Sunday, 25 January 2015

A happy morning for one son and a hard one for the other

Today has been a day where I have made our eldest son very happy, but at the same time our youngest son ended up sobbing his heart out.  

This is the first Sunday during this rugby season that I have watched our eldest son play.  I only went for the last half hour, but it was all I could manage as our youngest son attached himself to the staircase so that we couldn’t go out.  He may be little, but he is strong and very stubborn and if he doesn’t want to do something, he will dig his heels in.  We had agreed this week that we would go for the last part of the session and our youngest son had seemed ok with this arrangement.  Once it dawned on him today that we were really going, he started to cry and said he couldn’t cope with being around lots of people.  Then he clung onto the staircase screaming.  I ended up resorting to promising him a trip to Poundland after rugby for a treat and carried him to the car.

Our eldest son was looking out for me as I parked the car and had a huge smile on his face and gave me a hug.  With his Dad being one of the coaches, I know our son would like us to be on the side of the pitch more often, as his Dad can't always watch him, if he's coaching the other team.  It was wonderful to watch our son play the game he loves and I wish I could do it more often.   

Rugby lasts two hours each Sunday and so we only saw a small portion of today’s play, but this was too much for our youngest son.  He was wrapped up in lots of layers, but was crying from the cold and wanted me to pick him up a lot of the time as he doesn’t like standing on the mud.  He wouldn’t let me venture near to any of the other parents, as he doesn’t like being around large groups of people.  After half an hour, tears were streaming down his face and we made our way to the car and my promised trip to Poundland.  

Although I wasn’t able to please both of them, it is important for our eldest son that I share his passion of rugby, even if it is only for short periods of time at the moment. He has already told me today how much it meant to him for me to watch him play.  Our youngest son needs to get used to being around people, as this is something he will often face in life as he gets older and so by doing short trips like this, he will hopefully find it easier in time.  It's not easy for either of our sons or our ASD daughter, as they all have their own individual needs, but by compromising as a family, we will hopefully manage to find a way to please all three of them.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Decluttering our lives

Decluttering is something I love to do and with the beginning of a new year there are articles everywhere about decluttering our lives.  My husband hates it, as he is a hoarder, whereas I will throw something out if we don’t need it or haven’t used it in awhile.  What’s the point of things sitting in a box if you haven’t got room to display them, it’s broken or if it no longer fits you? 

When windowsills are full of clutter, you don’t get as much sunlight into a room, which will affect your mood.  I’ve read lots of posts on facebook this month about living as a minimalist as it helps to make you happier.  We don’t need all the possessions we surround ourselves with – don’t get me wrong I love photos up of our kids, have various things I’ve collected from places I have visited and I keep some of our children’s artwork and prized possessions but do we need to keep everything?  I often recycle artwork into birthday cards for people and will keep a select few pieces of artwork each year.  In the loft I keep a plastic box for each child with their school work and my intention is that they will all have just one box for their whole school life.  If I kept everything there would be no room in the loft for everything else!

I heard an idea on television this week about how everyone should keep a suitcase full of their favourite things and once this is full, if you have something else to add, then you need to remove something else first that you no longer need.  It’s a good idea to adopt especially when we live in an age where space can be premium.  Some of the favourite things I have are memories of places I went as a child or family trips we have done with our children and so don’t take up a physical space.  Children do not always need toys – a treat to visit a zoo, the seaside etc can offer so many good memories.

Most children I know, including our own have a wealth of toys – many are rarely played with, as there is too much choice.  They also find it hard to keep their rooms tidy, as there are too many things to find a home for.  When you have a tidy bedroom, you tend to sleep better, as the room is clear, which will help to keep your mind clear, rather than focusing on the things that need to be put away.  This works for children and adults and is something I try to encourage our children to do, especially our ASD children who can struggle to sleep. 

Our youngest son has an Ikea storage system and everything is put away in a drawer each night, so that he can’t see it.  Apart from his soft toys at the end of his bed, which he likes for comfort and his lego models that he has out on display, he can’t see much when he’s in bed to distract him.  Unfortunately, our daughter is not the same and would live in a pigsty if I let her.  She likes to leave clothes where they fall and scatter the floor with every book and craft item she owns.  She also seems to collect everything going, whether it is snow shakers from places we visit, keyrings or a sweet wrapper that has a special memory attached to it.  A typical child you could say, but to help her to go to sleep and wake up in a calmer environment, I am encouraging her to take responsibility for her bedroom and tidy it up as she goes, rather than reaching Friday and wondering why there is no clear floor space in her bedroom.  It is a work in progress and I do not expect miracles overnight, but by breaking the job into smaller pieces, she is gradually tidying up each area of her room.  Clothes, books and craft items are the easy things to deal with, it is the scraps of paper, sweet wrappers, ornaments from places we have visited that are proving harder to do.  We have bought some pretty boxes to store things in, so at least the room is tidy and then in a few months time she can go back to them and see if she still has the same attachment to them.

