Autism

This week Imp had an appointment with a local paediatrician, speech therapist, a trainee speech therapist and a representative of the local special needs charity. He was taken off for just over an hour by the speech therapist and her student. In the meantime Mr T and I were interviewed by the doctor. There were a whole host of questions, some based on the previous interview which took place in May last year and some that were specific to his recent behaviour and his daily routines. We talked about his friends, his school, his way of conducting himself at home, school and out and about. The appointment itself was only an hour but seemed a lot longer, it was intense and directed. Imp was later returning to us and was fidgety. After the doctors had time to discuss him and look over school reports we were called back in and were given his formal diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Condition (still known as ASD my most but in some areas the word disorder is being substituted for condition!)

Whilst the diagnosis itself wasn’t a huge surprise as we had been told at his previous appointment this was likely to be the case it is final, in the sense that he is now discharged from that clinic, those specialists are satisfied that he has Autism, albeit mild. They send a report to us, the Gp and his school and unless we need further social services report we just get on with it. School have to date been supportive but I know that now he has a formal diagnosis we may have to get him to attend some extra groups aimed at helping him understand social cues and explore his own emotions. I have had a couple of days to process and am now looking at ways of helping him cope with the things he currently struggles with.

As he is not good at talking about or recognising feelings in himself and others we will have to do some work on this. We have had a family chat today. Imp jotted down some things that make him happy, sad and worried as well as some of the things he thinks he does when he is feeling these things. We are hoping that by sharing these with Pixie and Hpops we can all recognise if a meltdown is approaching, if he needs to have some ‘alone’ time or if he is just happy. It helped them to ask questions of us and Imp to better understand him, and we have all agreed that it would be a good idea to attend a family session at a local special needs charity.

In some ways it is useful to have it all formally assessed, we know what we are dealing with and we can put in place some strategies to help, but we could do that anyway! For him it was important to know. He has begun to feel he is a bit different and to know that he has a recognisable condition that, with help, he can manage is helpful to him. The key thing for us is to ensure that none of the children see autism as a purely negative thing! Just the word often comes with connotations drawn from the media of extreme characters. You can’t tell by looking at Imp that he has autism, in fact for a lot of the time he seems either slightly excited or slightly grumpy, maybe a bit belligerent! For many his excitement which he struggles to control or his shouting out and so on look like bad behaviour. For me I have to learn to ignore the looks and comments of others who judge by appearances. If anything I have learnt to be more tolerant and understanding of others, maybe there is a reason that child is screaming.

One incident last year comes to mind, a routine visit to the dentist for a check up followed by painting on some veneer to protect teeth resulted in a screaming, crying meltdown battle lasting over half an hour! Despite is not tasting of much, no injection and so on Imp just couldn’t tolerate it, he wants to try again to his credit and we know he will have to be in the chair first otherwise we are likely to have a repeat performance. This incident could be judged as him being difficult, awkward or naughty but for him, someone in his personal space putting something in his mouth was just impossible. Loud noises, strong smells all have the same effect. Certain foods and sauces are now allowed to touch, he doesn’t want a dividing plate because he is too grown up but a suggestion given to us at his appointment was to use a ramekin – so far so good! We are also making him a do not disturb sign for his door so that when he retreats to his room for alone time no-one interrupts for half an hour. That way if he is feeling stressed it gives him time to calm down. We can also use music as a diversion or drama but we are still learning!

We are not viewing this as a negative thing, indeed it is a part of what makes Imp Imp! I am not saying it is easy or fun and that I am not struggling with the fact that I have to teach him a lot more and prepare myself for worse tantrums and struggles ahead, but having talked as a family today and having an open dialogue has convinced me we can move forward. Of course there are some knock on effects. As his behaviour can be unpredictable school holidays need to be planned for Imp. Spontaneity is a no no for him so I will be ensuring that much of his time has a schedule! Indeed he says timetables make him happy, they are comfy! If he is happy the rest of us are likely to be happy too, there will still be the worry that something will happen while we are out, indeed this is now of the things the girls are worried about. I have to acknowledge it could happen, and if it does and he has a public meltdown then we have to deal with it and find somewhere quiet for him to calm down! Now we know for sure we can’t live the what if life, we have to be the when this happens we…

