Running after aspie boy

Luckily I can run fast.

Sometimes I think it is the only useful quality I have for dealing with aspie boy.  I am not calm, I am not patient, I have no interest in computer games, I hate being indoors on sunny days, I do not cope well with getting up at 6am on weekend mornings.  And the worst thing someone can do is try to control or manipulate me, and when it's your own child the feelings that are stirred up are quite strong.  So a tin of sweet corn is now looking rather dented round the edges and myself and aspie boy are currently in separate rooms.

Do you want to know why?

Well just read on....

For the last number of days, weeks even, all that aspie boy has talked about is the next game that he is getting.  It seemed that every day he came up with a new title, and always it as nag, nag, nag about when was I going to order it.   But as I patiently reminded him, he hadn't actually liked any of the last three games that had been ordered so I suggested that he was very careful about his choice this time.   I even got him to type up a list of the games that he fancied.  This was done in a very organised way, in alphabetical order and categorised by console.  

So yesterday he announced which one he wanted first and that he really really wanted it.  And as soon as possible.  Yesterday was a Sunday so I was flat out all day and this morning things were a bit crazy as he was anxious about going on his school trip which actually went very well.  But perhaps the anxiety was a sign of what was to come. 

I had a lot to do when he came home too, but he was so keen that I decided I would just have toast for tea so I could fit in ordering the game.  And just as I confirmed the order he said the following:

"You know some gamers leave the game in the box for while after it arrives..."

I looked at him,

"You don't really want this game, do you?"


"Well, not as much as I did this morning."

After staying calm for weeks, I'm afraid I lost it at that point.  And if anyone can tell me how to stay calm, please let me know.  I told him I never wanted to talk about ordering games again so he headed for the door and I ran after him.  It wasn't secured like this:

In a few minutes I'm heading out to a special teen disco with Smiley, which will be a great break from the emotional madness of asperger's.  I may just dance my socks off as there's no group more unselfconscious and inclusive than teenagers with special needs.   Hopefully I'll be able to handle him better when I get back...

Life begins at 40

But what does this mean?

It's something I'm thinking about as I prepare to leave my forties.  For me it's been ten years of drama - as usual! - but one thing I've noticed is the way that each decade is marked by different social occasions.

In my twenties it was weddings: fun and frivolous and filled with the hope of happy lives lived well together.

My thirties were overflowing with small children, their christenings and parties and playground antics.  There was lots of joy and delight and sleepless nights and wishing that they would stay small forever.

But life got darker in my forties...and some of the most significant social occasions became funerals, of neighbours, friends, and my lovely Mum.  So perhaps 'Life begins at 40' is an ironic joke?  Bye bye to Pollyannaland and hello to real life with all its unfairness and tragedy?  No wonder so many middle-aged people get so serious...

Now someone else I know in another country is not well.  And I hate that I can't just pop round to offer comfort, support or help.  I remember the pain of a friend of mine who had to deal with the death of someone close to her who lived on the other side of the world.  Every bittersweet conversation they had after his diagnosis was charged with the knowledge that they would never see each other again.  I am not in that situation but I often think about her.

For my friend, her children's needs had to come first.  And so it is for me. 

I have to push away the thoughts that fill my head and get on with the chores of the day.  Nothing can be planned, because everything can change in an instant.  One week the medication is working well and then it just isn't.  I wish the magic cream, plasters and nurofen that make most things better in this house would work for him, but of course they won't.  I want to offer advice, in fact I want to tell him what to do.  But it's his illness and he is entitled to handle it his way.  And so I muddle through...

Birthdays 2011-style

Another year has gone by and I'm trying very very hard not to think about the next one.  Just keep telling me that 50 is the new 30 and I'll be okay.  Actually I had a lovely day for all sorts of unexpected reasons.  Ten years ago birthdays involved piles of presents and cards, with many of them ending up in recycling and charity shops.

Now my birthdays are completely different: instead of listening for the flap of the letter box, I just log on to Facebook.  Everytime I checked it yesterday there were more lovely messages from friends old and new.  Thank you to everyone, you all helped to make the day feel really special.  And when I came back from Smiley's teen disco the dishwasher was on and this was waiting for me on the kitchen table.

