Olobob Top.

Olobob Top was created by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith.  It is a programme currently shown on Cbeebies aimed at pre-schoolers.  I knew nothing about it until May this year when Oliver’s TA came out of school with him and told me about this “bigtop hill thing” programme he’d found on the computer.  It had apparently amused him no end so she was going to find the proper name and make a card so he could put it on his “working for” board.

Now I know that sounds nothing in itself, kids go through phases but let me expand.  From age 2 Oliver went to a private nursery.  He stayed there (3 sessions a week to help socialisation) until he started reception class.  He never brought me a picture home.  Never painted anything for me.  In almost 4 years I never got a painted picture, a drawing or even a scribble.  I asked school not to send home teacher made things like mother’s day cards unless he’d done it because what’s the point? That’s a personal choice, if others want them then that’s fine, what works for me doesn’t work for everyone.  It hurt a little especially as Popples was painting mad and my cupboards were full of her pictures, except a space I’d saved – just in case.  The day after Mrs D (TA) had told me about this thing he’d found on the computer I went to pick him up as usual and she came out smiling.  “Show mummy” she said to him and he presented me with this printout of a scene from Olobob Top (yes she found the right name) that he’d created himself.  He pointed to something and whispered “Tib” so I repeated it and praised his beautiful creation.  He looked quite pleased.  We showed it to Popples, I took a photo and sent it to his dad at work.  I found the blue tac and stuck it up.  He had made it!

The next day he came out again and he was smiling and Mrs D was practically bouncing. He handed me 2 sheets of paper and said “olobob top”.  I looked and almost cried- they were paintings!  not only paintings, but you could actually see 3 different figures and they were recognisable as Tib, Lalloo and Bobble.  This was the start of a new chapter for him.  Usually uncooperative at craft time, he painted, he crayoned, he drew on the conservatory walls (who cares it’ll wash) he made play doh models, he made characters out of stickle bricks and he verbally requested “computer”.  He often speaks in a whisper but some words were getting louder.

The biggest thing was reading.  I know I’ve talked about Julia Donaldson’s books allowing me to spend quiet times with him, but things changed when Mrs D gave him 2 books for his summer gift.  These were his books, they had his name in them.  One was a sticker book, and the other was a flap book.  He doesn’t like stickers.  I tried to show him the stickers go in the book to make scenes but I got screamed at “NO MUMMY! IT’S MINE!” ok fair enough.  He took his books upstairs out of my reach.  That night my husband put Max to bed and when he came down he told me that Oliver was currently sticking stickers all over his bedroom.  He didn’t know what to do because he doesn’t do stickers so I went up and said “what are you doing?” “Sticking” was the response – TO A QUESTION! “Sticking olobob top” he expanded while I stood looking at the stickers on the carpet, duvet, wall, pillows and chest of drawers.  “That is fabulous sticking! You are so clever. It’s beautiful. Well done!” The pride on his face nearly made me weep.  The I got invited onto the bed to look at the flap book.  I tried opening it but it got pulled away so I sat back and let him lead.  Eventually he moved it to within eyesight and pointed to the figures naming them.  He’d point, say the name then look me in the eye (we don’t demand eye contact in this house) and wait for me to repeat it. Then he’s nod and reconfirm.

Our next reading session was instigated by him.  He pointed to a pink bird on the cover and said “BIG” but I thought he said pink so I said “Pink”.  He shook his head, and I thought I was going to lose him, he doesn’t like it if I don’t get it straightaway.  He sat there and repeated it but we were having a miscommunication.  Eventually he took his finger and ‘drew’ the letter b on the bed, then I then g.  Light dawned “oh Big! big bird”. He then turned the book over, pointed to another bird and said “little” I repeated it then he pointed to another bird and said “small”.  I didn’t know he knew that word! We were having a conversation.  He was waiting for me to repeat, giving me eye contact and being in charge.  I didn’t touch the book.

Every day he was saying “upstairs, Olobob Top book” and we were reading the way he wanted to.  He was gaining in confidence and trusting me not to take over and let him lead me for a change.  One day he pointed to Tib and said “it’s Bobble” so I copied and said the same, he looked at me and burst out laughing and said “it’s not Bobble, it’s Tib” oh dear, silly mummy.  And that was the game that session, making mummy look a fool! But it paid off because the next day he finally opened the book and I got to see the inside, but just the first page. “Lalloo’s dress” so I added the word spotty. “Tib’s pants” so I added the word stripy.  Expanding his vocabulary with no pressure for him to say it back, just giving him a word he might not have but if he chooses not to use it at that time that’s fine.  He told me shapes, fish, trees, the other characters.  If we are making stuff he says “you could make it up” and gets stuck in.  He also has expanded his wardrobe thanks to Tib’s stripy pants, which is lucky as he ripped the bum out of his tartan ones swinging on his curtain pole, and all his other jammies were stripy.