I managed to work full time in school last half term and did, for the main enjoy it. I was obviously more tired but fulfilled but with Imp now diagnosed I will need to ensure that any return to work dovetails my school holidays with his. This can be difficult so my choices are limited but at the moment I am still planning on doing my SENCO award, hopefully starting the year, then, by the time Pixie graduated to senior school I will be qualified. Many SENCO jobs are part time so might be more workable with Mr T working from home if there are a few days where I am at work and they are not at school. Whilst gaining my qualification I can work supply meaning if I am needed for the children I can be with them.

We did have some excitement this week when we finally got the delivery of our new bedroom furniture, we have wanted to replace our bed and mattress for a few years now, but now we have! Well in a way, the issue was that the bed and chest of drawers and so on were ready but the mattress wasn’t. This is OK other than the fact that the bed we now have is bigger, so the old mattress is now awkwardly placed and there is the content feeling of being in danger of falling off – hopefully the new mattress will be delivered in the next few days. I managed to order new bedding in the sale but can’t use it until it comes!

The yellow pup now seems to have found his paws, he is very confident and not at all worried about invading your personal space or making his feelings known. He and B have become good friends which gives our old lady time to snooze. while they chase each other around like lunatics! Next month Pixie turns 10 which seems like big number all of a sudden, Mr T will be doing a tandem parachute jump and Hoops will be going on two school trips! Life doesn’t wait around so we will just have to keep running to keep up!

Year end review

It’s that time again, time to ring in a new year and thus some introspection seems to be appropriate. I resolved a couple of years ago not to make any New Year Resolutions and I intend to stick with this. I have found that generally trying to be fit and healthy every day has done more for me than a concerted push where I feel pressure to live up to a self imposed deadline and target that, in all reality, I am unlikely to get to ultimately ends in failure
!
This year has in many ways been a fairly good one, I have had some regular teaching work which has taken in a variety of year groups and enabled me to keep developing my career. I have done some writing, and while the realisation that I may not be the next J K Rowling was not an earth shattering revelation it has given me the freedom to write what I want to write and enjoy doing it without unreasonable expectations clouding the way. I got to go back to one of my favourite places, Florida and Walt Disney – not only does Mickey Mouse now come dressed up as the sorcerers’ apprentice bit it is warm there!

I also got to visit one of my other favourite places having been lucky enough to get tickets in the ballot, Wimbledon. I took Imp to his first tennis tournament at the o2 which thankfully he enjoyed and so can be repeated and got to celebrate with friends in a round of significant birthdays.

So what of 2018? Well I will be back studying psychology, I really do enjoy it and think that the decision to do literature over philosophy/ psychology all those years ago was definitely the wrong one, but moving forward I have the opportunity to put that right and still study. One way or another I will bring an end to my supply teaching, my favoured course would be to find a permanent position either full or part time. With my own significant birthday approaching rapidly and the children settled into school now is the time for me to begin to further my own career. New adventures begin for the children as Hpops joins the Navy in the CCF at school, takes GCSE options and completes her bronze DofE award. Imp will move into the second year of senior school in September and Pixie her last year of junior school, how time flies!

I am looking forward to the many trips and adventures already planned, some with family members and others with honorary family members. We will be celebrating the New Year at home this year, we were invited to a celebration but we have decided not to attend. Not because we didn’t want to but to give Imp a break. Over the last year or so we have been going through the diagnostic process with him after he was referred to his school youth worker about 18 months ago due to social problems at school. He does have friends but finds it difficult to keep hold of them and is prone to what can only be descried as toddler tantrums. I have avoided talking about it too much but with the holiday season and lack of routine behaviour deteriorates. He currently has a provisional diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and is considered to be mild. We have the final appointment in February half term when the diagnosis will be fully determined.

