Hating School.

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I hated school. It was a really unhappy time for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really good friends who made the time bearable, but I wasn’t then, and I am not now an academic person. I could never understand the reason for over analysing things, if you knew the answer. Maths was always my favourite subject, working things out and getting the correct answer was easy, but detailing it on paper was too pedantic for me. I could never get my head around English literature, and this is probably why I am not a reader these days – who needs to know the depth of the relationship between the pimple on the nose of one character and the boil on the bum of another? Read a book, love it or loathe it, but why look deeper than it takes you? When it came to exams I was a total lost cause, as I don’t believe they are about knowledge but the ability to calmly regurgitate facts, something I was rubbish at, and therefore I left school with few qualifications. I did however succeed when I did a practical course at college, with continual assessment, and had a very successful career in restaurant management – I’m not stupid, just not academic.

My boys have never heard me talk about how much I didn’t enjoy school, I don’t think it would be a good thing to influence their experience by telling them about mine. Instead, I try really hard to encourage them, and talk up things they do well, as I am sure all parents do with their kids – if you encourage the good things, it’s easier to discuss the not so good!

I want to talk about M today, but I will mention D in passing.

D is a clever wee soul. Things have always come easy to him, and he has always wanted to learn. He is a sponge for information, and rarely takes things at face value, instead wanting to know the ins and outs of everything. It meant he was more than ready for school, and has done really well. His only complaint would be that he is sometimes bored, but being clever as he is, he has learned to keep his head down and hide in the crowd, rather than pushing himself forward. This is a double-edged sword but the teacher he has had for a couple of years, knows how to push him, and so school, on the whole is a happy place for him. He is a quiet boy at school, as he controls his emotions, but this has the effect of him needing release when he leaves the school each day as he needs to let it all out.

M’s school experience is very different.

When he started nursery, he was just beginning his diagnosis process. He was very isolated, even though he was in a room with 20 other children. It took a while before I was able to leave him, as he suffered terrible separation anxiety. The environment was scary for him and he found it difficult, but he became more familiar with the routine, and settled in, mainly thanks to one wonderful nursery assistant that was there.

I have got myself into a lot of trouble in the past talking about the failure of the school system where he is concerned, and I don’t wish to repeat that experience. A quick summary is that he had 13 teachers in his first three years of school, and just drifted along, getting into various trouble as bullies  took their toll on him. Then arrived a teacher who he had through his 4th year that took her time to learn who he was. He soon let her in and became devoted to her, wanting to learn, because she wanted him to. It was beautiful to see our child change and finding he had not just ability but desire. He also had an additional needs teacher who he also loved, and she nurtured him. For this educational year we had a different boy.

This academic year, started well, but went downhill really quickly. He soon became withdrawn. He just wasn’t happy. Speaking to his teacher, she said he was keeping up in class, so we just assumed it was the pressure of a different environment taking time for him to get used to. Things ticked along, getting no worse, but not improving. He was an unhappy little boy. We did our best to encourage and lift him, which was some days very difficult as he was an angry young man.

Things seemed to take a dramatic downturn towards Christmas. There was nothing unusual here, as December is always a confusing month for him – there is so much going on that is not routine, that he gets very alarmed by it. As soon as the holidays came, we made sure he had the best possible time, and he changed back to the cuddly, giggly little man I love. Then we started talking about the return to school and he went mad. It was as if something snapped inside him. He didn’t want to go back to school. It was heartbreaking watching him. I managed to get him to school, despite his objections. This continued. We had many meeting with his teacher and the depute. He was not letting anyone in to explain what was wrong, and why he was so adamant that he didn’t want to go at school. We tried everything to get him to open up, but it just wasn’t happening.

Then one day, he said school was not a happy place. What a bold statement from a 9-year-old child. We asked him if he could tell us why it wasn’t happy, but he didn’t want to talk any further. Every morning I have to work really hard to make him get dressed and then to get to school. He tries everything to not have to go. He tells of being unwell – what child hasn’t tried that one, but there is never actually anything wrong with him – the problem will be if he is actually unwell and I don’t believe him. He has had sickness, which the doctor has diagnosed as abdominal migraines – https://jas2jar.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/abdominal-migraines/, this is stress related according to our GP. How can a young man be so stressed it is manifesting itself in physical form. Many mornings he tries to deal with me that if I let him stay home he will promise to go to school the next day, or vice versa, if he goes to school can he stay home the next day. He tries everything to not have to go to school.

When asked just before the parents evenings at the end of last term if there was anything that he would like us to talk to his teacher about, he thought for a while, and then said, that he wanted to spend more time with the SEN teacher as it was quieter there. We have always thought the noise of the classroom would be difficult for him, but was he actually admitting this was his problem?   He would give no further comment.

