It’s Tomorrow

It’s half term and the kids get a week off for good behaviour, while I get a week’s hard labour for my sins.

Because keeping four children, aged 7-13, fed, watered and alive for a week can be challenging. I’m not the sort of mum who lays on entertainment 24/7 ; I get them out of the house to walk the dogs for at least an hour a day, we have screen breaks and take time to do music practice and homework. We  do some reading and the pool’s now working, so they will spend time in that. But basically I leave them to do what they want, as long as no one is bleeding or crying too loudly.

With four children, someone always want feeding and our food bill increases when they aren’t at school. I will be doing a lot of refereeing. By the end of next week I will be gasping for some ‘me’ time.

I know these things from experience, but this half term will be different. This coming week I will only have three children to wrangle. Sometimes three is easier than four, sometimes it’s harder.

DD1 is off to France to go sailing for a week. My baby is going overseas without me. Of course, she’s 13 now, so not technically a baby. But if you are a mum reading this you’ll know what I mean; they will be always our babies, won’t they?

This activity week has been looming on the horizon for months, then weeks , then days and suddenly it’s tomorrow! Tomorrow she’s going to be getting on a coach with about 60 other boys and girls and heading across the channel for a week on the water and sleeping in tents.

She’s off for 8 days- Saturday to Saturday. 7 nights! She’ll ‘sleep’ two of those nights on the coach. I guess it’s good practice for those inevitable  18-30 coach tours to Europe but they are expected to be up for a full days sailing when they arrive at the campsite 18 hours after they leave. I guess the teachers want them to sleep well the next night.

DD is a bit nervous, but she has a friend with her for company. I know she’ll have a fabulous time and will come home just that little bit more independent.

And I am pleased she has the gumption to learn a new skill and do something like this, but I’m going to miss her. When I get a moment to remember I’m missing one, I’ll be thinking of her a lot.

I also know from experience that when DD gets back home, she’ll be so tired that we’ll be lucky to see her for the next day or two. If we are unlucky, she will make her presence felt by squeezing a week’s worth of arguments into 36 hours.

But before we know it, she’ll be back at school and half term will be over.

I’ll have the house to myself again, along with an empty fridge and a lot of washing. And there will be only 7 weeks to go until Summer.

Sailing picos

The Gallery: Animals

When I say our house is a bit of a zoo, people immediately assume I’m referring to our children’s behaviour.

They may have a point, but usually I’m talking about the number of pets we have. At the moment the number stands at 8; 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 rats, a hamster and a snake. Yes, they do require a fair bit of  feeding, exercise, cleaning out and playing with but as a rule the animals are much less trouble than the kids.

On Tuesday, we almost added another to that number. I was out walking the dogs in the local woods, when the New Dog put his head  into  the grass at the side of the path and pulled out this little fellow.

duckymomo
Thank goodness it was him and not our other dog, as when the duckling wriggled and peeped in alarm, he simply dropped it. Our older dog would have gone ‘Chomp’ and that would have been that.

I managed to grab the poor baby before either of the now excited dogs went in for a second attempt. The duckling didn’t seem to be broken at all, but it was shivering and calling for its mum, so I put the dogs on leads and we waited to see if  Mother duck would show up.

As a rule Mother Ducks do tend to come running if they are in earshot of one of their babies calling for them, but they are not the best mothers and it’s not unusual for them to leave a duckling or two behind as they take their family cross country between bodies of water. After about 10 minutes of frantic peeping from the duckling, it was obvious he had been left behind and was now my problem.

If you find a duckling out and about without its mother and just leave it, it is unlikely to survive. If you leave it where it is, it will probably get eaten by something, attacked by another mother duck or even drown if left in water. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon this one, so I did the only thing I could think of and popped it in my jacket pocket while I headed home. It immediately went quiet and I was able to get it home safely, where I popped it in a cat carrier and decided what to do with it.

I did think briefly about keeping it as I have some experience with domestic ducks, but we live in a London suburb, not a farm and the dogs and cats were far too interested. Plus it was a wild animal and needed to be with other ducklings. Ducks are social and very messy.