I love my children :D

What will I do for the next 12 months?  Well as usual I want to get a job, get fitter and spend more time with the children.  Oh and get more sleep.....zzzzzzz

There's a first time for everything

It's been a week of firsts.  My first week as the Mammy of a leaving cert student and then the first time attempting one of those heartsink DIY jobs: painting the wrought iron railings out the front.  Even though you could probably spot the rust from space, it was one of those *big* outdoor jobs that could have languished forever on the lower reaches of my 'to do' list.  But one of my lovely friends took a week off work and said that she would spend the sunny days helping me to get this done.  Since she was giving up her holidays I felt I had to 'give up' my blog - and a few other things - for the duration.  Though I have popped back on rainy days.  This is the job that we have been trying to finish:

Sanded but not yet painted
It's the first time I've attempted to paint the railings and as usual with a new DIY job I was terrified that something would go wrong.  I might buy the wrong product (done that), use it the wrong way (did that anyway and had to air the shed after filling it with dangerous solvent fumes), or do it all wrong and waste time that I just do not have to spare....  Google is great, but getting help and guidance from a friend who knows is much better :)  We finished at 4.18pm today and it was a great feeling.

Now for some more firsts because the lovely Marylin from Softthistle has tagged me to reveal a few more things about me.  I'm gonna change the rules just a little bit though...

First teacher: That would have been at nursery school on *****well Road.  I can remember very little about it except for the long walk across the yard and the motherly figure of Mrs Johnson, our teacher.  It was a very long time ago, when PC meant police constable and the Beatles still wore mod suits.  The same road featured again in my late teens when the free houses hosted some of the most amazing parties I ever went to...

First snog kiss:  Probably Diana the dolly when I was playing mum.  Not named after the Diana either.

First record: My first LP - remember them? - was Elton John's Greatest Hits Part One.  Bought for me as a Christmas present by my first ever real boyfriend (a farmer who owned a car).  Like most boys, he had no clue as to my taste.
First job:  Waitressing in the local tea-shop.  This involved 10 hour shifts earning 30p an hour, plus tips and free cream cakes.  I discovered Chelsea Buns, size 14 trousers and how to salve sore feet.

First crush: AF. Our mums were best friends for several years and our relationship started with meaningful glances from pram to pram but never got further than holding hands...

First hangover:  I don't remember.  Seriously.  I quickly discovered that avoiding hangovers was the key to going to lots of parties and passing your exams, so I was very strict about downing two pints of Ribena and a couple of paracetamol before turning in if there was any chance that I might have overdone it. 

First gig:   A 5 piece band called Pisces that did cutsie covers of Simon and Garfunkel songs.  They were playing in a small community hall to an even smaller audience.  Oh yes and I was one of the singers in the band...

First Flat:  A 2 bed upstairs maisonette in a little village on a hill.  It had a red and white kitchen, a yellow bathroom, a pink bedroom and a purple swirly carpet throughout.  I was so proud of it!  It even had a patch of boggy grass, optimistically described as a garden by the estate agent. I spent two every happy years there.  Independence at last :)
First byline:  My first published piece was in the company newspaper  Without a byline.  Later as a PR I was just delighted to see my stuff in the papers.

First blog:  This is it.

So now to pass this on and please interpret any way you choose.  I'd love to read a list of firsts from Kathleen and Lizbeth xx

On Karaoke and accepting that you cannot sing

I always fancied myself as a singer, a rock chick, a live fast type of a girl (please don't laugh).  So I should have been delighted to get tagged by Kate at Kate Takes 5 for the Karaoke meme that's doing the rounds of the Mummy Bloggers.  But I'm not.  Because I just knew I'd have to face some more unpleasant truths....

Yes I passed Grade 6 singing, sang in the school choir and did a few turns as a singer in a band - mostly in the background.  But I had a sneaky suspicion that my reasonably adequate teenage voice had not aged well.  And I was right. 

My only brush with Karaoke was a turn doing Video killed the Radio Star on Singstar with the kids, really not something you want to hear.  But I had a great plan for this meme, especially as there seem to be no rules: Smiley and I often sing and dance in the kitchen after dinner to songs that she likes: Britney, The Jacksons, Talulah Does the Hula and more.  I would record that.  It would be a duet!

It was not a good idea.  You know those appalled yet amused faces that the X-factor judges make sometimes during the auditions?  Well that was me when I played back the recording.  I have found out that I cannot actually sing*, and I will have to learn to accept that.

It joins a growing list of other things that I'm learning to accept:

...I'm never going to look cool on the dancefloor again (if I ever did), unless I take up something a little more age-appropriate ...anyone up for a waltz?

...More than two glasses of wine and I'll regret it in the morning.  Ditto dessert.

...I really can't compete with flexible twenty-somethings for the kind of jobs that I fancy doing.

...No-one cares what I look like anymore - apart from my kids and job interview panels.  This is actually quite liberating.

Luckily acceptance means that it's okay if I can't dance, sing, drink, dress to impress or work till midnight - I'm fine just the way I am :)

So Jazzygal and Lyndylou, have you any Karaoke moments to share?

Note: I used to put memes like this on separate pages but they're back here now for the moment.  I hope you don't mind.