Again we spoke to the school, and they have been really supportive. We as parents though feel there is so much more that should be being done for our unhappy wee man. We are not unrealistic people, we know there is budget restrictions which means they can’t just throw resources at him, but every child has the right to an education.   The school is waiting to become an additional needs hub, but council red tape means this will not happen before Christmas. He has a teacher that does her best, he has a brilliant SEN teacher, and the depute fights his corner which gives us great hope.

For now, we have a happy jolly boy for 48 hours a week, the rest of the time we have a child who is stressed constantly. With only 10 weeks until the summer break, we have pretty much written off this academic year, and are working to put things in place for the next session. We have to think about if he is in the right place, and if the support can be there to mean his last 2 years of primary education stand him in good stead for going to the academy.

As a parent, all you want is the best for your child, and it is heartbreaking to watch them struggle and feel you are failing them. I really would love him to grow up remember these times as being ok, instead of being a horrible experience that he can’t control. I am not naïve to belief there is an instant solution to this situation. He has a family that love him and support him as best we can, and he has the educational professionals that are trying really hard to help move him forward.    We more we work together the more likelihood of getting out of this on a positive slant.

For now, I wake up dreading the struggle to get him to school, and wondering what sort of mood he will be in when he then comes out.

Gypsy Creams

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I have had a pretty rubbish week, which I will talk about another time. Those that know me, know that I like nothing better than tinkering in the kitchen, so, when things are getting me down, I bake – maybe that’s why I am the size I am, I get down too often! This week was one of those weeks, that meant, I needed to take my frustrations out on some butter and eggs!

I follow a lot of food sites on Facebook, and I often see recipes that I think I must try, and I therefore have loads of pieces of paper with scribbled on recipes, that I will get around to, one day! I also often see pictures that make me read the recipe and think I know I’ve made something like this, but it was different. This is one of those recipes. I’m not sure which site it was one, but there was a picture of gypsy creams, and I though I hadn’t had those for ages, let a lone made them in years. I read the recipe, and while it sounded familiar, I knew it wasn’t the same as the one I had known. I therefore went to my bookshelf in the kitchen – yes, I have that many cookbooks, I have a shelf in the kitchen, even though I have all my favourite recipes written in a separate file! The book I was looking for was my Mums old handwritten book of her old family recipes, as I was sure there was THE version in there. Once I found it, the memories of how good they tasted filled my senses, and I had to make them. This is therefore a recipe that my Mum used many years back, so it may be an old family recipe, or one she saw in a book or magazine, I can’t be sure of anything other than I remember them as a kid, so it is a very old recipe. She of course didn’t call them gypsy creams, they are chocolate oaty sandwich biscuits – nothing like a catchy name.

You will need –
4oz butter
3 tablespoons Golden syrup
6ox plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 oz soft brown sugar
2oz rolled oats

Beat together the butter and syrup.
Sieve in the dry ingredients and mix well.
Fold in the oats to form a soft dough.
Roll into walnut sized balls – or bigger if youre greedy!!!
Squash the balls and place on baking tray.
Bake at 160c for 20 minutes – they should be set but soft when they are cooked as they do firm up.
When they are cold, sandwich together with buttercream, either vanilla or chocolate.

They are really moreish.

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I posted this picture of them on Facebook yesterday, and was asked for the recipe, which i happily shared, and then decided I’d share it with you also.

M adores them, and the plate was empty pretty quickly. He then demanded i make them for his lunch bag this week. I have had to hide some of the fresh batch, as they seem to evaporate mighty quickly! For M to find something he enjoys that isn’t over processed is great, so I don’t begrudge him. I also exchange the sypup for liquid fruit sugars, and the butter for lower fat, just to make them not quite so naughty. They are also really good just as cookies, without sandwiching them together.

I hope you enjoy them if you try them.

Pins be gone!

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A year ago, D was in hospital, having pins put into both of his knees, to correct his bandiness – https://jas2jar.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/preparing-for-hospital/, https://jas2jar.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/hospital-admittance/, https://jas2jar.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/post-op-aspie-style/

The difference they made was amazing. At his check-ups, seeing the x-rays was incredible, when each set were placed next to each other, it was easy to see how the bones were straightening. His consultant was happy with the progress, and decided the time was right to remove them. D was really pleased to hear this. In his head, he had made up his mind they were ready to come out, and so I think if the decision hadn’t of been made, he would have got very upset.

