Long time, No see

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I have had a very prolonged break from blogging. The last blog entry was written when Thurston started primary school. He is halfway through his 2nd year there now, and lots has changed for him and for our family as a whole. Firstly, there are more of us! We had our 4th and final baby in May 2013, a little girl named Indigo Tempest. We are absolutely over the moon with her, she really is delightful. We have recently moved to a new house in a new town which has come with equal parts stresses and positive changes. Our middle son Zeke has moved from infants to junior school, so he and our 10 year old, Louis, are now at the same school again.

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Now that we are somewhat settled in our new home, I have finally found a little bit of time to write again. When I first began to write this blog, it was because I didn’t have anywhere else to explain my feelings or thoughts regarding Thurston’s Autism and other special needs. I found myself disagreeing with many aspects of the medical and educational advice and so writing a blog helped me to feel confident about my choices. Now that he is in his 2nd year of school, we seem to have hit another fairly rocky patch with Thurston.

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When Thurston was a pre-schooler, he was under the care of the Early Support team. He was regularly seen by professionals from Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy as well as being invited to group sessions to learn Makaton or learn new skills that other children acquire naturally. What nobody warned me about was that as soon as the child starts school, all the help and support is shifted to helping the school and there is no emphasis on helping the family in any way.

Our main issue with Thurston is that in contrast to the sweet angelic toddler he used to be, he has become very frustrated by his difficulty to communicate his needs and feelings, which inevitably has resulted in him lashing out and becoming aggressive. I’m so devastated by this development because when he was being diagnosed, I would console myself that ‘at least’ he was not aggressive or angry. I think that as you get older with Autism, life can become much more daunting and frustrating. When you are a toddler, all your wants and needs are taken care of without you having to ask at all. At school and out of the home in general, once you are a little bit older, you need to be able to communicate a certain amount of information independently from your parents or carers which seems to have created quite a huge problem for Thurston to overcome.

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As far as I can tell, as soon as Thurston is upset or in need, he is immediately angry that the person taking care of him does not automatically understand what needs to be done. Therefore, he will lash out and ‘disappear’ into himself. Once he has turned this way, it is near impossible to get through to him to try and find a solution. It is as though he has disappeared and there is no one behind his eyes at all.

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Occasionally he will not lash out, but his comforting behaviours can be just as distressing in some ways. He will seek refuge in reciting entire ‘infomercials’ (his current favourite is the NutriBullet!), or acting out each face in order of all the Little Miss and Mr Men books. Anything where he knows what is coming next seems to help him enormously and make him feel safe again.

Speech & Language have reviewed his progress at school and will set tasks with his 1:1 to help him. However, I used to attend all of his Speech Therapy appointments from when he was 6 months old until he was 4 and I can’t help but feel as though I’m out of the loop. I would appreciate if the therapists were to fill me in on what I could be doing at home with him, or any advice that might help our family life.

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Thurston has a range of other medical issues including feeding difficulties (he is still predominantly fed on a specialist formula from the Dietician), low muscle tone and hypermobile joints. He is also not toilet trained in any way and has insoles from a Podiatrist for problems with his feet. Before he started school he had multiple appointments and lots of help from many different people and clinics.

It came as a bit of a surprise that once you are out of Early Support in this area, your care is not automatically taken up with the community therapists and I recently discovered that Thurston had simply been taken off the list for the OT, Physio and Dietician. This means we have been struggling unnecessarily with a range of problems. I approached the Inclusion Officer at Thurston’s school and told her that I felt as though I had no idea what to do for Thurston any more and that I needed help. That is a hard thing to say out loud in these circumstances because I worry that they will be judgemental of me and think that I can’t cope with him. She instantly arranged a Team around the Family meeting which involved multiple agencies and was very helpful and for the 1st time in almost 2 years, I am starting to feel a bit more in control. The school nurses have referred him to the bladder and bowel team at the hospital for an assessment with his constipation and possible toilet training. They have also referred him to a specialist feeding clinic at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London. The local special needs school has put us on the waiting list for a Sleep Workshop and gave us information on help for disabled children when we go to Euro Disney in June. Louis and Zeke’s school have assigned them a counsellor and a play therapist to give them the opportunity to speak about anything that may be bothering them. The Speech and Language therapist is going to visit Thurston more regularly and have a weekly appointment at school with him. We have a July appointment with the Dietician and we are seeing the Physio and the OT over the next fortnight.

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All this was as a result of me asking for help. I find it quite unsettling that disabled children can miss out on the help they need simply because the agencies fail to pass on information to one another. I didn’t realise that there was any help on offer and it is a real shame that the families have to actively seek the help that they need. However, now that I’ve taken that step, I am looking forward to getting all of my concerns off my chest at these upcoming appointments, and hopefully getting Thurston and our whole family back on track!

