Back to school

The little ones went back this week. Oliver on Monday, Popples on Tuesday. I have spent the last week tracking down pants for skinny boys as the ones I got him based on age were mahoosive! Then there was labelling every item, printing the booklet for Oliver to show what he’d done over the holidays, drawing pictures in Popple’s booklet “all about me”, packing pe kits, book bags, getting moneys and water bottles together etc and of course the weekend when I needed the time, we had a memorial to go to and a christening. Perfect timing!

Olly’s new teacher had provided a booklet to show his new teacher, ta’s, classroom and topic list so we could prepare him. Then the school decides to remodel his classroom over the break. And they have put a fence up. So it looked nothing like it did in the pictures. However when he saw Mrs D, his 1-to-1 his face lit up and he went in. Cuts to funding means he can’t be dropped off til almost 9 whereas every other kid can go in from 8.45, so we play on the keep fit equipment in the playground til it’s time for us to go in.

So far he’s doing ok. His letters are getting better formed, his number work is good, his listening skills have improved and he is a bit more patient and using more words spontaneously. His teacher is male which is a first for him, he’s always been surrounded by women so we will see how this dynamic works. Mr W came out at pick up time to explain the homework situation and if I wanted spellings sent home. He was really nice, no pressure and if he pitches homework above olly’s level to let him know and he will change it! I know right, he’s actually prepared to tailor the work so he’s still doing the same topic as the class, so he’s still included. I’m hoping this isn’t just lip service but I’ve heard good things about this teacher, he doesn’t like his SEN children segregated too much from the class, he wants inclusion!

So Olly has his work station set up at the edge of the classroom for if it gets too much and his seat at his classroom table is at the back where there’s space behind him and there’s some lovely kids on his table. So I’m hoping he will be ok.

Popples had a bad Monday night stressing about school. She gets very anxious with change to the point where she can barely function, sore tummy, can’t sleep, barely eats- and all I can do is to talk to her and reassure her. She’s gone into FS2 so it’s the same room as last year but a different half of the room. She asked me to take her in on the first day. We found her peg to hang her coat, found her tray for her book bag and she wouldn’t let go. She looked so small and scared even though she knows the teacher. They’ve changed the room around and it threw her completely. If I’d known I’d have warned her and talked it through.

Eventually I had to go so I found her best friend and left her with him and a teacher close by. They know she’s a nervy kid so when I went to pick her up they made sure to tell me how she’d got on. Last night she couldn’t sleep, ended up in bed with me, claiming she wasn’t going back. We had a bad mood all morning and I said I’d have a word with the teacher to make sure that someone watched to see if she got sad face, so they could help her straight away. I had a word, as promised, and they took her to play play-doh. Thank god they know her so well, treating her kindly now will mean in a week or so she should be back to her confident happy school self. Forcing her to mingle or go in on her own won’t help, she needs to feel supported. It’s not too bad because nearly all parents are going in as it’s first week. Some kids are so upset at being left but we all know once parents have gone, they have a great time!

For me, well I’ll get used to the quiet house eventually. I do miss them. We had a good summer. The early starts and getting three kids ready for 8.30 and three drop offs by 9.05 is a challenge but I’m sure it’ll be smoother as we do it more (ok who am I trying to kid)

So…… so far, so well not exactly good but getting there.

Xx

Shoe shopping, 1 year on.

Yep. That dreaded time is upon us again, back to school shoe shopping. It is not our favourite time of the year. However a few months ago I bought a shoe measuring device from Clark’s. It cost me a tenner. My thinking was that our role play around doctors and dentists has worked to the extent that he will consent to be examined (as long as it’s fast) with no tears so maybe it would work for shoes. I got it out and he wouldn’t play, until Popples had a go. Then his interest was piqued. He came and had a look, she was laughing because there was tickling and he took his shoes off. He then grabbed my hand and put it on his foot. “My turn” he said in a whisper and he had his turn.

