28 Feb 2006

Good Advice

I was reading all sorts of stuff over the weekend trying to get ideas on how to help him grow and learn. I’ve read some fantastic blog entries over the past few days by people giving their take on autistic learning. I’ve also read a great, in depth post about autistic learning by Michelle Dawson on the Autism Science Forum.
All this reassures me that Duncan will grow and learn best at home when he is free to follow his interests, when he isn’t stifled to conform to society’s version of normal.

Having them all at home is really nice. I do have to find a better system of storage for al the toys and stuff we have lying around otherwise we will descend into chaos. Or are we there already? So, I’m working out some routine for us. I’ve had a bit of a problem with Lady recently; I keep asking her to do something, like put her clothes away, and she regularly doesn’t do it. I think she always intends to do whatever it is, she just gets distracted. We have to work a solution out because I keep getting angry with her and being a horrible Mummy. Today it happened again and I shouted at her which obviously is not going to achieve anything except make us both feel bad. A little while after she said to me ‘can we make up now?’ and of course I rushed to hug her and told her she is a much better person than me because she always is willing to kiss and make up. She is a very considerate girl.
She had her drama class today so I had the boys to entertain for an hour in town. Every time we’ve done this previously, I have bought a train for Duncan at his favourite shop. Today I told him I would not get him another train, which made him very grumpy. We went into a charity shop which I’d told him had videos. He wanted a Thomas video and when he didn’t find one he was upset and when he’s upset he tends to be noisy. I don’t know if the other people in the shop were wondering why this little boy was ‘behaving so badly’. I considered telling them, he’s autistic, he can’t help it. But I decided not to bother and to just calmly deal with him as I would anywhere else. I did apologise for the noise to the man at the till when I paid for yet another Rosie and Jim video. (Oh good link, Rosie and Jim, there’s a bit where they can type in their names and Jim says ‘hello Thomas’ or whatever. My lot think it’s hilarious!).
They all want a bath now. I suppose Duncan will want to wear his orange jacket. It’s a child’s float suit and he’s been wearing it non-stop for the past few days, usually with a pair of big yellow goggles. He says he’s in Finding Nemo!

27 Feb 2006

I NOT go to school today

Well there you have it. Gordon wanted me to try to get Duncan back to school today. So at 7.20, I woke him and asked him what he wanted for breakfast. But without even seeing his uniform, my smart boy was on to me. He knows, I suppose, that I only ever wake him when I have to get him out to the bus since I’m a bit lazy. He looked at me suspiciously and said ‘NO school. I NOT go to school today. I want home.’ I offered to drive him in the car, telling him Mummy, Lady and Thomas would come too. I told him he would have lots of fun at home after school. But he was adamant.
I talked to Gordon about it and he agrees that we cannot force Duncan into school against his will. So he’s outta there! I have a bit of officialdom to deal with but the real big stumbling block was to make this decision for ourselves, with everyone agreeing that it is the best way forward.
It’ll be interesting to hear what other friends and relatives have to say!

I am delighted! He communicated so effectively. I’m so proud of him. That might well be his first ever 6 word sentence and it just came out of a desire to let us know what he was thinking. It appears that his ‘no intervention’ therapy is working very well ;-)

26 Feb 2006

When you want to hear 'NO!'

Duncan has been great these past few days. Well at least I think so. On Saturday I left both boys at my MIL for an hour while I took Lady to Ju-Jitsu. When I got back, Duncan was asking for a train that he had convinced himself I would buy. He was upset that I didn’t have it and was making a lot of noise so I took him into the kitchen to calm down. His Grandma told me he was very unhappy while I was gone and kept saying, ‘he has a bad cold’ to excuse his behaviour. I knew that wasn’t it; he was just really unhappy that I didn’t get what he wanted. I empathised with him, and after a while he calmed down, though every time he remembered he became a little upset again. But it was OK, I really wasn’t worried at all but his Grandma obviously was. I started to tell her about how great he’s been at playing with the others and how he’s talking more and even starting to read. It’s hard on her to see him at his worst. She loves them all deeply but finds it much easier to engage with Lady and Thomas. She was talking to Thomas about his beautiful eyes (he’s well used to hearing that!) and he nodded in his wise and sombre manner and said ‘yes, the white bits are made out of paper and the black bits are made from coal’, referring to his eyes! A while later, I said something to him about how I was trying to make a point (daft thing to say to a 3yo I know) and he screwed up his forehead and said ‘points? Change the points?’ because so many conversations in our family centre on trains.