Thurston has fled the nest

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The summer holidays didn’t really leave me with any time for keeping up to date with the blog so there’s lots of stuff to catch up on. The main piece of news is that Thurston is now a fully functioning full-time school boy!
Back in September we went shopping for school uniform which was a trial in itself as Thurston is roughly the size of a small 2 year old. All his uniform, satchel and lunchbox was ready to go, I just wasn’t entirely convinced that he was! After having 6 weeks away from nursery, it would be fair to say that Thurston had completely forgotten that he ever had to do anything independent from me! To be honest, he’d been a bit of a pain for a lot of the summer. He was fantastic when we kept busy, but the fluctuating weather meant that a lot of the time was spent indoors which was fairly stressful. By the time the new term started, I was more than ready to share the load!

However, the logistics of Thurston starting school were complicated to say the least. My two older children already attend two separate schools due to their ages. Louis is already at junior school and Zeke is in his last year of infant school. I looked into sending Thurston to Zeke’s school but they were very uncooperative when it came to his special needs, and made me feel like it would be a hassle for them to have him. Considering the school where he attended nursery were practically biting my hand off to take him, it seemed like a no-brainer where he should go. I’m not willing to compromise on the way he needs to be looked after and I decided to send him to the school where he was wanted. This meant that I now had the challenge of getting 3 children to 3 schools by 8:50am every day. Thurston’s school is a 35 minute walk away or a 6-7 minute drive plus finding a parking space. I do not drive as yet, however even if I did, it is actually not even possible to do all 3 kids in the car. I recently found this out when Alex had a stomach bug and my mum (my lovely contingency plan) had food poisoning on the same day. My lovely dad stepped in to help but didn’t know where each child’s classroom was so he drove me around to pick them up. Zeke finishes at 3pm, so we got him, hopped in the car and went to get Thurston who finishes at 3:10pm. I was 4 minutes late which was enough to send him into a whack-attack and by the time I arrived he was laying on the floor blubbing away, and his teachers looked fairly bedraggled too! I strapped him into the car seat and got back into the car to drive back and get Louis who finished at 3:15pm so he was the last child in the entire school waiting for a parent. I didn’t feel quite as bad about that as Louis loves a drama and a spot of guilt-tripping, so he was quite thrilled with the turn of events!!

All of this proved to me what I already knew, that the school run for our family is literally impossible for one person, it is a 2 man job. I don’t like to rely on family help as they are my kids and I want to do things myself as much as possible. I call my family when I’m stuck and need a hand, but I didn’t want them to be in charge of school runs and childcare on a daily basis. Alex therefore has had to take a cut in his hours and now works 9:30-2:30 so that he can take and collect Thurston every day. Obviously, this means even less money, which is tricky, but for us, it really is the only option. I have had people in the past make snide comments about me receiving Carer’s Allowance and Thurston receiving DLA, but I think people often don’t realise the financial sacrifices that need to be made to ensure a kid with special needs gets the care that they need. I would have loved nothing more than to take my kids to school together and say goodbye at the school gates like the other mums, but Thurston’s needs had to take priority, which means that we have lost a significant amount of earnings, as well as me losing out on important parts of Thurston’s life.

It is lovely for Alex to take Thurston to school and pick him up every day, but I do feel a bit detached from him now. I was so used to doing absolutely everything for him and now, I don’t even do the basics anymore. He even has his Speech Therapist go to school, so his one-to-one is doing his therapy with him. I know I sound like a crazy, over-protective mum, but I’m honestly a little bit jealous of his one-to-one!! He does things for her, he has never done for me. She said he can spell his name in magnets, she even got him to make a pizza! He has recently started talking in little sentences every so often, and people are telling me how well he must be doing at school to have come on so quickly. What about the 4 years I was taking him to 3 therapy appointments every week and taking him to Makaton courses???! Don’t I deserve even a tiny scrap of credit?! The final straw came the other day when I said to him “do you love mummy?” (usually greeted with a firm “oh yes”) only to be slapped in the face with “no, I love Mrs W!”. That one hurt.

I have become secretly pleased and ever so slightly smug when Thurston has little acts of defiance at school. Most mums would be happy to hear that their child has learnt 3 phonics sounds especially a child with special needs. However, I have become so warped with the situation that I am much happier when I hear that he has thrown a big tub of magnets over the carpet or has done a massive fart while they have story time. They are small but significant victories for me!

Of course, in my right mind, I am absolutely thrilled that Thurston has settled in so well to his new school, and the transition was a hell of a lot smoother than I had anticipated. The school could not be more helpful or understanding of  Thurston and his needs, and are actually managing to give him an education at the same time as covering his care and social needs, which is remarkable. It is the best school we could have chosen for him and I know he will do well there, and that it was worth all the financial and emotional sacrifices. It would just be nice if every once in a while he had a little cry that he missed me, just for my mum-ego!!