In the main he is OK, he copes academically at school but team games can be difficult. Confrontation is a no-no and the random singing and shouting has got worse. There is little or no impulse control and social gatherings can be difficult and is usually dealt with by a screen to occupy him or food! It became apparent in the initial appointment that he had a lot of indicators, some I had been aware of for a while but had never considered worthy of a diagnosis as he seemed to be coping but of late this has changed to some extent. At a time when waiting times for these particular clinics are heavily over subscribed I wondered if it was worth the hassle. For him though it is – he has some self awareness and knows he is ‘weird’ in his words! Knowing his brain processes differently and finding out what we need to do to help him get on will help us all. Instead of being a difficult child we can understand there is a reason for his thoughts and feelings. This does not make him any easier to cope with.

He, like many other children, is very stubborn but this can manifest itself at any time and severely! If things are not going his way we risk meltdowns and yelling. With no impulse control this can result in him acting rashly and running off, indeed when he was little we used to have ‘Imp watch!’ presuming he would grow out of it but it has stayed with him! Arguments about why he can’t do something, go somewhere, buy something can last for hours and don’t even get me started about why his school tie has been made so long just because it will annoy him when he tries to put it on! I have encountered prejudice outside the home as well, when he is in a mood and we are trying to stop him from acting out he gets loud. He did this at a recent evening out and I overheard someone say to her child, about the same age as Pixie; ‘Come away that child has a disability and we don’t know what he’ll do!’ I was horrified for him, mortified for myself but appalled for her child. ASD is difficult to deal with, teaching other people to judge others and discriminate like that is not OK!

His mood often determines how much risk I am willing to take in terms of going out, over the summer holidays his time was pre-planned and there was a routine, any time anything spontaneous came up he would often cause problems! When he is excited this also caused problems as his inability to channel this means he acts out and this was true on the day we were meant to be seeing Penn and Teller at the Apollo! After the fiftieth time of hitting the ball against the window and being told yet again to stop he whacked it at his sister, not great but the final straw was when he then smashed a garden ornament. He and I missed the show while Mr T and the girls went as we are trying to teach him how to get along with others and do as you are told. We know he can do it as he tends to cope at school! So, this year we have decided to stay at home for New Year, my friends have all been fantastic and cope well with him, and me, but tensions within the family rise and risk boiling over as his issues build up over the day. One of his current things is having to go to bed on time, even if we have told him it is OK to break the protocol that day because of a special event. Twice we had to leave something earlier than planned because he was starting to get connected and a meltdown was becoming imminent. The constant clock watching would become unbearable so we thought being home allows him to go to bed on time and if he wants get up to see in the New Year! I will miss them all dearly but for me it is a way of clinging onto the small amount of sanity left after the school holidays!

Learning to cope has been hard, Mr T has travelled a lot this year but music provides a positive outlet for him, so now as well as viola he is learning to play the drums. Drama is also a keen interest for him. Trying to be fair to all the children is hard and saying no to invitations can be isolating and difficult for them to understand. I am hoping that when we attend the appointment in February we will get a better insight into how to help, indeed a local charity has given us some ideas as well as the OU course I did last year but there are times when I simply don’t know how to get through to him. Every day there is a battle whether it be the beans touching the other food on his plate, the tie being too long or the tantrum because I haven’t let him buy even more sweets! Sometimes therefore it is easier to say no, put the TV on, the fingers in your ears and just let the world go by without you.

So this year I want to help him, I want to understand how to help him so we can say yes to more things without the knot in my stomach that something will set him off, that he won’t be judged for all the wrong reasons and that he will continue to get on at school. That being said this is also the year I want to go back to work in a steady position and establish my own routine with work. I want to try and keep writing and to remain healthy. I want to take new opportunities and help the children grow into young adults. It is also the year I will take Hpops to see YouTubers for the first time, yes Dan and Phil are booked in for May in London -(yippee!) and hopefully even more tennis and live theatre. It is a year when I will give up my time to volunteer for a charity, DBS has been approved and I feel I have been lucky enough to receive the wisdom of those who have trodden the path before me and now it is time to give some of that back. Life is full of ups and downs and I am reminded of that often when I reflect, but it is my job to plough through, head held high as much as possible and that is what I will continue to do, with my fingers firmly crossed for a good year!

