30 Aug 2006

No excuse

We've had a busy few days. One of Lady's summer scheme friends came over on Thursday and another visited on Monday. We had more friends round yesterday too. At the weekend, we went to the cinema and rode the miniature train.

Duncan has been temperamental recently. He keeps shouting and bursting into tears. When he is loud, I may ask him to talk in a quiet voice. He always responds by telling me he is 'not happy.' I say, 'I know you are not happy, but can you be angry and quiet.' He will then say, 'not quiet, ever again.' He's also told me a few times, 'not happy, ever again,' and that he is 'fed up!'
'Fed up' is one of my phrases (such a stupid thing to say, I know), but I don't know where he heard 'ever again'.

This morning, he woke and was in a bad mood from the start. He shouted at me to get him a drink, then threw his cup of juice down the stairs (it has a lid, so only a little went on the carpet). I told him off and was very cross, so he burst into tears, said 'I'm sorry' and told me over and over that he was very sad. He sat on my lap with his arms tight round my neck, and I hugged him as I ate breakfast. I was feeling a bit frustrated, at his behaviour and mine.

Lady and Thomas went upstairs to play with the toy lorry (it opens out to make a town with lots of tiny cars) and Duncan went outside to play on the scooter. He raced up and down, happy and smiling, with a couple of trains in each pocket and I turned on my computer. I had a look to see what's new on the autism hub, and read Abfh's post Another Autistic Child Murdered.
As reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, three-year-old Marcus Fiesel's foster parents, Liz and David Carroll Jr., intentionally left the boy locked in a hot closet with no food or water for two days. They burned the body and then reported to police that Marcus, who was autistic, hyperactive, and prone to wandering, had gotten lost in a park.

Oh how it breaks your heart. At least this time, the killers have been roundly condemned and no-one has tried to play the 'mercy killing' card. There are many difficult days when you're raising children, but there is never, ever an excuse for this.

You know what I'm going to do right now, I'm going to go up to my sons' room, hug them all tight, and read some Thomas the Tank Engine stories, then probably draw some trains.

26 Aug 2006

A book meme

Thanks Ann for tagging me.

1. One book that changed your life?

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.
I first read this when I was not much older than Charlotte when we first meet her. I can still imagine her terror in the 'red room' and the first time I ever cried while reading, was when her friend dies beside her at Lowood School. It was the first time I really felt the magic of escaping into another world.
I had to read it a few more times to appreciate the choice of a small, plain and poor heroine, who knows her mind and carves her own path.

2. One book you have read more than once?
* by Jane Austen!

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The complete works of William Shakespeare, should keep me going 'til my rescuers arrive.

4. One book that made you cry?
Most recently, Memoir, by John McGahern.

5. One book that made you laugh?
Oh, right...well I've read a fair few of Marian Keyes books and they're all funny, smart and a great escapist read, even the one about a recovering drug addict. So lets say, Watermelon.

6. One book you wish had been written?
I can't answer this question.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
The Contented Little Baby Book, by Gina Ford.
So sue me!

8. One book you are currently reading?
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. (I got a box of 'banned' books for Christmas and am working my way through them.)

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James; I started this about 5 times but keep putting it down in favour of something easier.

I'm tagging Amanda, Autiemom, Esther, Kristina and Hazel.
So if you fancy it, I'd love to read about your choices.

24 Aug 2006

New lines

At 6am, Duncan came bounding into our room and jumped into bed beside me, wrapping his skinny wee naked body around me, and squashing a Percy train, a Thomas train and Bulstrode the barge, in between us. He'd obviously wet his bed, so he was clever enough to shed the wet pyjamas and choose a nice, dry bed to lie in. He entertained us with some choice moments from the Thomas stories for half an hour before asking for the fan heater (which he loves to crouch in front of like a cat) and some cheese and carrots and apple juice.

Thomas intercepted me as I tried to go downstairs and I was obliged to return to my bed with him for our morning hugs. That done, we were able to go down to eat. Thomas and I played a marathon game of snakes and ladders over breakfast. I never played the game for so long before.