 

Summer and Broccoli

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Last Friday, my very nice husband Alex (here is his blog www.neveranythingon.wordpress.com) turned 32. Last year when he turned 31, he had come out of hospital a day earlier from his 1st spinal surgery. Since then he has had a day surgery steroid epidural, and this January, he had a major operation to fuse his spine with various pieces of metal and donated bone. I’m so happy with how well he’s done from last birthday to this birthday, he really deserves some recognition for being able to keep smiling, hardly ever complaining and most of all, managing to still do as much as possible with all of the children while he was in so much pain. I’m not sure I could have done it! We celebrated with an Olympic themed party, the opening ceremony, an Indian takeaway and a very large homemade chocolate cake (recipe from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook!). Luckily, Thurston slept through the whole thing so we had a lovely time with the older children which was much needed.

The whole time Alex was laid up with his back, he had been planning to have a tattoo done of the Eiffel Tower. It means such a lot to us as we spent our honeymoon in Paris almost 7 years ago, and it was one of the only holidays we had as a couple without children. The other one was a completely bizarre trip to Cologne in Germany with a very strange family!! Paris was incredible and has such lovely memories for us, I’m hoping to take the children there next year when I (reluctantly) turn 30! A couple of weeks ago, Alex finally had his tattoo done. He booked in with our good friend Dan Frye in his amazing tattoo studio in Margate (www.signsoftime.co.uk), and he did a fantastic job! I took the kids for lunch with some more lovely friends and my sister while he had it done, and he looked so happy when he came and joined us. It might sound silly to be so excited over a tattoo, but when you’ve been forced to be in pain and have some fairly gruesome scars to show for it, I think it’s a really great feeling when you can finally choose what you actually want on your body!

Since it is now the Summer holidays, we have been fairly busy, since every mum knows that the key to surviving the school holidays is “DO NOT STAY IN THE HOUSE!”. I took the children to the brand new Tracey Emin exhibition at the Turner Contemporary in Margate which we completely loved. I am a massive Tracey Emin fan anyway being a Margate-girl myself and it is so exciting that she has put together this exhibition just for our little town. Thurston actually slept the entire time which was a bit disappointing as he has enjoyed all our previous trips to the gallery. I know a lot of people get very nervous about taking Autistic children to art galleries or museums, but I would strongly encourage people to give it a try, as you might be pleasantly surprised. Thurston likes any exhibits with video installations, and was really interested in Turner’s paintings of volcanoes and even commented that they looked “hot”! A lot of galleries and museums are free entry or simply ask for a donation, so you are not losing anything by giving it a go.

Since we do live by the seaside, a lot of our Summer holidays is based on the beach. From June until September, my house is covered with a layer of sand that I never seem to be able to get rid of completely! At the moment, I would have to admit that going to the beach is not something I am very confident with doing by myself just yet. Thurston is completely inspired by the beach which is wonderful, but also means that he will see that he has complete freedom and no boundaries, and make a run for it, whether it is to the next beach on the coastline or through the water to France. He takes up so much of my energy and attention at the beach that it makes it really difficult for me to focus on my other 2 children. In the school holidays, I do struggle with a little bit of guilt at not being able to divide my time fairly among them and I think they must find it very frustrating too. Luckily for me, last week a friend of mine was renting a beach hut near my house with her family and invited me to join them for a day. I took the kids down by myself as Alex was working, and I’m so glad I did as the kids had the best time. We dumped our stuff at the hut and the kids made a beeline straight for the unusually warm water. Thurston was in his element splashing in the water and was so brave walking into water as deep as his chest. Louis and Zeke played with my friends’ children and their Dad who was so incredibly helpful pulling them around in an inflatable boat singing the theme song from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”. Thurston even sat in the boat for a while, and was so delighted, I wish I could have captured the look on his little face. The children were so well looked after that I felt more than happy leaving them to play while I went back to the hut to warm Thurston up. It was a perfect Summery day!

Even though it is the holidays, Thurston’s therapy is still ongoing. He graduated his little ‘school starters’ group which was brilliant, and really helpful for him. He is now on a 6 week block of speech therapy to try and start him on some new techniques that he will continue with when he starts school in September. He was a little bit frustrated at the first appointment last week as Louis and Zeke had to come with us and were allowed to play in the playground of the Child Development Centre while he was hard at work. He did really well though and worked very hard. His ability to focus on a task has improved so much over the last year and he sat for 20 minutes without sitting on my lap. It’s still quite hard to see him struggle with concepts that come so naturally to most children. Every single aspect of language needs to be taught to him manually and at the moment, it does seem like an enormous task. The new technique involves colour coding the type of word to try to eventually enable him to have a proper conversation. It uses visual aids which are colour coded eg. pink for a person, green for a describing word, blue for a thing etc. It seems quite complicated at the moment, but hopefully he will get the hang of it and we will soon be able to have a chat! Once his session had finished, I sent him to the playground with his Dad and brothers while i sorted out some paperwork. I helped the assistant to compile a “manual” about Thurston to tell anyone who comes into contact with him at school all about his likes and dislikes and how to talk to him. It made me realise how much of an advocate I am for Thurston, and how much more involved in his school life I will need to be to find out how he is doing. One of the best parts of kids starting school is when they tell you what they have been up to (once they have stopped telling you they can’t remember or that it was boring and they did nothing all day!). It does make me incredibly sad to think that I won’t have that with Thurston and I will have to rely on what the teachers and assistants tell me instead. This is particularly worrying now that he has learned to tell me to “shutup”. Whenever he doesn’t want to talk to me (or wants to make everyone laugh) he yells “shutup, shutup mummy shutup”. I can just picture it now when we are leaving school “did you have a nice day Thurston?” “shutup mummy!”.