Over the next couple of weeks it was brought out for “Foot measuring time”, said in a very upbeat voice with a “who’s going first” to encourage a sense that it was exciting and to be first was winning. It seemed to work but that was in the house. I enlisted my eldest to come with me to help if necessary and went to the shoe shop at opening time so it wouldn’t be too busy and there’d be no wait.

Popples got measured, picked light up shoes, tried them on and was doing her walkabout to make sure they didn’t slip. By the time she was sat back down to have them removed and boxed, Oliver had his shoes off and was climbing out of his buggy! He sat and was measured, no ones hair got pulled, no one got kicked, he just sat there wiggling his toes but she got a rough measure. Then she brought out four pairs of shoes. She laid them out and I signed “which”. He then picked the ugliest shoes (in my opinion) and tried them on, went to the mirror to admire himself and give himself a kiss. Thankfully they fit and we were on our way. No tears. No meltdown. Everyone happy and me and Emily amazed, her feeling redundant.

I showed his dad the shoes “they are so ugly” and I said he picked them. Ugly or not he picked his own shoes. He made his own choice and if he likes them, he could have had clown shoes for all I care.

He also picked a pair of messing about shoes and his own new school coat, bright red with pockets. If he’s picked them, he’ll wear them.

What a difference a year makes. He also had a no fuss hair cut today. Maybe role play does work but I also think that seeing his little sister do these things really helps. Monkey see, monkey do and, lets face it, my youngest two are little mischievous monkeys!

Xx

First theatre trip.

As we didn’t get to see any shows in Butlins, I booked tickets for my youngest to see “What the ladybird heard” live at the Lowry theatre. I love the theatre. I’ve tried ballet and opera but wasn’t keen at all. The cinema is overpriced and very loud. The theatre can be quite expensive so I don’t get to go much. My eldest got me tickets to see War of the Worlds live show a couple years ago and it was excellent. I also saw View from a Bridge at the Royal Exchange.

The Lowry is a lovely small theatre and it’s accessible via public transport which makes life easier. It’s accessible and has all kinds of accessible viewings, bsl, relaxed performances etc. So it’s great for families and those with special/additional needs.

We were in the Quays Theatre. We bought some sweets and a drink and a ladybird leaf and went to find our seats. She was so excited the night before she couldn’t sleep. Once on her seat she looked a bit apprehensive. She didn’t like the lights going down. For the first 10 minutes she looked so serious. As it’s for kids there’s audience participation which me and her dad joined in with enthusiastically (I don’t know why but you go back to being a four year old at these points) with her looking at us like we were mad. Then she sat forward and started clapping and joining in a little. Unsure still about what was the right thing to do.

I scooped her onto my knee and asked her a couple of questions which she quietly answered. Then we had to find the ladybird, you know the routine “she’s there!” “Where?” “THERE!” She forgot herself and started shouting “daddy it’s in the tree! Look” and relaxed. The songs were catchy, poo was mentioned which sent her into fits, she sidled back onto her own chair, sweets forgotten, totally enveloped in the magic. I watched her face, lit up with joy and I knew this was just the start. I knew I’d be asked when the next show was once it had finished. I watched her shout the answers, I watched her delight as the robbers got tricked and I watched her forget about everything except what was happening up there on the stage. I think I watched her more than the show. I got to experience this “first” through her eyes. It was magical.

I hope she remembers the things we do that are just for her. Her two brothers take up time, there’s always an appointment or something to do with them but I try to be fair and give her time too. It’s important that she feels just as special as her brothers. I don’t want her resenting the limitations we sometimes have as a family.

And we’ve booked to see stick man in December with Oliver this time too. Hopefully he will enjoy it as much as she did. Her grandad has got her a ticket to see the Gruffalos child with him and nana. I think you could say she has been bitten by the bug. ๐Ÿž

Xx

โ€œYour kids are spoiledโ€

This has been levelled at me a few times by various people. Although I shouldn’t have to justify my parenting style I find that I bite every time. I explain about the educational toys, the fun toys and the outside toys, the huge craft unit the autism and the interests we have and usually people say “oh ok. That makes sense”. However a couple of people will not let it go. They know the situation but insist on telling me how great a parent their friend/relative is. How structured bed times are. How it’s one toy out at a time. How before they get new toys they have to get rid of others. How the parents are in control and telling me “you need to do (insert helpful comment here)”. I’ve taken to avoiding these people now as they obviously aren’t listening to me and have no understanding that works for one family doesn’t work for others.