Lady has been drawing lots. She drew a picture the other day which she told me was of her ancestor, in a field in Jamaica and she was sweating because it was hot.
Now when I write out some sums for her, she does the sums then decorates the page and writes ‘Oh no’ but crosses that out, then writes ‘oh yes’ which she circles. She also writes ‘by Lady’ on all her work, except she writes her name in Chinese characters. (A friend of Gordon’s wrote it out for her last year and she copied it hundred’s of times!)

Duncan has been talking more and more. When he’s asked something, he will now give a most emphatic ‘no’ when appropriate; when he’s done something wrong (naughty) and I tell him so, 50% of the time he spontaneously says sorry and 50% of the time he says thank you when he’s given something. Whatever everyone else is up to, he wants to be part of it. He was playing hide and seek with Thomas in my bed this evening. When Thomas was under the covers, Duncan was saying ‘where is he, I can’t see him’ and laughing because he knew where he was, then he pulled back the duvet with a flourish saying ‘there he is!’ That was another first!
Gordon really thinks he should go to school until the end of term at least. I see no point but I’ll see what happens tomorrow.

25 Feb 2006

Caring and clever

Gordon is away overnight at another cancer research meeting, the children are all asleep and I’m having a lovely time reading blogs and newspapers and finishing the red wine left over from a chicken casserole I just put together in the slow cooker, so forgive the typos.

I really love my children (oops, she’s getting sentimental and all maudlin’). They bring colour and joy to my life. They bring snot and grime and dirty clothes too, but never mind! Every day I spend with them, they each make me laugh at something they do or say. I love that they enjoy playing with each other so much and they know each other so well. My beautiful boys and my strong, kind girl; what have I done to deserve such gifts?

Duncan spent most of today wearing a knight costume he’s recently received as a present. I couldn’t find the camera unfortunately. He looked the business in the tabard and cloth helmet, swishing his toy sword around. He pointed to himself (a recent trait) saying ‘Prince Charming, Shrek 2’ to let me know exactly who he was pretending to be. Then he badgered me into joining him in the garden to play chase. At one stage they went into the garage so I chased them out and locked the door. Duncan got distressed, saying ‘where is Lady, I want Lady’ because he thought I’d locked her in. See, these autistic children aren’t as lacking in thought for others as they’re meant to be!
(Listen to Radio 4’s Leading Edge article about Theory of Mind and autism, 15 minutes into the show).

You know what other myth is fast being demolished; that most autistic people have learning disabilities. Some Canadian scientists, among them an autistic woman who has over the years come in for a huge amount of disgraceful personal attack, presented data at a conference last week showing that the test usually used to measure IQ, is inappropriate for use with people with autism. A more appropriate scale, the Raven test, which measure abstract reasoning, consistently gives autistic people a higher score. There are more details in a Canadian newspaper and in a great blog post translating another article.
But that’s no big surprise for those of us who know one of these children well!

24 Feb 2006

Elephant trains and slime

We went to W5 again yesterday. It’s close and I have annual membership. We all had fun, but for Duncan, the highlight of the day was the safari train that had been set up in the outer building. I just had to let him have a go. Oh I thought he was going to burst with happiness. Thomas was too frightened and Lady felt too grown-up so I went on with him myself. We sat in the engine and he rang the bell non-stop. It looked like this;

safari train
I know because I had to Google for it when we got home. This picture was on page 6 of the Google results, but he found it.
Duncan wanted me to draw it. I made a really rotten attempt but he liked it well enough. He had me stick my picture onto one of his toy carriages, one with a monkey and an elephant painted on.

