The curious incident of the Dog and the Caravan!

Ok, so its not really a curious incident, I just happen to be reading ‘The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime’ at the moment… which I have to say, doesn’t have me gripped as much as my usual romantic/funny/sexy ‘guilty pleasure’ reads… but I’m sticking with it!

So, back in March we started what was to be our ninth summer of having a caravan down in sunny Devon. We love escaping down there for the weekend.  Its only an hour or so down the road but it always felt like a little holiday. However, this year started to feel a little different.

 

Over the holiday weekend, I decided to take myself out for a little run, and in that 25 minutes, I had decided that things needed to change after this summer.  I wanted to enjoy one last season in Devon and then sell up.  I didn’t want to visit the same places anymore year in and year out.  I wanted to explore some of the many beautiful places in other parts of the country.  Another part of my master plan was… to get a dog!

I’d already done a fair bit of Googling about dogs and autistic children and how they can help with anxiety etc, and the kids had always wanted one.   So, I did what we women like to call… ‘planting the seed’.  Just a gentle conversation about an idea I’d had.  Usually, how this works is then you leave it for a few weeks and hubby then comes up with the same proposition believing he thought of it!

That’s exactly what happened.  A week later, ‘we’ decided that we would have one last summer and then look at getting a puppy at the end of August.   I didn’t hesitate to research dog breeds and look for a reputable breeder.  We’d decided on a Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel crossed with a Poodle) and found a breeder that currently had a litter for sale and was planning on having a litter with another dog to be ready at the end of August. Perfect.

That was what was meant to happen… that was the plan.  However…

What was meant to be a lovely Bank Holiday weekend down the caravan was cut short. Ellie was having a really tough time of it with her anxiety.  Admittedly, it was her birthday on the Bank Holiday Monday – this is never a great time.  Events like birthdays and Christmas really get hyped up a lot more than with neurotypical children (and even that can be quite a lot) and then the child feels overwhelmed with the feelings causing anxiety and uncertainly of what will happen on the day.

This is what happened to Ellie.  From the moment we left the house on Friday evening, she was talking through every aspect of the weekend and worrying about what would be happening/what she would be eating/ what I would I be saying.   She got into such a state, crying and saying all sorts of silly things that we came home on the Sunday evening and had her birthday at home where she felt calmer.

We figured this was just a glitch being that it was her birthday, but the very same thing happened on our next visit, just two weeks later.  The whole journey down, Ellie was already becoming anxious about what we were doing the next day.  Once again, this built and built until we had uncontrollable crying and screaming… and all this in a little tin box of a caravan is really not great.

It got so much that Hubby needed to go for a walk as he was getting upset and needed to get some space.  I needed some too so I sat in the sun in front of the van.  Half an hour later, hubby calls me on the phone and tells me that he can’t deal with a summer like this… lets sell up now and get a puppy… lets not wait until the end of the summer.

Now, I won’t lie, I was delighted!  I really wanted a dog as much as the kids, and I too wasn’t looking forward to a summer of these meltdowns every weekend.   I also had something else up my sleeve.   I’d already contacted the breeder in the week to see if he had any of the current litter left (it was like I’d had a sixth sense or something!). When I told hubby he had four girls and two boys he unexpectedly said… “ring him and see if we can come and look tomorrow”.  Talk about a complete turnaround!

The following day, we got up, told the kids the change in events which they were partly sad about with us selling the van, but mainly happy because we were getting a puppy!   We popped to the pets store on the way to pick up some things and then ventured off to the middle of nowhere on Dartmoor Hills, to a beautiful farm to pick our new puppy!

Now, I can’t say that our beautiful little girl ‘Dusty’ (named after Dusty Springfield) has made a difference to Ellie’s autistic behaviours. In fact, if you have read some of the other blogs, you will know that things have been hard since the start of the six weeks holiday.  However, this little pup has brought so much joy to our family and is always there for cuddle when the meltdowns start… and that’s just me!! 😉❤🐶

Until next time.  Love & hugs xxx

 

Advertisements

D-DAY! Diagnosis Day… choices to be made and the surprising grief that followed.

img_9893

D-DAY! Diagnosis Day… choices to be made and the surprising grief that followed.