Monday was the day for the op. He was over the moon when the appointment letter arrived, and seemed very accepting about the idea of going back to the hospital. He was almost too accepting, but the time was perfect, after our break away, and giving him plenty of time to recover before the summer.

At the weekend, he starting to become withdrawn, and eventually said that he was scared. It was horrible to hear him say those words, but it was also a great comfort that he was able to express how he was feeling. We talked about what was likely to happen, and the fact that when they were put in, he was told that the removal was a much easier recovery. Being told this, didn’t really help, as his only point of reference about hospitals was the pain he was in after the first operation.

Monday, we had to be at the hospital for 8am. We were of course early – there was no stopping D wanting to go, once he was dressed. We went to the ward, and then the paperwork started. Luckily D took his tablet, as I answered the same questions to each person that came to the bed. Then the bombshell that shook him a little, it was a different surgeon! It threw him a little, but he kept focused.

He was second on the list, and went down to theatre just after 10am, with his favourite teddy – Willie Bear, firmly in hand. Despite having the cream on his hands that is meant to make his veins more visible, they went into hiding and so they were unable to fit a cannulae before he went into theatre. They therefore gave him the gas, while he was trying to find Wally in a book they gave him to distract him. It was quite interesting to watch the drugs get into his system. He was looking at the book, and then his eyes slammed shut and his hand fell. I was then ushered away as he was wheeled into theatre.

Just over an hour later, I was taken down to collect him from recovery. He was snoring his head off when I got there. He was taken back up to the ward, and soon he woke up. He was dopey for a while, but soon wanting to sit up. He was quite happy, and desperate to look at his bandages. The nurse got him some toast and apple juice to get him going. He was told as soon as he was feeling able he could get out of bed. He was a little nervous, but decided he needed to go for it. Once his feet hit the floor, he was off. It was amazing to see his determination as he waddled around the ward. He was allowed to take a walk to the play area just outside the ward, while the nurse arranged his release. The surgeon came to see him, and presented him with one of the plates that had been in his leg, as well as a good behaviour award certificate. He says he will take the plate into school for a gross show and tell!

We were home by mid-afternoon.

I was so proud of the way D behaved. He coped really well with a very stressful day. He was extremely groggy through the rest of the day, as the drugs worked their way through his system. He insisted he wasn’t tired, but was sound asleep within minutes of getting into bed, something that happens so rarely that it warrants mentioning!!!

He stayed home from school the next day because we thought he needed to get his head back on an even keel, not just from the fuzzy head the drugs caused but from the emotional journey he has been on. He was quiet and cuddly through the day, but wasn’t in pain, and that is the important thing.

Next week he has to go to the local surgery to have his dressings changed – I am just hoping they are healing well, as one of his stitches went mouldy after the original operation, and he ended up with quite a scar. He then has to see the consultant in 4 months to check his progress. It will then be reviewed a couple of times of year to make sure his legs continue to grow straight. If they start to look like they are bending the wrong way again he may have to have them repined – I am just hoping this doesn’t happen as the stress it will cause him will be on a par of the pain he will be in after the operation.

Haven – our holiday of choice.

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As mentioned in my previous post, we were away at Havens Haggerston Castle holiday park last week.

We have been going to Haven parks now for several years, and while some people might look down their noses at this sort of place – I probably was one of those people before the boys, for us it works really well. To start with, you are self catering, and with fussy eaters like mine, that makes a great difference. Being in a caravan, you are in a family environment. It isn’t like in a hotel where you have to be aware of the people in the next room, because the boys have space to be themselves. There is plenty to do on the door step. On the same note, there is as little to do as you want to! Upon arrival, you get the programme of events, and can plan to be available when the things the boys want to do are happening. It isn’t a case of all or nothing. There are plenty of daytime activities to not just keep the kids occupied, but to stretch them and allow them to learn something new if the want to, from sports, to bushcrafts! There is entertainment galore, with shows for all ages, from the tots, to the adults, and in between. The character mascots – The Seaside Squad, are there for the kids, and their singing and dancing is a key part of the evening entertainment. It’s a total package, and if like us, you book early and get good discounts, its great value for money! The boys love Haven, so for us as parents, we love it too because happy children, mean a less stressful parent time.

We have been to several different parks, and because the on site environment is so similar, it means there is enough familiarity to make the boys feel comfortable upon arrival. They know they will be in a caravan – ok, the decor in each one is slightly different, but the layout it pretty standard. They know the hub of the entertainment complex is the amusement arcade, and they just need to locate their favourite machines. They know the shows are the same across all the parks, and the characters will be there. It all adds up to a feeling of belonging for them.