Lady had watched a demonstration at W5 about slime. So today we made some using corn flour, water and food colouring. It was all going well and all 3 children were having a great time getting their hands in and squelching it. I was sitting at the table with a cup of tea and my laptop just listening out. Lady took out the enormous saucepan and started teaching the boys Hogwarts spells. When I next looked, they had made rather a lot of mess. Duncan had the mixture all over his face hair and clothes. They had decided to make some more by themselves and had used up 2 full bottles of food colouring. I had a bit of a rage about that before I caught myself on. We cleaned up a bit, though Duncan still has a bright blue nose and green hands!

Oh yes, I’ve just remembered. Duncan’s contribution to the clean-up was to fetch the mop from the upstairs bathroom where I’d just used it. I said, ‘Duncan, get the mop. I want the mop’. Hr went up the stairs and returned a few minutes later empty handed. I said again, ‘Duncan, get the mop for Mummy. Mop to clean the floor’, then I mimed mopping the floor. Duncan went off again, saying ‘mop, clean floor!’ I heard a bit of a squelching wet sound, then he came down the stairs proudly bearing the wet mop. He’d stuck it into the (thankfully clean) toilet, because, he’d obviously reasoned, you can’t clean the floor with a dry mop!

Later Duncan was having a bit of a whine about something or other. I tickled him and asked him if was grumpy like Captain Hook. He laughed and pointed to himself saying, Peter Pan, then pointed to me saying Captain Hook. Then he ran away saying ‘Mummy chase me, Captain Hook, crocodile, SNAP!’

I just heard Thomas talking to Duncan in the special simplified way; ‘Duncan watch Bambi with Thomas? Yes watch Bambi?’ Then he turns to me and says ‘We would like to watch the Bambi video. Will you get it for us please?’
I love that they know exactly how to communicate best with Duncan. They play together every day and really enjoy each other’s company.
Well, usually!

23 Feb 2006

Trying to do the right thing

Duncan didn’t go to school today or yesterday.
The half-term break has ended and yesterday morning I brought him his school uniform to help him get dressed. When he saw it, he became distressed and said ‘NO school, I don’t want school. I don’t like it’. I asked him what he wanted and he told me he wanted ‘home’. He was very clear about this. Gordon was with me and I told him there was no way I was going to be able OR willing to force Duncan out to school that morning. So I called the school and said he had a cold, well he does have a bit of a cough.

So now what. I have always intend to home educate Duncan some time, I was just waiting for the imaginary ‘right time’. This might well be it. I have heard of very few autistic children who are thriving in school; any school. However I’ve heard countless reports from parents about the terrible difficulties their children are having, the lack of understanding for their differences and the constant battles with the education authorities to provide the appropriate support. The reports I’ve read by autistic adults of their school days, are dire; a litany of bullying and intolerance.

Duncan was spending almost an hour every morning on a school bus. He was arriving at school full of energy and recently, he’s been allowed to run around for a bit before being expected to settle down. According to his home-school diary, he has enjoyed many activities at school. But he has also been expected to participate in assemblies. To him this is a meaningless activity. The teacher told me last month that he won’t settle in assembly though he used to ‘sit nicely’ before ‘when he wasn’t used to it and was a bit overawed by the big room’. Is that supposed to be good? One of his IEP (individual education plan) targets was to be better at standing in line! In this month’s IEP, a target is ‘to participate in PE with less support’. The strategies they have used include ‘praise for appropriate responses’ and ‘use of time out when he refuses to co-operate’. They have also been using a reward system of gold stars and Cheerios, you know, the dog-training approach.
I want to get him out before they squash him.

In terms of learning; Duncan is a very clever boy in spite of his developmental delays. His language and processing difficulties mean that it’s difficult to explain concepts to him in the usual way. But he is linking concepts in his own way, like setting up his tracks to emulate what he’s watching on a Thomas video. He gets other props, when he’s watching other videos and acts out the scenarios. He’s also starting to recognise lots of words when I read to him. (It’s no surprise that he can read Fat Controller and the names of all the engines!) The computer is a very important tool and his use of it was very limited at school. The teachers were shocked at his mouse control and ability to use bookmarks and flick through pages. We take that for granted here, where he uses the computer as much as he wants.