Lady got busy fixing breakfast for Crookshanks and Daisy, the guinea pigs. They are really part of the family now; I mean, I even dreamt about them the other night! She put them in the run which they spend every dry day in, then cleaned out the hutch and washed it down with water and vinegar. Thomas was fighting to get a turn with the scrubbing brush too. Right now, they (the children that is) are playing with my (little used) spools of thread and all the buttons, making a model of a chocolate factory. Like you do.

Duncan has a few new phrases. A few days ago he was muttering to himself as he played beside me, when he suddenly took hold of my face in both his hands, looked at me intently and said in an earnest manner, 'It's all right Harry, He's home, you both are.' After a bit more muttering he came out with 'He's back, vol-em-on's back!' I asked him what film it was, he said it was Harry Potter. That one cracked me up.

One other night, I was watching a bit of Doctor Who with Duncan snuggling on my lap. He didn't appear to be paying much attention to the TV, when something happened on screen that made him grin and shout the line 'don't touch the baby!'. He said the word 'baby' in a funny faux-English accent, sounding like 'bai-bay'. (Can anyone who happens to read this figure out the esisode?)
This line has entered our repertoire of things to say when playing chase, I shout 'don't touch the baby' and he runs off, laughing delightedly.

I need to fix Lady's hair now. She wants to look good as one of her summer scheme friends is coming over this afternoon.

23 Aug 2006

Learning at home meme thing

Hazel tagged me.

I enjoyed all the John Holt books and Free Range Education (the first book I ever read about HE).

The internet. What else could anyone say?
The children use it daily, from Cbeebies to Starfall to BBC Jam.
Lady's standard response when I don't know the answer to one of her questions is, 'Well let's Google it!
It helps keep me somewhat sane too, to be able to connect with people around the world through e-mail lists and blogs.

Maths books from CIMT. They are just strange.

W5 in Belfast. It's a great place that all 3 children enjoy.

CGP books for Lady.

A piano.

A drop in play/learning centre down the road.
A robot maid would be nice too. As would a tardis, or even just a big bridge going north from our road; you know what I mean Debs ;-)

The Book People catalogue.

The sites listed in 1).

Too late, I think they've all done it.

Unless Mum is Thinking fancies a go?!

21 Aug 2006

Our weekend

Once again, things are looking up around here.

Lady and Thomas are outside, bouncing on the trampoline, playing with the guinea pigs, riding bikes and scooters and whatever else they may be up to. I was thinking of asking Lady to do some sitting-at-the-table type of work, but I think they're much better off enjoying the few remaining days of sunshine together. There'll be time enough for desk work when it's cold and miserable outside.

Duncan is sitting beside me, using his own computer to watch Thomas the Tank Engine videos on YouTube. We have only just started using this amazing resource. Yesterday I helped Lady to search for Harry Potter related videos (there are lots that are inappropriate/plain weird, and she's been told not to use the site unsupervised). We all enjoyed a Harry Potter spoof made for Comic Relief. Gordon spent a few hours last night sitting with a big grin, watching videos by some of the electronic music artists he enjoyed as a youth; YMO, Thomas Dolby, Human League, Kraftwerk, that kind of thing.

Yesterday, Lady alerted us to a bit of a nature battle played out by our back door. A wasp and a spider were tussling on a web; the spider won and we were able to watch it wrap the (still live) wasp in silk, then haul it up to a corner (its larder) and leave it to dangle. It was a fascinating sight I'd never witnessed first hand before.

Thomas had a great discussion also about when he was a baby and how he's getting bigger and then he told me about how he was 1, then he was 2, then he was 3.......all the way up to 100 (though he skipped the 80's; 79 straight to 90!) then at 100 he will die and I will get a new boy. He asked me where he came from, so I told him, the he asked how he got out, so I told him. He just said 'ohh', and went to the next issue. He suddenly realised that I am not 100 yet so I must be growing too. I told him that I stopped getting bigger when I became an adult. He said that if I was still growing I'd be a giant and I'd have to sleep in the Giants Causeway!

We've also been having a few big conversations about our plans for the children in the coming year. Gordon still worries about Lady's education in case she has fallen behind her schooled peers. I have greater expectations from her now; she's older, much more mature and interested in learning about the world, loves to read and just needs some more structure and dedicated time to work. I am aware of things like the National Curriculum guidelines, but mostly I compare her against herself and track the progress she makes in her own development.