Haggerston Castle though is by far their favourite site. It is a small enough park for them to know where everything is, and yet it is of a size that means all the entertainment and activities take place. The first time we went there, it was a last-minute decision to go away, and it was freezing cold, and raining hard, we were in a low-end caravan so it only had heating in the main room. It should have been really miserable, but we had a brilliant time, and have returned there twice a year for short breaks ever since!

The pattern of our breaks always starts the same way. We arrive way to early to check in, but it means we can go swimming straight away. The pool is great, and included in the price. Once the boys are in the pool, they feel like they are finally on holiday! They would spend all day every day in there if there wasn’t so much other stuff to do. They will spend a ridiculous amount of money in the arcade, but it is interesting to watch their ability to shut out all the sensory things going on around them with their desire to win tickets to exchange for gifts at the end of the week. They love the ranger activities, and we always book them straight away, to make sure they get on them. This year, they included fire lighting, shelter building, and making smores! It is great to see the kids getting dirty rummaging around in the woods, totally supervised and totally safe.

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The evening shows are watched from a distance, with ear defenders on. They love them but on their own terms. D always wants to have his photo taken with the characters, but the line is always too long for M who gets stressed enough waiting for his brother. There were also a couple of fabulous puppet shows at lunch times this year. It is brilliant to see M particularly creased up with laughter at the simplicity of a Punch and Judy show.

It’s good to have somewhere the boys want to be, and where we feel they can be themselves. While it may be a nice thought to take them on an exotic overseas break, for now Haven is perfect for us, and until the time when the boys aren’t enjoying it so much, I think this is the pattern I holidays will continue to take.

Quick break.

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To do something once makes it a one off, but to do something a second time, makes it the norm, or so it works for my boys.   We are therefore having our third Easter break to Havens Haggerston Castle  park.  

The boys love it here.  The park is small enough for them to feel comfortable with where things are and yet large enough to have all the activities going on to keep them busy.   

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We had to stop at Ikea for breakfast in Edinburgh on the way.   Again it is something that has to be done, because we always stop there, not just a tradition but an essential event.     I have the only kids in captivity that believe Ikea is a restaurant that also sells flat pack furniture!    

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We arrived and went swimming before we even found our caravan!    Swimming is a really important part of holidays for them, and all other activities have to be scheduled around the opening times of the pool!

We have booked the activities the boys want to do, all outdoor things with the park ranger.

They love the shows and D will insist on photos with all of the characters,  but M is happy to watch but wants to go nowhere near them.

So on with the break.

Haircuts!

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It seems to be a thing with people on the spectrum that haircuts are hell. My boys both buy into this thought process quite easily. I can totally understand it, as having someone in your personal space is quite distressing, then add to that someone you don’t know, talking to you, and the discomfort as the cut hair lands on your shoulders, and even worse, your face. When looking at it like that, it is a stressful situation, asking to be avoided at all costs.

The boy’s hair, is so different, it is unbelievable.

M has inherited his Dads hair, very light – he was quite a blondie when little, but it is darkening to a dirty blonde now, and it is totally straight. It is beautiful hair, and has leant itself perfectly to not being cut often, and he is known for his bobbed look, he lets me trim his fringe when it gets itchy in his eyes, but that has been about it. I think the movement of his hair is quite a sensory thing for him, as he does flick his hair quite a lot, and I am sure it is the movement of it, as well as the ability to hide behind it! A couple of time, we have managed to get his hair cut, but when it is really short, it doesn’t really look like him!

D has inherited his hair from my side of the family. He has the most beautiful thick ginger curls. My maternal grandmother apparently had the most beautiful auburn hair so is a throw back to there, but I like to think it was the years I spent having copper low-lights had seeped into my system and come out in D!!! When I was pregnant with D I was very unwell for the whole time, and had several additional scans to make sure he was doing alright. I had a scan about 2 weeks before he was born, and it frightened the life out of me because was totally convinced I was having a boy, and the thought of a girl had never entered my mind, and then I saw the picture of my baby in my womb, and the only thing that was noticeable was his hair! Suddenly I wondered if I was having a girl and I wasn’t ready for that idea, but lucky he was just a very hairy boy – my Mum tells me when I was born, I was known as the baby with the hair, so history repeated itself. When he was little I basically just left his curls to grow, as they were lovely. A couple of times we took his hair to a near skin head, but it just wasn’t him! He was quite happy with his hair, until last year, when a child in his class encouraged a group of kids to call him a girl. The poor boy was so upset that I had to hide the scissors in the house because he was going to take them to his head. I got the clippers out and he had a skin head – I didn’t like it, but he was so unhappy, I had to help him. Since then, every time there is the slightest look of a curl returning he has insisted it be cut – the cruelty of people amazes me as the consequence of words can be so far-reaching.

