Thurston Loves Peppa & George

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

 

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Missing being Mary Poppins

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

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

The Naughty Step Won’t Work!

I wrote this blog post for another website so it does go over some things I have mentioned before. I thought I would post it on here too in case anyone has any tips to share about discipline with Autistic children.

 

A couple of months ago, I was stood in a queue in a restaurant when I realised a man was standing very close behind me. I was holding my 3 year old son on my hip and evidently he had thought the same as me, and turned around and hit him in the head. Now, if this had been either of my other 2 children, I would have been equally mortified but I would have at least known how to react. I would have made them apologise, told them we weren’t eating out and left the restaurant. I didn’t do any of that. If I’m honest, I did nothing. I went redder and redder, tried to pretend it hadn’t happened and waited for my table. I’m not a bad mum and I definitely want my children to be kind to other people, but I really don’t know how to handle these situations, and that was the 3rd of it’s kind in the same week.

Of course, what I should have done is told the man the truth. I should have turned to him and said “I am so sorry that he hit you. He has Autism Spectrum Disorder and doesn’t like people being too near to him”. Something stops me saying it to people though. I’ve been trying to work out why that is. It is an understandable explanation for a my little boy’s behaviour, but somehow I still see it as a slur on my motherhood skills. Yet, in my sensible head I know that of course it isn’t. He has been formally diagnosed with a neurological disorder which means that he has very little social skills and lots of frustrations and challenging behaviour.

One of the reasons, I find it hard to say the word “Autism” in a conversation with strangers is that talking to strangers is because it’s nice to talk about something else. Strangers won’t ask me how speech therapy is going or what kind of support he is going to have at school. In fact, they are more likely to compliment his beautiful eyelashes and golden hair, or smile at the way he adorably tells them to “have a nice day”. I crave these little slices of normality where for a moment there is nothing unusual about him.

There is still very little understanding of Autism and when it is mentioned, people often know a friend of a friend whose child has Autism. The mythical Autistic child is often very ‘naughty’ and these horror stories can be hard to listen to on a regular basis. It is much like being subjected to strangers’ birth stories once you are noticably pregnant.

The reality is that I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. How do you discipline a child who doesn’t have any understanding that anyone else has feelings, or even have an understanding of their own self? The naughty step is useless with a child who has no sense of danger and will gladly throw himself down the steps just to see what happen. Trying to talk to him is met with being interrupted with requests for DVDs or food. There is little advice on how to control his behaviour and that is really frightening. I have an 8 year old and a 5 year old who, aside from the occasional bout of bickering and snatching toys, are very sweet, mild mannered, kind children. I haven’t had to deal with violence from children before and I haven’t a clue how to go about fixing it, or if fixing it is even possible.

When we are at a park or soft play area, and my little boy hits other children or pushes them over, it breaks my heart. Yet, I am still too embarrassed to tell them that he is Autistic. I am fairly knowledgable about Autism, but it feels to me that there is still a terrible stigma attached to it. It seems that despite it being a recognised disability, a medical condition, there is still that risk that strangers will use Autism as a judgement of your parenting abilities. Instead of being an explanation for horrible behaviours, I worry that a lot of people see it as an excuse.

I think the only way forward is to try and be a bit braver. I won’t keep running away from awkward situations with my little boy as he is too amazing to keep to myself, and I love him to bits. I know it would be much simpler if I was just honest with people and explained to them why he is different. I have to trust that people will be understanding, and if they are not, well, I won’t see them again anyway.

June

It is June already and that means that in a couple of weeks Thurston turns 4 years old. I know everyone says they can’t believe how fast time flies with their little ones, but it’s so true. I still cradle Thurston in my arms to get him to sleep, just like I did when he was a baby, and sometimes it feels like only 4 weeks ago that he was a newborn with a mop of jet black hair instead of a school-age boy with a head of blonde waves.

He’s certainly kept me on my toes this week and I’m fairly shattered! The sleep pattern really is all over the place at the moment as it is so humid and uncomfortable. The current pattern seems to be: Thurston finishes nursery, falls asleep for 5 minutes in Alex’s car, comes home, falls asleep in his dinner until about 6pm then stays awake and won’t go back to sleep til 9pm ish then is up several times a night before finally getting up for the day at 5am. I’m not a fan. Sometimes he will also nap on the way to nursery when I walk him there in his buggy, but more often than not now, he will sit and look through a Peppa Pig book. I love watching him look through a book, as it’s another milestone that I was looking forward to. He looks so serious and thoughtful while he looks at his little storybook, it makes my heart melt.