We also talked about Duncan. He has been having lots of outbursts, shouting and crying to get what he wants. We talked about how his disability affects him, as that's all that matters when looking at an individual. (Autiemom has a great post about these issues here.) His difficulties are all due to his very limited communication ability. We need to find more ways of helping him communicate without his feeling the need to shout/squeeze my arm/cry quite so much. I try to help him to label his emotions, so as not to deny him the right to feel and express different things, but to be able to show it in more suitable ways. I am learning all the time, and have a long way to go.

18 Aug 2006


We bought Lady a game called Harry Potter scene it? for her birthday. It's a board game with a DVD and tests the players' knowledge on the books and films. We have played it several times, and she keeps winning. I was shocked at the kind of stuff she knew, far more than me! She'd do well on Mastermind with Harry Potter as her specialist subject. She gets a real kick out of her success too.

Thomas loves to play snakes and ladders. We played a couple of games this morning, winning one each. He gets so excited by it all; it's so cute! He explained the rules to me before we started. I thought it was interesting how he was able to recognise the value of each facet of the dice instantly by just looking at the dot patterns.

They decided to do some art work next. Thomas requested 'the materials' and got to work with a sponge and some green paint (green is still his favourite). He showed me his finished product, '8 green fish having a race'. OK then!

Duncan produced a bit of what could be considered an artistic enhancement of our bathroom last night. He had taken loads of toilet roll, wet it, and then flung the piles of mushed up paper at the ceiling. When I saw it, the bathroom ceiling was hung with lots of little papier mache stalactites. Well, it was a more pleasant experiment than his earlier dissection.

He and Lady are painting downstairs right now, so I'd better go check what artistic delights await...

17 Aug 2006

Summer ends

Summer time is drawing to a close. This is Lady's last day at summer scheme and the evenings are fast getting shorter. Like many others, I've been thinking about our learning plans for the next few months for each of the children. There's room here for a lot more organisation and optimisation.

I was a bit low for a few days there, which can be difficult as Duncan is so sensitive to my moods and he was consequently more demanding and clingy. But, spending time with these little people lifts me so I can't stay down for long. They can be hard work, but they are so funny too.

Today, Duncan and me have been composing comic-strip type stories. I wrote out a few sentences and illustrated them with stick figures. Duncan helped to improve the story with a few well placed details, and he came up with the last sentence himself, so we ended up with;

Duncan has a train.
Duncan has a noisy small Thomas train.
Duncan is playing.
Duncan is happy.
Mummy can draw a small Brio Thomas.

He can now read all that. So for now, home-made reading books are the way for him to improve his reading ability.

Earlier though, I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom reading some blogs (so time well spent then ;-) ) while Duncan played on my bed with, well I thought it was, a toy train. He came over to me saying 'fix it' and dropped something into my hand. I expected it to be a train with a loose wheel or something, not a snail with half its shell pulled off. Oh yuk! I chucked it out the window and lead Duncan to the bathroom to wash our hands, while trying to calmly tell him that he must not hurt snails. I had to wash my duvet cover too, there was some horrid looking yellow goo on it. I blame Abfh though, if her last post wasn't so funny and sharp, I might have been paying more attention to what my child was doing!

Also today I cleaned lots and baked raisin and oatmeal cookies with Thomas. He always wears a little stripped blue and white apron when we cook so he really looks the part.

I hope Lady enjoys her last day. She has loved hanging out with other children and may well miss that interaction. Hopefully she'll be able to meet up with some of the children after summer scheme as well.

14 Aug 2006

Birthday weekend

We've just had a weekend of birthday celebrations.

Lady took some little cakes to summer scheme on Thursday and she had a little birthday party with some of her friends there. She also went on a trip to W5, and had great fun dressing up in a lab coat to make flubber.

When I went to pick her up, she was whispering to one of the little boys. She told me they'd been discussing who fancies whom. Apparently she fancies Sammy, Andrew fancies Jessica and Erin fancies someone else...she's only 8, is this for real!

