A year

We have been here, in America, for a year.

Wow.

My babies have grown and changed so much.

I think I have too. I never imagined being a full time stay at home parent.

It’s hard. It’s exhausting. But it’s also amazing.

I get to see my babies grow and change. I see every new skill they develop, and particularly in the case of TT, I know it’s mostly down to me.


Don’t get me wrong, nursery is, and was, great for both of them, but I know I’m teaching her things directly.


There’s still guilt – I’m only human, and there are times when I’m grumpy, or tired, or just missing the company of other adults. Even earning my own money. But that last one lessens slightly. As I keep the house ticking over.

I’m still bad at housework. I still don’t always see what needs doing at a useful point. But that is improving too.

It’s learning what needs doing vs what can wait. And what I can insist the kids do.

As it’s also my job to teach them how to become adults. Fully capable adults who will know this stuff.

Yes, they are 6 and 2. But they already know how to empty the dishwasher (within reason) and where dirty clothes go.

They are capable of putting toys away. Even if TT at least gets them out again immediately πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ˜­

It’s been a hell of a year, but it’s been a good one.

Here’s to the next one.

Play Dates

A thing that is fraught with pitfalls. Especially for me – a non-standard parent of a very non-standard child.

It may be difficult to believe, but I dread public gatherings. I am not good at small talk. I have odd hobbies. I fear judgement. And I hardly ever open up to people now.

So, all that being said, yesterday I had a full 1:1 meeting with #1 Son’s therapist; and one of the things that came out of this meeting is that he struggles socially with his peers.


And oh dear lord did that sound familiar 😫😞


And I was gently, yet firmly, advised that I have to know “when to push, and when to pull”. Translation: Set up some goddamn play dates woman

But that isn’t easy, precisely because he is struggling with his peers.

We had set up an initial Skype date with his former friend from school for last Sunday, but at the last minute the poor thing got camera shy.

To give her credit, she both broke her leg and their family dog was put down over Easter, so she’s been through one heck of a lot for a 5/6 year old.

So I started to consider options. Which is tough when I barely know any of the kids in his class, and he’s not exactly the best at communicating about them as is.

But, while we were doing homework, he did this:

Now, as an aside, can I just say look at how well his writing is going!!!!

But he not only drew the “snow hills”, he also drew a specific class mate helping him up the hill.

Bazinga

He also went to her birthday party – it was the one at the drama house that, uh, did not go well for him. But never mind, as I result of that I knew I had her mom’s email address.

So I sent an email asking if, since Spring Break is next week, whether said friend would like to come for a play date.

She wanted to!!!!


Side note: I am currently waiting on my appointment for #1 Son’s Parent:Teacher Conference. You have to walk through After School Club to get there. I was stopped by a little girl asking me by name. She asked if she was coming to our house!!!! She seems happy to!!!

πŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ


So, next Saturday I will be hosting my first ever school play date.

May God have mercy on my soul πŸ€£πŸ˜‚

I just hope that I myself don’t scare anyone off!!!

The therapist also said that he has a beautiful singing voice. Apparently he has perfect pitch! So that is something to consider.

She also stated very firmly that although home schooling “might be tempting” she very definitely believed he was not a candidate for it. He needs the structure and socialising of school.

Since I have no clue how one might go about it, and have no desire to undertake such a mammoth task of significance, school it is!!!

I will update regarding the Parent:Teacher conference soon.

Ice Skating

On Saturday #1 Son was invited to the local rink – Flynn Rink for those interested – for a birthday party.

The birthday boy’s mother was prepared for there to be non-skaters in the group, and had set up snacks and hot chocolate (with marshmallows and chocolate dragΓ©e candies) for those children to hang out away from the ice.

How Daddy thought it would go:

That he would outright refuse to try it.

How I thought it would go:

That we would persuade him to go out on the ice. After 30 seconds he would slip/fall/be unable to move and probably have a meltdown.

We got him into rented skates. Helmets are apparently not compulsory and as such were not rentable.

We gave him a milk crate for balance and stability, and watched him go out on the ice.