Another delightful habit the boys have taught him is to make a fart noise whenever they ask him what noise his bottom makes. Aren’t boys great? They have clearly cottoned on to the fact that you can make Thurston say whatever you want and he is now their own personal parrot, ready to amuse them whenever they are bored. Mind you, I suppose it is some way to compensating them for all the times he has whacked them on the head or smashed their toys. This last fortnight, Thurston has also taken to carrying a large head of raw broccoli wherever he goes. Thurston has never been attached to a particular toy or cuddly animal but “Broccoli” is now a firm best friend and they cannot be parted. At first he was satisfied with toy vegetables until he came to the supermarket with us and realised that actual vegetables were much more realistic! After screaming for 2 aisles after the fruit & veg section for “Broccoli”, I made Alex turn back to go and get some in the hope that this was the start of a healthy eating initiative. He held “Broccoli” all the way round the supermarket and was catatonic when I broke the news that the cashier would need to scan it. Since then, “Broccoli” has been everywhere with us. He eats breakfast with “Broccoli”, watches TV with “Broccoli”, takes “Broccoli” in the garden, cuddles “Broccoli”, packs “Broccoli” in a little lunchbox to keep him safe. After about a week, “Broccoli” began to turn yellow and fall apart and generally looked pretty grim. I tried to entice Thurston with a possible new friend “Onion” but he was having none of it. A fresh “Broccoli” was bought and secretly swapped overnight and now “Broccoli” has had a lovely makeover and looks beautiful. I wonder how long I will keep having to buy replacement broccolis for………

 

Thanks for reading!

Hanj x

Soldiering on!

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The last couple of weeks have been very varied to say the least. Last week I was struck down with horrible Tonsillitis on top of hayfever, on top of a cold. It was pretty nasty. When I say struck down, that’s not to suggest I actually lay down at any point, in fact, it was one of the busiest weeks I’d had for a long time and there wasn’t any time for me to have a rest. I know that all mums have the problem that they can’t really take a “day off” as such when they are unwell, and have to carry on regardless. I do think though that having a child with disabilities makes it even harder. If it was a case of taking him to a toddler group at the local children’s centre then obviously I would have just changed my plans and stayed at home with a DVD to entertain Thurston. Unfortunately, last week coincided with an appointment with a continence nurse, Thurston’s Physio and Occupational therapy group, a Team Around the Child Meeting for his transition to school, his parent teacher consultation at nursery and a Speech therapy session. I didn’t really have any choice in the matter and had to stick to all these appointments to make sure that Thurston didn’t miss out on any help or support. Of course, this meant that I was a complete wreck by the end of the week, not helped by the fact that Thurston’s sleep is dire at the moment. On average, he is going to sleep around 9pm, waking for formula at 10-11pm and getting up for the day between 1-3am! It’s not really enough to get by on, but even less so when you have infected angry tonsils!!

The appointments generally went well this week and everything seemed very positive. I was really reassured by the visit from the continence nurse. She decided that due to his age and diagnosis, Thurston’s lack of awareness in the potty training area was within the normal ranges. As with many milestones with Thurston, he is expected to get the hang of potty training at his own pace, even if it is later than neurotypical children. I’m so pleased i don’t have to push the issue as I really struggle with potty training at the best of times and I had absolutely no clue of how to approach it with an Autistic child. For now, we are going to carry on with pull-ups but encourage him to use the potty or toilet if he asks. The nurse also helped me to claim for free pull-ups for Thurston which is a service available to any child who is over the age of 4 and still using nappy products due to disabilities. It’s not really a topic that people like to discuss and it did involve a lengthy chat about Thurston’s poo-type where I had to choose from a brochure of pictures of other peoples’ poo! I hope one day Thurston will appreciate all the bizarre things I end up doing for him! Even though it’s embarrassing, I’d encourage anyone whose disabled child is delayed with toilet training to get in touch with a continence nurse. I feel as though a weight has been lifted just by talking to someone ‘in the know’ about it.