I have read the legal requirements for de-registering a child from a special school and although the Education Board might try to be a bit awkward, I’m not phased by them.
Gordon isn’t sure about doing this right now. He thinks we should keep him at the school until the summer and then see how I get on with them all over the holidays. He’s worried if it would be wrong for Duncan to spend so much time with me and thinks that having him used to other adults is important. He’s also worried about how I would cope. That’s my concern. I want to do what’s best for all the children. One thing is certain, I’m going to have to become more organised. It is easy enough to drag Thomas and Lady round the supermarket to do the shopping, but taking Duncan is a whole different story. All those sweets!

21 Feb 2006

A wee bit of a boast

We had some friends over to play a few days ago, including a little 4 year old boy. He got angry with his mum when they had to leave and she had him do a short ‘time out’. He was still really grouchy when they were getting into the car and Lady ran out to say goodbye. When she came back she said that she had made him and his mum friends again. She had said to her friend that he should apologise to his mum for shouting at her (or whatever it was, I didn’t notice) . She told him that if they (he and his mum) didn’t become friends again he would feel bad all the way home because they love each other really. She said it was like when I asked her to make up with Thomas last week when she’d been having a really bad day with him.

You know, it’s things like this that make me really proud of her.

So I don’t forget

Duncan has been talking more recently and his speech has become much clearer. I wanted to record some of his little phrases, all of which he’s copied from videos etc. The latest one is ‘Pippin! Come on Pippin, it’s time to fly!’, taken from the BBC program, Come Outside. He got Lady’s Ju Jitsu red belt the other day, wrapped it round himself and handed me the end while saying this. He wanted me to play ‘Auntie Mabel’ while he played Pippin the dog who has a red lead.

He has a whole selection of phrases to express anger or that he’s not happy with a situation;
‘Help, HELP ME’, which can be disconcerting when you’re in the shops,
‘Mercy, MERCY!’- from Disney’s Robin Hood (when the chicken pretends to die),
‘FIONA, FIONA!’ or ‘I’m an ogre, GRRRR!’ – from Shrek 2,
‘Gordon was grumpy, the passengers were grumpy’ – from, well, guess what?
On Sunday at a friends house he wanted to play outside and he called me out with him while saying in a very chirpy manner ‘Come on, lets go’ – which I later recognised from the excellent American learn to read site, Starfall.

He is skilled at letting people know what he wants and his most used phrase is ‘I want …’. Only a few weeks ago he has started to say ‘I want MY Mummy’.
When he’s asking me for something and I’m not acting on the command promptly enough he says ‘wake up Mummy’.

Anyway, I must go as the little prince is asking me to draw Zeebad (from the Magic Roundabout film, oh god, don’t ask!).