With, I admit, our hearts in our mouths.

And then this happened.

Also this – the kid has moves

Please remember this was the first time he had ever been out on the ice!!!

I’m not ashamed to admit, I cried. Full on blubbed and sobbed. I was overwhelmed with how proud I was. I couldn’t explain it.


In fact I find myself tearing up as I write this post and re-watch the videos


He enjoyed himself.

Yes, he fell down. Yes he blunderbussed his way into other children. Yes I spent an inordinate amount of time apologising to the world in general (as I had no idea which parents belonged to which child) but he had so much fun.

Sadly the rink is now closed, a month early, because they had received a $3 Million grant for refurbishing, but they will reopen at the end of August – so we will see if we can sign him up for lessons.

He showed an interest in learning, the rink is close by, and hockey is BIG in this town. I’m not necessarily thinking we will get him into hockey itself, not for a while, but learning to skate is a really good skill to have while we live here.

After the skating was pizza, juice and cake. Sadly the first few pizzas were more than a little carbonised on the bases and so he refused to eat them. So we said our goodbyes and left a little early, but overall I would consider that party a huge success!

As we grownups hadn’t eaten, and the cat needed food too, that we would go to Wegman’s very nice burger bar via PetCo.

Where there were beautiful Bettas (Siamese Fighting fish) – some of whom had made bubble nests yay!

Also gorgeous reptiles of various persuasions.

All in all, a very very good day.

Many things

It’s been a busy few days.

TT is (whisper it) 100% reliable during the day on the toilet when it comes to doing a wee!

We have also had two days in a row where she has successfully done a poo in the correct place*

We have had no accidents all week thus far.

Night training is not happening, as we are attempting to wean her away from her middle of the night bottle and it’s just cruel to do both at the same time…


That and the one night we tried it she screamed bloody murder, fully woke up, and then actively refused to go back to sleep without said bottle – she won that round!


But she’s doing amazingly – especially when you consider she’s only 26 months old!!

Okay so she doesn’t now need the “cooling” pull ups we bought, or the plastic pants. Bugger. Ah well, we live and learn. And if we hadn’t have bought them, we would have needed them.

Sadly we had a bit of a backslide with #1 Son on the behaviour at school front today. He ran out not once, not twice but five time today, and even ran back into school at pick up time whilst the Mothership was talking to his teacher about the previous five occurrences.

I received an email from her this afternoon confirming that he had had an “emotional” day (stating that no-one would play with him and that he felt that no one loved him 😰) outlining her strategies for helping him tomorrow and giving us a framework to talk to him.


One of the problems is his refusal to accept that other children might just want to play games of their own choosing too – we are working on this…


He has had two more party invites though (one of which is ice skating – but thankfully with options for non skaters) which ought to help a little.

The other is a bouncing party – your guess is as good as ours on that – but that should at least be fun for him.

The lovely H brought up some presents for the kidlets today and he completed one of them

Momma and I are hoping that H will be able to join us on a small night on the town on Saturday.

His reading has come on in leaps and bounds. He actually asked to read with mom when he got home from school!!!!

He still hates writing, so I think that will have to be the next point of focus, but it’s amazing to see how well he is doing.

Mom met up with his teacher on Tuesday afternoon to discuss his progress and ensure that we (mostly her) are not confusing him compared to how they are teaching him in class.

It meant she got to meet his support team, and see his little cubby that they’ve built for him to (effectively) escape into when he gets overwhelmed.

Yes, it is literally a cupboard – it works for him.

He will also be having weekly sessions with his therapist every Tuesday at 07:15 – this means he won’t be too late into school, thus not impacting on his daddy’s work day too much.

As for me? I’m slowly getting back behind the wheel. I’m not great, but at least when I screw up I’m following through and have not (for example) crashed into a roundabout, nor ran a red light, nor turned into oncoming traffic without signalling.


Which are all things I did back in England prior to passing my U.K. licence


So I consider that I am doing okay. I need practice, and I need to pass my theory test (yet again) but I am studying and having gotten through half of the USA equivalent to the Highway Code today.