Google provided me with the number for St Tiggywinkles, and the lady I spoke to confirmed that we could bring it up to them any time of the night or day. The wildlife hospital was about an hour away, so I was going to have to drive up in the evening, once my husband got home to stay with the kids.

In the meantime, I gave the duckling something to eat ( a finely chopped mini scotch egg!), a little dish of water to dabble in and put him in the kitchen where the dogs couldn’t get him. The kids came home and were enamored. All of them cried when I said we couldn’t keep him and DD1 insisted on coming with me to drop him off.

St Tiggywinkles is in the middle of nowhere, but the people were lovely and told us that ‘Alex’, the duck, would stay with them in a group of similarly aged ducklings until they were adults. At that point the whole group would be released back into the wild. DD sobbed when we left him; she is 13 and very susceptible to any kind of cuteness.

We plan to go and ‘visit’ Alex over half term. Of course we won’t be able to tell which one he is, but  I’m sure it won’t stop us trying.

This post was written as part of the theme over at Sticky Fingers this week. If you want to check out photos of other animals, then head on over.

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Guest Post: Dear Mr Cameron…

Yesterday was a bad day for many of us for a variety of reasons, but this post will help you see why parents of disabled children fear their families will be especially affected by the people who will now run our country for the next five years.

Liz has been a friend  for over a decade, and blogs occasionally over at A Dash Of…. Her  eldest son Adam, has autism, ADHD and some learning difficulties but she knows that with the right support he has the ability to contribute to society in the future. But as you’ll see, a lot depends on the  attitude of  those in Westminster.

This is a brilliant piece of writing and as a parent of a daughter with ASD, I wanted to share it on my blog.

You can click through and read her post here and with her permission I’ve also reproduced in full below.

If this post resonates with you in any  way, please share it and maybe, just maybe, her intended recipient will read it.

‘Dear Mr Cameron

Last night I kissed my sleeping son when I went to bed knowing he would be able to vote in the next election and wondering, as he enters adulthood, what sort of world that will be. I woke up this morning and did something I have never done before the morning after an election. I cried, cried for my son’s future. You see, Mr Cameron, my son is autistic. He has ADHD and some learning difficulties and is vulnerable. I already lose too much sleep worrying about the prospects for his future adult life but this morning that sense of fear and dread intensified. Whilst friends were bemoaning the end of the NHS or the education system as we know it my fears were focused purely on that sleeping child and the life that may have to endure in the future. My son is not disabled enough that he will automatically be cared for by the state but neither is he able enough to be able to live truly independently. My son is quiet, he is passive and his life is driven be anxiety.  Will he be told he is fit for work because he can walk 100 metres and pick up 4 litres of milk? Will he be deemed ‘not disabled’ enough for PIP benefits or enhanced social care because an assessor has little understanding of autism or the impact of mental health difficulties? Will your collective horror at the prospect of a minority of ‘lazy scroungers’ claiming benefits mean he, and the other deserving vulnerable, will be unfairly penalised by the draconian measures that have been enforced. I am ashamed to live in a society where a pledge to reduce the welfare budget by £12billion is lauded yet you remain surprisingly quiet on your plans to tackle the scroungers at the other end of economic scale. The welfare state was created to help those at time of need and whilst our hope is for our son to be able to work and support himself, I fear that should his need increase, he will be simply abandoned.

 

Will there be an NHS service in five years time or will health care be reduced to a series of tenders where services are stripped to the bare bone and profit is put above patient care? Will you still be feeding us the line that no front line services will be cut? Will there be an adult autism or decent quality mental health service that my son can access in adulthood? The current state of mental health services is abysmal and any further erosion of this will lead to services becoming untenable.

 

Mr Cameron, what ever happened to your vision of a ‘big society’? Will all the voluntary groups and organisations who do so much to make the lives of the vulnerable that little bit easier still exist? Only yesterday I received an email saying that funding had been pulled from a local football group for disabled teenagers. Do you have any idea of the importance of such groups and schemes? So many disabled children cannot access mainstream activities and these give them opportunities that are otherwise denied to them due to their disabilities. Opportunities to socialise, to make friends, to improve their sense of wellbeing and emotional health, to be physically active, to develop new skills, to develop an interest or passion that they can take into adult life and help integrate them into society.