2 more books were released (and bought), although I’ve not proved myself worthy enough to be able to read Norbert’s shop yet I live in hope 🙂 We were talking about Christmas with Popples and he came over and said “Olobob top toys, yes, Christmas” so I had to tell him there were no toys which we confirmed by googling, so he asked for “dvd yes” and again I had to show him there wasn’t any. He did his sad face but quickly rallied and asked for Go jetters instead.  They have a laptop where he goes on and plays games, makes characters and scenes etc.  He asks for it “computer cbeebies” or whatever he is after that day.  He chooses to read with me, he does crafts, he has taken a passion of his and instead of it being confined to one repetitive game or action, he has brought it into more aspects of his life.  He hums when he is doing things now, he talks quietly to himself (still a lot of jabber but some words) when playing, he seeks me out to do things instead of me having to instigate it, he knows his choices are important now.  They always were but I don’t think he knew that.  Now he knows if he wants to talk about the size of birds for half an hour, then mummy will stay and have as much enthusiasm at the end as at the start.  I know there is a long, long way to go.  I know that I may never have a conversation with him that runs along more conventional lines.  I know his language is still miles behind.  I know the sound of his voice, I know his laughter, I know he can joke, I know he is clever, I know that what he gives is the best he can and I know that’s enough. He’s calmer, he’s more patient and he’s more willing to try new things.

I got a painting off my son.  He was 6 and I got his first painting.  That was enough, everything else that has happened is a bonus.  We were lucky he found something he felt so strongly about that he wanted to share.  I know that Leigh Hodgkinson, Steve Smith and the Olobob’s don’t realise the world they’ve opened to my son has helped him, and us, so much.  Thank you

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. 🐞

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 £15 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 🙄), 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

Living in chaos.

The electrics in the kitchen were condemned and Wickes were having a 4 years interest free deal on kitchens, how could we resist?  The kitchen was falling apart when we moved in, I think there was only one door still hanging in the end, but with limited finances it got put on the list of things to do- in time.  Now with this deal and our new budget drawn up we could look at getting a kitchen, as the electrics would need doing it could all get ripped out rewired and fitted.  Hooray!

We had a man come round to plan it with us, extra tall cupboards, pull out corner cupboard things, a pull out spice rack drawer and the sink of my husbands dreams (not very exciting dreams admittedly).  In the old coal shed we could put the washer and drier and other sundry items thus leaving the kitchen as just a kitchen.  We booked it after tweaking it to fit in our budget and got an installation date.  Everything going well so far.  As it was a full refit, with electrics, everything had to pulled out and that’s where the chaos started.  The conservatory was packed with stuff we wouldn’t need til after the fitting, the living room contained 2 freezers, a fridge, a tumble dryer, kettle, toaster, crockery, cutlery- you get the picture.  Any other bits were put in bedrooms in boxes.  Kids couldn’t get their toys, we wouldn’t have a working oven for up to 8 working days, no sink for at least 3, no washer.  Fortunately my parents live not far away and would let us eat there and wash the clothes.  So I seem organised and have tried to explain to the kids what’s happening, showing pictures of the new kitchen and moving things while they watch.

Day one- the workmen turn up at 7 on the dot and rip out the kitchen, I say rip out, they probably give it a kick and it collapsed! “I don’t like these mens mummy” says Popples but we seem to cope with the change ok.  We go for tea, do a wash and when we come home the “mens” have gone which makes Popples happy.  Oliver struggles as there is no space for him to play, or lounge with his teddies after a hard day at school.  Then comes the next blow, the pipes have been waggled so a connection to the bath has come lose and started leaked.  The husband caps it off and I text mum asking if we can have baths there too.  He plans to fix it at weekend.  At this point we have one working tap, the bathroom sink.

Behaviours get worse as the week goes on, by all of us.  I’m running around dropping kids off, picking them up, going to the folks, bathing them, washing clothes, packing the clothes in the car to bring home to dry, wrestling three kids back in the car.  It’s chaos.  And for my 2 boys, it’s particularly hard as the routine is gone.  Oliver starts playing up at school.  I end up getting a phone call Thursday to come get him as he has stripped off and won’t get dressed.