I’m now exhausted and have an incipient migraine πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

I also had my second post-op checkup yesterday.

My doctor is very pleased with my progress. I am to increase my doing of things, though not to lift anything heavier than a gallon until I’m the full six weeks post-surgery.

He does however want me to break up with dairy πŸ™€πŸ™€πŸ™€

(I mentioned I wanted to lose weight)

At the moment dairy and I are merely agreeing to see other people πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

I can cope with losing chocolate but not my cheese. And I’m trying to work out what I could put in my tea instead of cow’s milk.

But I’m going to try.

He next wants to see me in six months, and this appointment is already booked 😱

Mom and I also went up to knitting group yesterday and had much fun πŸ‘πŸ»


*With many apologies to the non-parents in my audience, this sort of thing is big news when you are a stay at home parent!

Six months!

(And two days πŸ˜‚πŸ€£ – but I was busy with MLK stuff on Monday!).

I can’t believe we’ve been on this crazy adventure for half a year!!!

Well it’s not quite as crazy anymore – unless you count the weather!

We’re settling down into something like a routine I think. It’s been a blast, but something resembling normalcy cannot be sneezed at.

So, the hus-creature is pretty settled in his job. He actively prefers being in an office, even with a sucky commute (certainly compared to what it was whilst we lived in Cambridge). He’s happy and stuff gets done, and he has a great work-home life balance, which means I don’t have to get the thumbscrews out.


I mean, if he chooses to work on a sudden brainstorm after I’ve gone to bed? No skin off my nose!


TT is happy. She’s got her toys, access to her favourite films, her brother after 3pm and me. And I come quite high up the list it seems actually – and not just in a “I am bored of this film parental unit, change it”

And it’s been amazing to watch her grow and change.


I do wish she would stop throwing her meal plates and bowls in the kitchen bin though. I know she believes she is helping, but I swear we have lost at least a few that way now!


It’s harder to quantify with #1 Son. He still has moments when he talks about missing England, his old house, his old school, his friends. But he’s getting there. He’s a special boy who needs extra support and he’s getting it. We still have bad school days, but the bad moments at home at least are much less. And the levels of bad at school are overall reduced. We have to remember to adjust our own expectations of him at times, yet the moments when he surpasses or blows right past them make it worthwhile. His therapy will help him, the school are supporting him, and we have documented proof that he’s bright.


I’ll turn cartwheels when he has his first birthday party or play date though.


The cat? She also seems happier overall. She’s eating more, has more places to hide and nest in, and still has human company as and when she desires it. I think this has been as good for her as it has for the children – unexpected bonus.

Me? Again hard to quantify. I’m doing well, I think. I’ve got my operation soon (eeeeep), the Mothership is coming to visit and look after me and the monkeys (love you Momma!). I’ve applied for my SSN, and got my work permit.

My knitting is coming along amazingly, and I have projects planned for recovery and convalescence.

I’m firmly heading down the path to setting up my own dyeing side business. The hus-creature is helping with the practical questions, as I’m still stuck on “what should I call it”. But I can’t put us in the hole to do this!

I’ve got time to sort it. I know I won’t be doing Advent Calendar boxes for 2018 at least.

I’m still going to knitting group – it’s going okay. They are helpful and lovely ladies. One of them bought me a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies as (obviously) I have never had them before! And apparently I should expect casseroles etc to be left on my front porch post-surgery which is amazing.

I do still have bad days. I am still really bad at this domestic goddess malarkey, but I’m getting there. It’s becoming the new normal.

A day of good and bad

So today has been a bit of a mixed bag, so I will divide it straight down the middle.

The Good:

  • SSN successfully applied for
  • #1 Son did all his homework without a battle
  • TT had a nap 🀭😱
  • TT’s insistence on using cloth diapers means she’s now actually telling me (occasionally) when she’s done a wee
  • My beleaguered sock is back on (new) needles, of which I have three pairs so dammit I will finish this bugger.
  • The snow is currently gone.
  • My kettle dyeing mojo has returned and I have 5 more skeins for the next ripple blanket I’m planning.