Thurston and I have been going to a ‘School Starter’s’ Physio and Occupational therapy group for 4 weeks now at the Child Development Centre. I’m so pleased with the progress he is making there and it’s really giving me confidence that he will be OK at school in September. His gross motor skills are coming along nicely and he is actually jumping on the trampoline really well with both feet in the air at the same time which is a triumph! To start with I dreaded going to this group to be honest. I’m not really a baby-group type person, and struggle with the enforced singing and nursery rhymes. However, I’ve started to really enjoy it now and it’s so lovely to see how proud the children are of themselves when they achieve something they couldn’t do the previous week. The parents there are the complete opposite of ‘competitive’ parents and it’s lovely and refreshing for everyone to be happy for another child’s achievements instead of comparing them. There’s no point in comparing them because they all have different disabilities and different strengths and weaknesses, and all the mums realise this and are happy for the other children regardless of their own child’s abilities. I think this is a really important lesson in motherhood, because even in children without disabilities, they all do things in their own time, and being competitive about raising children really can make motherhood miserable. I think everyone should come and visit our little group one day to see how it’s possible to be happy and proud of other peoples’ kids!!

The Team Around the Child meeting at the school was much easier than I expected and my voice held up for the whole time which was lucky! I’d written down some questions on my iPhone before we went in so that I didn’t get too flustered in front of all the people. There was our Key Worker (who has now OFFICIALLY closed our case so no need for her to be at the next one!), the Specialist Teacher, Welfare Officer, Inclusion Leader, Nursery Teacher, Head of Key Stage 1 and Thurston’s new one to one Teaching Assistant for September. It was lovely that Alex could make it too, as he was laid up from his 2nd spinal surgery last time and  I had to go it alone! All our questions were answered about his starting school in September and I don’t have any major worries about it at the moment. The only thing I might struggle with is encouraging him to eat fruit over the Summer so that he will be able to eat some at school snack times! His Organix gingerbread men might tempt the other children away from the grapes and carrots! I do worry that people think I don’t want Thurston to eat healthily when it’s completely the opposite. I spend most of my time worrying over his nutrition, and even took an Open University course last year to try and learn more so I could help him. I make sure he has his specially fortified formula and prescribed vitamins every day, but he really struggles with foods that aren’t dry and boring. I know this is true of lots of little ones with Autism and it is a worry. I try to make his chicken goujons and beefburgers homemade whenever possible, but I am really struggling with encouraging him to be more adventurous with his food. Since he has had medical issues with his swallowing as well, I do wonder if he will ever move on to different textures of food, and I’m not really sure where to look for advice.

Thurston had a great time at his Speech Therapy appointment and steamed through all of his tasks without a hitch. It did occur to me that since he’s been having Speech Therapy from the age of 1, that he has simply learned ‘how to do speech therapy’! I’m no expert, but I wonder if because he’s been doing the same tasks over and over for years in the same room, if perhaps he has actually just memorized the routine of the speech therapy sessions!! Most of his talking and phrases come from copying others, and is very echolalic, so maybe he has mastered speech therapy in the same way?! How sneaky!

After the busy and poorly week, I could have done with a weekend in bed, but instead I soldiered on to London for the day on Saturday to celebrate my best friend’s Hen Day. I took every tablet I could get my hands on, and it was definitely worth it! It was quite a relief to be away from the children for a day actually, and somehow even though we went all over London to Kentish Town, Bloomsbury and the South Bank, went bowling and to a circus, I feel like I got more rest that day than I had all week. We had a fantastic day and it all went without a hitch which I was pleased with as Maid of Honour! It was quite nice to just be me for a day instead of a mum, and chat about all kinds of nonsense with some lovely girls. The Cantina vintage circus on the South Bank was really magical and right up my street. I’m so glad I forced myself to go, and even though my tonsils didn’t thank me for it, my mind certainly did and I felt really invigorated afterwards!

The rest of this week has mostly been spent taking care of Thurston as he has been what I can only describe as ‘iffy and suspicious’! He hasn’t got a temperature or been sick or anything but he just looks ‘off-colour’. His eyes are sore and he has a mouthful of ulcers which are really upsetting him. It has also been 5 days now since he last did a poo so that can’t be nice! He has been really distressed and keeps sobbing whilst muttering “what’s goin on?”, it’s terribly sad.

Tomorrow he is going to spend the day with his Dad who is something of an expert at baby massage and so I am sure he can get the poop out of him!! I am going to take my Driving Theory Test which I have zero confidence that I will pass, but it’s worth a shot! Wish me luck!!

Thanks for reading,

Hanj x

Thurston Loves Peppa & George

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All of my kids have been huge Peppa Pig fans when they were little, and Thurston is just the same. In fact it’s on the TV while I type this!! Thurston does a really funny piggy snort and has learned all the animal noises from watching the show. It’s such a sweet and endearing programme that even though my other boys are a little older, they don’t mind watching along with him and often end up in giggles (particularly at Grampy Rabbit!).

