Friday, 29 August 2008

It's all go here!

Life in the fast lane isn't usually a phrase I associate with myself (I guess I see myself lacking in get up and go - I'm more "get up and sit down"!!!), but recently I've pulled my socks up and seem to be getting places fast. Or at least, faster than usual! I am trying hard not to procastinate so much and am finding I'm less weighed down by indecision. My husband has even commented on how much easier I'm being and how much happier we are at the moment.

As you know, I'm hoping to get back to work very soon. I had hoped that I'd be at the hospital induction next week, but that's looking unlikely now. Just as well, really, as we haven't got proper childcare sorted. I had used Gumtree to advertise for a nanny. That was quite an experience - the responses included one nanny who said "I hope you have a nice big car for me to drive" and plenty of people who assured me they love children and watching them play and use their imagination. They had obviously failed to read my (detailed) advert which clearly stated James' difficulties and mentioned a need to have experience of special needs. Oh well. We did come across two fantastic potential nannies, but sadly their circumstances meant we were unable to employ them. I was planning on chosing a "good enough" candidate but thought I'd give the local Children's Information Services a ring and find out whether there were any local childminders with experience of autism. To my surprise a letter landed on my doorstep today with three numbers. I called the first and was amazed to find a vacancy for both children on the day I need. It's not often that the Gods look favourably on me, so I'm grabbing the bull by the horns, taking the children to meet her next week and hopefully they'll start with her the following week. It's such a weight off my mind to know that the person who will look after them will have a degree of understanding of James' needs and difficulties. He needs patient, quiet, dependable carers who will give him the extra attention he thrives on and I have a gut feeling that this is the carer for him. The bonus is that her house is on the way to work and a stone's throw from the station!

Sadly, it's not all go at the LEA - they confirmed that the school were unable to recruit a teacher so there's no way James will start at his planned school this term. I am devestated to say the least. But I will keep up my fight to try to get him into Radlett Lodge School as soon as possible. We have an assessment date soon, so that's a start.

Another kick in the teeth was when my social worker informed me that we had been turned down (again) for respite. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age we spend more money on arms and defence than we do on health and social care put together. From tomorrow, James is at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and I get no help or support from any voluntary or statutory agency. Yes, we'd rather send soldiers to Afganistan than help a desperate mother to grab an hour a week of much needed respite. It's outrageous.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Branching out

Wow. How things are turning around and in a good way. I am quite stunned at the way this week has panned out.

First of all, I received all my goodies to embellish my items for "Made for you, by Shamu". I am now the proud owner of business cards, sticky labels and post it notes! Just waiting for my labels to arrive and I'll be off. I am in a very productive mode at the moment - Ravelry have been running an Olympic knit-a-long and I've signed up to create 11 projects before the end of the Olympic closing ceremony. My husband is now a crochet widow although he's not complaining too much as I am including items that I've left aside for ages and am determined to finish them. I'll load some photos and prices up on my website later so come and have a look! If things go well I may open an Etsy shop as I've been browsing a lot and am really excited by all the beautiful crafted items there.

Meanwhile, my husband has had three job offers in the last two weeks. This is the man who has been in the same job for over 8 years (this is quite unusual in his line of work, a fact that was celebrated at a lunch in his honour earlier this year!) so it's been quite an upheaval. He accepted one of the offers earlier this week, having considered the terms and pay rise (less holiday, more pay) and finally told his immediate boss yesterday. To our surprise, his current company have matched the offer so he gets all the perks of his current job and the pay rise we need so badly. Plus he doesn't have to write a letter of resignation!

Talking of jobs, I have my meeting with my consultant next week and am quite excited about the prospect of going back to work. I've just got my head around the thought of leaving the children while I swan off to work and childcare is almost sorted. Then a letter arrives on my doorstep asking whether I would be willing to meet some first year medical students and talk about James' condtion and the impact it has had on our lives. This will be their first exposure to "real life" patients and it is an important part of the curriculum so I was happy to agree. While I was on the phone I mentioned my professional interest and that I hold several medical education certificates, and asked whether I could work with the department in any other role. So as long as I can get my consultant to organise an honorary contract, it looks as though I've just got myself another job as a student tutor for the patient contact course! I am really excited about that and really pleased I took the bull by the horns and asked. Sometimes it pays to ask.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The good life

I am definitely having a mid life crisis - I found myself chatting to a friend last night while making damson cheese, as we had a glut of damsons and I'd already made over a kilo of damson jam last week! I prowl my vegetable plot and inspect each and every specimen - I have a couple of ridge cucumbers, several courgettes, peas, aubergines, chard, carrots and lettuce that are all doing well. Harvesting should begin soon, although the amount of damsons I've had to deal with have kept me busy! So I have decided that this year all my Christmas gifts are going to be home made - I have already got the jams and cheeses ready and labelled and have made a list of other jams, jellies and chutneys that I'm going to make. So everyone will receive at least one foodie gift.