This all sounds rather negative but it isn’t we are all still here, we are all still able to laugh and spend time together, play games together and make new memories, learn new skills. We welcome a new dog into the family who we get to see grow up. We get to watch the children grow and make their own paths in the world with as much support as they need. I have family and friends who I can talk to and rely on and there are books to read, tennis matches to cheer on and roller coasters to ride. To risk a cliche, life is not a rehearsal, you have to get on with it and make the best of it. For me, at the moment, that sometimes means being at home and keeping calm, at other times venturing out into the world! Wherever you are, whoever you are with I hope 2018 is good to you. May you learn something new, try something new and cherish what you have! Happy new Year!

There goes another Summer

This summer seems to have whizzed by in the blink of an eye, and not only because the weather has not always been as kind as it could have been. So being the first day back of school I of course ensured that everything was prepared and named and I just knew, that finally this year would be the year! This year all three children would be up on time and eager to go to school for something other than their lunch, the homework would be done on time and there would be no moaning about music practice for the instruments that they claim they want to learn! This year they would remember to bring home all of their sports kit, relevant books and even make sure that they return permission slips on time. Finally they would work out how to hang up their uniform or put it in the washing basket or return it to their wardrobe when it has been lovingly washed and ironed!

At that point the alarm went off and the questions began, have you seen my… can I take a snack… etc, etc. I am sure when I collect them at the end of the day the first question will be what is for dinner. My enquiries about their first day, friends, exciting new discoveries and so on will fall on deaf ears, although they will be able to tell me in detail what they have eaten for lunch and who they played with!

A change has happened though; Hpops is now a teenager – eek and even worse is the same height as me!! Imp is not going to senior school so Pixie is the only one left in the junior school. Not that she minds proclaiming that her brother was annoying anyway! There is the usual flurry of information evenings to contend with and the setting of routines, trying to get to grips with the extra curricular activities they want to pursue and then finding an extra day in the week to fulfil all of this. Still it is an exciting time – for Imp mostly as he begins his new adventure.

I can still remember when Hpops started, banished to the school gate on the first morning as she forged ahead alone to meet a friend, the same scenario was repeated with Imp today, as it did with many other new staters. It is with a mixture of pride,fear and sadness that I watched as he (and Hpops) disappeared through the gates without so much as a look back. Pride in that they tackle the new year with confidence and have some sense of independence. Fear for the journey ahead, who knows how smooth the transition will be, newly diagnosed as being ‘on the spectrum’ means sensory overload and new routines can be problematic for Imp but I have to hope he finds his way through the first few days. Sadness, like Hpops before him he no longer needs to me to collect him and drop him off ( except of course when his school bag is too heavy!), homework is down with minimal parental involvement and friends become more important in day to day life. Of course in many ways this is all good as they slide through life and take on new challenges!

This summer they managed to pack in a lot, 2 stage schools, a bushcraft camp and a trip to Devon. I can highly recommend West end Stage School located in Guildhall, they were up, on a train and eager every single day of camp. (wish that could rub off for term time!) They met wonderful people, cast from the shows and learnt how to do make up, take a decent headshot, but most important they had fun. They got to perform on a West end stage and Imp enjoyed it saying he felt like crying when the company was given a well deserved standing ovation! They met new friends and with the wonder of modern day technology even though some go them live abroad they can keep in contact. They were reunited with friends made on holiday last year and it was like they had never been apart. (To be honest they hadn’t as they are on face time all the time!) but tears and hugs were exchanged and saying goodbye at the end of the week was hard for them.

I did feel strange this summer, my role mostly consisted of taking the children to places and collecting them again, ensuring they had lunch and drinks and sun cream and so on. We did go to some parks, a beach and spend time together but in the main the wanted to go and do things with people their own age and I guess that is how things progress. Gone are the days of toys sprawled all over the floor, dinner being pureed and yelling in the garden! I am in the main proud though, they are growing up, becoming independent, learning life skills and I get to watch!