Also I know there are some familiar themes here, but there's no way I can remember everything I've written before and even searching my blog does not make it clear.  How do you make sure you're not repeating yourself?

You know you have a Leaving Cert student when...

Angel is in the middle of her final examinations: she has morphed into that strange breed, a Leaving Cert student.  So here is a handy guide in case you think you might have one too:

...she can't stop laughing when she's with her friends - hysterically.  And when she's not laughing she's crying.

...she wanders round the house muttering mathematical formulas under her breath.

...she gets up at 6 instead of 12

...her hair is unkempt, her nails are bitten and she only gets dressed properly on exam days.

...she peers out at the world through violet-ringed eyes sunk in a face as white as a snowdrop in spring.

...your press full of Fosfur, Red Bull, Lucozade Sport and fairy cakes.

...Mum the taxi absolutely has to be on time. This is requiring an almost superhuman effort on my part, but it is nothing like the effort that she seems to be putting in.

For any readers outside of Ireland the leaving cert examination system is the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on Irish teenagers before they leave school.  Or perhaps I am just a really soft Mammy, as the more I learn about it the crazier it seems.   I used to learn facts off by heart for subjects like history and geography.  My revision for my English Language exam was to learn a few random long words from a dictionary to include in my essay.  For French I learned a little more volcabularly and a multi-purpose finishing sentence - Tout est bien qui finit bien.  But Angel has been learning entire essays, lots of them, in three different languages.  I am lost for words at the madness of it all....

Real Life

I'm going to be busy with real life stuff for the next while.

See you later!

An update and an award

Wouldn't you just love five days off?  I cannot even imagine having so much time to play with.  Here my kids are just finishing their mid term break and I won't be sad to wave them off to school tomorrow, well one of them anyway.  Aspie boy and I have not been getting on well as I just felt defeated after being told last Friday that he and we would get no help until after September.   All I could do was keep him busy.  There was time with his Dad on Saturday, a 'hunt the hotdog stand' walk on Sunday - big match nearby - and today he has gone off with a friend for the afternoon.  Angel starts her exams tomorrow, and is surprisingly calm, perhaps because the end is in sight (next Wednesday).  I'm trying to be the nurturing Mammy, making tea, favourite meals and homemade cookies as required.  And reaching for the virtual superglue any time I feel tempted to ask her why she is not studying.  Especially as she is doing a reasonable amount.

And so to Smiley.  Who has has been an absolute delight all weekend.  With not much more than her DVDs and shopping trips to keep her entertained, she has been at her fabulous best, smiling and laughing all day.  In town people are once again stopping to chat to her, smile at her and help us with doors and trays.  We got given free tickets to this and free biscuits with that.  We felt like movie stars :).  She just has this amazing effect on people, and I dare anyone to say that she doesn't make a contribution to the Irish economy in her own way.

So why is she so happy?  Well I changed her medicine again, and so far so good.  She has shaken off her head cold and....well I cancelled respite until September.  I made a huge effort last time, but she was sad again for days after her last 'sleep-over', and I don't feel up to working out why.  It could be coincidental that she was sad after respite, but I'm not willing to take that chance.

I just want respite to be better - for all of us - and after reading about this amazing respite house in Scotland, I know it can be.  I love this blog about Lynne's upbeat take on life in Elgin as a lone parent with a teenage girl and a son like Smiley.  And last week she sent an award my way, one I haven't seen before:

There are rules too: Put the award at the top of the post (no), refer to the blogger who awarded it to you (yes) and pass it on to 5 other bloggers (didn't quite manage that either)... 

Mammy Doolittle is a mum of two who deftly handles the ups and downs of family life including vegetarianism, winning and losing, and searching for buried treasure.

Mum in Meltdown is an entertaining look at life as a wife and mum of two boys: I love her boys and their antics :)

Listography: Decisions

Lists are big in my family.  My Mum's life was defined by beautifully handwritten lists, and I feel some sense of control when those swirling thoughts in my head are down on paper.  So I've been really looking forward to taking part in one of the Listography challenges over at Kate Takes 5.  And a wet bank holiday Sunday morning is the perfect time.  This week the theme is Decisions, inspired by blogger Christine Mosler who decided to go to Mozambique to help the Save the Children 'No Child Born To Die' campaign.  

So here's 5 of the top decisions that I'm glad I made:

1.  Taking Music 'A' Level

This decision made my school principal very angry: "You'll live to regret this!" she said as I sat on the sofa in her office, edging away from the poodle.  Or perhaps I imagined that bit.  She was wrong of course.  Studying music with my best friend was the one thing that made sixth form bearable.  Even though I had almost no talent for it and got a rubbish grade.  

