Scream If You Want To Go Faster…

As you know, I’m not a thrill-seeker, in spite of once doing this and this.

But, I like to think that there are still some adrenalin-inducing pleasures still out there that I might one day enjoy.

And then I remember. I am a mother and a dipstick. And this week was a hell of a ride.

Monday. A trip to our hot lovely pediatrician. We were awaiting EEG results to see if BW could stop taking his epilepsy meds. I was very nervous.

Good News! Results all clear, so we can begin weaning him off the meds. After 9 years. Scary stuff.

Then Paed wanted to discuss meds for ADHD. I wrote about our dilemma here.

Cue more feelings of nausea, but once meeting was over, I was OK.

Tuesday and Wednesday were reasonably calm. If by calm you mean shouting “teeth” and “shoes” 20 million times before and after school. Not to mention the great “Battle of the Homework”. Not to mention dealing with the fall out from a poorly executed blog post…

The White Knuckle Ride didn’t really gather speed until Thursday when BW’s counsellor had to cancel their appointment at the last minute due to ill-health.

Poor BW. It was too much. A 4 hour melt down (I am not exaggerating) ensued. He wanted me, he didn’t want me. He wanted to speak to counsellor, He was never seeing her again. He wanted to be wrapped, he wanted to be left alone.

All this with me trying to cook dinner, reassure CM and not drown myself in vat of gin.

By 8pm the ride had slowed. My beautiful boy was back and my blood pressure returned to normal. Ish.

Friday, Friday, got to get down on Friday. Right?

Coffee plans with a girlfriend and then lunch with a tweep, in the city.

Just what I needed.

Friday  dawns. I’m so on it.

Half way through doing the lunch boxes I ask BW to get his bike ready for  school. He has Bike Ed on Fridays.

“Mum, the bikes are locked together”.

“Where’s the key?”

Yes, where is the effing key?

Oh.

No, he hasn’t.

The sound of the F-bomb being dropped by TS at the end of the phone confirmed my worst fears.

It was now 9.55am. School starts at 9.

Shouting  “TEETH”, “SHOES”  and trying to finish the lunch boxes I start to attack the bike lock with a pair of pliers. (FYI, I have added bolt-cutters to my Christmas List) BW has tapped into last night’s melt down and is preparing to unleash the sequel.

“I AM NOT GOING TO SCHOOL WITHOUT MY BIKE”. Don’t blame you dude.

My heart is pounding. My knuckles are white trying to get the bastard lock undone.

Shouting down the phone at TS “to get his arse back here pronto”, I try to convince BW that it will all be sorted. I hope.

We finally stomp off to school, BW and I muttering under our breath about TS.

I am exhausted.

(TS dropped key off and crisis was averted, but we both felt terrible for the adult cock ups that caused BW so much stress)

Do you ever feel like you are on a theme park ride?

Anxiety – The Joy Sucking Vampire

Someone needs eye drops.

THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD.

Married to a man I adore, two (on the whole) OK children, and living here, I am content.

Some weeks are harder than others, but the laughter is more frequent than not. There is an exciting new project on the go and some plans to help my writing. All progress on the path of self-fulfilment.

But hanging around like a bad smell, threatening to throw me off course, is my old foe, Anxiety.

Heart-racing, palm-sweating, breath-stopping anxiety.

Sucking the joy out of life, like a fucking vampire.

Along with his friend Panic Attack, both of them can …yes. That.

I am what is known as a  ‘born worrier’ (an insecure childhood will make you anxious that’s for sure) and have carried that throughout my life.

Then we had children. God knows every parent worries. For us though, our intense experiences were more than just the average concerns about sleep and potty training .

BW had seizures on average every 6 weeks between 12 and 24 months. We would hear the noise in the night, in his sleep. The sound of him choking.

There were too many high-speed ambulance journeys, too many nights sleeping in hospital chairs next to his cot. We got to know the paramedics by their first names.

He was finally diagnosed with epilepsy at 2 and medicated shortly afterwards. The seizures stopped and we relaxed enough to allow babysitters to come so we could go out together (we’d been too terrified before).

But that didn’t stop me from keeping a baby monitor in his room until he was 7.

A few years later, after a spell of enormous stress,  TS had 4 seizures in 2 hours. I’d seen enough seizures with BW not to panic, but my mind was racing through the possible causes – brain tumour, cancer, he was dying? No. It was epilepsy.

For him, that meant meds and no driving for 12 months and for me,  being too terrified to leave him  alone with our children. You can imagine the scenarios that went through my mind, can’t you?

BW’s Asperger’s diagnosis was probably the final twist in our family story that my anxiety needed.  The worry that goes with parenting a child with special needs is unfathomable. I have no idea what each day will bring, let alone what sort of future he has.

Now my body doesn’t know how to function unless it is in fight or flight mode.

I am an adrenaline junkie.

Cold Turkey isn’t an option.

Medication, space to contemplate and relax, good friends and gin help.

I can manage.

Some weeks better than others.

But I need to kick the habit.

Do you suffer from anxiety? What helps you?

Rainbows and Unicorns

The holidays are over (I can hear the cheers reverberating around the neighbourhood) and my boys are going back to school.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved, but I confess to feeling a little sad too.

PANIC YE NOT, IT IS STILL ME WRITING THIS BLOG!

It hasn’t suddenly become all rainbows and unicorns.

There have been some spectacular meltdowns this holiday (including a brawl at a public swimming pool). Not to mention an “interesting” counselling session where Boy Wonder implied I beat him regularly. OH MY GOD! (yes, tears were shed and gin was had).

However, the more challenging situations have been managed differently and some of the time, the new strategies have worked.

(The Saint definitely noticed the lack of tearful phone calls made at 9.30am asking “when are you coming home?”.)

I also had a secret aim. To say ‘yes’ more than I said ‘no’. I’m not saying I achieved this 100% of the time, but  I am not Wonder Woman (yet. Another secret aim).

So while we may not have completed all of the activities on the boys list, I think judging by these photos, fun was had.

How were your holidays?

Happy Holidays!

These past few weeks of term, I have been counting down the days.

Boy Wonder has had enough, Cheeky Boy has had enough.

I cannot make another bloody packed lunch. I just can’t.

The last week of term, I’m all “WOOP! WOOP! Holidays! No School run! NO homework! Yay!” Like some Californian fresher about to go on Spring Break.

Then the reality sinks in.

SHIT!

Two weeks of entertaining my children. Two weeks of attempting to stop them from killing themselves/each other.

How quickly I forget.

I need to learn the negotiation skills of a UN advisor. STAT.

Seriously, though, it has got easier as the boys have got older. They appreciate the need for downtime, especially as terms are so much longer here.

I am learning to understand there is a fine line between down time and unorganised chaos. Boy Wonder still needs some structure and routine.

Otherwise the lunatics will seriously overtake this asylum.

The success of the Food Project has given me ideas for the holidays.

So I asked the boys to choose 5 activities each they would like to do over the break.

Boy Wonder

  • swimming
  • nature walk/bike ride
  • cooking
  • go out for dinner as a family
  • bowling

Cheeky Boy

  • baseball
  •  BBQ
  • Aquarium
  • Go to the MCG
  • have a rest

Loving their lists! There were a few I had already pencilled in and nearly all of them are kind on the pocket!

I also had a flick through this bad boy:

I know it’s a bit gender specific, but it’s loaded with ideas, information and history.I bought it for The Saint when we had Boy Wonder. (There is a Girl’s version)

So far I’ve picked out ‘How to make invisible ink’, ‘How to make a battery’, and ‘How to make Water bombs’ for starters.

Hopefully there will be a balance between rest, play and giving me some time out. ( and enough good/bad weather options).

I’ll report back!

How are your holiday plans shaping up?

Happy Aussaversary!

Today is the 1st anniversary of our arrival in Melbourne.

Woah! What a ride. I’m sure I should have been issued with a safety helmet.

It has been, in equal measure, the most thrilling and terrifying, happy and miserable, relaxing and exhausting year of my life. It is put strain on our marriage and made us question our sanity, but in spite of all the black moments, we know we made the right decision for our family.

In the UK The Saint had been commuting from Brighton to London for 15 years. In winter he left for work in the dark and returned home in the dark. The children saw him for half an hour just before bedtime. We were in a rut.

One evening while on our summer holiday, we had one of those wine-fuelled conversations, “what are we doing?” “where are we going?”. The subject of moving overseas was raised. We loved the idea but were unsure of how to make it happen.

Three months later The Saint’s job came up in Sydney. Same company, same job, but in Australia. Fate had intervened.