Paulton’s Park opened a whole world of Peppa Pig in their theme park in Southampton, and we were incredibly fortunate to be given tickets for our family to have a day out there. The drive was about 3 hours from our house so it was easy to do in a day, we just packed up the car and went on an adventure!

As soon as we arrived at Paulton’s Park, we made a beeline for Peppa Pig World and the kids were mesmerised. Thurston genuinely believed that we were stepping into the little piggy town that you see on the TV. Granny and Grandpa Pig’s house was one of the 1st things he spotted, and then he started to look around at all the rides. All the kids were amazed.

 

We went for the Balloon Ride first of all. There were loads of buggy parks so it was easy to dump that and then hop on a ride. The queues were pretty empty, in fact we didn’t queue for more than 10 minutes for any of the rides, but it was a weekday. As the park is aimed at pre-school children mainly, all the rides are suitable for little ones which meant there was no disappointment. It also meant Louis (8) could ride on a lot of the rides without one of us going with him, which he was very smug about!

Thurston’s favourite ride was Grandpa Pig’s Boat Trip which was a very sweet little roundabout of boats that bobbed about in the water. Louis loved George’s Dinosaur Adventure where you hopped on the back of George’s toy dinosaur and galloped around the scenery where there were lots of statues of Peppa’s friends. Zeke loved Daddy Pig’s car ride where the kids drive the adults around a little motorway! There was also Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight, Grandpa Pig’s Little Train and Windy Castle.

 

Apart from the lovely rides, there was lots of other things to do and see. Thurston was so happy that you could actually go inside Peppa’s house, where there were big models of the family performing a scene from the Pancakes episode. There was a really lovely playground, Mr Potato’s Playground where it was really good for the kids to run off some energy. We were very happy to find a big Gaston the ladybird from Ben & Holly to perch on in the playground! There was a huge indoor play area called George’s Spaceship Playzone. I am not a fan of soft play areas and find them quite stressful, usually because Thurston climbs up things and I have to rescue him in my socks! The Peppa Pig play area was no exception and I had to hike myself up a load of soft play obstacles to retrieve Thurston as he was frozen to the spot! The older children could have easily played all day in there if we had let them though!

 

 

Thurston was really exciting when Peppa and George came out to meet all the children and he stroked both of them and shook their hands, and couldn’t stop beaming with smiles while they danced around!

 

The highlight of the day for Thurston and us was the wet playground Muddy Puddles. I had heard about the wet play before I went and so I had packed a 2nd set of clothes for each kid because I know how carried away Thurston gets with water play! I had still underestimated the wet area though and was expecting a light sprinkling of water. I was wrong! It was a tidal wave of water being bombarded at the kids, with extra inches of water on the ground to splash about in. Thurston is not shy when it comes to water and was utterly drenched within seconds. It was all worth it for the blissful grin on his face!

Peppa Pig World is really geared around very small toddlers and children which actually makes it ideal for children with Autism. All of the playgrounds are self contained so the children are easy to keep a watchful eye on. None of the rides are scary at all, and for some of them I didn’t even have to have Thurston on my lap which he was really pleased about. Whilst the Peppa Pig music on the loud speakers may get on your nerves, the repetitive and recognisable songs from the show were really reassuring for Thurston and kept him calm. All of the rides were fairly short which meant that the queues were also fairly short.

Our whole family had an amazing time at Peppa Pig World and we were really lucky to get the chance to go. It’s a really brilliant park!

Thanks for reading

Hanj x

 

Missing being Mary Poppins

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Thurston has been awake since 2am, and has just fallen asleep at 9.30am. I would normally take advantage of this and lay on the sofa watching TV, but my 5 year old is off school for a teacher training day and is watching The Muppets Take Manhattan. I have that horrible hot, overtired feeling and I don’t know how to shake it off. I’m not just tired from last night’s lack of sleep, I’m tired from the last couple of weeks. Ever since Thurston’s birthday, he has been a little wrecking ball of mayhem. His current favourite TV show is “Ooglies” on the CBBC channel (or as Thurston pronounces it ‘the CBCB channel’). For those who haven’t watched it, it’s an animated series about a collection of fruit, vegetables, kitchen implements, stationery etc which are all alive and have ‘googlie eyes’. Thurston is enamoured with it and has set about collecting all the ‘characters’ from the show. This basically involves him looting fruit and veg from around the house and playing “Ooglies” then hiding the oranges, bananas etc in various places around the lounge for his next game. It’s a risky game in this hot & humid weather and I am now constantly on the lookout for rogue fresh produce. He is particularly keen to get his mitts on my box of eggs and will go to any length to get them, regardless of how dangerous it is. It feels similar to when your baby learns to crawl for the 1st time, and you are suddenly ultra-aware that nothing is safe anymore. I have to be constantly vigilant around him and to be honest, at 4 years old, I’m really irritated by it!