The latest was going on holiday with the 2 little ones and leaving Max at home with his nana. “That’s so cruel. How can you leave him out”. I didn’t take him because he wouldn’t have liked it. After being his mum for 24 years I kinda know what he likes. That’s why we’ve booked a holiday for him with us and no little ones. A weekend away where it’s all about him. I would love to have a family holiday and we are working towards that but it’s not an option yet for a variety of reasons. It didn’t stop the comments until I said quite forcefully that none of my children get left out and we do things differently but fairly. That person hasn’t spoken to me since.

The garden is full of toys. Swing, trampoline, see saw, cars and ride on toys, sand pit-you get the picture. Between them the youngest have had ten birthdays between them and they get presents off relatives, so I think I only bought the slide as a non present. The rest were gifts from others or birthday gifts. They love the garden and can burn off energy in a safe environment. Doesn’t mean we don’t take them to the park or for walks, or for tree climbing or anything else.

The house is like a toy store but again they have Christmas and birthdays and I’m not going to get rid of things they still play with to make room. Eventually they will grow out of everything and then I will sadly get rid of it and have a grown up house ๐Ÿ˜•.

We have a good range of toys. Stuff recommended by OT like bead threading, traditional toys like wooden blocks, musical instruments, duplo, stickle bricks, Lego. All to help with creativity and building and fine motor skills. Our craft section is always being replenished as Popples is always making something or school have asked us to make things or Oliver is into creating 100 kites or go-jetter badges or whatever is his current fad. They have a tablet each too, where they have a range of games educational to fun. We have a dress up rack, princess dresses that have been given us, doctor set and pj masks. Helps with role play.

I feel I have made my point about stuff we have and also realised I’ve justified myself again! I don’t buy my kids stuff so I don’t have to play with them. I play with them all the time. I was Luna girl for three hours the other day trying to catch owlette, although we had a break to look at a bee close up and talk about it’s hairy legs. I’ve played play doh all morning “no oliver don’t eat the play doh”, I can build a passable stickle brick train, I am a good patient even though the doctors are rough and have no bedside manner. But then I get “them kids are so demanding, they should be able to play by themselves” why? Yes my house isn’t spotless, my grass isn’t always mown when it should be, yes we all have grass stains in our clothes where we’ve wrestled. I lost a few crops with the “help” I got.

Apparently my kids rule the roost. He’d sleep if I bothered getting him into a routine. Oh thanks for that, I’ve never tried a routine ๐Ÿ™„. “People have kids and a job and still manage everything ” good for them. “She needs telling no” does she? Does a four year old really need to hear that mummy can’t play because I’m cleaning?

They are only young for a little while so why shouldn’t I enjoy it? My husband doesn’t care, he knows the jobs get done at some point. As long as the house is still standing, he’s pretty easy going. So yes I spoil my kids. If spoiling means playing with them and reading with them and educating them. I think it’ll be a very sad day when I’m banished from the games. I wonder why people feel like they can make comments about how other families are. I mean we aren’t impacting on them so what does it matter if I’m running around doing my evil laugh? It makes the kids happy, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t want them to grow up thinking mummy never had time for them.

Oh and it’s not all store bought toys. We got a huge cardboard box and it was a boat, a car, a fire engine, a jail, a present, a tortoise and a rocket. We make tents from sheets. I think I have the best “job” in the world.

Sorry for ranting but it’s just really needled me, the judgement.

