Saturday, 31 May 2008

Not again!

They say truth is stranger than fiction and I definitely agree. For the second time in her short life Bea has broken a bone. This time it's "just" her wrist (a torus fracture of her radius) but it's going to be harder than her collar bone as she's in plaster. So I'm sitting here debating whether to fork out a small fortune for a waterproof plaster cast cover or to risk improvising with a plastic bag and an elastic band. My husband has pointed out that since I've become obsessed with recycling there aren't many plastic bags in the house so it may have to be a bin liner!

In many ways I was lucky - this time it happened at the end of the day so we haven't had to endure a whole day of screaming and tears. Plus, as it was the weekend my husband was able to take care of James while I rushed to the hospital. There's no way he'd have been able to cope with the waiting area if he'd come along and I don't know if I'd have been able to manage with both children on my own.... She was so brave and let the nurse and radiographers handle her, wiping her tears away with her muslin and whimpering for James. Recently she's developed such a strong attachement to him that at times it's heartbreaking. If he isn't around in the day she'll cry and ask for him and if he is around she chases him around (while he ignores her), desperate for him to play with her. I find that so hard to watch as I worry that one day she'll stop trying. I know as she gets older we'll be able to explain to her that James is autistic and that's why he behaves the way he does, but right now she's not old enough to understand it properly. I do sometimes tell her that James is different and hasn't learnt to use cutlery/ wee on the potty/ not chew his tee shirt but usually it encourages her to copy his behaviour. At least that's a reassuring feature of normal development!

She wasn't too impressed when it dawned on her that the plaster cast was here to stay although now monkey is trussed up to match we're hoping she'll tolerate it a bit more. The plaster will be on for two weeks, which means we'll get it taken off just in time for our annual trip to London Zoo for "Special Children's Day". I guess my plans to take her swimming while James is at nursery are on the back burner for a while....

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

What a difference a year makes

This time last year I was sitting amongst a wall of packing boxes wondering if we'd ever see the end of them. We had finally moved from our tiny one and a half bedroom lower ground floor flat in central(ish) London to a three bedroom semi in the suburbs, and I couldn't believe how many boxes we'd filled. Our flat must have been a tardis - the removal men just kept taking more and more and more boxes to the lorry and things seemed to appear out of nowhere! We had been renting a storage unit too (I have a complete inability to get rid of anything and have a dreadful habit of buying things "in advance" and "just in case" - how it's come back to bite me, as I have a garage full of toys that I bought for James that he will never be able to use or be interested in. There's something particularly cruel in that) so when they unloaded the last thing at 10pm on the Friday night I could have cried. The house had been left in a state - the kitchen was filthy, all the "fancy" electric sockets and light sockets had been replaced with basic white plastic ones, the garden was unsafe for the children as it was full of brambles and building materials, the doorbell had been removed, and the fitted wardrobes had vanished (I had clocked that they weren't included in the sale on the fixtures and fittings list, but had visited the house two days before we moved when it had been unoccupied for 3 weeks and they were still there so I had lulled myself into a false sense of security that the previous owner would leave them after all. I mean, the clue's in the name "fitted wardrobes" - I still have no idea what she did with them after removing them, or why she removed them in the first place!). The internal decor had left a lot to be desired when we had viewed but stepping back over the threshold the reality of what we had let ourselves in for became apparent. There wasn't one room that could be left untouched.

So here we are a year later and we now have a "home" rather than a shell. We have managed to do the following:
  • rewire the house
  • strip the floorboards and varnish/stain them
  • strip the wallpaper and then plaster and decorate the master bedroom, Bea's room, playroom and lounge, including replacing skirting boards and picture rail and blocking up a serving hatch between the playroom and lounge
  • build a virtually fitted wardrobe in the master bedroom
  • replace the boiler
  • landscape the garden

There's still plenty to be done, notably James' bedroom and the bathroom, and as with the Forth Road Bridge, it feels as though we're going to get to the end of it all and need to start again but at least we've broken the backbone. The garden was our biggest project, and has only just finished - just in time for all this rain! Apparently they removed over 6 skips full of building materials in the first week.... I am looking forward to sitting in my summer house, admiring the beautiful planting and landscaping and planning my Summer Solstice celebration!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

All gone

Finally, we've done it - when James began chewing his hair in earnest a couple of weeks ago (coinciding with the good weather and us putting him in t shirts) we agreed we were going to have to do something drastic. For the last four years (well, since it was long enough to be classed as "long") we have left James' hair long as it suits him so well. He has lovely blonde highlights that swish and sway when he shakes his head back and forth (one of his many stims!) and he has a pretty obvious plagiocephaly, so keeping his hair longer avoids the "Phil Mitchell" look. But I've seen pictures of trichobezoars (hairballs to you and me!) in medical journals and knowing my luck, James would be one of the rare cases that develop intestinal obstruction and require surgery to remove it! So after a lot of agonising and soul searching we decided to have it cut quite drastically. Ronan was a star, once again, and very patient with James throughout the "procedure". I was virtually in tears watching his locks fall to the ground, wondering if I was doing the right thing. When we walked out, he was barely recognisable to me - he looks much older and more "masculine" (although he has very male features, with his longer cut he was usually referrred to as a "girl" even when in what I'd call "boyish" clothes). I'm still doing a double take when I get him out of bed in the morning. I think he suits it shorter, but we've deliberately left him with a surfer look - it's much easier to look after now and we're not having to spend 10 minutes getting the knots out in the morning. Most importantly, he can't get his hair in his mouth - so he's taken to chewing the front of his t shirts! That one's going to be a bit more difficult to prevent I think....

Sunday, 11 May 2008

A week away

We're having some pretty major work done on our garden at the moment, and that has entailed both doors being open - impossible to manage with James. So I was glad that we'd organised a week away to the back of beyond. As a child we used to spend a week of our holidays in a Forestery Commission log cabin so when I stumbled across their new site I knew I'd found the place for us. We really needed a total escape and it's far easier for us to be in the middle of nowhere with James than in a crowded busy hotel.

I hadn't quite banked on the traffic on the way up - it was Bea who gave us more trouble than James though! He has always loved the sensation of movement and very rarely complains in the car. Bea on the other hand started crying about 20 minutes into the journey and kept going on and off for the next 7 hours. So on her birthday wish list is an in car DVD player - I remember how I used pat myself on the back and feel so smug about how happy James was to sit in the car and that he had no need of such entertainment. Don't feel so smug now though. It's often hard to sort out what is down to James' autism and what is just "normal" though. For instance, he has become pickier and fussier when it comes to eating and I never quite know how far to push it. His reluctance to try different and "new" things is most likely part of his autism, but there are lots of neurotypical 4 year olds who are pretty fussy. But on the other hand you can usually do some bargaining with them to at least get things tasted if not enjoyed (once again, though, this is starting to backfire on me as Bea is now demanding "teeny tiny Pontipine" pieces of every foodstuff - I thought it was a good idea at the time!!!). No amount of bargaining/explaining/begging works with James - occasionally I can almost force a orsel in his mouth but then I find myself feeling uneasy as that isn't really a long term approach or solution.

Overall, the holiday was really positive - James loved being out in the forest (obviously wearing his rucksack with reins) and Bea had a ball too. We had a wonderful day at Flamingoland where he must have had enough sensory stimulation to last most people a lifetime - he was in heaven with all the rocking, spinning, whizzing and water! He even noticed one or two of the animals - although I don't think he was that impressed to see the baby camel being born.....

But now we're back to reality and are exhausted again already. The washing machine has been on overdrive, I dragged the children food shopping yesterday and Special K that has been scattered all over the kitchen. Some things never change........