I am still waiting for them to tidy their rooms, read the draft of the novel I gave them at the beginning of the year and actually do their homework of course but until then…

Growing up

The time is nearly upon us, the time when we have a teenager in the house -yes indeed in a few weeks Hpops will hit 13 and, if you believe some of the things you hear she will instantly transform into a moody, room dwelling person incapable of communicating other than by a series of grunts.

What is true is that change happens and scientifically speaking teenagers body clocks don’t really match with the day to day routine of modern life, which is why they appear to sleep far into the morning whilst being able to stay up late into the night! Being tired and grumpy is not unique to teens! Not only that but come September I will only have one child in primary school as Imp moves onto senior school.

With all that is on offer as he grows up my main hope for him is that he takes advantage of all there is on offer. He seems to be developing a flair for and enjoyment from music and drama and as there are quite a few different orchestras and drama groups I hope he will toss some time to join them, as well as his wish to go karting more often and even play more tennis. The other concern is to ensure he keeps up with the work set for him. Homework will be more onerous, as we discovered when Hpops made the move to senior school and so given his different disposition I am sure we will have many battles to come over the homework being completed and the time spent on devices and so on.

It doesn’t seem possible that Pixie is entering her penultimate year of juniors.She has finally been invited to join the school choir and orchestra, so is thrilled at the new activities that await her, she has already been trying to master the art of tying her tie. Looking back at my own photos and those appearing all over social media of friends as the children finish for the summer I marvel at how much they have changed, how grown up they now seem and how we have all moved on. Life is certainly different, I take the kids to school, sometimes they walk home by themselves, other times I collect them depending on what activities they are partaking in.

This change was brought firmly into focus when we discussed their summer holiday activities, they had already asked to be booked into a theatre stage school which takes place at the beginning of the holidays and another one at the end – this time with friends we met on holiday last year and will be visiting from America. We have the 13th birthday to celebrate and somehow next week will mark the 15th year of marriage! There is also the survival camp at school with all manner of activities that they wanted to go to. Other than a couple of trips to the park, cinema and the science museum they seem content to be at home and have quiet time! Indeed when I remarked, that even a couple of summers ago entertaining them seemed to be a full time job they replied they preferred to have some time to themselves, to not be on the go all the time!

We have been to the library and signed up for the summer scheme, we have made sure there is some music practice and homework timetabled in but really come Monday their schedule takes over and I become more of a facilitator than the one that is actively entertaining them. As their independence grows this seems to be the way it should be- them taking the lead in choosing their own activities, finding the things that make them happy and mastering the skills that will take them further on in life. I guess now I get to enjoy the ride as they grow, ensure they know they can always rely on me and make sure that where needed we give them we try to give them some guidance to get them to where they want to be!

How do you solve a problem like IS?

The simple answer is we don’t know, the reason I know we don’t know is because those carrying out the atrocities like the ones in Manchester on ‘soft targets’ are winning.

They’re winning because they are killing people, people who had no idea what was going to happen, targeted when they were leaving in high spirits and off guard. Winning because they divert and disrupt our way of life, they make ordinary people question themselves, should they go the concert, the theatre, even to a popular tourist spot?

The reality is in our modern world, nowhere is completely safe, any public space can be targeted by one depraved individual with a strong enough will to kill – Westminster, Nice and the German Christmas market are all terrible reminders of this. The attacks on the Bataclan, Parisian restaurants and now so very sadly Manchester show what IS want.

In their mind it is us that is wrong, those innocent young people singing along to a favourite pop star, (who it should be remembered is only young herself and probably terribly traumatised like all who were there!) are apparently evil. I acknowledge that the particular brand of hate preached by IS is limited to those that follow it and for many years religion or particular beliefs have been used as excuses to perpetrate heinous acts!

This is what they are though – excuses for barbarism. I cannot believe that whichever religion you follow any god or being would welcome blood shed and carnage in their name to glorify them. So in that way IS are losers, and not just because Donald Trump says so – although his words and ideas not to call them monsters because that is what they want to be called is not entirely ridiculous. I cannot believe that getting on a train and setting off a bomb, or in a concert hall or anywhere else in the world gets you eternal heaven or glory, it just makes a tragedy.