Our neurotypical son is the easiest of the lot, as he knows he won’t get his pocket money each week if he doesn’t keep his room tidy, so he is motivated each week to put his clothes away and keep his room in a reasonable state.  Unfortunately, our daughter is not motivated in this way.  With her Oppositional Defiant Disorder, she would rather forgo the pocket money then clean her room.  

Obviously at the ages of 6, 10 and 11, we don’t expect our children to keep spotless rooms, but it is a good habit to get into, to keep their rooms in some sort of order.

I’m far from perfect either as our dining room table can be used as my craft table or desk for my volunteer work, but I’m trying hard to get into the habit of putting things away as I use them.  I can't imagine having no mess, as I think that is impossible with three children and a puppy, who seems to have accumulated a basketful of toys already in the 3 months he has been with us.  However, we can reduce the amount of things we have and by working together as a team, we are decluttering our home and making it a happier place to live in.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Goals for 2015

Since I turned 30 (many years ago!!), I have always written myself a set of goals for each forthcoming year.  I’m a list person and love the satisfaction of being able to tick off something I have achieved.

I have lifetime goals of places I want to visit, which now we have three children are not going to be accomplished in the near future, but I hope when they are older, I will have the opportunity to visit the beaches of Hawaii, see wildlife up close on a safari trip and enjoy a cruise to the Antarctic.

Now I have to be more realistic, especially with two children that have additional needs.  Some weeks it can be an achievement just to deal with the tantrums and meltdowns that occur in our house.   However, it is still important to me to have my list of annual goals, so that I can feel as if I have personally accomplished something. 

I have the ‘normal’ goals of losing weight and getting fit, which I may actually do this year, now I walk Ludo, our puppy each day.  I will have to remember to cut down on my chocolate intake as well though!! 

I want to take the children to London each month as there are so many places they want to visit.  Now our youngest son is comfortable travelling on the train and he went on the underground in the Christmas holidays, which he thoroughly enjoyed, it will be easier to do days out.  For some families, this may be something that is taken for granted as they can go out whenever they want, without having to plan in advance, but if I can manage one trip a month for the year, it will be a huge feat.

At home, I have a list of decorating jobs to do – not exciting I know, but I have already painted the kitchen this year and am feeling happy that I can tick off a goal from my list.  This will also motivate me to reach my other goals.  Small targets are good to have as they inspire you to go onto bigger things.  This is particularly important for children on the spectrum, as they often give up if they can’t do something straightaway.  By breaking their goal up into smaller projects, they will reach the first one quickly and be more motivated to reach the end goal.

I have craft projects that I want to finish, but my biggest goal is to turn my blog into a self published book.  I haven’t got the faintest idea how to do it at the moment, but I will find a way and although I don’t expect to sell thousands of copies, I will have achieved a lifetime dream of writing a book.  Last year I wrote a 30 page booklet on Sensory Processing Disorder from a parent’s perspective, which is sold at the support group I volunteer at, so I know I can do it on a smaller scale.

I always teach my children to believe in themselves and fulfil their dreams (fortunately our daughter has now changed her aspirations from wanting to be a toilet cleaner at the age of 6 to performing on the stage at the age of 11!!) and it is important that we remember this as parents.  We maybe further down the road of the journey of life, but we haven’t finished it yet, so we should still aim high and at the same time we are being role models for our children to show them that they can achieve their dreams, no matter what their age or how long it takes to reach our goals.  Nothing is impossible.

Things aren't normal!!

This has been our youngest son's favourite phrase during the school holidays. The Christmas tree came down after five days to try and reduce stress as each night we were greeted with hours of screaming that 'things aren't normal'. 

New toys quickly found homes in bedrooms as it wasn't 'normal' to have them out - it takes awhile for our ASD children to get used to their new possessions and it maybe months before they are used properly.

My husband has been off since Christmas Eve with just one day back to work on New Year's Eve which has caused our ASD children anxiety as it's not the normal weekly routine. Daddy should be at work Monday - Friday and at home on weekends. 

Plus rugby will have had its' third Sunday off this week for the Christmas break which means my husband and eldest son have been at home on Sunday mornings. I appreciate the break, as our daughter has not had drama during this time either, so it has been the first three weekends since the beginning of September where we have had the whole time to ourselves.  Unfortunately though, this isn't 'normal' either in the world of our ASD children and has upset their routine.

Lets hope going back to school on Tuesday will seem 'normal'!!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Tree is up!!

