Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Start of a New Year

The Christmas holidays have flown by again and as soon as you get in the routine of  sleeping in later and not having to rush about in the mornings, it’s time to go back to school.  It’s been a shock to the system this week to wake up at 6am, but at least it’s a three day school week, so it will soon be the weekend again.  Even better, there is only another five weeks at school until half term, so I can see January soon slipping into February.  This is always the shortest term and once you get through this one, you can feel the weather getting warmer and summer approaching.  Something to look forward to after the excitement of Christmas is finished with.

Last month we had an Advent activities list with 24 things to do before Christmas Day, which motivated the children and gave them all something to look forward to each day.  Our daughter is now continuing this and has written herself a list of 31 things to achieve in January.  She is motivated to do more things, rather than just sit on her phone or watch tv, which I’m not going to complain about. 

We are all trying to do the ‘Walk 1000 miles in a year’ Challenge, which kept springing up in my Facebook feed over Christmas.  Our two oldest children are competing against themselves to see who can walk the most each week.  It’s good to see them wanting to be outside on these cold, frosty days and planning what walks they can do over the weekends to build up their miles, as there’s only so much they can walk on a school day, especially when it gets dark so early.  Our daughter is at an advantage as she is allowed her phone with her all day at school, so she can measure her walking distance around school.  However, our eldest son will find a way to ensure he keeps on target each day.  They are very competitive.

Last year they both did the Martin Lewis savings plan for children and by the end of the year, our eldest son had saved enough to buy an Xbox One and Xbox live subscription for a year.  Our daughter had a great spending spree at Harry Potter Studios when we visited there on Christmas Eve and has bought up most of the Soap and Glory products she has been able to find in the sales.  Plus she has money left, as she hasn’t been so keen to spend it all, now that it is her money that she has saved, rather than spending ours.  It’s been a great learning curve for them both and they have appreciated what they have been able to buy themselves.  They are both already saving again this year with a goal in mind of what they want to buy at the end of the year. 

I’m keen to get going this year and start new projects after having such a bad time with my health last year.  However, I have been advised by the Consultant that it may take as long as a year for me to be fully recovered, so I have to be patient!  I’m not one to sit and do nothing and have started the new year by entering two short story competitions.  I may not be the next JK Rowling yet, but who knows what will happen in the future.  I can dream and aspire to reach that goal, just like I encourage all three of our children to go for their dreams.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

December has seen the arrival of Stampy McSprinkle

The Elf on the Shelf tradition that seems to be sweeping the country would not take off in our house, as our ASD kids would not be happy seeing their possessions being messed around by an elf each night.  Instead of causing excitement, it would cause a meltdown each morning.  When we made footprints for Father Christmas 10 years ago to surprise our daughter and eldest son, we thought we were creating a magical experience in our house for Christmas morning.  Instead our daughter refused to come downstairs until we had hoovered away the mess.  We’ve never tried to recreate that magic again, as know the reaction we will get. 

Last month our youngest son came home from school and said someone in his class had told him Father Christmas was not real.  He is only 8 and too young for the magic of Christmas to be spoilt for him yet, so I looked for ideas on how to reassure him Father Christmas is true (he wants proof and won’t take our word for it) and came across a website called the North Pole Behaviour Department.  

They create a pack for your child with their name on green, amber and red cards, which you leave out each night for them depending on their behaviour for the day, with a progress chart for your child to tick off each day.  On the first day in December the child receives a certificate to say if they are on the naughty or nice list, as well as a card from their chosen elf with a small list of things the child can work towards to earn a green card each day.  At £10 for the pack, I thought it was worth buying for our son.  You need to fill in the details of your child’s chosen elf and so I asked a friend to write in the name of ‘Stampy McSprinkle’ with a list of three things for our son to work towards to earn a green card, so that he didn’t recognise the handwriting. 

Reward systems work for our son and Stampy McSprinkle has been a big hit in our house this month.  The first thing our son does each morning is to check what colour card Stampy has left him overnight and then he fills in his progress chart.  Today, our son received a mid month behaviour chart with a chocolate lollipop from Stampy to let him know he’s on the nice chart.   Sometimes our son stops in his tracks and thinks about the behaviour he is showing and asks us if we think Stampy will give him an amber or red card.  I think he may miss Stampy McSprinkle when Christmas Day arrives.  Fingers crossed, he will still believe next year and the magic can begin all over again. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Choosing GCSE Options

Last Thursday I attended a GCSE options evening with our daughter to help her decide which subjects she wants to take.  She’s had it all mapped out in her head for some time as to what route she wants to take, but now after listening to various teachers, she’s rethinking some of her options.  The final decision has to be made by 6 January and I’m hoping she will decide this week, so that she doesn’t worry about it over the Christmas holidays.  She will begin her GCSE studies after Easter next year.  Her school start them in Year 9 to give them longer to get through all the coursework and leave them plenty of time to study for the exams.  