Xx

Butlins Skegness

We decided to have a holiday with the little ones and everyone said Butlins was worth a try as they had got so much out of it. So we booked and paid monthly for a gold apartment and the dining plan. We also paid an extra ยฃ15 for a ground floor apartment. Who needs the hassle of stopping another child trying to jump from a balcony (Max tried it in Florida)

I can see the appeal of Butlins. There’s a beach, small fairground, soft play and parks, food, shows and a water park all on site. However, once you get into the centre it’s very busy, there’s pound rides everywhere, lights, noise and an amusement arcade in the main pavilion. Not exactly brilliant for Oliver-total overload. He ran. A lot. We took turns chasing him whilst the other looked after Popples. Meal times were not a family affair. Day two I drove to the supermarket to get food in for breakfast and for Oliver and some Peroni for me and the hubs. I sent him for breakfasts with Popples because it was paid for, he eats more and I’m not too bothered about breakfast. It saved the morning stress of trying to keep Olly occupied whilst we tried to eat.

The activities we did were fun. The beach was a big hit, he was straight into the sea laughing and splashing up to his armpits. I built castles with Popples as she is more wary of water although I did get her in for a paddle. The fairground has a section for under 150cm so they could go on rides by themselves which they loved and it was included in the holiday price.

The water park had a selection of pools and water slides. We went on one of them and the kids actually queued no problem for it. Soft play killed a couple hours. The climbing frames killed another hour. We didn’t get to any shows. We ate in shifts. We hardly slept, a new place with all those things to do hyped them both up. I slept in “the girls room” as it was named by the youngest. Hubs and Olly slept in the double bed. At least we didn’t have to listen to the snoring!

Because Oliver didn’t eat much for two days we decided to go to the Italian on site. Not nice and cost a chunk. The main meals on the dining plan were passable, just, puddings were lovely though. We had taken stickle bricks and dvds for them which settled him a little in our apartment. Bed time was another challenge. She wandered in and out needing the toilet (fifty times an hour ๐Ÿ™„), he tried climbing out of the bedroom window. He wouldn’t go in the shower, couldn’t have bathroom light on as it was an extractor fan and the noise bothered him. Thankfully he couldn’t reach the security chain on the door or that would have been someone on duty all night.

It’s nothing we didn’t expect although I did think they’d be tired from the days exertions and sleep a bit more. We didn’t really see much of each other. We didn’t get any relaxing time. Before we went we talked about it and accepted that it was the kids holiday and to not expect too much and I think it helped keep our stress levels down. Instead of losing it at dinner I took him out for a walk while dad and sister finished tea. The next day he did the same for me.

The kids loved it. We made it about them telling Popples she could do what she wanted, giving her options and telling her that if she didn’t like it she didn’t have to do it. She cried when we went swimming but we had made the plan where if she didn’t like it I’d take her to do something else and we’d meet up later (very scared of big water) and told her that it was up to her to tell me if she didn’t like it. No worries once she got in and saw it only came up to her knees in the baby pool. She went on the big slide with us too. Her confidence grew because she was in charge wherever we could let her.

Butlins has more on offer but not for us. Climbing walls and stuff were not appropriate for us. Golf wasn’t either. So I can see why people love it and go back time and again but I think it’ll be a while if we go back. If we do at all. The request for next year is Peppa Pig World. She was only a baby when we took Oliver so we are considering it.

I think expecting so little and having strategies in place helped us get in the right mind set. We made some amazing memories. I took her on her first grown up fairground ride and got to see her face filled with joy and hear her laughter. I got to see my son laughing and splashing his dad in a very cold sea. I got to eat as many puddings as I wanted. I got to see my children squeeze everything they could out of family time. They loved it. And because they loved it, it was worth the no sleep, no relaxation, running around keeping him safe and every penny we spent.

Because she didn’t get to see a show we are taking her to the theatre tomorrow.

Butlins by the sea – ticks a lot of boxes but for a family like ours doesn’t tick quite enough…… yet.