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I had just about got to the point where my house is how I want it to be. It’s not astonishingly neat & tidy, but everything had its’ place and it was easy to clean up and put things away throughout the day. However, Thurston is now so chaotic and unpredictable that within the 1st hour of the day, he has usually hidden marmite toast down the back of the sofa, done some colouring on the fridge, poured formula in his cars toy box, stolen all the fruit from the bowl and scattered it throughout the lounge, and put the iPod touch in the recycling bin. It’s impossible to keep on top of it all and keep the place looking nice.

When I had 2 children, I was so particular about everything. We lived in a little 2 bedroom flat above a shop, and everything was immaculate. The children would play and make their mess, then when the eldest went to nursery and the youngest napped, I would clear everything away and it would look good as new again. I would do activities with them and talk to them all the time, bake with them, take them to the park. It was all very Mary Poppins! It should be possible with 3 children, and of course it is possible, but it seems to take so much more time and energy because of Thurston. I’ve had to completely rethink my standards. Their outfits do not co ordinate anymore. I only attempt to cook with them if there is another adult in the house to be on ‘oven-watch’. I tidy up constantly throughout the day, but I definitely don’t clean it all every day. I have enough trouble keeping on top of the surface dirt of mud, spilt drinks and felt tip, let alone getting out the floor cleaner and furniture polish. I do still hoover everyday but that is only because by the time Thurston has eaten lunch, the floor looks like someone has stamped an entire meal into it and crumbled what ever was left over the top (that’s because that’s exactly what he has done!). I do a big proper clean about once a week so it is clean still, but it’s just not how I’d like it. I’ve had to learn to let go a little bit. If it’s a choice between cleaning behind the sofa or going for a walk along the beach, then I will get out of the house, no question.

It’s not just the house that’s taken a battering lately, but I’ve also learned to accept being permanently embarrassed. We took the kids on a day trip to London at the weekend. We’ve taken them to London before but for various reasons, it was the 1st time we had taken all 3 at the same time. For some reason, it just didn’t work. The older boys were stroppy and whiney, and Thurston was just a complete and utter terror from start to finish. He hated the train, he hated being in the buggy. Despite being knackered, I thought it was fair enough that he didn’t want to be in the buggy and got him out for a walk once we got past Westminster Abbey. This did nothing to help his mood, he got very cross that I tried to hold hands with him, and then became really stressed by the crowds and decided the only option was to take a lie-down in the middle of the pavement which wasn’t exactly ideal. I hoisted him up and he walked a few more metres before lying down again, this time right in front of a horse and guard shouting “Mind out for Thurston!”. I agree, it sounds pretty funny now. I picked him up and he started to shout again, this time he shouted “mummy hurting me” which is a classic he likes to throw out there when there are strangers watching, thanks Thurst!

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Obviously as on any family day out, it poured down with rain. I had brought raincoats for everyone except me naturally and so I was hot, embarrassed and now drenched. We finally made it to St James’ Park and let Thurston roam free which was just what he needed. Due to the rain, there were some incredibly large puddles in the park which were irresistable to Thurston. Once he had stepped in that 1st muddy puddle, there was no going back. He wasn’t dressed appropriately, he was wearing his lovely Clarks shoes instead of wellies, and jeans not waterproofs, but for the 1st time that day he looked genuinely happy. Alex and I let him be, and enjoyed watching him splosh around getting soaked. Some tourists were actually shocked and horrified that we were letting him get so wet but I can honestly say I didn’t care. There was a time when I would’ve cared and probably would have stopped him as soon as his foot hit the water, but I’ve realised that even if you have spent £65 on a train fayre to look at the sights of London, if they end up being happiest when splashing in a colossal puddle, then that is still money well spent. After all, the point of having a family day out is for kids to enjoy themselves. We were probably unprepared for the fact that the final puddle was the puddle to end all puddles and actually Thurston was now up to his knees in grubby park water. We couldn’t even get him out because the puddle was so deep that our shoes would’ve been destroyed. He stayed in that puddle for as long as he wanted to, and I know that he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

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Once we had walked over to Buckingham Palace, Thurston did actually start to get quite distressed that he was so wet and cold. In the past, if it had been one of my other children, I would have looked for a loo or a cafe to sort him out in private. He was screaming and miserable and I have stopped caring what strangers think of me! He stripped off right outside the palace and I can honestly say i wasn’t that fussed. By that point, I just wanted him to be warm and dry and comfortable. By some foresight, I actually had brought some pyjamas with me so I managed to sort him out no problem.