 

I will do all I can to fight for and protect my child and to equip him as best I can to deal with adult life. However his disability is life long, it is invisible and often poorly understood. I will not always be here to watch over him and I have utterly no confidence that the society we are building will care for my child, and others like him, as he reaches maturity.  I weep for the life I fear he may lead when I am no longer here. I am mindful of Gandhi’s famous quote ‘The True Measure of Any Society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’ and wonder how that applies to you, Mr Cameron and the choices you will make?  I pray that my tears are unfounded and that compassion returns to the heart of this government. You speak of a promise of a good life and a better future today. When my son goes to the ballot box in five years will you have made good on this assurance to the most vulnerable in society? Can you promise me that, Mr Cameron? That will be my judgment of you.’

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The New Dog

New Dog

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will recognise some of these photos. The photo above is of our New Dog.

We have a new dog because we lost our 4.5 year old Lurcher a couple of months ago. Her story is here and I still get upset when I think about it. Our other dog, still referred to on this blog as The Puppy, even though he’s now almost three, became very depressed without any doggy company. The Lurcher had been there for him when he came home with us at 9 weeks of age and he missed her.

She wasn’t a great role model for him. She made sure he knew she was the Boss and beat him up on occasion. But they would lie quietly together after a walk, race around the garden every morning and play bitey face when The Puppy fancied a game but the The Lurcher couldn’t be arsed getting off the sofa. Sadly, he didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her, and it kills me to think that on some level he is still waiting for her to come back.

But anyhow, once she’d died we knew we needed to get The Puppy a new companion sooner than later. He didn’t want to walk, he didn’t want to play and he was off his food. I started taking him around to visit some rescue dogs, mainly bitches, as we’d always had a boy and a girl.  We didn’t really want a puppy as they are such hard work, but did look at a couple. Some dogs he ignored, some he played with for a bit, but we didn’t meet anything he really gelled with. Then one day I was making plans to go and see a few dogs fostered by Heathlands Animal Sanctuary when the lady I was speaking to said I should come and see her foster dog.

She had had him for three months; he was from the Irish Pounds and they had no history on him. He was cat and child friendly and she adored him and would have kept him herself if her circumstances had been different. He was on the way to one of the other dogs, so we agreed to stop and see him. The Puppy and The New Dog hit it off straight away and played together for over an hour. The Puppy obviously prefers boys! This makes sense as most of the dogs he has a really good play with on his walks are males.

Once we’d reserved the New Dog, we had to wait a few days before we collect him, but a month ago today he came home to us. That night he was very busy and didn’t lie down until 11pm. I wondered if I had done the wrong thing!

He’s very different from The Lurcher. He comes back when you call him, for one thing. He’s very busy and is always up for a game or a walk. We have started agility with him and our neighbour borrows him a few times a week to play with their young chocolate lab which tires both of them out a bit. We’ve had no toilet training accidents and he goes into his crate at 10-11pm and comes back out at 7-8am, so that’s perfect for us.

The Puppy is much happier with another dog around. He’s more relaxed and they both go off bounding into the woods together on our walks. They don’t play 24/7 but there is more interaction between them than there was between The Puppy and The Lurcher. In fact The Puppy seems to be much calmer in and out of the house with The New Dog around.

The New Dog has got a big bark on him, and the neighbours have ‘commented’ that they have heard barking, but that has settled down a lot. Now the kids are back at school, we can get into a better routine, which I think will settle him even more. And he’s becoming a lot more affectionate with us; the last couple of nights he’s come over for a snuggle before putting himself to bed.

We have no idea what breed he is, but there is a Doggy DNA test being done to find out. My bet is on a Beagle cross- maybe with a Collie or German Shepherd. Other people have said they think he might be part Husky but we’ll have to wait and see. Have a guess if you want to. He’s Labrador sized with a similar type of coat, has hound like bark and likes to put his nose down, if that helps any.

The New Dog has fit in very well with our family and we are glad we adopted him. No matter what his breed is, he’s been a good choice for us and we hope he’s happy with us as his family too.

Holding paws

The Gallery: Spring

In our house, spring usually means two things. Cherry tree blossoms and opening our swimming pool.