The Bad:

  • The hus-creature became trapped in #1 Son’s room when the door handle came off in his hand! Which is something I have had concerns about for months. Fortunately it is repaired for now, and will be reported to the landlady*
  • TT is very unsettled tonight and is still not asleep. I may have to concede no naps 😫😞😒😰
  • Snowstorms are predicted. Bye bye clear ground. Hello snow day. Probably.
  • Neither child will accept the toothpaste we have so are both using age 0-2 Aquafresh Milk Teeth until our next weekly shop.
  • The Amethyst dye is not. It is raspberry at best. I am not amused.

*along with reminders about the broken toilet seat and lack of lock on the bathroom door. I will need to ensure that the crayon is off of the walls (again)


The Amusing:

  • TT has learned to apply talc during nappy changes. That got… messy…
  • After #1 Son blamed TT for the (pink) toothpaste in the main toilet, she came toddling through to me, not once but twice to tell me “Nanoo running“. So she is equally capable of dropping him right in it πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

The Yarns:

So from left to right:

  1. Delphinium Blue
  2. Frozen
  3. Amethyst
  4. Berry Crush
  5. Aubergine

On what planet is that Amethyst?!?!? I’ll concede Carnelian (maybe) or even Red Amethyst (yes, that’s a thing) but traditionally, amethysts are purple. To cheer me up, here is a cat with Yoshi riding her:In Soviet Russia, Yoshi ride you.

Martin Luther King Day

I’m not sure whether to wish people a happy one or not.

It’s an important day of cultural significance and I felt it should be marked.

So we had a lovely family day today. We:

  • Went out for lunch.
  • Baked cookie-brownies.
  • #1 Son played with daddy on his computer games.

We think I might have been too enthusiastic with my Kitchen Aid and overbeaten the brownie mix. I’ll learn! The kids enjoyed them anyway, and that’s all that matters. *

#1 Son also had his second full counselling session today. He seemed to enjoy it. He did lots of drawing, and his counsellor was impressed with him.

We do not push or pry with him. Both the hus-creature and myself firmly believe that it’s vital he feels and believes that it is a safe space for him, and that we will only be told what we need to be told, or, what he chooses to tell us.

She will send me notes, hopefully tomorrow, and will send a letter to the school with how she is forming a diagnosis by the end of the week.

She did mention that he was able to accurately depict six separate emotions on faces – I could have burst with pride/relief at that.

If he is still proved to be “on the spectrum” I will deal with it, but if he’s not? Life will be infinitely easier for him. So I cannot apologise for wanting that for him. **

TT continues to alternate between “cute as a button” and “truly demonic“. And it’s impossible to guess where she will fall.

New phrases include:

  • I want it <thing>
  • I get it <thing>

The standard “no”, “my do it” are constant and it’s draining.

She pushes boundaries and rules so much more than #1 Son ever did. She’s bright, stubborn and goddamned exhausting.

And she can count up to eight, and can manipulate jigsaw puzzles on her tablet, and is coming up with names for things.

And has discovered a love of Coraline. Of which I approve.


*I will keep telling myself that darn it.


**But please know I will never love him any less, or be any less proud of him – it’s a complicated set of emotions.

An incredibly successful day

For both #1 Son and myself.

At 09:00 this morning I strode off to school suited and booted for #1 Son’s initial evaluation meeting for Special Education Provision.

I’ve been both dreading and looking forward to this by turns.

He had to meet certain specific criteria to qualify for an IEP – which is an Individualised Education Programme.

Basically it was to see whether or not he could be statemented.

I spent a year working in the SEN department of Oxfordshire County Council, so I knew how hard getting one of these could be, at least without a metric tone of supporting documentation and medical backup.

And the autism assessment process is stalled a bit. It’s just so slow.

So I had reports from:

  • An Educational Psychologist.
  • An Occupational Therapist.
  • A Speech and Language Therapist
  • The School’s own SENCO

Which came home on Friday, which I read, re-read, highlighted and annotated.