It was very stressful year in the run up to leaving the UK. Medicals, worry that we would be denied a visa because of Boy Wonder’s Asperger’s, and the doozy of them all our beloved Granny B being diagnosed with cancer and passing away 6 weeks before we left the UK.

Nothing could have prepared us for the emotional experience of leaving friends and loved ones behind and I was very naive when I arrived:

“Oh, you mean I’m not the first Pom to move here?”

“Oh, you haven’t all been waiting for me to come into your lives and be your amazing new friend?”

There have been some set-backs – I was unable to pursue my studying and – yikes- Australia, you are sooooo expensive! Plus the hard graft that goes into working out the new system for a child with Asperger’s has been draining.

In spite of it all, we LOVE it here!

In a nutshell:

Tim tams, Cherry Ripe (dark chocolate), sunshine, sea, daddy around more – YAY!

Vegemite- No. I’m sorry, I persevered for 4 months, but no. Marmite is my one true love.

There are plenty of forums and websites our there catering for those expat needs, but here are my tips on surviving the move:

DO’s:

1. Check blogs and forums before you arrive, researching as much as you can. It will save you a lot of time if you can narrow down the areas and schools you are interested in. We only had 3 weeks to find somewhere to live and a new school. Not easy, especially with 2 boys in tow, raging jetlag and no idea what we were doing.

2. Use twitter! Oh my, it was a godsend! I found some great contacts.

2. Ask lots of questions when you arrive. Australians are a friendly bunch who love talking about their country and sharing tips on where to go/stay etc. Although, I was freaked out by number of times we were asked which AFL team we would be supporting, but then we did arrive in Finals week…(FYI The Saint goes for Demons, we go for Saints, ha!).

3. Treat it like a holiday. Explore! It’s a great, big country and you need to get to see as much as you can.

4. Keep busy. I don’t work (at the moment)  and once The Saint started his new job and the Boys started school the house felt empty. I helped out in Cheeky Boy’s class, only for an hour a week, but it gave me something to look forward to.

5. Join a club. It’s a great way to meet people. We joined a triathlon club.  The Boys enrolled in Nippers (Junior Lifesaving). An activity plus a social side. Good fun.

6. Say “YES!” to everyone who asks you for coffee. We all know good friends are hard to find and never more so when you are ‘new’. I likened it to digging for gold. You have to mine a lot of rocks, to find that nugget!

7. Look after yourself. I was completely unprepared for how the move would affect my mental health. It’s very common to feel low during a big life changing move. Seek support and advice from your doctor or via Beyond Blue.

8. Remind yourselves daily why you made the move!

DON’T

1. Underestimate the financial hardship of starting afresh. It will get better, but be prepared as you will have some large outlays to begin with for example a car, bond for house, school uniform etc.

2. Compare your new home unfavourably with the motherland. There are petty annoyances everywhere you live, but banging on about them with the citizens of your new country will alienate them. NO ONE LIKES A WHINGING POM.

3. Endlessly check up on Facebook/email what your friends back home are doing. Particularly if you are homesick. Too much looking back stops you looking forward.

Boy Wonder’s Food Project – The Verdict

Just over a week ago, following a meltdown of epic proportions, see The Edge, it was time to try something new.

The Boy Wonder Food Project was born.

So how did it go?

Well, it as was a HUGE success. We have not had one argument over food. The boys come home, check the menu and get on with their lives until dinner.

People, I have seen CLEAN plates.

NEW foods have been tried, devoured and seconds have been requested.

At times I wondered who had stolen my children and replaced them with gourmands, but no, it was still them.

The single most popular dish had to be Meatballs with sweet and sour sauce.

 

You have no idea what a personal victory the sweet and sour sauce was. Cheeky Boy asked for seconds. This from a child who thinks ketchup is a) a vegetable and b) a food group in its own right.

I can also recommend Rice Krispie Chicken which is a mighty fine, guilt-free, alternative to take away fried chicken.

Aside from the actual food, the lack of conflict at mealtimes has given us all space to breathe. It has made for a much calmer house. Witching hour has had it’s arse well and truly kicked.

On Thursday Boy Wonder snuggled up and told me how much he was enjoying the menu project and how he felt we were getting along more. Now he wanted to (in his words) “work out some strategies to help him and dad get along better”.

I had no idea that this project would have such an impact on all of us.

Week 2 has already been planned and written on the menu board. Progress.