I was the first year to take GCSE exams in 1988 and then a lot of them were coursework based.  Now the majority of courses appear to be 100% exams and the grading system is changing, so instead of receiving an A*-G grade, you will be awarded a 9-1 grade.  A good pass will be a grade 5, which equates to the top of a grade C pass and above.  It sounds confusing at the moment, but I’m sure we will all get used to the new system in time.

Subject choices have grown no end from when I did my GCSEs.  There’s a wealth of design and technology courses to choose from as well as engineering, film studies, PE, dance, psychology etc.  There’s also the opportunity to do BTEC courses.  A lot of the subjects have residential trips as well – the film studies department at our daughter’s school are looking into a trip to New York for either GCSE or A-Level students.  As this is a subject our daughter is 100% sure she wants to do, we better start saving now!!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Build up to Christmas

I’ve been reminded how many days there are until Christmas in our house since June by our daughter.  It’s always the first thing she thinks of after she has celebrated her birthday.  Now finally it is fast approaching and advent calendars have gone up today, so that we can begin the official countdown.

Both of our boys have the normal chocolate advent calendars and this year our daughter has opted for a beauty product one, which I managed to buy half price in October.  (Will need to remind myself next year to look for another bargain, as clearly good advertising ploy for the teenage girl market!)  Besides this, our children are spoilt by their Nan who makes them up an advent gift bag and every 3 days, they each receive a small present.  Our daughter has already convinced her brothers to take their turns for a gift on 1 and 2 December, so that when she has her first gift on 3 December, she will then receive her final gift on Christmas Eve.  On the days they don’t get a gift, they get a chocolate coin instead.  Although our youngest son tends to eat all of his chocolate coins in one go and has in the past emptied his gift bag on the same day.  

We sat down last night and wrote an advent activities list, which is similar to the bucket list we do in the summer holidays.  All three children have chosen things for us to do during the month of December including simple things like sending our Christmas cards, making reindeer food, having a games night, eating pancakes and the main event that we are all counting down to in our house is our visit to Harry Potter Studios on Christmas Eve.  This will take away the anxiety that the build up to Christmas can cause our youngest son, as this gives him something else to focus on.

Another tradition I’ve begun this year is an advent joke box for our youngest son.  He loves silly jokes and it encourages him to read, as this is not one of his favourite things to do.  This year, I’ve filled a small box with 25 Christmas themed joked and each day he can take one out to read.

It has been agreed that our Christmas tree will not go up until the kids have finished school to help our youngest son cope, as he doesn’t like it being up too long.  Our daughter has had her Christmas tree up in her bedroom since 22 November - it always goes up the day after our eldest son’s birthday and this year was still up in March.  I have a feeling it will stay up until Easter next year and then she will convert it into an Easter tree!!

Enjoy the magic of Christmas – the build up is the best part, as the day itself soon flies by.  Although in our house, presents to the kids are distributed over a few days, so that our youngest son is not overwhelmed with everything.  This means the magic lasts that much longer and all 3 kids are happy with that arrangement.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Life is slowly getting back to normal

It’s been a while since my last post.  Eight days in hospital with hardly any sleep due to pain and being on a noisy ward plus not being able to eat much took its toll on me.  It’s taken a few weeks for me to feel half human again and to have the strength to do daily things that normally I wouldn’t even have to think about.

My operation went to plan, but it was hard not seeing my family very much over the 8 days I was in hospital.  I didn’t see my youngest son for the whole time, as he was traumatised after my hospital stay in March and didn’t want to see me hooked up to cannulas, drips etc.  I totally understand as I’m not great with hospitals and so know how scary things like that can be to an eight year old.  Fortunately, I could facetime him without him seeing the drips etc.  Although he did remark I didn’t look too good!!!  I do love my ASD kids honesty, even though it may not have been what I wanted to hear at that moment in time!  My eldest two kids did come in and visit me on a couple of occasions and texted me several times a day. 

Timing for my operation was not great, as our daughter had only been at her new school for three weeks and she was still settling in.  However, like in March when I was in hospital, she has grown in strength as a result of me not being around 24/7.  The cycle of ringing me each day, sometimes multiple times to tell me she wanted to come home stopped, as she knew I couldn’t drive from the hospital.  The biggest change was that she confided in her form tutor, something that normally takes months for her to do with a new member of staff and so although I had already told her teacher that I would be in hospital, our daughter told her as well and so had someone she could talk to at school if needed.  That is a huge breakthrough and now she seems more settled at school. 