The weekend comes and he gets all the plumbing supplies, spends 2 days working on the bathroom, moving the bath and sink as planned to give us more room.  I’d asked 3 times if we should just get a plumber- “no I can do it, it’s just some pipes” turns the water back on at 9pm Sunday night and theres now fountains in the bathroom.  My one tap, my one source of water has gone.  My husband is very upset at this point, clearly it’s more than “just pipes” when it comes to plumbing.  I knock on my neighbours door with 2 jugs begging for water, and I get more than water, I get a 20 minute gossip session too with some very juicy stuff.

The mens fit my sink the next day and I could have kissed him, he also emergency repairs the main pipe upstairs and caps off the rest so we have the water back on.  I get the number for a plumber but Leon knows a friend of a friend (I know, I can see whats coming too).  By this point I’m exhausted and stressed and can’t remember when I last slept and still have to do the school run, cope with three displaced kids and my dad feeding me mega portions as I’m “looking too thin and ill”.  The plumber comes, doesn’t fit the waste pipe properly into the outside waste pipe so when I empty the bath it comes down the newly plastered walls (it’s still drying out).  He also managed to take a tape measure, spirit level, screw driver, saw and other items that had been in the tool box.

I cry.  For hours.  My house is not my home, my kids are stressed, I’m stressed, bits are missing from the kitchen, and then someone says to me “it can’t get any worse, it’ll be great when it’s done” and then they listen to me rant for half an hour.  Leon manages to fix the drainage pipe so the bath works, the kitchen men plumb in my washer and cooker.

On Thursday (a week and a half after it started) I move the living room back into the kitchen, I clean non stop, and organise the toys and rug and teddies and I bring the little ones back from school to a home cooked meal.  Oliver’s face was a picture, wreathed in smiles, teddies on the floor, lying down and covering himself in stickle bricks.  Popples not so happy “I need to go to my nana’s”.

The kitchen is done, the bathroom no longer leaks, Oliver is now keeping his clothes on- at school at least, the odd pencil pot stills goes flying but he has calmed down in school, Max is trying to find his way around the kitchen but knows where the coke and crisps are so isn’t overly bothered about much else.  My husband has agreed in future not to attempt plumbing.  I knew it would be hard but this hard?  Although what eejit attempts a bathroom whilst kitchen is being done?

All settled?  Not a chance, with the severe weather Max’s ceiling has a major leak- think we will leave that to the insurance!

 

xx

 

First day at nursery school

On Monday, my baby girl started nursery school.  She has gone to a private nursery since she was 18 months but she calls this “nursery school”.  We call it foundation stage 1.  She is in full time eating dinner there and having to wear a “nooniform”. She has been so excited to start, going to her big brothers school.  She has dropped him off and picked him up with me over the last year so has known the teachers and some of the kids already.  The foundation stages, 1 and 2, are in the same unit so some of the children from last year are still there which made her happier.

She had a home visit from Mrs B and Mrs H where we did some paperwork and they played and talked to her.  For someone usually quite shy they brought her out of herself and got her talking.  On her first day she said “I am going to talk to my teachers, I won’t be shy” which was my big worry.  And when I took her in Mrs F asked her if she wanted to play play-doh and she said “no I want the sand please” so I was really happy as I thought she might be a people pleaser and just go along and not cause a fuss.  So I felt a bit better leaving her.

I know she’ll blossom, I know she was ready, but I put on her uniform and wanted to cry.  She looked so grown up.  She’s my baby, sandwiched between two losses and has been my little buddy for the last year, we have done loads together and I find I’m a bit lost without her.  I know I will fill the time but shopping and gardening won’t be the same without her.  Letting her go, knowing she’s my last was harder than I thought it would be and I am a bit sad but I know in my heart it’s right for her.  It’s not about me, it’s about what my beautiful little girl needs to fly!

She came running out of school yesterday and up into my arms babbling away about her day, and her dinner, and her friends and painting which is wonderful for me after having 2 non verbal kids and home school diaries in which to communicate.  She is just so happy, carrying her book bag, showing me her hanging-up-her-coat skills (which she loses once she walks through our front door), discussing her paintings in great details and just talking about her new experiences.  She finds wonder in everything. She had to do a booklet “all about me” to take in on her first day, so did a self portrait

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This is her picture of herself.  I think it’s great for a 3 year old, but then I’m biased.

So my baby has taken her first steps into the big world.  My job is to support her and to catch her if she falls, and set her back on her feet.  Right now, I’m looking forward to 3.15pm and getting my big hug and all the day’s news.  Oh and another painting!!

 

xx