20 Feb 2006

Busy days

Thursday may have started with me sitting on a wall feeling as useful as flipping Humpty Dumpty, but it got much better. My dad called later that morning telling me that my baby brother (he’s 24!) had come up to visit with his girlfriend and their daughter Lilly. She was born 2 days before Thomas and about 12 weeks before her due date. But she is thriving now and is a great little girl. Her mother is wonderful with her. (I was so worried about her when she became pregnant as I wrongly thought she was too young).
I arranged to meet them at W5, the hands-on science place in Belfast. We all had a great time. Lilly really enjoyed it, as did her parents and Granda! Duncan played with the wooden trains for a while before seeing how many ways he could push a plastic ball into a big sucky tube (that’s the scientific name for it). He sat for about 10 minutes concentrating on aligning rods on a platform before going to the castle, grabbing a flag, hoisting it onto his shoulder and marching around saying ‘I’m the king’! Lilly’s mum and me went off for a nice cup of tea and left the men in charge for a while too!
When we were going back to the car, Thomas was copying his big sister by walking along a low wall. He has only recently started to do this as, unlike the other 2, he’s nervous about heights and uneven ground. (He insists that I carry him on and off trains and in lifts). My dad was with him and when they got near the car, Dad lifted him off and carried him over. Thomas started crying really hard and kicking and squirming. I was putting Duncan’s seat belt on and he became distressed to see Thomas so unhappy so he started screaming and he bit my arm- hard. Thankfully I was wearing a leather jacket because he marked me badly. :-( He kissed me on the arm straight after he’d done it. He always does if he realises he’s hurt someone. As we drove off, Thomas was still crying and explained that he had wanted to walk on the wall to the end, just like Lady. He said he was very, very, very angry with Granda and wasn’t his friend any more. ‘You’re just my Granda and my uncle and not my friend’ (The uncle thing must be generalisation for male relatives). My dad apologised to him for not listening and after a while Thomas decided that he did love Granda again. It was interesting when he was telling Gordon about it later he said that he was ‘so, so, so, so angry with Granda but it was alright because Granda was still smiling’.
Everyone came back to our house for pizza and play.
On Saturday we wanted to meet again so we took the train to St Georges Market (farmer’s market) in the city. Duncan’s little face was a picture of joy on the train! We had some good food and Lady enjoyed the freedom of wandering around the market without us, talking to the stall holders. A Spanish group was playing. Lady told me she went up to tell the singer that she enjoyed her singing, and then they had a discussion about music!
We called in at Gordon’s mum’s where I stayed while Lady went to Ju Jitsu and Gordon went to the gym. Afterwards, MIL looked after all the children while Gordon and me went out for a quick coffee.
Sunday started out as a nice lazy day. I was having a bath and talking on the phone to a friend. Before the call had ended, somehow my little cuckoo children were all in the bath and I’d been pushed out! We went to see some friends and had lots of good chat and yet more nice food. Thomas and his little friend (aka Jack) were off exploring in the garden and spend a good deal of time making funny faces and laughing. Duncan was a bit over active, and when we were going home it was obvious that he was exhausted as he was alternating between really grumpy and tearful. They all had a quick bite to eat then went straight to bed and conked out right away.
We watched a bit of Donnie Darko (free with Sunday times) on the laptop in bed before giving up and conking out too. (That’s not some euphemism, there’s other blogs for that sort of thing…)

17 Feb 2006

How to be superhuman

There’s an autism charity in NI. I haven’t had many dealings with it; I did talk to a member on the phone when we moved here and I was going to attend a group meeting one evening, but I couldn’t get away and I’ve not pursued it again. But a few days ago I got a leaflet back from Duncan’s school about a course the charity is organising for the parents of autistic children (or children with autism; mustn’t forget to use person first language ;-) ). The course is designed to help parents understand autism and their children better and give more information on the practical support available. I considered applying to take part, especially to find out more about services I could make use of in this area. But I think I would probably sit through most of it squirming in my seat as I was forced to listen to obvious, boring or irrelevant information. I also have a low tolerance for those people who like to whine and ask loads of stupid questions, you know the kind of people who always talk the most at antenatal classes.
Then I was thinking, what services could I possibly use anyway? How could outside agencies benefit my family? The answer is, I don’t think they could. I don’t think the risk would be worth any potential benefits. I don’t want to have our names written on any more files. Since we moved here I have had just 1 paediatrician visit with Duncan, initiated by us, and he has seen the educational psychologist a few times at school. One of the things I used to hate was all the visits to paediatricians and dieticians that we used to make when we lived in London.
I watched an episode of ‘Without a Trace’ late last year in which a young boy with autism went missing for a while. In the program, the parent characters tells the story of how they went to some autism support meeting at which all the couples were informed that 80% of them would divorce ‘cause autism is so bad and it rips families apart’ and all that. I remember reading that sot of stuff when Duncan was 1st diagnosed too and feeling a bit freaked out. I mean, we’d need to be superhuman to hold out against that kind of statistic! (It’s probably not true anyway.)
But I think that these statistics could actually influence you in a negative manner. If you’re having problems you might feel more likely to ‘blame it on the autism’ and admit defeat, because after all, ‘nearly every couple with an autistic child, split up’. My child’s autism does limit our family in some ways but there are so many things that are much more awful than having an extraordinary child. Everyone faces difficulties in their lives, whether with money, illness, gambling or drug use or even awkward in-laws. It has helped me to accept things the way they are, to enjoy my child and laugh at some of his funny ways. If I was constantly saying poor me look at all the things our family can’t do, then I’d be feeling totally depressed. I am so very far from being a saint and sometimes I do just need to get away from them all, but that’s what Gordon’s here for!