Another problem caused by the hot weather is that Thurston is covered in a bumpy rash all of the time. I’m not sure if it is a heat rash or a reaction to sunscreen but it’s a shame because I don’t think there’s a lot I can do about it. I kept him home from nursery for a day in case it was a virus and although he slept all afternoon, I don’t think he was poorly, so I will have to just treat the rash instead. A day later there was a bit of relief with a great big thunderstorm. As with all types of wet weather, Thurston was absolutely thrilled! I kept him indoors as it was a full-on thunder and lightning, walls of water, tropical storm, but he would have been in his element if I’d have put his wellies on him and flung him outdoors!! My 8 year old was not at all impressed by the thunderstorm and to be honest, was a bit scared. Thurston on the other hand (along with his other brother) cheered and shouted “hooray” everytime the thunder cracked in the sky! He really does love the rain!

We were due to start a course of Speech Therapy this week with a new Speech Therapist but she was unwell and had to cancel which was a bit of a shame as Thurston was looking forward to it. Hopefully Thurston will be able to make this week’s appointment instead. I’m itching to know what he makes of the new lady! Since we had an unexpected Thurston-free afternoon, Alex & I went shopping for his birthday presents. I always find his birthdays a little bit bittersweet and emotional, so I had been putting off birthday shopping. Birthdays are a bit tricky because obviously it’s lovely to celebrate Thurston and all of his amazing achievements, but it can be hard to be reminded of his age and how far behind he is. Since childhood milestones are generally measured by age, it tends to make birthdays somewhat of a sore point for anyone who’s kid is delayed developmentally. This year is a bit harder even, because Thurston is starting school in September which is obviously really nerve-wracking for me, and looking at all the other children who are about to start school, I just can’t quite see how Thurston is going to fit in. We’ve got a meeting scheduled in for July so I will start a list of questions for that and then hopefully I will feel better. After moping for 10 minutes in the car about how I don’t really like birthdays, Alex made me snap out of it and we went and bought him a car load of presents that I’m really pleased with. I can’t wait for his birthday now, he’s got one surprise in particular that I know is going to make him so happy!

With the Jubilee this week, I’ve been very busy making sure everyone had their Jubilee costumes and party food sorted for school parties and picnics. Thurston’s nursery had a Jubilee picnic (though I found out Thurston had less of a picnic and opted for a relay race with his 1-to-1 instead!). There was a “Futuristic” theme so Thurston went in his Wall-E costume which was ridiculously cute! He looked amazing and was really happy coming home with his Jubilee medal and crown, or “queen” as he called it!

Speaking of Thurston’s ‘alternative’ language, I was slightly red-faced when I took the kids to the park this week. As it happens, Thurston cannot pronounce ‘park’, so when we got there he shouted “big cock, I love big cock”!! Brilliant. The other mums looked slightly concerned, but I couldn’t stop laughing which I’m sure annoyed them even more! Even when I picked him up to leave he carried on “more cock, more cock please”!!

We went out after the park for a big lunch at Chiquito’s. We’ve taken the kids there before several times, but Thurston’s usually only had fries or most times, has been asleep so we hadn’t ordered off the menu for him before. I usually check the allergy information of a restaurant before we go but as it was an impromptu visit, I hadn’t done my research. Alex pointed out that it said on the menu just to ask if you had any queries about allergies so we assumed they knew what they were talking about. When the waiter arrived I asked him if there was any dairy in the chicken bites. He shrugged, screwed up his face and said “what in chicken bites? Doubt it” and didn’t move. I guess I was supposed to base my decision on whether or not to risk Thurston throwing up for 24 hours on this detailed information, but much to his annoyance we made him go back to the kitchen to double check. It just goes to show that some restaurants really need to work on their allergy policies. They are dicing with peoples’ health and it’s really dangerous. I won’t be going back to Chiquitos, I will stick to places who make food fresh so that they can leave out ingredients where possible and they know exactly what goes into it. The best places I have found so far are mostly small, independant places as they know precisely what ingredients they have used and are really helpful. Also, Wagamamas has a pristine allergy policy and everything is made fresh to order.

We’ve just got back from our first time taking the children to Ikea for a day out. We had lots of grand plans for beach walks and al fresco dining this weekend but the rain has pretty much wiped it all out. So we decided to take a little road trip on the spur of the moment. The kids did very well in the car, mostly thanks to The Muppets Movie soundtrack. Thurston was absolutely fascinated by Ikea, especially the showroom with all the little lounges, bedrooms and kitchens. Mind you, he raced through them at such high speed that it wasn’t exactly the leisurely Sunday I had envisaged. He looked so happy that he was allowed to open and shut all the cupboard and drawers and climb on all the sofas! He also ploughed his way through yet another portion of chips and then chose a little blue plastic armchair to take home. Zeke chose a lovely storybook about vegetables (which is the only kind of story he really likes) and Louis got a desklamp to do his work under. All in all, I think it was a success. I’m not really in a hurry to do it again though, I need a great big Nap!

Thanks for reading

Hanj x