I had expected my recovery to take 2-3 months, but the consultant broke the news to me when I was discharged that it is more likely to take 3-6 months for me to fully heal.  This was not what I wanted to hear as I’m an active person, who rarely sits down, unless Strictly Come Dancing is on tv!!  I’m always on the go whether I’m out in the garden, walking our dog, decorating, making something or studying.  For the first couple of weeks at home, I didn’t want to do much other than sleep or sit down, so I could adjust to not doing a lot.  After that boredom set in and I’ve used the time to order all our Christmas presents online.  I’ve never been so organised as everything is bought and wrapped.  Last week I decided I needed to start walking again, so that I could walk our youngest son to and from school each day, once the kids returned from half term this week. 

Normally I walk anywhere from 12,000 – 15,000 steps a day, but for the first 3-4 weeks after my operation, I barely went above 1,000 steps in a day.  Last week I managed to walk 5,000 steps on two days and paid the price for it at the weekend as I was totally wiped out and suffering with pain.  However, with our GP’s advice I have managed to do the school run two days this week.  I’m not allowed to do more walking than this for the time being, as a couple of my scars are unfortunately in the same place as my core muscles and so walking is aggravating the scars and scar tissue that is developing.  I will continue to do the school run each day though as I feel better in myself for going back into the outside world.  I don’t like being confined to the four walls of home and unfortunately can’t drive for another month, so I am restricted by what I can do each day.

There is a positive in all of this though, as I’ve lost nearly 10lbs in weight due to the low residue diet I have to be on for the next couple of months.  My husband keeps tempting me with his thai/chinese cooking, but unfortunately I've got to resist it for the time being.

I will have to listen to advice and take my recovery slowly. Spending 17 days in hospital this year is more than enough for me and I don’t want to be going back there anytime soon.  My goal now is to build myself up and fully recover so that I can enjoy the things we have planned for next year, as well as a trip to Harry Potter Studios on Christmas Eve in 8 weeks time.  Both of our ASD children have a Harry Potter obsession and during half term, Sky had a Harry Potter channel on tv, so that’s all I’ve heard for the past week!!  They can’t wait to go wand, broomstick and anything Dobby related shopping in the gift shop!

It’s our eldest son’s birthday in 3 weeks time and although I’m not up to hosting the party he would like this year, I know he will be happy when he comes home later and sees the treat I’ve booked for him today - a rugby training camp with his heroes at Saracens a week before his birthday. 

Going to Harry Potter Studios/rugby camp is all about making memories for our kids and although I haven’t been 100% for the majority of the year, we have still tried to ensure we have created a lot of memories with our holidays, our youngest son being an animal keeper for the day, day trips to London etc.  Our kids may look back and think 2016 was the year when Mummy was ill and had to go into hospital, but they will also remember the good things we have done as a family. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

New School Year

Three weeks in to the new school year and life is moving at a fast pace.  Homework for all three children has gone up a level with our eldest two having homework set online which they aren’t necessarily told about and so need to get into the habit of checking, as well as being given work in the classroom.  Our youngest son has six activities he needs to complete by Christmas which seems a long time away, but for him it is a source of major stress, as he struggles with doing anything related to school outside of the classroom.  In his eyes, work related to school should be done at school and not home.  Just getting him to learn spellings, times tables and do reading each week at home is enough for him, so ‘real’ homework is going to take time for him to get used to and accept this is part of his normal routine.

Our eldest son has joined five sports clubs and with two PE lessons a week and his PE coaching lesson, I wish I had the energy to keep up with all his activities.  On top of this he does martial arts outside of school and plays rugby each Sunday.