Thankful Thursday

Inspired by Kate Says Stuff I am joining in with Thankful Thursday.

And a good job too.

The Black Dog is raining on my parade, so a chance to piss on his chips by taking a moment to think about some of the positives in my life is a good thing.

This week I am thankful that The Saint is, well, a saint. Not only working like mad to provide for his family, but supporting me in starting this little blog and in a million other ways.

I am grateful that we are (only just) in a position that I can stay at home, giving myself the time and space to come up with strategies for Boy Wonder like The Food Project.

I am thankful for moments like The Glitter Patch for reminding me that all is not lost and that there is hope for the future.

Most of all I am thankful for my little, loving family whose kisses and squeezes make it all worth while.

Take that Black Dog.

The Glitter Patch

Last week when I posted The Edge,  it was fair to say we were on a downward swing with Boy Wonder.

During those kind of weeks, I question everything.

My parenting skills, my love for him, whether I can survive, whether The Saint and I will stay together. The days are long and the thoughts are dark.

Then out of nowhere we hit a glitter patch.

Two successful days of The Food Project.

And a high school interview for Boy Wonder.

We talked it through the night before. “What’s the most important thing to do when someone is speaking to you BW?”.

“Look them in the eye, mum. I’ve been talking to Benjamin (speechie) about that.”

I sat in awe as my beautiful boy was polite and funny and engaging. He can be like that with people he has known for ages, but with someone he had only just met? Wow.

I could not believe how good his eye contact was. (I think my jaw may have dropped at one point).

There were a couple of moments when he got tongue-tied, or didn’t know what the interviewer meant, but he handled it.

At the end of the interview, the teacher turned to us and said “He is lovely, you can see the joy bursting out of him when he speaks about his passions”.

For that moment, I saw glitter and rainbows and unicorns. I saw a bright future, free of worry and full of smiles.

Fast forward two hours and I’m being bollocked for not being telepathic and knowing that Boy Wonder wanted salad for lunch.

But you know, I have seen some glitter today, so it’s all right.

The Food Project – Day 1

Soooo last night was the first day of the new regime. Both the boys had play dates so I had 4 to cook for. I was nervous, but Boy Wonder seemed excited and showed the menu off to the guests.

I made Goujons of Fish with Tartare Sauce (sounds posh, doesn’t it!). Most of the recipes BW has chosen this week come from Annabel Karmel’s After-School Meal Planner. I’m not sure why, he looked at Nigella and Jamie recipes, but I think the photography in this book captured his imagination more.

I pre-prepared the food so that it was ready for inspection as soon as BW came home.

I got BW to taste the tartare sauce before the meal.

The Goujons were made with fresh fish and crumbed with a mixture of crushed crackers and parmesan cheese.

For a bit of fun I made these for the kids to fill out.

Spot the deliberate mistake on the score cards!

Maths was never my strong point!

They were all a little harsh on the score for presentation but judging by the empty plates and the score for taste, I WON the first round of The Food Project.

Best of all there was no whining or crying from either of us!

Boy Wonder’s Food Project

Those of you who read my post The Edge last week will know that Boy Wonder and dinner time can often be an explosive mix.

His (current ) 3 favourite foods are macaroni cheese, beef burgers and salad. He makes the salad himself with a divine dressing, so that’s a big plus point.

However, man cannot live on mac’ n’cheese, burgers and salad alone. I need him to broaden his range of foods. Before he ends up with rickets, or I get sectioned. Whichever happens sooner.

I tried to explain this during the mother of all melt downs last week (the range of food not rickets or me being sectioned), but predictably I got nowhere.

Time for a new tack. Over the weekend I sat down with Boy Wonder and a heap of cookery books. I explained that we needed to find 6 different meals. He could choose them all. Burgers could feature once during the week. He was very excited and together we had an enjoyable hour talking about recipes.

I then made him this:

I am hoping that the menu board will take away the element of surprise which can often make him anxious. He can also see when he will be having his favourite meal.

I have found myself squawking “THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT” in the heat of battle, but have decided to embrace the notion for the purpose of this project. He doesn’t know it yet, but I am also going to produce a little score card for him to give feedback. He adores Masterchef, so I think this could work.

I am under no illusions that this is going to be a tricky week. There will certainly be things on the menu that he won’t like, Cheeky Boy DEFINITELY won’t like a lot of it, but I am hoping that this project might make mealtimes easier.

Watch this space.