I've also thought long and hard about my knitting and crocheting, and have decided to try and make some pocket money selling my crafted items. So I've set up a blog that will showcase some of my creations and eventually help me sell some of my items - come and have a look and let me know what you think. I've called it "Made for you, by Shamu" and have already comissioned some address labels and business cards. My friend Vic, who has set up her new web based yarn selling business, Cafe Knit, has a stall at Queen's Park Day and I've offered to go along to help out. In return, she's going to let me put some of my wares on show for sale - so if I don't update my blogs much over the next month it's because I'm so busy knitting!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Growing up

This is going to be a memorable few months with changes aplenty afoot. As James gets closer to his fifth birthday, I am more aware than ever before of the years passing. He is growing so fast and the years just fly past - I still remember his third birthday, when we were stuck in a limbo between being concerned and having discussed autism and actually getting his final diagnosis. It is only because I have been through the process, I can truly understand what a difficult time that is for parents. I refused to celebrate his birthday - I felt we had so little to "celebrate" - his regression was hitting a peak (or so I thought - little did I realise it would continue for another 18 months albeit at a much slower rate) and I felt further and further removed from his life. I had my very being shattered - if I couldn't predict and pick up my own son's autism, then how could I do it in my professional life? How would I cope with being at work and doing on calls with an autistic child? How could I sit across the desk from a family, asking them questions about their children, knowing that their answers echoed my own? Some of these remain unanswered - I still regularly cry and admonish myself for not having recognised James' autism sooner. My husband asks me what good it would have done, what it would have changed, how it would have helped James or us, and I can't find a good enough answer. The truth is that no matter when he was diagnosed, his current level of understanding and achievement would be no different. But you can't help thinking....

So in the next few weeks we are hitting some pretty grown up milestones - James ought to start school (depending whether the LEA can identify a school for him....). Unlike nursery, where he was only accessing 2 hours a day (and I was only getting 2 hours time away from him) he will be going to school for a whole day at a time. I won't know what to do with myself! I have had a taster of the freedom this will bring as he's been at the playscheme at Kids Can Achieve two days a week over the holidays and I find myself amazed at how much Bea benefits from the time alone with me. I can actually do activities with her that she's missed out on, such as taking her swimming or going out for lunch. Impossible with James in tow or during his 2 hour nursery session. But I still wonder how we're all going to cope when James starts school - for a start, as he will be going on school transport, we'll have to have him ready for the bus before 8am! That's going to be quite a feat, I can tell you (sleep deprivation means that I am VERY sluggish in the mornings....). I have a sneaking suspicion that he will be shattered and end up falling asleep on the bus on the way home, which will be a disaster for us as he then won't go to bed until around 10pm. I'm going to have to do some preparatory work for that too. Packed lunch will be a joke - at Kids Can Achieve he rarely eats his lunch until we're in the car on the way home, so who knows what he'll do at school.....

Meanwhile, Bea is growing up too - she has started to show a distinct interest in toilet training and is running around in knickers most of the time. I find myself excited, pleased and sad all at the same time - she is certainly no longer a "baby" and I mourn that loss. Yet I know how frustrated I get about James' retention of infantile behaviour, so I can see I am contradicting myself! As it looks as though James will be out of school for the greater part of next term, I have taken the step of enrolling Bea in nursery - another huge step for both of us. She starts next week and will be a year and a half younger than James was when he first went to nursery! But I know it's for her benefit in the long run, as she needs role models and peers that don't have autism so she can learn acceptable behaviour from them as well as having the structure that the nursery will provide. It's going to be a busy weekend, sorting everything out....

Sunday, 3 August 2008


It seems so long since I updated my blog and there's been so much happening I don't know what to omit and what to write about!

I'm sitting here, in my tranquil, quiet, no children zone (aka the lounge!) and watching the rain fall down. It's hard to believe that it's only the beginning of August - it feels more like a late autumn day. For the first time in months, the rain isn't giving me a foreboding, hazy feeling - I think I have finally found peace with all that has happened. This time last year, I was embarking on a road trip around Scotland and back to London on my own with the children - my relationship with my parents had hit rock bottom and I was asked to leave their house, where I'd been staying while my husband managed the renovations on the house. It's been a long and difficult journey to get through the last twelve months but I'm glad to say that I have salvaged my relationship with my parents and I can now call my house a home.

When we embarked on the renovations, one of the key features we planned for was the creation of space that was preserved as child free. So our lounge is generally kept for us to use in the evenings or when we're child free. It becomes our retreat at night once the children have gone to bed, somewhere we relax and escape from the chaos that has taken over the rest of our house.

Talking of escaping, I managed to get away with a friend for a few days in July - it was the first time I'd left the children for a night but if I'm totally honest I was so relaxed I hardly had a chance to miss them. Everyone survived (my parents came and helped out) and I came back feeling like I'd been away for 4 weeks rather than 4 nights. Sadly the feeling hasn't lasted - the day after I returned I was told that James won't be able to start school in September as planned. I have no idea what we're going to do as the LEA has left it too late in the day for us to organise an alternative placement for him. So I am likely to be facing having James at home instead of school for several weeks after the start of term. But more about that in another post....

One of the most stressful problems we're having at the moment is that James has become an escape artist himself - mainly out of his clothes and nappy.. So I've had to invest in dungarees for daytime use and some all-in-one pyjamas that we put on back to front so he can't undress and take his nappy off at night. I had never realised that I could be so creative and resourceful when it comes to solving seemingly impossible problems but I have to stay a step ahead of James at all times. For him, there really is no escape....