Settling into upper school for our daughter has been a rollercoaster ride so far, which we expected and we never thought the first few weeks would be easy.  A year ago, our daughter would have refused to get up at 6.10am each day, but for the past three weeks, she has done this every morning for school without any fuss.  Going on the bus and waiting for registration to start, as there’s a 25 minute gap from when she arrives at school until she goes into the classroom has been a big adjustment.  She has moved from being in an environment, where she had a group of friends to meet and chat to every morning, to starting afresh with no friends.  This was her choice and she has made an amazing start making two new friends.  However, their buses arrive later in the morning, so our daughter has struggled with not knowing what to do with herself for 15-20 minutes on her own.  At the end of the second week at school, our daughter spoke to her form tutor to explain how she was feeling and she has been allowed to go straight to the classroom when she arrives at school.  It’s an easy adjustment for school to make and helps to reduce our daughter’s anxiety.  We are so proud that she took the step to speak up and seek help, as generally it takes her months to build up a rapport with a member of staff, so it shows how her confidence is growing and she wants to make this transition work.  There are many lessons she does not enjoy doing, as now at upper school, she is doing taster sessions of new subjects like psychology, sociology, business studies, so that she can choose which GCSE options she wants to take next year.  However, as she knows she will only be studying these for a few months, there is an end in sight and so she has accepted that this is just the timetable she has to do for the time being and soon she will be learning the subjects she chooses to study.  The biggest change that I’ve had to adapt to with her moving to upper school, is that she is able to take her mobile phone into school and so she texts before registration, break and lunch.  Frequently, she tells me she doesn’t want to do a lesson, but I keep my replies consistent, so that she understands there is no choice and once she’s at school, she has to follow the timetable.  If I ignore the texts, I just get multiple ones sent asking the same thing, so it’s best to reply straightaway.

Adjusting to a new school year is hard enough, but at the beginning of term, I was given a date for an operation in October.  I had begun to plan what I needed to do, so that I was organised in time and thought at least the kids will have almost 7 weeks to adapt to school again and they would be in a fixed routine.  Although the kids didn’t know the actual operation date, they knew it would happen at some point this term, as I’ve had at least 7 hospital appointments since my stay in Easter.

Last Tuesday, I received a phone call telling me that my operation has been brought forward to tomorrow.  It has been all systems go for the past week, so that I can organise family to be here for school pick up and drop off and to help at home, as I’m expected to be in hospital for 7 days.  Once I return I have 2-3 months recovery, so I’m not going to be working on full cylinders for quite a while, which is just as hard for me to accept as the kids.  I broke the news to them on Tuesday that I would be going into hospital and due to me already being in hospital earlier this year for 8 days, they are all equally anxious, as a week is a long time to be apart from them.  

Today I have been at hospital for an anaesthetic review as I’m not a straightforward case for a long anaesthetic.  I’ve been told that a team of anaesthetists will be with me in surgery tomorrow, as last time when Plans A and B didn’t work, they had to resort to Plan C.  Tomorrow they will be prepared for every eventuality.  Not sure how well I will sleep tonight, but am looking forward to this time tomorrow when it will all be over and done with and my recovery can begin.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Summer Holidays are nearly over!!

The summer holidays have sped by this year and on Tuesday the kids will be back to school.  It's scary how quick the time has disappeared but we have also done so much in the past 5 1/2 weeks and our bucket lists have been ticked off. 

Notable highlights have been 10 days camping in Devon with only 1 day of rain. After a deluge of rain last year when we went away (we woke up to find a small river in our tent last year!), we've had two holidays this year full of glorious sunshine as not a drop of rain touched us when we went to Bude in May half term. Whilst we were in Devon our youngest son became an animal keeper for the day. It was a wonderful experience where he had the chance to handle creepy crawlies, muck out farm animals and feed deer, wallabies and meerkats. Our eldest son went on a two day rugby training camp with Exeter Chiefs and was unfortunate that the only day of rain we had fell on his first day of training. Five hours in torrential rain followed by that day's wet kit being left in a bag until we got back home to wash it, is not the best combination!! However, he enjoyed himself and can't wait for the rugby season to begin again this weekend.

As well as going away we have had day trips to London to visit the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace and London Zoo. We've met up with friends and had days to chill at home - the kids have found forgotten toys and board games.  Local days out to go blackberry picking and exploring the countryside in hidden gems we've never been to before like Rutland Water have been enjoyable for all.

Our daughter spent a week with our nieces to enjoy some girlie time.  It's the closest she's going to get to having a sister! She's now raring to start her new school next week.  Something I never envisaged myself saying a year ago. Even the early morning starts which aren't her forte don't seem to be worrying her.  I'm sure it won't be all plain sailing but it's a positive start.

Our eldest son will go into Y7 and is looking forward to a year of just him at school. He's always been at school with his sister or younger brother. Now he says he can just be himself for a year and no one's brother when he's at school.  He's going to start 2 new lessons which he's excited about - Performing Arts and PE coaching.

Next week will start the final year for our youngest son at lower school.  This term we will look round what will be his middle school next year.  Fortunately he has been there many times with his sister and brother so is familiar with the building, although the transition to moving there next September is likely to be huge for him but we have a year to prepare him.

Although, this summer holidays is almost over, we are already planning next year's and have a week of glamping booked  and have just found out today we have got tickets for the World Athletics Championship in London next August.  So we are already off to a good start of fun activities to look forward to.