Last night we finally put up a small christmas tree on our windowsill and hopefully we have found a compromise for everyone.  Ludo, our puppy can't reach it, so is unable to pull it over or eat the decorations.  Our two older children are satisfied that a tree is in place for their presents to be put underneath and our youngest son has a smile on his face as 'a small tree makes me happy, but a big tree makes me angry'.

It was wonderful to see the three of them working together and putting the decorations on the tree.  This may be a huge step forward as it is the first year that there are just christmas decorations on it.  Previously we have had soft toys and boxer shorts!!  Who knows what will happen next year.

Merry Christmas to everyone and remember, it is important to do what makes you happy as a family, not what is expected by everyone.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tis the season to be tired, ill and stressed!!

Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas and have since I was a child, but unfortunately this time of year no longer seems to agree with our family.  For the past few years, I have crashed at this point due to a build up of viruses taking their toll on my body.  This year, it is the turn of our youngest son, who has been on a nebuliser twice since Thursday, is now starting his second lot of antibiotics and appears to be in a constant state of anxiety.

Things that he can normally cope with doing like going to have his hair cut are causing him a heightened level of stress.  He is digging his heels in far more often than normal about not wanting to do things.  In his words, ‘life is not normal’ and he wants things to resume a normal pattern as soon as possible. 

Fortunately, the stress of performing in his class Christmas play has been removed this year and instead of rehearsing he has been doing a project on pets, which he is enjoying due to the recent arrival of our puppy, Ludo. 

Putting up our Christmas tree has not been discussed yet – it doesn’t normally occur until the kids have begun the school holidays, but with Ludo chewing everything in sight, it is unlikely that a tree will go up this year.  I don’t think I can take the stress of removing an ornament/tree branch from Ludo’s mouth every few seconds of the day!  We may compromise and have a small tree on the large bay window sill we have in the living room, so that our other two children are happy that something is up.  They are concerned there will be nothing for their presents to be put under!!  Our daughter has had a Christmas tree in her bedroom since the end of November and is a good way to ensure her youngest brother does not enter her room.

Visually, our youngest son is getting a lot of pleasure from the Christmas lights that are being adorned on people’s homes and loves to take a drive in the dark to see the lights.  It would be a different story if they were in our home, as he would not like the change to the outside of our house, but he is happy to see other houses lit up, which is a step forward.

Each year we will make small steps like this and although we may not have a conventional family Christmas – we don’t have people visit over Christmas, our youngest son prefers not to have his presents wrapped up, presents are spread over a few days, rather than all being given on Christmas Day, Christmas dinner will consist of whatever everyone will eat, rather than conforming to turkey – we are happy and slowly building up our own family Christmas traditions.  As long as our three children have a smile on their faces and enjoy Christmas in their way, we can’t ask for more as parents.  

Do what works for you as a family, rather than doing what you think the world expects you to do.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Lego Show

A birthday treat for our eldest son was a trip to the Lego Show on Saturday at the Excel Centre in London.  It is rare for me to spend a whole day with him, as like many families with special needs children, we have limited people we can call on to babysit.  Therefore, we have to juggle the activities of all three kids and find some time where either my husband or I can take one child out on their own for some quality time.  We feel it is important to have 1:1 time with each child, as well as spending time together as a family.

Saturday gave our eldest son the chance to relax without worrying about the demands of his ASD siblings.  It didn’t matter that the train and tubes were busy, as he could cope with standing up and being in close proximity to others.  Queuing for 45 minutes to get inside the Lego Show (and that’s with tickets that we had already bought!!) didn’t faze him, as he was happy to chat to pass the time.  When we had finished in the show, we decided to be spontaneous and go sightseeing.  These may all seem little things, but they are not easy to achieve when we all go out as a family as we need to prepare our ASD children for what we will do during the day.  From a sensory perspective, a day at the Lego show could cause them sensory overload with the volume of people, noise, people brushing past them in queues, visual distractions etc. 

After a day of looking at fantastic Lego constructions and seeing what was on offer at the various stands, our son came away very happy with his Ninjago Lego kits and Lego Xbox games.  I had hoped to buy some Harry Potter Lego, as it’s hard to come by these days.  I thought I had hit jackpot when I found a small box on a stand with Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy figures on their broomsticks.  I queried the price as the box had been opened and was shocked when I was told it was £45!! 

Instead of buying the Lego, I’m going to use the money to go on another day out and enjoy some quality time.  After the success of Saturday, I’ve set myself the goal of once a month, I will find time to have some 1:1 time with each of our children, as well as a day out all together.  It will need some careful planning to suit everyone’s needs, but seeing the pleasure on their faces like I did with my son on Saturday will make the effort more than worth it.  I want our children to have fond memories of spending quality time as a family, like I have of my childhood.  It doesn't have to cost a fortune either, what is more important is the time and attention you give your children.