16 Feb 2006

Baa Baa

This morning I helped Duncan get dressed in his school clothes, fixed him some breakfast and packed his school bag. Then when we’d added coats and shoes, he climbed onto my back, I picked up his bag, and we set off down the road to meet his school bus. I sat on the low wall, he sat on my lap, pulled his hood up and snuggled in to me. Then we waited. I knew we weren’t late; we saw the fast train pass and the boy listening to his I-pod who always gives us a miniscule nod and the man from the house across the road leave for work in his pick-up truck. But we waited and waited until my backside was getting numb and I gave up and went home. Later I phoned the school to let them know Duncan wasn’t coming in as his bus hadn’t arrived. The secretary said that was because the school was closed for half-term.
...I felt sheepish.

15 Feb 2006

The London report

We had a marvellous time. We arrived late on Thursday. Lady and I were ravenous, she was ‘so hungry I could eat my hand’, but a big bowl of my sister’s stew sorted us out. On Friday we went to the Natural History Museum. It was my dad’s 1st time there and he was suitably impressed. I love that place. Could you imagine anyone designing a public building of such splendour today? It’s a cathedral of science. Obviously, we visited the dinosaurs first! I was blown away by the evolution display and we all liked looking at the section of giant sequoia tree dating from AD 600 or so, with the dates of various historical events marked on the rings.
In the afternoon I went with Lady on the train to Hampton to meet up with our friends. We meet S and I as they were walking back from school. The children were expecting to see us on the following day, so the look of surprise and delight when they caught sight of Lady was priceless. The girls ran to each other and hugged and we mums had a little tear in our eyes to see them together again. They have always acted more like sisters than friends and it meant so much to me seeing them all. The girls disappeared upstairs when we got to their house while I caught up with their mum and dad. I learned that one of S’s school friends called her ‘gay’ when she was talking about how excited she was that Lady was coming over and how much she loves Lady. How is it that 7 year olds are using ‘gay’ as an insult?!
Lady stayed there overnight and all the next day. She said they played all the same games they used to!
Meanwhile, I found myself childless for the evening! I joined my dad, sister and her friend for a Chinese meal after which my dad was packed off home and we bright young things ;-) hit the bar, and it was all very jolly! I also met my sister’s new boyfriend (2 thumbs up).
My dad said that when anyone asks him what we did in London, he’ll have to say ‘I ate’! On Saturday we went to Wagamama (why doesn’t someone bring this franchise to Belfast?! Please!) then to the National Gallery. I haven’t been there for years and it’s such a thrilling place. I never realised quite how many pictures depict the baby Jesus nursing. They moved me greatly as beautiful images of a mother and child.
I had a look at the Alison Lapper sculpture in Trafalgar Square afterwards. I like the way it sits there, among all the fighting men, an image of a strong woman, seemingly saying, I’m naked, pregnant and disabled and I am not hiding!
On Sunday my UCL-days best buddy came up to London with her family and we all went to Nandos (another one I’d like to see in NI!). Her children are 1 and 3 and they are gorgeous! We had such a lovely time!
I was delighted to get back home though. I’d really missed all my boys. They’d been fine, great in fact! Gordon took them out on the train to St George’s Market where Duncan had a lovely time looking at the big clock (with visible mechanism!) and eating ice-cream. I’d promised them a present but couldn’t find what they wanted in London, so I had to get off the train on the way home to go to our local toy shop! Even then I couldn’t find exactly what Duncan wanted. He was disappointed when I didn’t have the right train and was crying and saying ‘bye bye Mummy’ to me. I let him be angry until he was ready to be sad and then he came over, climbed up on my knee and cried while I held and rocked him. I know he was upset with me for leaving him for those few days as well. Actually when he came back from school on Monday, he got off the bus, looked at me with a little smile and ran inside happily.

9 Feb 2006

London, here I come!

I'm just about to fly off to London with Lady and my Dad to stay with my sister for a few days. The boys are staying behind with Gordon and I am very excited! I know it'll be lovely catching up with all our London friends, most of whom we haven't seen since we moved here a year ago. Lady will stay overnight with her oldest bestest friend in the world.