Gordon's Mum came over to have dinner with us. We had Lady's favourite, a Chinese takeaway, and I'd baked a small chocolate birthday cake. On Friday, we all went to the Folk and Transport Museums. Gordon's Mum came with us and she thought it was all great. Everyone enjoyed the day; Duncan ran lots as usual!

In one of the museum cottages, there is an open fire below a huge chimney. Duncan stood staring at the fire and looking up the chimney for ages, then he started reciting some lines and pretending to sneeze. I realised he was thinking of Disney's Pinocchio, the scene where they light a fire in the wale's belly.

We had a proper party for Lady on Saturday. Lots of friends came over, as well as my dad and step-mum, Gordon cooked and I baked and we all had a lovely day. Lady got lots of great gifts. The house and garden were full of children running around having fun. Lady really liked her friend J and the 2 girls spent the day together, usually with Lady's guinea pigs in their arms. Daisy and Crookshanks had no shortage of attention! It's so nice to gather friends and entertain. My extended family are great at that sort of thing. We really must do it more often.

On Sunday, it was my mother-in-law's birthday, so Gordon took her out for lunch in a posh restaurant. Lady went too. She wore a pretty pink dress she'd received the day before as a birthday present, and I fixed her hair in 8 plaits. Lady enjoyed the experience, even if she only ate the desert!

10 Aug 2006

Lady is 8 today!

Happy Birthday!!!

How did that happen, one minute she's just been born, eyes wide, looking round, assessing the situation; next minute (or so it seems) she's a tall, strong girl growing and learning and making me proud.

She lies on the floor with her little brothers and tells them long, convoluted stories using their toy trains. She plays chase with Duncan as she knows it's his favourite game. She sits up in her room watching The Sound of Music with Thomas, the 2 of them belting out the songs together. She still likes to dress up and play with dolls. She makes dens with the boys and reads to them (they love Cat in the Hat). Having spent so much time together, they are all good friends. She can make friends with children much younger and much older than herself. She has not been exposed to the idea that only people born in 1998 can be her friends. She draws pictures most days, of herself with her brothers or of Gordon and me, and writes little love notes and puts them under our bedroom door to find when we're going to bed. She loves her JuJitsu and is determined to keep at it and get a black belt. She has loved going to summer scheme and has made friends with a gang of children there. They've been swimming every day and going down to the beach where she makes collections of shells and stones.

She is kind and considerate of others. She understands and loves Duncan and always stands up for him. She doesn't wish he wasn't autistic, she knows that he just is as he is. She can tell me when I'm doing the wrong thing or am not being fair on one of the boys, and when I mess up and tell her I'm sorry, she immediately forgives and rushes to hug me. She holds no grudges.

She is clever and learning well. She is a Harry Potter super-fan and knows the books inside-out. She loves history and science, especially learning about the body. I love seeing the progress and learning with her. It is wonderful to have her around to share this.

When she was a baby, Gordon and I would keep staring at her while she slept, and we'd whisper 'we made her!' in awe. We're still in awe when we look at her.

Our lovely Lady (who's real name is much nicer!).

8 Aug 2006

Marvellous wedding

I had the most fantastic weekend away at my cousin's wedding while Gordon stayed at home with the children.

I drove first to my brother's house, got changed into my dress, had some bacon and eggs, then went with my sister to the church. On the way, a policeman flagged down my car for no reason, and growled at me 'What's the name?'. Now, I'm a good girl and have never been stopped by a policeman before so I was a bit flustered. I had to think for a few seconds, 'the name of what? The car? The street? Oh no, he must mean what's my name' by which time my sister had poked me and I told him. He then asked 'Where from?' Well, lets not waste words here! Again I had to think; do I give my current address or would it be more correct to say where I'm from; my home-town, so I gave that answer and he waved me on. How odd. We speculated that there may have been a crime reported in the area, carried out by 2 women in pretty dresses, who clattered away on high heels before making their getaway in a people carrier.

We arrived at the church minutes later. Crowds of relatives and friends were there, everyone looking gorgeous, especially (of course) the bride. Another cousin is due to have her 2nd baby in 3 weeks, and as I told her, she was the best dressed guest.

The service was lovely, a string quartet provided the beautiful music, and my cousin and her husband were so happy together. Everyone went to my aunt's house for drinks and snacks while some photos were taken, then we went to Donegal town for the reception.