2. Going to a Tupperware party

This really made me look at my prejudices.  I would not have seen myself as a Tupperware party person, but after moving to Dublin I was struggling to make friends and so when one of my neighbours invited me to a Tupperware Party, I went, feeling shy and awkward.  But I had such a laugh, and came away with an ugly looking butter dish and some wonderful friends. 

3. Having a third child

Almost everyone told me I was mad to have another baby.  But after Smiley's premature birth and all her problems, getting pregnant again was the only thing I wanted in life. I knew that it would be risky but I was completely obsessed.  Now I have three wonderful children and no regrets.  

4.  PACUB (protest against child unfriendly budget)

Being out of work was only a novelty for a few weeks, so when I saw an appeal on-line for help with a campaign to protest against proposed cuts to child benefit, it took me about 5 seconds to make contact.  Through PACUB I've met more inspirational women, made great contacts and learned about blogging.  Now I have a life - if not a job that pays!

5. Vaccinating my children

I always hated injections, and hated watching them being given to my children and then experiencing a couple of days of terror in case they had a bad reaction.  Then came the claim by Andrew Wakefield that autism could be caused by the MMR.  My son was due to be vaccinated, but he was also showing some of the early markers for autism, so I did not know what to do.   In the end I compromised and got him the single vaccines.  Unnecessary perhaps, but at the time it was very hard to know what was the right decision.  I'm making this my number 5 decision in case you didn't click on any of the links above.  You mean you didn't?  Because the Save the Children campaign is all about getting vital vaccines to some of the world's most vulnerable children, so please please sign the petition if you haven't already.

More Listography here.

When appointments lead to better things in unexpected ways

I'm a bit confused.  Back today from aspie boy's first ever appointment with the local autism service, and I feel wrong footed.  He was on his best behaviour - of course - but nervous, so there was lots of hand flapping and other stims.  All the anxiety-related behaviours that worry me - and him - were discussed, and apparently we are doing very well. 

My boy mentioned an incident yesterday when he came home in terrible form.  He was on the cusp of a meltdown.  But this time we both coped.  I did not panic,  I just asked him if he wanted to go into his den and offered him a drink.  I left him alone then, and he calmed himself down.  We got lots of praise for that.  Which is fine, but this is not the way it always plays out.  Sometimes it gets very bad indeed.  And just because we got it right yesterday doesn't mean we'll get it right next time!  Especially as a lot of the meltdowns happen when he has woken me from a deep sleep at 6am and I just can't seem to get out of bed.

Are these problems so common in children with asd that they are not considered a cause for concern?  What happens when they become teenagers and the hormones kick in?  Actually I know one of the answers to that question, and that's why I'm worried.

But today the emphasis seemed to be about praising my son and how he is coping.  Good for his self-esteem, but not the reason I begged for this appointment.  And the verdict?  Still no services for him until September.  Which is when they were due to start anyway.

The meeting ended well: My plan to help with his anxiety was well-received and we started talking about how he was going to spend his 5 -day break from school (it's a bank holiday weekend here in Ireland).  How I was going to get him out into the sunshine and exercising and seeing friends.  Since this was suggested by someone else, I found myself heading straight for the coast afterwards, and a cliff walk before Smiley came home from school.  I got to enjoy the sunshine, and he got to enjoy telling me all about his favourite games.  A little bit of bribery *may* have been involved and I'm hiding the pizza boxes right now.

What we do next I really don't know, but September is only a few months away...

A lovely set of teeth

Today Angel has the biggest smile ever, and it's not due to the sunshine.   Even next week's exams cannot dim her happiness.  Today was the big day: the braces came off to reveal a beautiful set of shiny straight teeth.  

It must be ten years since she first told me that she didn't like her teeth.  That she was being teased in school.  And it was about this time that she stopped smiling.   She grew to hate having her photograph taken.  There are very few from the last number of years and if she was persuaded to smile, she always looked self-conscious and worried that you might be noticing her teeth. 

The health service said her teeth were quite bad.  And so began the long slow drag of orthodontic treatment.  Night braces and day-braces and train tracks and extractions, it just went on and on.  I grew to dread the trips to the orthodontist.  Over the years she would emerge more and more upset as the treatment dragged on.   The last few years she's had to brave appointments on her own as the practice is now up a dozen stairs and I have to wait in the car with Smiley and Aspie boy.  I used to manage appointments like this by putting Smiley in afternoon childcare but that was withdrawn in early 2009.

She now has a huge fear of dentists and I sometimes wondered was I right to put her through this.  I know some people think it's wrong, that braces are cruel and that orthodontic treatment can cause problems in later life.  I think it would've been cruel not to.

Tampering with Mother Nature has never bothered me - instead it's given me confidence. And I can see the change in Angel already.  She got out of the car, stood up straight and tall, and gave me a huge brace-less smile.  It was priceless.