I'm sure the boys will have a grand old time at home together. It will be the longest time Gordon has spent with any of the children alone. Well, I've (finally) got a mobile phone so my marvelous advice will be easily available!

Running and jumping!

So, I got a bow’n’arrow for Duncan. It was part of a tacky plastic ‘Big Chief’ dressing up set. Lady was so pleased when we found it in the shop; she said that Duncan would be in heaven when he saw it. He was asleep when I came home. I went to his room to check on him and he woke up briefly, looked at me and mumbled ‘bow’n’arrow’ so I got it and put it under his pillow and he was most gratified!

We all walked to the country park on Sunday. It was magical. Lady and Thomas took their scooters. Duncan found a strong stick which he slung over his shoulder. He had a great time stomping about looking and touching. He kept humming the song from the Teletubbies Animal Parade!

Yesterday Thomas, Lady and me went to the Folk and Transport Museum. We had the place to ourselves! It was cold so we were glad to warm up by the fire in the ‘rectory’. The woman working there was baking soda bread on a griddle over the fire, or as Thomas calls it ‘Sodor bread’. If you know anything about Thomas the Tank engine, you’ll know why! (He also calls our spare bedroom the ‘guessing room’, having misheard guest room. Lady calls it ‘the Land of Spare ‘Oom’, her first literary reference (The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe)). Lady really likes that museum and asks me non-stop questions about things she sees. We also visited the railway section of the Transport Museum, which is so impressive. With no effort, we learnt loads about how transport and power developed.

In the afternoon, I took Lady to drama as usual. We always have to wait about for an hour while she is at the class and Duncan always gets a new train from the toy shop. We seem to have added a visit to one of the charity shops onto our Tuesday routine. Duncan knows they always have kid’s videos so we have added a few new titles to our collection over the past few weeks. It was raining when we were going back to the car, so we had to run. I was calling ‘1, 2, 3 jump’ and the boys were laughing and running and jumping. We got there extra quickly and everyone was happy!

4 Feb 2006

Lady and the crisp factory

It’s Saturday and Gordon has taken Lady to Ju Jitsu while he hits the gym. The boys are watching a DVD and I’m having 5 minutes peace.

Yesterday we spent the day together. Duncan stayed off school, ostensibly because he had a cold (and he does, but it’s not that bad) but really because I didn’t have anything in the house on Friday morning that I could pack for his lunch. So we played and read stories and I drew lots of pictures and rolled them up into small cylinders, as instructed. He has decided that he wants a bow and arrow. I think Lady told him that he could get one for his birthday, but he doesn’t do anticipating future pleasure; he wants it NOW! So when Gordon came home from work, Duncan had convinced himself that Daddy had a ‘bow’n’arrow’ in his bag. Big tantrum ensued, and when he was finished being angry he was so sad and was crying like his heart was broken. It’s hard to know what is the best thing to do in these situations. I just stay near him, usually carry him to another room and let him be angry and empathise with him. Then when he’s ready he climbs onto my lap for ‘Mummy hug’. I’ve asked Gordon to have a look in the toy shop for the requested object before he comes home. I know he can’t have everything he wants. This demanding various things, usually trains, is one of the hardest things to deal with.

On Thursday (to go back in time), I took Lady to meet up with a gang of local home-ed people for a tour of the Tayto crisp factory. I stayed with Thomas at a local leisure centre with 2 other Mums and their little ones. We all spent some time in the soft play area and the children had a great time; they even enjoyed the big ball cleaning machine that was wheeled out and set into action after someone peed in the ball pool! Thomas was quite smitten with his new friends and I enjoyed making a new friend too! Lady loved the Tayto tour. She was raving about it all the way home. They got to sample some of the crisps and she said they had big machines ‘like in the tooth paste factory in Charlie and the Chocolate factory movie, only these ones worked’.

Duncan was looked after by his Grandma when he returned from school. I was a bit worried about how they’d get on but he greeted her with a big smile when he got off the bus and they were absolutely fine together, thank goodness.

Four Things

So, I got tagged. I didn't know what that meant until a few days ago and now I even know what 'meme' means in net speak! Thanks Deb.