I’m heading back to our Autism journey, back to the summer of 2010.  Since ‘the dark winter’ as I call it, of 2008 we had seen many consultants, registrars, speech & language therapists, other therapists with fancy names, Autism Advisory Teachers and Child Development Practitioners.   Today, we thought was going to be just another appointment with the consultant… the one we finally found that took us seriously, who could see that there was something not right and recognised a link between diet and the brain.

We’d already seen Dr McGreggor several times where she assessed Ellie’s behaviour, how she played and interacted and took a ‘progress report’ from us.  What we weren’t expecting was for her to offer us a diagnosis.  It had been two and a half years since we started this journey and now my heart was galloping at what she was about to say.

“Ellie is certainly on the autistic spectrum and I would say she has high functioning Autism.  I would say she is borderline, and with that, you don’t have to take the diagnosis, if you’d rather not?”

I heard the words, I nodded, but it was like one of those outer body experiences.  Were we being asked whether we would like to take the diagnosis?  WTF!

The consultant went through the pros and cons (of which I just don’t remember now) but one was that with a diagnosis, we would be able to access better support.  If having a diagnosis meant a better chance of getting help, then there was no question.  Whilst I would’ve loved to stick my head in the sand and pretend this wasn’t happening, it really wasn’t an option.  Ellie was still the same little girl, with or without a label.  Plus, she had only just turned five years old.  We had no idea how things would progress and change as she got older.

Looking back, I know it was the absolute right decision to make, as things really have changed as Ellie has grown up.  For one, there seems to be an ever increasing gap between her and her peers and she continues to have a 1:1 support at secondary school. I’m sure this wouldn’t have been the case had we not made that choice.

The consultant also agreed that diet had played a huge part in Ellie’s symptoms and confirmed that if we had not changed her diet when we did, she would be in a very different place by now.  The relief to hear that was immense.  Thank god we did what we did and took those ‘poisonous’ foods out.  I won’t lie, back in 2008 it was really hard work as the mainstream supermarkets had barely anything ‘free from’.  My family, especially my mum, played such a huge part in making those dietary changes… it would’ve been so much tougher without them.  I fear, that we may have even given up if it wasn’t for their support and understanding.

So, we decided to go for the diagnosis – High Functioning Autism (or Aspergers), although on our letter it actually says ‘Allergy Induced Autism’.

What I didn’t expect was how I felt in the coming weeks.  Instead of relief… I felt grief.  I definitely went through a grieving process for a good two weeks. Grieving over the daughter we thought we had, worrying about the things she wouldn’t be able to do, fearful for how she would ‘fit in’ with her peers and unsure of where this journey would take us next.

Until next time,

Love and Hugs xxx

img_9819-2

To tell or not to tell? Is it best to keep plans a secret or not?

That was the big question I was asking myself at the beginning of the six weeks holiday. Do I let my ‘keen to know everything’ daughter our plans for the school holidays?

I know all too well what its like.  Once you let the cat out of the bag, you don’t hear the end of it, with the same questions circling day after day.  So first off, I went with “We have some things planned but I will tell you nearer the time (like an hour before!)”   This didn’t go down too well.  We had attitude and meltdown of how bad this holiday was going to be, how it would be the worse ever, I was a rubbish mum…. you get the picture.

So, after an hour or so, I switched tactic, thought ‘sod it, can’t be any worse than this’ and decided to tell the kids a couple of the things we were doing.  BIG mistake!

Of course, they were overjoyed to hear that our friends would be visiting from Wales in four weeks time and that we would be visiting my brother and family down in Poole.  It felt like we’d done the right thing.  Until it started.  The constant questions.

What time are they getting here?  What are we doing?  Will the boys play with me?  What will we eat? How many nights are they staying? Are the boys going to leave me out?  Will you ignore me? What are we going to eat on Saturday? What will I say when they get here? Will you be happy? What time will I be going to bed?  What time will we get up?  Are you excited? I’M EXCITED! (whilst looking stressed right out!), on Friday will we do….   on Saturday will we do …..  etc, etc, etc.

Since the holidays started, we have seen a big increase in the stress and anger Ellie is experiencing on a daily basis.  When we try and go anywhere, if she doesn’t like it in the slightest, it will result in a meltdown/getting angry and stroppy and us wondering why the F*** we bother. To be honest, its made us have a very low key holiday this year, mainly meeting up with friends and family and chilling at home.  I can’t help but feel envy, when I see lots of family snaps on social media of  families doing exciting things, thinking there is fat chance we’d be able to do that because its too busy, too loud, etc etc!

The last two weeks have been pretty horrendous.  Nightly meltdowns of crying and screaming, saying things she clearly doesn’t mean which is then followed by her writing a letter of apology.  Now, I know you’re thinking… that’s really good…she has the thought process to write her feelings down and express them.  However, when this happens every time, every day and nothing changes, you kinda lose your enthusiasm for it!

In the final days of last week, I’d adopted a new tactic. When behaviour was ‘not acceptable’ (as Supernanny would say!) Ellie was asked to go to her room for 12 minutes to calm down, have some quiet time and think about how she speaks to people (or whatever the problem was). Whether this is the right thing to do or not I don’t know, but it at least gave us all some breathing space.

So, Friday came around and our friends were due to arrive around 5pm.  To help matters a little, I told Ellie that they were arriving at 6pm, so at least that gave me an hour’s buffer to allow for traffic!

As expected, there were a few wobbles over the weekend, worrying about being included, losing her temper with her brother etc, etc but it wasn’t anything like the build up we had experienced… though I’m sure there were other hormone factors playing a part there (see previous blog!).  I didn’t let myself get too worked up… just did a lot of deep breathing and smiled!

So, we survived it.. and had a lovely weekend catching up with our friends, eating, drinking, chilling and had a couple little trips out with the kids and the dog! It really did George good as he could have some proper ‘boy time’… he has to put up with a lot as well and it was lovely to see him running around and getting all rough and tumble! But now we are back to Monday, and already the questions have started for our next trip!!

Arrrrgghhhh!!

Until next time,

Love & hugs xxxx

img_9819

What a day of DRAMA!! Monumental milestones, big decisions & the runaway dog! 

Oooooh, I had a right day of it yesterday! Talk about up and down like a rollercoaster! 🎢 

I’d gone to bed the previous night in a bit of an anxious state – huffing and puffing and all that! I’d woken up not much better! 

The kids were at their Grandads for the day and getting ready was a tad more traumatic than normal. There seemed to be more distress with the hairbrushing than usual which included Ellie throwing herself on the floor and a couple shouts of “I hate you!”.  I blocked it all out and kept calm – feeling pretty proud of myself! 

However, the commute to work gave me thinking time and by the time I got into work I was feeling a little broken. 

I could only describe how I felt to my colleagues was like a broken vase that had been stuck back together but the water was starting to seep through the cracks.

A few coffees later and a natter and I started to feel a lot better until… My dad phones… “We have a little problem”.

Turned out that today would ‘The’ day that Ellie would receive her pass into womanhood! Bloody wonderful! (excuse the pun!). The one day in the last week that I’m working at the office and it decides to happen! 

I talked through what Dad needed to get at our house and spoke with Ellie – thankfully we’d already had a little practice run. I must say, she was really very sensible about it all and held it together. 

I toyed with whether I should go home and be with her and there was a little debate for both options – but I figured that as she was dealing with it and ‘things’ didn’t seem to be too bad my decision was to stay in work. I didn’t want to set a presidence that I would come running when this happened.  I’d also started to feel a little more sane being in the company of adults and I frankly wasn’t ready to go home after just an hour!!

With my brain now a little frazzled after all of that, I then made a big decision. I’d been thinking about enrolling on a six month intensive course in Social Media Management with DigitalMums. I’d had the telephone consultation- now I just needed to apply!  In my lunch hour, that is what I did… and got accepted! Holy shit! My friends and hubby had said to go for it so I figured why not! It will help me in doing this little blog, my job as a Personal Assistant is going more in the social media direction so it will help there… and with any luck, I might be good at it! 

I felt buzzing… and scared… but mainly buzzing!  My wonderful colleague had also picked me up a bottle of wine to cheer me up… the day really was getting better!

By the time I collected the kids at teatime, my dad looked a little run-ragged as they’d been arguing all afternoon, so it was a good job I’d taken annual leave for the rest of the week! 

Usual mayhem ensued at home, with most sentences starting with “can I have”,  even though they’d probably cleared the cupboards at my dad’s house!

Finally, to finish the day we decided to meet with our friends and take our dogs for a walk over the park. Both dogs are under a year old so both are equally crazy and love to run. However, since our little dog ‘Dusty’ (named after Dusty Springfield) decided to run off and cross the main road we live on, my son has been a nervous wreck with letting her off the lead. However after a few weeks of extra ‘recall training’ and being off the lead with just me, I felt confident that she would be fine – especially with her friend Maggie to run around with! 

WRONG!! 

For five minutes or so, all was fine, but the more the dogs ran around, the more anxious George got screaming at Dusty in a high pitched voice and panicking that she wouldn’t come back.  He was right to panic! 

The dog sat at the edge of the park for what felt like minutes with the five of us all screaming her name and attempting to tempt her back. However, she decided that she’d had enough and scarpered!!  Que hysterical kids!! 

They stayed with my friend while I looked for her along with my friends daughter. Nowhere to be seen.  Shit!  Now I’m starting to panic!  After running up and down the park for what felt like forever, I hear a shout from our front garden. My friend’s daughter had found her sat at the front door!!  Thank god! I felt so relieved considering she would’ve crossed the main road again and I wondered if she sat and waited like I taught her?!

Back to the kids and they’re now both hysterical, especially George who now claims he will never go out with the dog again 😬!  To say the kids were over-tired is an understatement! George couldn’t control his emotions and couldn’t stop crying! I now couldn’t wait to get them home, into bed, and reward myself for getting through that drama with a glass of something yummy! 🍷🍸

And that is exactly what I did… and guess who popped round later to join me? My poor run-ragged Dad!! 😊

Until next time, 

Love and hugs. 

Our successful day out in the deserted forest! 

What started out as a rainy looking Monday turned out to be a beautiful sunny one, which was good as we’d been invited to a play-date in the forest. 

The kids were told just two hours before we were leaving, so that Ellie’s anxiety didn’t rise too much – though we did have worries about who was going to be there and that they would all look at us when we arrived! 

After a couple of minor wobbles on the way we arrived at our destination – The Great Wood (sounds grand doesn’t it?) and I was both delighted and surprised to see it was absolutely deserted! Nobody there, nada! For the middle of the summer holidays this is quite unusual but it was such a help for Ellie. 

After we had set up the multiple chairs, (we had more chairs than people) unpacked lots of play equipment and had a little food, all the kids went off to play ‘dens’ by the stream and had a competition of which group could make the best one. However, Ellie was still sat with us mums, not wanting to leave me. 

After my persuasion failed, it took a couple of goes from another mum and then she did it… Ellie went off with her friend to join the group… which was out of our sight. 

Whilst this isn’t a big deal to a ‘neurotypical child’ this was massive for Ellie. As she has got older, the anxiety has worsened. She will constantly check where I am at home (usually in the kitchen!) because she worries I will leave her – tempting as it is sometimes, that has never happened!!

To see our daughter feel relaxed in a group of children playing games out in the open (with no damn technology around) was joyful… and it gave me some much needed catch up time with the girls for a giggle and some inappropriate chat! 

The kids were gone for a long while playing and Ellie only checked a couple of times. All us mums felt really proud of her – this was a big deal and a real confidence boost.  

There was disappointment from the kids when it was time to leave – a sign of a good day out. 

It didn’t take long however for the switch to negativity to kick in and five minutes into the journey home I was being accused of not letting Ellie play with her friends!! WTF! 

Aaaaah, normal service resumed! It still didn’t spoil my brilliant day in the woods! 

Until next time, 

Love & hugs xxx

The Guilt Trip! Wanting ‘time out’, enjoying a rant and other things…

For a couple of weeks, Hubby and I have been planning to have some ‘time out’ together – to gather our sanity, regroup and let loose!  Nothing too extravagant – a night away in Bristol which is an hour up the road, some drinks, something to eat… more drinks!

Turned out that my wonderful Dad was able to stay overnight with the kids on Thursday of this week, so that was our perfect opportunity to ‘escape’ for exactly 24 hours!  We were soooo looking forward to it!  However, the events of Wednesday night were about to throw a big fat spanner in the works.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that Ellie is really going through it at the moment and is having regular major meltdowns.  This is usually triggered by something food related such as me not able to confirm what time we’re having tea (or ‘dinner’ if you’re a bit posh!) which then escalates into rants of  “you don’t understand me”, “what have I done?”, “I hate having Aspergers”, “I hate you”, “IDIOT”… all because I said she couldn’t eat yet more food! Wednesday night was no different!

Ellie is yet to learn the art of negotiation.  If she’d given me the puppy dog eyes and asked again, I may have caved… but going straight to meltdown definitely isn’t going to do it. This is a 12 year old, not a toddler!  So, my decision had to be stuck to… and that decision meant we endured a good hour and a half of raging.  I kept my shit together for most of it.  Hubby was starting to lose his mind and took himself out to the ‘garage’ (which has been converted into a bar/workshop/workout area) to retain his sanity.

Right at the end though, I couldn’t take anymore.  You know the feeling, it comes out before you can stop it… but then as you’re having the rant, it feels really good to just let it all out! If I’m going to get shouted at for an hour then F*ck it, I’m going to have a go! I even threw in a “I’ve ‘f*cking’ had enough” so she knew I was serious (‘bloody’ doesn’t cut the mustard anymore!).

I went into my son to apologise for the shouting. He gave me a big hug and reassured me. When shit hits the fan, this little fella always knows how to make my heart sing… and then I feel guilty for that!  Hubby regularly reminds me of how he was a little shit when he was a toddler and how if he was first, we may not have had any more!!

I also felt really guilty for feeling good about losing it.  What kind of mother am I?

The guilt took over even more! How the hell could we leave the next day for our escape now? It would look like we are leaving to get away from Ellie.  She already thinks every little action is about her, I didn’t want to add to her many insecurities. On the other hand, we really needed some time out, otherwise we were in danger of losing ‘even more’ marbles and resenting Ellie for us not going!!

In the early hours of Thursday morning I felt I was caught between a rock and a hard place with no winner whatever we did.

Then I came up with a master plan!

Hubby will come home early from work as planned, to ‘surprise’ mummy with a night away and granddad will turn up just at the right moment to stay overnight.  Genius!  No stressing all day about who is looking after her, how long we would be gone for, are we ever coming back, what is she going to do while we are gone etc etc!   There was literally half hour between the ‘surprise’ and us skipping and jumping out the door to the train station!! My acting was superb, if I do say so myself!

Thankfully, they were good as gold for granddad while we were gone and we had a much needed night out – drinking cocktails, eating junk and having a laugh.

It’s taken from the time we got home at 5.00pm yesterday until right now at 11.00am as I secretly type this blog, for the first ‘post escape’ meltdown!  I don’t even know what it is about to be honest.   I’ve heard, “I can watch what I like and you can’t stop me”  and “IDIOT” shouted down the stairs with the odd scream.  We’ve had the “have I been good this morning” altercation which I’m screwed on because whichever answer I give I am on a loser. I gave the answer “yes, you’ve been lovely this morning”. WRONG ANSWER!!

When our beautiful girl is calm, she is wonderful… but when she can’t cope and loses it, I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind. At least, after having some time out with hubby, I may not enjoy a rant today!

Until next time

,img_9819

Love and hugs xx

For reference… this is our Bar! Not bad eh?!

Happy Sunday! 😊😊

So happy to be finishing the day with a much more positive blog! 

We went to Kidz Rock this afternoon which is the final day of the Somerock weekend which is a big music festival in Bridgwater, Somerset (Google it!).  

Two tribute acts were playing – Ed Sheeran and Little Mix which the kids were both excited for. 

As we approached the site, the familiar shaking started and panic was setting in. Worrying that people were looking at her, that it was busy etc, etc.  Thankfully another lane opened up as we joined the queue to get in so that was one hurdle quickly jumped. 

I could see that Ellie felt anxious at the size of the circus ‘big top’ and the few thousand people at the ground, but once the ear defenders went on, the stress seem to settle. 

Thankfully, another bonus was that we are friendly with the organisers and they let us watch from the side of the stage, should we need to. Well, we did, and were so grateful to be able to do that.

We could enjoy the concert with lots of space and no stressing. It was so good to be able to relax a little and enjoy the day.  The two acts were absolutely brilliant and the kids watching the other side of the stage were loving it! 

We then skipped out just as the final song was playing so we didn’t go with the crowds and made our way home… all still smiling.

And I’m still smiling now as I sign off for the day… a day very different to yesterday… thank god! 

Until next time

Love & hugs xxx