I tried to book into my room at the Central Hotel, but, like 3 other guests, the room had been double booked and we had to make other arrangements. The woman who was supposed to be sorting this out was a grumpy shrew. (If she had just said these 3 little words I am sorry! then we wouldn't have been so bothered cause mistakes can be made, but she was nasty and rude.) So don't stay there!

Now this wedding had the best speeches I've ever heard. The whole lot were done in about 10 minutes! Unusually, they were given before the meal. The groom had written a romantic poem which left all us soft hearted folk with a wee tear in the eye. It took some nerve for him to do that; I'd have thought he'd be worried about the slagging he'd get from his mates. But he is clearly crazy about his wife and their lovely baby son.

The meal was good and the band were excellent and much dancing was done. I had the chance to catch up with various cousins I hadn't seen for ages as they're living abroad. I was delighted to see my youngest cousin for the first time in years. She had come with her girlfriend and we had the best of crack together. I had a fair bit to drink (well, for me) and though I had no trace of a hangover the next day (I've never had one) I was totally hoarse and stiff from too much loud talking and dancing like a teenager. My dancing was described as 'provocative'...ha! It was great to not have to be the sensible mummy for a day!

I had to abandon my car (obviously), and we managed to get a lift back to our brother's house. with yet another cousin. We got in at 4.15 am, wahey!

I woke up at my normal time the next day and went for a walk to the corner shop for more bacon and eggs, as I needed some fresh air and exercise. We went back to Donegal later on Sunday where we met some of those who had stayed over, and where my other brother came to meet us with his family. That was another nice afternoon.

I had a long drive alone to get home. When I got back I was bowled over by hugs. Thomas said 'Oh Mummy, I was so worried about you. I really missed you!' Duncan was a bit overwrought and told me to go away and said he was 'not happy'. (Gordon had been asking him if he would be happy to see me.) After he was done being a bit angry with me, he came up to sit on my lap and he cuddled in and cried for a while, after which he was OK. Gordon told me they had all had a lovely time together. It's nice that they are all old enough to enjoy being with him, and don't suffer any from my short absence.

I did miss them, but boy, did I enjoy my short time away.

4 Aug 2006

Cars and friends

Last Friday, we went to a playground and met up with another (relatively) local home-educating friend. Lady played with her 4yo daughter, after some initial shyness. Thomas went off and scaled the really high climbing frame, with all these much bigger children. He then joined a queue of 10-15 year olds from group outing, to ride the slide-along-the-rope-thing; the same one he was terrified of last year. This time he was marshaling all these big kids into helping him reach the seat, and getting them to push him along at top speed. Duncan climbed and slid and spun, but most of all he played with the sand.

An ice-cream van drove in while we were there; I braced myself for the tantrum, but it didn't happen. 20 mins passed before Duncan noticed the van was there, then he ran straight towards it. I (as usual) dashed after him. I passed a man who called out something like 'bet he keeps you fit!'; I get that sort of comment a lot when I'm out with Duncan.

So he asked for an ice-cream, I told him I had no money, so no ice-cream. He said, 'Get the money.' I said, 'The money is at home. Sorry, no money, no ice-cream.' He looked hard at me for a few minutes, thinking about this, then ran off to play. Whew, that was easy!

On Saturday, we had another family outing to the cinema, this time to see Cars. The film was great, but didn't hold Duncan's attention so well and he was quite fidgety towards the end.

Talking of cars, ours failed the MOT; faulty rear number plate light and fog lights. I'd taken it to a local garage for a pre-test check too, you think he'd have picked up on those faults. Bah!

But some good news, we had a meeting with the local NAS befriender scheme coordinator and the woman who had volunteered to befriend Duncan. She seems really nice. She will probably come here every week or so to spend time with Duncan, just playing and having fun together. There's no other agenda than that.

Right. I'd really better get sorted. I'm heading off to my cousin's wedding tomorrow in my home town. The children will be left in their father's capable hands while I'm kicking up a storm on the dance floor (and I'm staying the night in the reception hotel too- lie in! Undisturbed breakfast!) It promises to be a big, rambunctious Irish wedding and I can hardly wait!