Somewhere there are people that know what was going on, I am sure over the next few days there will be raids in other areas showing that the person who was the cause of the most recent horror had a support network, just as there was after the Westminster attacks. There will be fear about other plans for similar events and those too we will know nothing about until they happen. This is the problem, those that carry out the acts are awful, and they take themselves away with those they kill or injure but for those that help to get the parts to build the bob, to get the bomb to the selected venue and who claim responsibility afterwards are worse. They are proud of their acts and they are going to keep doing it until something changes, and what needs to change is the ideology! The idea that because someone is doing something you don’t like or you feel is disrespectful to your god you can kill them, or bomb them to make your point then the problem lies with you!

I am proud to live in a country where we have freedoms to choose, what to wear, where to go and what to believe. I am happy to chat and debate my own ideas and accept that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know what lies beyond this plane if anything and therefore I choose to try and be nice, respectful, friendly. This is not what is happening here though and whilst we saw the best of Manchester yesterday in the response the very fact that we needed to respond to more violence, that people are not coming home ever again is us losing. Standing together and keeping those affected in our hears and minds does not bring them back nor necessarily does finding the perpetrators who helped the bomber – they may have other information regarding future attacks but knowing who did something does not erase the event itself!

What doesn’t help is turning on one another IS is not Islam – it is a part of it but somehow we need to stop their message getting through but this just isn’t happening, more and more of theses attacks are coming from so called homegrown terrorists. On a day when we should have been listening to the politicians churning out their endless streams of soundbites for the upcoming election we are instead mourning youngsters who were out having fun with their parents. This hurts us because it is what many of us have done, we go out with friends or family, I have taken Imp, Pixie and Hpops to events lots of time and I have never really stopped to think that it wasn’t safe, that we night not come home. There are still people missing, maybe in hospital maybe out of contact and social media is helping here!

What we need to do is pull together to change the ideology, saying terrorism is not winning is not helping – the images of the tragedies stay with us for so long and affect people long after the seconds the bomb takes to trigger! SO does the process of radicalisation, this is not an overnight process, we know people travel abroad and then come back – recent attacks have been carried out by people known to security services. I am due to go to several events over the summer, just as densely packed as the one in Manchester and it occurred to me having seen the events unfolding that I will now have to have a plan for those I attend with my children for them to meet me safely if we get separated. My usual fear at these sort of events is that one of them feels unwell and we have to miss it or they wander off from the toilet queue or we spend too much money on over priced merchandise! I have never really thought about what happens if the place gets attacked, just as the people attending yesterday probably didn’t!

The sad thing is someone somewhere knows where the next attack is being planned and that is the scary part, until it happens we don’t. Having said that we can’t be held to ransom – if we stop going out, celebrating with friends, using the freedoms we have been granted we lose. This doesn’t help anyone who has already paid the highest price of their lives or the future unknown victims but until we can get on top of the ideology and hate and everyone is granted the freedom of choice without violence if we disagree nothing will change and violence will still be used history has shown us this for centuries and we still haven’t worked out how to live on this ball of rock without killing one another in the name of a being we may never know!

The internet – not a safe place to be!

Some of you may have heard of a new game sweeping the internet called Blue Whale. Several schools have already sent out information warning parents and students of the dangers of the game. Originating in Russia and spreading across Europe and into the US it encourages players to dare one another over 50 days eventually resulting in the death of the player due to suicide. Having three children we decided to talk to our children about the new game. It wasn’t really anything they hadn’t heard before, only talk to people you know, don’t accept dares and so on.

We try to ensure that all three are safe online, they like, like most children their age looking at Youtube but none of them are old enough to access their own accounts for other social media. This is also true of Youtube but Imp, who shows little interest in anything is determined to be a professional YouTuber, (apparently this is a legitimate career option now!) To that aim I set him up a channel on my google account on the proviso I saw and approved any videos he wanted to post. This seemed to be working OK until he stopped asking me for approval. I presumed he had just got bored and moved onto the next obsession.

This was until we realised he had circumvented our security measures. About nine months ago a certain app entitled Pokemon go was launched, we were in Southend and the trainer accounts weren’t loading so we set up three google accounts that we password protected and only myself and Mr T had the passwords, so far so good! Pokemon heaven and the kids were still unable to access all that google had to offer! That was until they worked out that they could get the computer to fill in the password for them and then change it – which they did and then they could upload their own videos – which they did!

Luckily we are fairly vigilant and we realised what was happening. This meant that we could keep an eye on what they were doing so that is exactly what we did. Their videos consisted of singing, scootering, and talking about various games they enjoyed playing – all fairly innocent. Yesterday Imp and Pixie made a video of themselves singing one of their favourite songs, again innocent. They were delighted that 2 hours after they had posted it, it had 9 views and a couple of comments, one of them a compliment on their singing ability!

They were talking about a new video they wanted to make which involved a dare they had received, for me this sent alarm bells ringing so I asked to see the comment. It was a classic ‘grooming’ comment! It started with a compliment and asked them to click onto a video and complete a dare. I clicked on the profile and there was a standard background, a picture of a girl around Pixies age and a tagline which could belong to anyone! There was only one video posted despite claiming to be a channel set up for this girl and her brother.

I watched the video, it wasn’t a ‘dodgy’ video but involved a gymnastics move that anyone could perform, the two people in the video were not able to be identified from the video. The poster wanted Imp to copy the move carried out in the video and post his own version allegedly for a surprise for her sister who also ‘loved’ their video!! Worse Imp had agreed to do this (luckily he had misread this and presumed he just had to watch the video rather than record one of his own!) and the person had then chased up his own version saying they needed it quickly. For me this was a clear example of someone seeing if Imp would follow orders, record and post a video and do it quickly.

Immediately we shut down his channel and have since deleted all of his videos, he is now back under my channel with everything being pre-approved and passcode on the computer disabled so he cannot bypass this time. (we are learning too!) We checked back today on the channel the dare had come from, as due to our suspicions we didn’t want anyone else to be caught out and we were unsurprised to find that the channel had disappeared and was no longer available! Pointing out to the children that they could have been taking to anyone, anywhere who could use their videos to find out information about them and then get them on side doing dares and pretending to be their friends, complimenting them was the first step to getting them under their control shook them up a bit, but in my opinion not enough. They still don’t seem to appreciate that we have been trying to keep them safe and that we are not being mean by not letting them have access to social media, there is a reason for it and the reason is they cannot tell the difference between real people and people who might want to hurt them!

It is scary to realise that wherever you go the internet is with us these days. Filters are helpful but as we discovered kids can find short cuts to get around the security designed to keep them safe and the danger becomes more pronounced. Immediately that I saw the post I felt that there was something not quite right about it but the children were oblivious, carried away with the fact that someone liked their video and might subscribe they were desperate to please and it is easy to see how people can easily get themselves into trouble, when they might be relatively sensible and level headed in reality. Maybe the instant fame and desperation to be loved is partly to blame but I too must accept responsibility, Imp and Pixie have now been given even greater restrictions and less device time to ensure that I can keep track of what they are doing. Hpops is approaching the magic 13 where she can legitimately access social media but she too has been told she will only be able to have accounts on platforms where she is willing for me to follow her and see what she is sharing and posting, because if she is willing to share with the internet then she should be happy for me to see it too! I thought we were being safe – in the matter of hours we saw how quickly the situation can change! Moral of the story, watch the kids, make sure you know what they are posting and to where and anything suspicious shut it down and report it. There are lots of dangers out there and this was one of them, thankfully – this time we are safe and hoping that when it sinks in it will help the children make better decisions going forward.

And the point is…

The children returned to school today and with me being there too for a next few days I know I won’t be far behind them so I thought I’d try and get on top of the housework while the house is quiet. All started well, hoovering downstairs done, dog walked and the ironing I did at the weekend ready to be put away in piles. Then came the trouble!