I suppose many parents used the school holidays as the markers to do certain things, and one of them being haircuts. D asked if he could have a proper haircut as he wanted to get track lines in his hair. I think the lines look a bit silly, but he had his heart set on them. I remembered a friend of mine had said that she had taken her boys to a barber in the town, and they were brilliant with them. I therefore booked appointments, not telling M that we would be going until the morning we went.   He of course went into total meltdown at the prospect of going. I let him scream at me, and tell me how horrible I was, but I wasn’t going to back down, and he was going to go to get his hair cut.

When we got to the barbers, D was quite hyper. I am not sure if it was suddenly realising that he was coming into contact with a stranger, but he settled as soon as he was in the seat – although the frown on his face the whole time was quite amusing.    M tried to escape a couple of times while we waited for his turn. I managed to get him to stay, and when he sat down, the lady said to him that she understood he didn’t like getting his haircut, and she enjoys cutting other peoples hair, but hates having to get hers done – it was just whet he needed to hear, that his feelings were not unique to him, it was genius of her! She only talked to him to tell him what she was doing, there was no chit-chat which would have unnerved him. When she saw he was getting more tense, she made an excuse to leave him for a moment, allowing him to calm down. When she had finished, she said she had left him plenty of movement, but removed a lot of the weight, so if he didn’t want it cut again for a while, it shouldn’t hang too heavily for him. I was so impressed with her attitude and ability to just act and react to M.

I left there with two boys that weren’t just looking smart and handsome, but were happy. D was happy with the patterns on his head – although he told me I would have to buy some hair putty that the lady had used on him! M admitted it hadn’t been as bad as he had expected it to be, and if he got the same lady he would go again. It was amazing!

When someone takes the time to listen to not just the verbal signals, but the body language the difference it can make is beyond belief. I think it is quite sad that I find someones kind behaviour to be such a novelty that I need to comment on it. It is a great relief when you find someone who gets your children, and can accommodate their needs. I just know that the next haircuts will be far less stressful than the thought of these ones!

Easter over!

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When the boys are home from school,  every day seems to merge into one, with nothing being done.   

We are now half way through the Easter holiday and it seems to be wizzing by.

M has had several stomach migraine this week, but the stress of the changes to the daily routine,  mean it doesn’t really surprise me.    Once he has got over the initial feeling sick, and actually vomited, or if we have caught it in time, given him his medication,  then he is fine.

Easter weekend being right at the start of the school break, means it has been almost forgotten already.   Hubby was home on Good Friday,  and so we had a nice chilled family day. 

The weekend saw Hubby and D off to the footie on Saturday,  while M and I did things at home.   
The Easter Bunny is very much believed in by the children,  although I did have to make up stories last year when D caught me hiding eggs –  I told him that some Mummy’s he asks to help him, and he delivers a bag, and the contents have to be scattered.    He happily bought this explanation and hasn’t asked any other questions!     Neither of my boys are real chocoholics,  they would much rather have jelly sweeties,  but easter means chocolate eggs. So that’s what they expect to receive.    They therefore get one full sized egg and a few small ones, otherwise it will sit until I feel I have to help dispose of it!          I was very proud of both of them this year, as it was.gone 7am before the first piece of cocoa mass was consumed.   I was even prouder of them when they were able to tell me the Easter story,  and the symbolism of the egg and why they roll it – just proves they didn’t snooze through all of the church service on the last day of term!   I am not a very religious person, but I think it is really important our kids understand why we do things and not just accept it is because we do.

D had a party to go to lunchtime on the Sunday, which gave a nice break to the chocolate guzzling!    

I actually had not one but two eggs this year – I don’t usually get any!  I won them from Magnum.   They were huge, and beautiful chocolate.   My 3 boys – hubby included were happy to help demolish them – sad to admit it, but I’m not too much of a chocolate eater either, I like chocolates,  but chocolate by itself, does little for me.     M also had an extra egg this year, for winning the Easter bonnet parade for his class.   I was so proud of him, as he did actually make it himself – some kids hats are so obviously parent made, it was a mass shredded tissue paper,  to look likely nest, with a cuddly chick sat on top.   He was totally made up and proud of his own achievement.

Monday Hubby was back to work, so we didn’t get to any of the National Trust egg hunts this year.  Last year the boys ended up with their picture in the paper when we were at Crashes castle.    Maybe I’m a coward, but to take the boys to a woods, full of strangers is not something I would contemplate by myself.

It was a nothing too much Easter weekend, and that was great, because sometimes just having some down time can work wonders.  I hope yours was as peaceful.