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As for the rest of the week, he has thrown admission forms into someone’s garden and left me foraging in their bushes to find them. He has tried to cut off a Physiotherapist’s finger. He referred to a therapist (persistently) as Nanny. He slapped his new teacher and new teaching assistant round the face for trying to convince him to sit on a carpet. He’s pulled my top down in front of my friends, and he threw my iPhone (which I just had replaced for the 2nd time because of him) into the road. I do sometimes think about the situations he makes me end up in, and I often think to myself “i would only do this for you Thurston”, and it’s really true. I may not be a Mary Poppins-type anymore, but having a child like Thurston has taught me some really valuable life-lessons:

1: Dusting the top of the TV can wait until tomorrow. Build a Mega-Bloks tower instead.

2: It really doesn’t matter if strangers are staring at you. You will never see them again.

3: The kids’ outifts do not need to co ordinate, they just need to withstand stains, falling over and going on the slide.

4: I do still need to pack spare clothes for my child, even though he is 4!

5: Never make firm plans, go with the flow and everyone will be more relaxed.

6: Get out of the house as much as possible. Even if it’s a disaster, you will end up laughing about it. You will never regret going out, but I *often* regret staying in.

7: If your child prefers splashing in muddy puddles/looking at the trees in the breeze/playing a kissing game to going to expensive attractions, don’t be disappointed, be pleased that they are so easily pleased and embrace it. The simple things in life are often the most rewarding!

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Thanks for reading.

Hanj x

4

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Yesterday was Thurston’s birthday and he is now an unbelievable 4 years old already. Birthdays tend to make me very nostalgic and sentimental, so I was planning a misty-eyed tearjerker of a blog. However, he has been an absolute pain in the backside all day and so I have abandoned my complimentary blog in favour of telling the truth! I will however interject with lovely pictures of the week so you can see that he is 99.9% adorable and I love him 100% of the time!!

It has been a particularly busy week and we have been doing lots of things that are different to usual so I am sure that he is just overtired and cranky but he really has been pushing all of my buttons today. Combined with the fact that I have now barely slept for a week and there is no food in the house (I had mozzarella pearls, smoked mackerel and lemon cous cous for lunch, and egg, spinach and lean bacon for dinner!) and I can safely say my patience has left the building.

I have a theory about Thurston and his wacky behaviour though. I think that in general Thurston is approximately 2 years delayed developmentally, which would mean that now at the age of 4, we are finally heading into the terrible 2′s! Looking back on the morning I spent/endured with him, it was very similar to the same bedraggled feeling I had with my other tiny toddlers. It got to 1.30pm when I realised I hadn’t had breakfast or brushed my hair (despite having done 2 school runs, sorry kids). The curtains had been pulled down off the track, the floor was covered in DVDs and the shelves were bare. Marmite toast was stuck down the back of the sofa. I made him a bottle of formula but he didn’t like the colour of the lid and repeatedly screamed “MILK MILK MILK…”. He followed me to the kitchen, saw me tip the formula into an ‘appropriately’ coloured bottle, then screamed again “NO MILK, GO IN KITCHEN”. He then watched as I made an entirely new batch of formula (uncontaminated by the blue-lidded evil bottle). He lay on his pillow, drank the milk and then started all over again “BISCUIT BISCUIT”.

By 12.15pm, Grandma had arrived to take him to nursery as the weather wasn’t really great for walking. Thurston had ignored his lunch for half an hour because he was too busy making me replay the same episode of “Ooglies” off of the Sky + planner, despite the fact that I bought him an entire “Ooglies” DVD for his birthday yesterday. I decided that he obviously didn’t need lunch and so I tried to get him into his nursery uniform. However, Thurston has a frustrating (yet impressive) party trick of relaxing all of the muscles in his body and going completely floppy. When you add that to the fact that he is double-jointed and bends in whatever direction you move him, it was basically like dressing a fish. Once dressed, he obviously fancied his lunch, which due to his weird mood was a plate of Frazzles, so he went to nursery covered in orange streaks all over his shirt, marvellous. Even as he was leaving, he tried to dump Grandma in favour of going home with one of the neighbours. I am told that all the way to nursery he chanted “Thurston is a nightmare, Thurston is a nightmare”, so maybe I didn’t keep my opinions to myself very well this morning.

He was a beast at nursery too and got in trouble for throwing toys and not sharing. It’s probably unreasonable, but I am always secretly pleased when he plays up for other people because at least then people know I’m not exaggerating! When he got home, he was still pretty grim and spent a good 5 minutes headbutting me in the a**e while I chatted on the phone! That’ll teach me to think I can talk to someone else!! I did manage to briefly cheer him up by letting him sit on the kitchen counter wearing my free sunglasses from Cosmo and a colander as a hat, so I was pleased with that.

Between us, we managed to get some food in him and dunk him in the tub and he did eventually fall asleep, so things are quiet for now. So that was the first day of Thurston being 4. I am keeping everything firmly crossed that he just got out the wrong side of bed this morning (ie. last night) and that tomorrow he will resume to being an adorable little elf!!

Thanks for reading

Hanj x