Sadly, neither of these things has happened this year. Yet.

There are blossoms on some of the trees down our street, but the trees with the really big flowers that rain down petals on you when you shake the branches, are not yet at the blossom snow stage.

Blossom snow

We walked past the tree in the photo above today and found only buds. But give it a week or two and it’ll be ripe for shaking.

If this current spell of niceish weather persists we’ll also have our pool open at about the same time.

Swimming Pool

Yes, we live in the UK and have an outdoor pool in our garden. It’s quite old and we’ve had to replace and repair quite a few bits since we bought it along with the house. We have an automatic safety cover on it so we don’t have to worry about anyone falling in accidentally, and the cover keeps the water clean as well.

We keep the water temperature quite warm and usually swim from Easter to October. We keep saying that one winter we are going to heat it up for Christmas Day and take a dip.

This Easter, we’ve been waiting for some work to be done on the boiler. It turns out that it’s more complicated than the pool boiler repair guys initially thought but it’s almost sorted now.

And once it’s done, there will be no keeping the kids out.

Spring will have really arrived.

This post was written in response to this week’s Gallery theme over at Sticky Fingers.

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The Gallery: Girls

4 girls on a climbing frame

Here are my kids, dressed as ‘fairies and dancers’ about 6 years ago.

In this photo my eldest is 7, the same age as my youngest is now. My youngest is only about 18 months old, and yes, he’s a boy. This is what happens when you are too young to know any better and you have three older sisters who regard you as a life sized doll.

They all loved these outfits and spent hours running around the garden in them. Sometimes I even took them out of the house like this, when I couldn’t be bothered getting them to change. Yes, even DS. People used to tell me how cute they were and he used to dimple happily at them.

These days you couldn’t pay DS to get dressed up as a fairy, and you’d have a hard job persuading any of the girls to do so either. DD1 quite likes skirts and dresses but doesn’t do flounces, and DD2 and DD3 much prefer trousers. DS  just wants to wear shorts. None of them like pink.

Having three girls  and a boy has been interesting but I really haven’t seen that much difference between them as they are growing up. I’m told the teenage years will be the definitive ones as girls are stroppy and boys just withdraw and grunt. We’ve had plenty of the former already and it makes for a very noisy house, so I await the latter  state of affairs with eager anticipation.

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Brace Watch Month 26/ Month 2

That’s right.

a/ I haven’t updated Brace Watch for almost a year, and
b/ I now have two daughters wearing braces.

First up, DD1. She’s now 13.

She was only supposed to have braces on for 2 years , but she’s probably got another 12-18 months to go thanks to a disinterested NHS orthodontist who left her without a wire on for about 4 months, and basically pissed around with her teeth.

Our new orthodontist has achieved more in the last 8 months than the previous one did in 16. Unfortunately, at our last appointment yesterday, she told us that she too is leaving. Who knows what the next one will be like?

This was DD1′s mouth after her last treatment with the old orthodontist last May.

Wire on braces 16 months

And this was her upper jaw yesterday, before she had her appointment.

Braces retain canines 26 months

Such a difference! Finally her canines have come down.

Also, in January DD2 , who is 11, had braces fitted for the same reason as her older sister. Dodgy canine teeth seem to run in our family.

DD2 has a couple of issues that make the fitting of braces a little tricky .

Firstly, she has ASD and some sensory issues, so I was worried how she was going to cope with the feel of braces on her teeth and in her mouth. I thought there was a possibility of her having to have them removed early, but figured it was probably worth a crack.

Secondly, she plays the trombone and braces can really interfere with a brass player’s technique.

The first week of her wearing braces was quite difficult for everyone but she did get used to them, and made no fuss at all about yesterday’s adjustments.

I forgot to get a photo specifically of her teeth before she had them fitted, but this close up gives you a good idea.

Retained canine smile

 

This is her bite after two months of treatment.

retained canines after two months of braces

retained canines braces 2 months

As her canines have moved down, her front tooth gap has closed too.

It’s so far, so good for us as far as braces are concerned and our next appointment isn’t until June. Fingers crossed that the surgery has a replacement orthodontist by then!