Four jobs I’ve had

  • Potato gathering

  • Bar waitress

  • Radioactivity metrologist

  • Tutor to 1st year physics students

Four movies I can watch over and over

It’s tricky to name only 4 and the films I can watch over and over are not all the same as some of my favorite films. So in this category I would put;

  • Annie Hall; great love story and just tooooo funny!

  • Good Will Hunting; I LOVE this film and have seen it many times.

  • Finding Nemo; It’s got great characters and is one of my favorite children’s films

  • Grease; Come on, it’s funny, cheesy and has good songs!

Four places I’ve lived

  • Holywood; in a horrible house with beautiful views.

  • London; Went to UCL in’89 and it was amazing.

  • Coventry; Hated it.

  • Vienna, Virginia (for 2 months in ’91)

Four TV shows I love

  • Fr Ted; 3 mad Priests stuck on Craggy Island; it’s the funniest thing that’s ever been on TV. So much of it was based on the kind of characters I knew.

  • Extras

  • The Office

  • ER; when George Clooney was in it.

Four places I’ve vacationed

  • San Francisco; Went with Gordon when I was 6 months pregnant with Lady. It was a suitably wonderful last break before our lives changed forever.

  • Hyeres; Little town in the south of France, where Gordon and I went camping for our 1st ever holiday together.

  • Giles Quay, Co.Louth; Memorable and lovely family holiday in a caravan when I was about 9.

  • USA; went on a cheap bus tour starting at Boston and ending at San Francisco when I was 20, stopping off at all these amazing national parks.

Four of my favorite dishes

  • Roast chicken dinner

  • Lasagna (made by myself, I’ve never tasted better!)

  • Really GOOD Chinese food, especially dim sum.

  • My Mum’s apple tart, she made the best pastry.

Four sites I visit daily

Four places I would rather be right now

  • In Rome

  • In bed

  • Somewhere nice and warm

  • I like it here!

Four bloggers I am tagging

Nope, I can't do this as I don't know enough bloggers!

1 Feb 2006

O Mother, Where Art Thou?

Whoop-de do, I’ve got my laptop back. Mamma got a brand new mother-board!

Anyway, Lady and Thomas have spent the last hour playing on the new BBC Jam site and really enjoying it!

So what’s been happening; well, we’ve all got colds. Duncan isn’t so badly affected, though I have had to wash his school jumper every day; snail trails on the sleeves! I’ve had a bit of a headache which has left me whining and grumping even more than usual about the VOLUME of children’s noises in our house. Though to be honest I am far too loud myself, having a propensity to shout. It comes from growing up in a loud house with lots of noisy siblings, well that’s my excuse!

Duncan left his new train on the bus yesterday after school and was ‘SAD and GRUMPY!!’ So I joined him in a good old stomping and crying session and then showed off my superior parenting skills by distracting him from his agony (and to him, it was) by offering him some sweets. I had a big bag of Haribo jellies so I put a few into bowls for each child and hid the rest in a plastic bag so I could show Duncan the empty sweet wrapper as ‘proof’ that they were finished. If I just tell him the sweets are finished, because I don’t want him to have any more, he looks in the bin and if he doesn’t see the wrapper, he knows I’m lying and demands more.

I got the DLA forms a few days ago; it’s time to make a new claim for Duncan. Filling them in 1st time round was a depressing experience ‘cause you have to focus on all the negatives in your child’s life. But I don’t think it’ll be so bad this time. I’m less stressed out in general now and will be able to state the difficulties and differences between Duncan and a typical 5 yo without feeling bad about it. Some of things we do are different, but that’s it. It’s how you choose to present it. So, on the DLA form I will bemoan the fact that my son has to wear nappies at night, while to myself I will celebrate the fact that he is completely continent during the day. I will complain that he takes ages to fall asleep and needs a lot of time every night, to myself I will celebrate our shared enjoyment of stories, especially since he has only started to enjoy being read to very recently. I will tell how I have to carry him on my back every morning when we go out to meet his school bus, but to be honest, it’s nice to have that little bit of closeness before those hours of separation. There are some things I just can’t put a positive spin on, and there’s no doubting he is entitled to this money. I just refuse to let it make me feel bad when I examine our lives for all the little things that take longer to do or the big things that we just can’t do…