I went up to this meeting agreeing with the reports, but prepared for battle if needed. I knew they wanted to help him, but criteria are criteria and he had to meet them to get the extra help.

At the meeting were:

  • Myself – daddy stayed at home with TT
  • The Principal
  • His class teacher
  • The school nurse
  • Head of SEN services for the district as meeting co-ordinator
  • The school Counsellor – who #1 Son has dubbed “The Feelings Lady”
  • The SENCO
  • The Occupational Therapist
  • The Speech and Language Therapist
  • The Educational Psychologist

It was a full meeting. I was completely drained both physically and emotionally after it. He’s not the only one in this household who can get overwhelmed.

So he couldn’t be registered with a disability due to autism, as the school cannot diagnose that.

He couldn’t get the IEP on cognitive ability because the reports proved he is average to above average in almost all areas.

So what’s left? Well, a few things but the main one is Developmental Delay.

That is a blanket term that covers a lot of things, but the one that covers him best is social, emotional or adaptive functioning.

I don’t disagree. He has severe sensory issues, cannot relate to his peers (but is great with much older and much younger children), confidence issues and is struggling generally.

I just feel a massive sense of relief.

Within 10 school days we will get a copy of the IEP and once we read it, sign it and return it, it becomes “activated” and off we go.

There will be more meetings, more reviews. This is not a one-off thing, but the main hurdle has been jumped and he will get more help.

And now for the second good thing of the day.

I went for a pre-operative assessment with the surgeon who would perform my hysterectomy if agreed to.

Well, take a shufty at this ladies and gentlemen:

For those in the audience who cannot read doctor handwriting (it’s a skill), he had agreed, without any hesitation, to perform:

A TOTAL ABDOMINAL HYSTERECTOMY

WITH BILATERAL SALPINGO OOPHERECTOMY

They are taking Every. Single. Thing. Out!!!!

I could have kissed Mr. Surgeon Man.

πŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ

I’ve been warned that because they will go in through the belly it’s going to be the full six weeks recovery time for the procedure alone, coupled with six months to feel myself and back to normal again.

That’s fine.

Parent-Teacher Conference

We had our first one for #1 Son last night.

I would be lying if I hadn’t been approaching it with at least a modicum of trepidation.

But honestly? It was amazing.

They have kept such good notes on his progress, both educationally and behaviourally.

He is improving. Slowly, gradually, but it’s visible and it’s there.

Perhaps the most important takeaway?

HE CAN READ!!!!

 

Honestly? I didn’t think he could. I knew he knew his letters, but stringing them into words (at least at home) is something he apparently couldn’t do. I now know it’s wouldn’t.

Busted kiddo πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

He is getting a lot of 1:1 support with the paras during centres, and when that happens he does well. But at the moment he doesn’t have one of his own and he’s one in a class of twenty. So they are trying, gradually, to scale back and seeing what he can cope with.

Basically it’s data gathering to bolster their bid for extra support for him. That will either start or happen next Tuesday at the Special Education meeting.

I am behind them 100% and fully intend to say so. Apparently having parental agreement and support really helps.

I would walk through fire to get him the help he needs, so let’s hope that the relevant professionals are on the sensible side and that I don’t have to go full on mama bear rage mode on them.

Or worse. Be British at them πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

His teacher also said that cognitively he is exactly where he needs to be. That he’s smart and funny. That he’s kind hearted. He’s also a perfectionist and sensitive.

She’s a true angel she really is.

So proud

So, the book fair has been and gone.

#1 Son came home with an impressive haul:

And pleasingly, he did not forget Happy. Happy is even still (mostly) white.

Tuesday is Art day and so he has returned from school today a fetching shade of blue. Maybe he was channeling his inner Smurf?

But more importantly for me, is the other thing he came home sporting:

Super Star

That’s right, TWO REACH STARS!!!!

In one day!!!!!

Honestly I could just burst with pride.

Unfortunately I don’t know exactly what he earned them for, as there was no journal sheet in his bag, and he is not the best at remembering anything but that doesn’t matter.

And not to be outdone, TT insisted on photobombing: