24 Dec 2007

Christmas Stuff

My youngest brother and his fiancee have a new baby boy. He was born on Monday, and I haven't yet seen them all since they live about 3 hours drive away. He's utterly gorgeous in the photos on their Bebo site. A new nephew is a top present for everyone!

We all attended the village carol service. Lady sang with the Brownies. Duncan enjoyed the big Christmas tree and the chocolates. He had a bit of a dance to the singing, and there's not many who can grove to 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' but that boy could! A man was holding a mike to the motley choir during 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas' and Duncan approached him to have a closer look, then directed the mike to himself before singing a couple of lines of the song. Lady said all the Brownies thought he was very cute.

My sister arrived a few days ago and it's fantastic as always having her around. She's the cool pretty auntie who loves all the children and who is adored by them in turn. We've been out shopping a few times in preparation for Christmas day and yesterday's clan party. I was glad to have her with me on Saturday when I had a bout of what I refer to as 'flutters' or to be more exact, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), in TK Maxx. It's a benign but irritating condition I have had since late childhood, causing my heart to beat at around twice the normal rate leaving me dizzy and breathless. I know how to deal with the episodes. I just have to sit down, take it easy and do a Valsava manoeuvre (holding my nose while trying to blow through it). I can usually get rid of it in a few minutes, but in the shop it took what felt like ages, which made me more stressed and anxious, which made it harder to overcome. Anyway, I was plonked on the floor in the shop feeling a bit embarrassed but knowing I'd feel even worse if I walked downstairs to the nearest seats. Several people offered assistance and one lady got a staff member. The staff at TK Maxx were great. They got me a chair and water and the manager offered to arrange a taxi home. When I said I'd be driving, she offered to have one of their staff drive my car for me (my sister doesn't drive.) But when the SVT passed, as it always does, I was fine and well able to drive myself. It's just nice to know that people can be so kind.

Anyway, yesterday was one of the highlights of the Christmas season; our big extended family party. I booked a room in a restaurant which is about equidistant from all of us travelling from north east, due west or south west. Attending were all my siblings except our youngest brother, their partners and children, our dad and step mum, our step sister and her family. We had lunch, the cousins played, we exchanged presents, my dad dressed as Santa and all the children recognised him, we chatted, Duncan ran around, we enjoyed being together, even if it was kinda loud. We did the same thing last year, and it's just such a nice way of getting everyone together without anyone having to travel too far, or anyone having to cater for 30 or so people.

Now I must go wrap some gifts. I put them under the tree at the last minute, or it might be difficult for Duncan to resist the urge to open them.

To all of you who read this, a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy new year.

14 Dec 2007

The dangers of stigmatising mental illness

It's been quite a week.

7 days ago, I learned that a very close friend lost a family member in the most shocking and terrible way. I visited their home, and sympathised with them in their grief and pain. The loss is severe, the victim was a wonderful, kind, vibrant and beautiful person who appeared to have been doing really well recently. It has given us all cause to question the current provision of psychiatric services in this province.

The following morning, Gordon and I flew out to Malaga in southern Spain for a 3 day holiday, booked months ago for his birthday. We really needed that time together. Both of us were low and worn out by the past few months, and our time away was wonderful and rejuvenating. I was upset to hear when we returned, that Duncan, who with the other children had been cared for by their wonderful grandparents, had been a bit unwell and miserable.

Yesterday I spent a while with Duncan curled up on my lap, making up for lost cuddle time, just browsing my favourite blogs and web sites and catching up on the latest news. It made for dispiriting reading.

I read on Abfh blog, of the NYU 'Ransom notes' campaign. It appears to be an 'awareness' raising exercise by the Child Study Centre of the university, to highlight the impact of mental illness on children. That might be worth doing, but this is not the campaign to do it. This is disgusting, degrading, inaccurate and dehumanising. The autism 'ransom note' that they intend to splash all over New York and put in magazines and newspapers, says,

'We have your son. We will make sure he will no longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives.'

How can anyone think that such a statement on a billboard will benefit a single autistic person or their family? How would I like to explain that message to any of my children? I pity the autistic people who will face such a sentiment in huge letters as they go about their city. What fear and ignorance it inspires. They have similarly awful notes on other conditions too; bulimia, OCD. depression, Aspergers and ADHD.

