ahead of me when we were getting ready to leave, and I couldn't find him for a few minutes. Lady found him in the shop, helping himself to the pic-and-mix sweets. Oops. I told him that it is naughty to eat those sweets, he said 'sorry Mummy'. I'm sure he really meant it. ;-)
Lady went to her Granda's place and stayed over with her cousin for 2 nights She enjoyed some spoiling, courtesy of G. and had a lovely time.
I heard that they were caught in the act of a midnight feast, albeit, a very healthy feast; they were eating a big bowl of shredded wheat cereal!

I was so sad to learn on Saturday morning that my uncle had died suddenly. I feel so bad for my 4 cousins. Their mother (my Dad's sister) died 27 years ago when she was 28 and they were all small boys so they have no parents now. They were a very close family and they are devastated.
My sister flew over from London and stayed with us on Saturday night. Then we all drove to our home town on Sunday. There was a service at the parish cemetery where my Mum and grandparents are buried, and lots of the family gathered. Occasions like this bring out my latent Catholicism. It was nice to see the hundreds of people around their family graves, and the priest, who's a very nice man, spoke movingly about remembering our dead relatives and friends with love and pride. I had all the children with me, I was able to abandon Thomas and Lady to whoever was around while I stayed with Duncan. (my sister told me later that when the priest said 'the lord is risen...', Lady asked her 'is he talking about Voldemort?' :-o You see how latent my religion is?) Duncan was a bit overawed by the crowd, even though it was well dispersed. He disliked the loudspeaker too and covered his ears when there was singing. Since he was trying to eat a bag of crisps, I held my hands over his ears for him. When he was really restless, we left and walked down the road a bit where he played on a grassy slope. I was aware that people were looking at us because he was noisy and running around a lot. They may have been wondering why, perhaps thinking he was naughty or I was a bad parent. Or perhaps they were enchanted by Duncan's beauty! I did feel a bit weird, but I had wanted to go and I'm glad I did, even if I had a good run around at the same time.
After tea at my lovely aunt G's house, Duncan went with my Dad while I took the other children and my sister out to see our Granny. She's just come out of hospital and she is very weak and tired and upset by her son-in-law's death. She kept saying 'I just want to die'. Bless that wonderful woman. It is so hard on her to watch so many people she loves leave her forever.

We went to my uncle's house to see our cousins. I'm really fond of these cousins, though I don't see them often now. There were tears and laughter in the short time I was able to stay. The wake will be starting properly today, and the house will be full of people, night and day until the funeral on Wednesday.
My sister stayed in town and I drove the children home, feeling tired and emotional. These are the things that happen though.

2 Jun 2006

A brand new interest

Thomas got a box of basic Lego bricks for his birthday and Duncan was upstairs playing with them yesterday. He arrived downstairs with his creation and asked me for 'white buttons, one white button, two white buttons.' I looked more closely at what he'd built and realised it was an accurate representation of Mickey Mouse. We then sat and build some more things together. We created a Zeebad, Zebedee, a Duncan and several trains. He wanted me to make a Legoland train. I couldn't remember how it looked and he wasn't at all happy with my efforts so took over himself and I was amazed to see how closely his creation matched the train he was trying to copy.

Lady and Thomas were in the garden with the binoculars and a chart they had made, observing birds and insects for Spring Watch. We then had to change the water in the tadpoles' tank, which meant getting a bit closer to the wriggly beasties than I would have preferred.

Lady read some stories to them in the evening as I flew around trying to bring some order to the chaos of our house. They really enjoyed 'Room on the broom'. I had to fly the boys around on our outdoor brush a few times after.

1 Jun 2006

A trip to the farm

Gordon has gone to a conference and will be away until Wednesday, yikes! The past few days he stayed off work to get organised and to spend some time with us before leaving. It's been frenzied as I managed to finish the DLA form, (with big thanks to D. for her input) and we bought loads of food to ensure I don't run out over the next few days; Duncan and supermarkets is not a good combination!

I managed to visit the library by myself last night and now have loads of great books to keep me entertained in the long, bright evenings. I got a big book on Greek and Roman mythology; having read lots of references on Kristina's blog 'Autismland', I wanted to know more. You see, blogging is educational!

Duncan continues to care deeply about his image. I came home the other night to see him dressed as Zeebad. He was wearing a brown shirt, clinched at the waist with a brown belt. The outfit was accessorised with a brown toy arrow bag slung over one shoulder and a small brown handbag over the other shoulder. The best thing though was the 'hair'. He had stuck a long, thin bit of black plastic, encased at the top by a small gold ring, onto his hair with sticky tape! The character he was emulating is bald, apart from a black plait on the top of his head, bound by a gold ring.

Thankfully, he changed to more standard attire when we all went to visit the open farm. Duncan was very, very excited. He was much more interested in the big, old farm dog than any of the other animals. He wasn't sure how to react to all this excitement and emotion spilling out of him so he ran and ran in a circuit. He would approach the dog, saying (as it was lying in the sun) 'Dog! Wake up dog!' Then he was a bit freaked out if the dog moved towards him. He was shouting,'I'm frightened! Dead!' followed by 'I want, pat the dog'. I lead him to the very good-natured animal, who was completely unperturbed by this shrieking boy, and showed Duncan how to stroke him. We spent most of the time at the farm making approaches, then retreating swiftly, from this dog. I was happy to hear Duncan run off to find Lady at one stage and tell her, 'Lady, dog! Come see dog. Pat dog!' She obliged, of course, and he was so happy to share this great experience with her.

Thomas and Lady loved all the animals. Lady is so fond of animals and even when Thomas was playing on the slide and climbing frame, she was always sitting stroking a kid (the goat kind) or lamb or some rabbits or chatting to the donkeys. They both had a chance to bottle feed a lamb and hold a baby rabbit too.

Duncan kicked up a fuss when it was time to leave which almost always happens when we go out. I'm not sure how to best help him to make the transition at these times.

Today he woke up and came to my room, jumped into my bed and asked 'I want a dog, buy a dog'. Oh dear! Perhaps, he'd like a guinea pig instead!