Welcome to the slow life

Or 8 things my special girl told me over Christmas...

Remember that I wrote about the Christmas break recently?  Well I haven't finished.  You see it was so different to every other holiday we've ever had.  Normally I have a schedule, and a list of things to achieve.  Family meals, outings, visits, exercise, often travel too.  Is this what good parenting is all about? I  thought so, and many of the experts in books and in real life seem to advise the same.  And with two kids with special needs I was constantly calculating the logistics of the next item on the agenda, and barely had time to be present with them at all.  But this year I did.  This year I let the kids dictate the pace, and I spent a lot of time watching and listening to them, trying to really understand what makes them happy, secure, safe and engaged.

My son was having his difficulties in the run up to Christmas, and my special girl was not her usual smiley self either, but I wasn't sure why.  She'd been tired in school and I'd made changes to her diet after a visit to the dietician.  Perhaps the rest was teenage stuff?  So I watched and I listened, and this is what she told me, and there *may* be some interpretation involved!

...Diet drinks are gross.  At least the ones you've bought for me so far, Mum.

...You may think you like living life at warp speed, Mum.  But I don't, cos it just makes you all stressy and shouty.

...It's no good taking me on fancy pancy outings if I can't use the toilet when I need to!  Or I'm tired, or hungry.  Sometimes I'm just as happy to stay at home.  Really, I am.  Just give me lots of attention and stuff to do and the odd visitor to make the day even better.

...I really don't do dieting, just like you, Mum!  So now you have me on diet drinks, you'd better give me a bigger breakfast or I'm going to be pretty cranky by midday.

...I like my iPad, but I LOVE helium balloons, and pink tennis racquets and the holey bit from Connect Four.

...No I'm not going to drink a beaker of stupid water and go back to sleep just so you can have a lie in, Mum, I want to get up!

...Sometimes I do need my sleep.  I am a teenager after all.  Sometimes I want to go to bed at 8 pm and sometimes I'll sleep for 12 hours.  But just to keep you on your toes, I'm not going to tell you when...

...Most of all I like to go to places I know with people I like, and keep to my routine.

Now she's told me all this, I've had to act, and changes have been made, including fewer outings and organised activities and nicer diet drinks.  And every day her home school copy records that she is in 'great form'.  Long may it continue!

So for the rest of 2013 we're going to try the slow life.

Do less.    Sleep more.     Stop planning.     Start living. 

The slow life.

Could it work?

Coda: A doggie update

The dog-sitting is done, she was lovely, my son enjoyed her company, but of course most of the work was left to me, and she took up more time and needed a lot more attention than I realised - a dog plus a slower way of life?  I'm not sure whether that will be possible in this house.  We will have to see...

Silent Sunday 27.1.13

Inspired by:
Silent Sunday

The most magical moment of day is...

Well what do you think?

Is it watching the dawn rays of sunlight light up the clouds with colour? Or do you just groan at the thought of the daily grind?

Perhaps a romantic sunset after a perfect summer's day?

Or a hearty meal with all the family gathered together around the table? Or are you just tired after all the preparations?

A hot shower on a cold day is great, but is it magical?

The thump of the front door as it closes after the last child has left for school?  But then you face the commute to the office, or the pile of mail on the dresser, or a sinkfull of breakfast bowls.

If you're a mum like me, and even though your kids are your whole world, that moment, that magical moment, is when their breathing slows, their faces relax, and you know you can finally creep out of their room and downstairs.  And breathe.

There's nothing like it.  It's the end of the day's journey. You might still be feeling a bit hyper or exhausted, but you've reached the destination safely and now perhaps there's a chance to relax.

I hadn't realised quite how much I'd missed it.  Until last night.  When, most unexpectedly, I found myself child free at 10.30 pm.  And I was still awake.

I crept back downstairs, put the telly and the fire back on, grabbed a glass of apple juice - no need for wine! - and just vegetated for an hour.  It felt like someone had unscrewed the iron band around my head and switched off the hamster wheel.

I was still feeling calm this morning.  Which was just as well....

When's the best moment of the day for you?

Snow stories and store cupboard soup, sorry!