There is a petition that I would encourage anyone who reads this to sign. It consists of a well composed and thoughtful letter endorsed by several disability organisations, and addressing the justifiable objections to this campaign.

Via Autism Vox, I read the New York Times article about the controversy. The center’s founder and director, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, is quoted as saying, 'Children’s mental disorders are truly the last great public health problem that has been left unaddressed.

He went on to say (in the NYT article),

'While we knew the campaign was edgy and we knew it would be harsh and upsetting, the facts of mental illness are even more upsetting.

'I am disappointed. I thought the people we’d be arguing with are the people who believe psychiatric illness doesn’t exist or those who believe children are being overmedicated.'

'I thought we’d be fighting ignorance. I didn’t think we’d be fighting adult patients or the parents of patients whose feelings have been hurt.'

While there clearly needs to be more understanding of childhood mental health issues, this campaign only serves to increase fear, stigmatisation, ignorance and misunderstanding. This is not about something as nebulous and unimportant as 'hurt feelings' and I don't know why he considers those of us opposing the form of the campaign, as 'fighting' them. We just want to come to a resolution.

5 Dec 2007

Belts, Woo and Personalities

Lady and Thomas graded in Ju-Jitsu at the weekend. They're now the proud owners of an orange and a white belt respectively. I'm surprised that Thomas graded so soon after starting, but the sensei said he was ready. He answered all the questions correctly too! So well done to them!

Duncan usually stays with his grandma while the class is on, and Gordon and I go to the gym. On Saturday Duncan made it very clear he didn't want to stay there, so we wandered the town together for an hour. It was really nice. We picked a few library books, and I was tempted to pay a visit to the event upstairs, where there was some sort of CAM fair with stands on reiki, aromatherapy, angel er, handling(?) and the like. Duncan was in his major buggy, and although there was a lift somewhere, I couldn't be bothered to look for it. I'd have loved to hear what some of them have to say for themselves though. Perhaps another time.

But we made the infinitely better decision to buy some buns and trawl the charity shops looking for books, I found a couple of ancient Ladybird books in perfect condition. One is a book on costumes and clothes through the ages. It ends with a page entitled, 'present day clothing', illustrated with a 60's era family picnicing by their car, with father in a cravat and slacks, mother, ever so daring in trousers, and children, gay and comfortable in shorts and 'jeans'. We like it!

Today, The Golden Compass film is released and I'm trying to organise things so Gordon and I can take Lady to watch it. She has been listening to the books over the past month, and loving them. I really like the trilogy, having re-read them recently in anticipation of the movie. I know I'll be disappointed when aspects of the book are omitted or changed, but it looks good on the trailer. We all worked out our Dæmons from the website. The results were rather inconsistent;

I was assigned a gibbon called Thalius. I am 'modest, sociable, dependable and fickle.' (Dependable and fickle!)
Gordon was assigned a chimpanzee called Lysandra. He is a 'leader, assertive, spontaneous, modest and inquisitive.'
Lady got an ocelot called Persaon. She is 'modest, spontaneous, inquisitive, fickle and a leader.'
A tiger called Onthany was chosen for Duncan. He was described as 'solitary, a leader, shy and proud.'
Thomas was allotted a raccoon called Arphenia. He is 'a leader, sociable, modest, spontaneous and inquisitive.'

As far as I'm concerned, there is one attribute in each profile that shouldn't be there. If C. or anyone who knows us well is reading, can you pick the error for each of us?

1 Dec 2007

Duncan's picture video

I wrote a few days ago about Duncan's computer art. He has focused on these pictures for hours this week. He usually runs 3 programs at once, a YouTube film, Dogz4 and Windows Paint. He draws pictures and scrolls through them in time to the music from one of the videos.

Yesterday we worked together to out his latest creations into a video. He picked the song 'Hawaiian Roller Coaster' from Disney's 'Lilo and Stitch' as his soundtrack. He didn't know at first that the song mentions roller coasters, he just liked the tune.

Anyway, here's what he produced.