Xx

Itโ€™s coming home! (Hopefully)

Normally around this time, I’m settled with the tennis. Every year I become zombie like, grunting responses to questions unless they are about Wimbledon. This year it is different. The World Cup is on and it takes precedence because it’s only on every four years so I’ve graciously allowed the husband to set the tv schedule. See how I’m getting to grips with this compromise stuff ๐Ÿ˜‚

I always support Portugal. I always have. I’ve even got a couple of football tops to wear on the occasions they play. My husband, being part Italian usually supports them. They didn’t qualify this year though so he supported England from the start, even has a pound on it in a family bet! Lots of the big teams didn’t qualify this year or have gone home early, including my beloved Portugal so I got on board with supporting our team. I will always support home nations anyway alongside my own team, except in rugby where I go for Scotland due to my heritage. To be honest though I went off England after linekar’s era as the later England line up seemed to me to act like they were owed it and had an arrogance I didn’t like.

This team, however, have come out playing their socks off, knowing they have to earn it, knowing there’s no such thing as a “sure thing”. Mr Southgate has a team that seem disciplined in the face of some really dodgy players (Colombia) and are hungry for victory. I am not a football buff, full of knowledge; I mean I used to go to Burnden Park to watch Bolton wanderers, this is just my ramblings about this World Cup.

I was gripped by the penalty shoot out, we don’t have a great history in that department. And yesterday they won outright. No extra time, no penalties (I don’t think my nerves could take another one of those!) and great goalkeeping. My husband and son in law were screaming at the tv when sterling(?) missed two open goals. I missed the first goal dealing with Oliver, but it was such a good atmosphere.

The streets were silent when the match was on. People who don’t watch football were watching. People were hugging strangers at the end. And this was so nice to see. Our country is so divided at the moment with Brexit, Trumps planned visit, the continued squeeze on incomes etc so it was so nice to see our country united on something. It was nice to see people happy and together. No barriers, everyone wanting the same outcome. (I say everyone knowing it’s not literally everyone)

Even if it doesn’t come home I think we can be proud of the England team. They’ve done so well and conducted themselves with dignity and humility. Now we wait to see what Wednesday brings. Up against Croatia I think which won’t be easy. Good luck England!

The biggest question remains though, which World Cup song is better? I believe it’s world in motion but my husband thinks it’s three lions (it’s coming home). Obviously I’m right ๐Ÿ˜‰

Xx

Food banks and period poverty

I know that in England the use of food banks has gone through the roof, even for working families. Wage freezes, high rents and increase in food and utilities costs have really squeezed families. In our church we provide porch boxes and our family contributes when we can as both me and the husband have been poor, so we like to give back where we can. There are baskets in supermarkets where you can leave contributions too. As well as food we have contributed toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant. One thing we have never contributed or even thought about until today is sanitary products. I don’t know why. I suppose I assumed people would buy necessities and a see that as a necessity. But then so is food. I don’t really know what I was thinking.

Today I was watching tv and an advert came on for Always sanitary products. It was talking about the importance of school and at the end it did that “buy our products and we will contribute to period poverty so girls don’t miss school” thing. It’s always bothered me that products are taxed because they are “luxury products”, I kid you not. We obviously choose to give in to this need to have periods so have to pay tax! Or are we expected to go back to the days of monthly rags that are washed each time and so hygienic?

I am really bothered by my own ignorance though. How could I, as a woman, not be thinking about what other women need? It never occurred to buy those kind of toiletries but I know about the poverty levels in this country. I know kids are going to school hungry. I know the liberals pushed successfully for free meals for all kids up to year 2 so they at least got one hot meal a day. I know the teachers who take in extra food to feed the ones they know are in dire straits. Now I know about period poverty too. And now I can do something about it.

How can a developed country like ours find money for weapons, wars, bailing out banks, new railways we don’t need, paying to keep the government propped up, yet we can’t pay a living wage? Homelessness is growing, there are no rent controls which puts more families at risk. Working families using food banks. Girls missing schools because they have no money for a tampon. How can this be happening in this day and age. I wonder when the first workhouse will be reopened. Even with all the advances in technology and medicine etc I feel we are going backwards as a nation. The rich/poor divide is huge and just seems to be getting bigger. Those in charge should be ashamed, but they never are. It isn’t them deciding if heat is more important than food this week.

Xx