Sadly the view outside my window did not look like this.  No, Dublin is enjoying wind, rain, grey skies and heavy traffic.  I know this because I had to drop Angel to College for an exam - 2 miles one way - and aspie boy to school - 2 miles the other - because his bus was running late.  It took an hour.  And I know every short cut.  I will never complain about working from home again!

It may be winter outside, but behind closed doors the green shoots of hope are starting to appear at home and school.  There have been some really good days.

And then a huge breakthrough this afternoon.  I may have mentioned that we've been nowhere and done nothing - well almost - for the past number of weeks.  I wanted him to be totally comfortable and safe at home. To make it somewhere that he didn't feel constantly nagged and told to do stuff that he finds challenging.  Simple everyday activities like a trip to the supermarket.  I figured that if we got to that point, he might start to make baby steps back into the big world outside.  I have suggested things before, unsuccessfully, but today he finally said yes.  And we're going wall climbing at the end of the month.  I replied as calmly as I could, but inside I was jumping for joy.

An hour later and dinner was pizza.  Again.  But the side dish of vegetables was eaten too.  Another good sign, I think!

Maybe, just maybe, dare I hope that I'm on the right track this time?  There's a long way to go, but perhaps with help those little shoots will get bigger...

In other news...

I was drooling over this soup recipe from Wholesome Ireland at lunch time, and it inspired me to make my own STORE CUPBOARD SOUP, perfect for a day that threatened snow.

Half an onion fried in a tiny knob of butter.
Pour on hot stock.
Tip in a couple of cupfuls of frozen vegetables.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add some milk.
Thicken (I used this stuff which I think is like magic)

Blend or liquidise.
Brave the wind and rain in the garden to get a sprig of parsley to decorate it.
Dig a spoon out of the drawer and enjoy :)

We need a dog, I think

When you're the parent of children with special needs, you're always looking for way to help them.  You sign up to stuff, like a thousand pages on Facebook, leave messages with every possibly relevant organisation and put their name down on every waiting list you come across, and then you sometimes forget half the things you've done.

One of the things I'd almost forgotten was putting my son's name down for a specially-trained dog with the autism charity, My Canine Companion.  Like an autism assistance dog, but more suitable for an older child with aspergers, a companion dog should help to calm him, (and perhaps me too) and make outings easier and more fun for the family.  Then last month I heard that his name was now top of the waiting list!  Decision time… and it's not straight forward - he's not that keen on dogs and nor am I, but I'm willing to be converted if it helps him.  And to try and find the time for the walks and whatever care a dog needs!  Believe me, I have NO idea what is involved.

So how to persuade my son?

By being clever is the answer - and it wasn't my idea.

We're going to dog-sit for the night!

Thank you so much to my lovely Facebook friend who is making this possible.

And this is the beautiful dog who is being loaned to us..

How could this not work?

Hopefully in a few months, we will be enjoying the benefits of a beautiful companion dog ourselves.


Now, can I ask a favour of everyone reading this please?  No money involved, just votes..

"My Canine Companion, Autism services for children have been shortlisted for MyKidstime Charity of the year 2013. The winning charity with the most votes by midnight 31st January will become the Charity of the Year and receive support and advertising from Mykidstime throughout the year."

So if you can spare a few seconds please vote for My Canine Companion on the list on this page:


Thank you!

Whatever you do, don't panic!

It had been a difficult morning.  But I gritted my teeth and set off on my first run of the new year.  I started okay.  Concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and how good that made me feel.  Well until the 'walker' in the Ireland vest overtook me!  But then the other kind of thoughts started to creep into my mind.  What happened, what went wrong, how I felt.   Then it struck.  Like a tide of suffocating black sludge filling my arteries and lungs so I could barely walk or breathe.  I stop and gasp for breath as the rising panic reaches my brain.

Stop, breathe, go again.  It wasn't a long run.

I came home and grabbed everything I could...

...Rescue Pastilles
...Two nurofen for my exploding head
...Chamomile tea to wash it all down.

After that I felt a bit better.

Yes I know that taking everything at once is NOT really recommended, and I promise not to do it again.

I was diagnosed with anxiety before Christmas.  But that was just on one day.  It's reactive.  Something happens.  I panic.  I have plenty of good days.  Like the day I got my new bag...

It seems to be an epidemic among middle aged women (according to a GP friend) and special needs parents (according to other friends).  I wasn't expecting it to happen to me.  Me?  The girl who jumped out of an aeroplane? Ran the London Marathon?

Ten years ago I celebrated my 40th birthday by learning to drive rally cars.  Now I have to remind myself not to drive too slowly.

These days I check every door, window and socket before bedtime, where once I slept for a year in a downstairs bedroom with a broken catch on the window.  Could've been handy if I forgot my keys!

I have become a worried woman with a worried frown.  A woman over 50.  Who is different.

I take pleasure in my new bathroom blind.  How clean and neat it looks!  How smoothly it goes up and down!

I thought I would shoot myself if I ever got that like.  But now I have, I somehow find that I don't want to...

But I DO want to do something about my anxiety levels.

No I'm not on daily medication, nor do I go to counselling.  I can't face either.

So how to calm myself?

Looking back it was always there, lurking in the shadows.  Some of the things I tried as a teenager to calm down were not a good idea then, and would be unthinkable now.  Those things I did as a young adult are more difficult now - my knees complain when I run, the beach is mostly out of reach and so are the hills.  Baking helps, which I why I love this book so much and, like author Marian Keyes,  I bake even when there is no one to eat the results.

There's wine of course, but that has to be rationed.

What do you do?

Do you suffer from technology anxiety?

There was a discussion on the radio today about social media and its effect on the lives of those who use it, and once again I felt that the discussion focused on the negative impact.

Yes some people do ignore real life and the real people around them in favour of checking Facebook or Twitter, including my children at times.

But it doesn't have to be like that.

After I lost my job in 2008 I craved contact and interaction and information.  Every morning I would check my emails, have a look at rollercoaster.ie and my Facebook page.  There would be little to see and by 9.30am and I would be sitting staring at the screen willing something interesting to appear.

The rest of the morning was carefully choreographed: a bit of exercise, a bit of housework and a lot of mostly fruitless job applications.  My friends were busy and it was a lonely time for me.

That has all changed utterly now, and while I have social media I know that I need never feel bored and lonely again, even if I'm stuck in the house for the day, or if I'm stuck somewhere else.

It was through rollercoaster that I found and joined PACUB, the group protesting against cuts to child benefit, which is still fighting austerity today.

Through Facebook I rebuilt contact with family in Australia and nurtured friendships in the UK, twenty years after I moved to Ireland.  And most of all I made new friends here, friends with kids like mine who understand special needs and who are generous with their time, support, friendship and information.

It was through Facebook and this blog that I started working for Hearts and Minds, so now I always seem to be on-line, constantly searching for good stories to help the community of families who are trying to get iPad for their kids by recycling mobile phones.  Sometimes my Facebook friends publish information that I can use, so it would be rude not to like a few other updates as I pass by...

And whenever I am working or blogging or simply hanging out on-line, I keep one eye on my twitter stream, for more news and information and entertainment, for now or later.

So for me social media is fulfilling.  Perhaps other people are like that.  Perhaps people switch on their phones when the 'seatbelts on' sign goes off through boredom, not 'technology anxiety' .  Perhaps they are just glad to be reconnected with the world and have something entertaining to read or play again while they wait to get off the plane.

You see I hate waiting, and there is a lot of it in my life.  Waiting for my kids to do things, waiting in queues, waiting at appointments, waiting in line at the checkout.  Now I can just look at twitter and my anxiety decreases.

A story was told about an older couple who used to spend their evening together in front of the TV.  Now she has a tablet and looks at that while the TV is on.  He doesn't like it.  And yes I can understand that, but I did wonder who's in charge of the remote control?  If I had a partner of many years, would we always watch TV together?  I suspect not.  When watching TV or films with my kids, they often use laptops or phones at the same time...

But there are many times when I switch off the internet on my phone.  Many of my friends are not on-line and when I am with them, I only check my phone for texts and calls in case they're about my kids.  Some nights out seem to involve lots of photos being taken and posted on-line, but I've stopped doing so much of that - because I forgot to enjoy myself!  

When I have published this post the laptop will be closed and it will stay that way until I do more work.  Well in theory, anyway...

So do you suffer from 'technology anxiety' or does it enhance your life?  Or do you just ignore it?