Hpops had made an obstacle course of the stairs up to her room consisting of a variety of shoes, books and relics from the sleep over she had last week. Things were not much better in her room. The bag she had taken for her sleepover was on the floor with all the things that had been in it spread around it, various pieces of washing hadn’t made it to the washing basket and then there were the books and pens and two bowls that had over the weekend held easter eggs. Oh well, seems she has morphed into a teenager overnight without me noticing.

Perhaps things would be better in the rooms of the other two – forlorn hope it proves! In Imp’s room there was evidence of an attempt to put some of the bits away but not much. The curtains were firmly closed so I had to negotiate the little mountains of Lego and books that were waiting to inflict pain on my feet before i could even attempt to get to the clothes. In his case however we know we need to reduce the overall number of clothes in his drawers as he has far too many and we are helping with this -so at least there is some optimism there.

Finally Pixie, surely with the brand new dressing table she got for her birthday and the big tidy up we had as a result of making a space for that and then putting all her bits and bobs on it her room would be tidy? Of course not! Again washing has failed to throw itself into the washing basket preferring instead to decorate the floor, accompanied by a yoga mat, a set of uno cards and a variety of stuffed toys!

However, I am fighting back, the children all love their devices but on a school night they are not allowed to have them before dinner, and then only if they have completed their homework to a good standard, their reading and music practice have to be done and any other essential chores! They then have a curfew for devices to ensure that they have an opportunity to read before they go to sleep. So in an attempt to try and train them and help them appreciate that as much as I love washing and ironing their clothes for them to just leave them lying about, change their beds so they can cover them with half their possessions so it takes me three times as long as it should or driving them all over the place to their friends so they can then leave all their bits and bobs lying about, I would appreciate it if they could fill their washing baskets, clear their floors and make their beds. Where the can’t manage that they will lose their precious device time! I am hoping that a few round of this will show them that I mean it and make some of these simple jobs second nature so we don’t have the same boring conversation over and over again.

In better news Hpops managed to pass both her piano grade 2 and violin grade 3 with merit. LAMDA exams approach for all three at the end of the summer term. Imp is rehearsing for his end of Year 6 play, I cannot believe that he is going to be in senior school in September of this year! I am still teaching on a supply basis and am looking forward to trying to get some writing done this summmer. I think I have managed to get comfortable with myself, and have decided that it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes my writing, it just is an outlet for me any success it brings is a bonus. Equally I really enjoy teaching and do want to progress that but I also understand that family first means no full time until Pixie is another couple of years down the line, and I should be grateful for that opportunity. I get to see all the shows and sports day and assemblies without having to worry, but I have realised that as soon as the transition to senior school is complete parental involvement nosedives. Shows and parent evenings take place in the evening and therefore I will be able to work, the children will all be able to get themselves home and so for the next couple of year or so I can enjoy the teaching I get in, the writing and I get in, oh and of course collecting various pieces of washing from around the house!

A day in the life of…

So today is just a normal run of the mill day. Hpops has a friend coming over after school so we need to go thorough the usual charade of pretending that we live in a show home whilst making excuses for the mess that still exists. The floors will be hoovered and mopped and Hpops has even (sort of) tidied her room. Unfortunately there are three children living here and that means that they’ll come home from school and liberally disperse their uniform, pencil cases and snack mess around the house. It won’t matter that I’ve tidied up and put things away. It won’t matter that the windows were cleaned as there will soon be hand marks over them, just as the day after the window cleaners visited there were fresh tennis ball marks on them!

One of the most disheartening things is spending lots of time washing and ironing their clothes, giving them back to them only to find them screwed up on the floor. We have the bi-annual theatre show this weekend so time has been spent collecting costumes, hair bows and props and placing them in labelled suit bags. Unfortunately the children seem to think I have lots of time to re-arrange these and then sort them all out again as they have then hung them up on the floor!

I know I’m not the only one frustrated by their children and I wonder when it will finally click that they need to look after their things. Will it be when they lose or break something they think highly of, will it be when they pay for something with their own money? Who knows but I guess to children life is immediate, especially in the ‘fast’ society that we live in where everything is instant and you can find pretty much anything on-line.

As we begin preparations for Imp to begin secondary school in September I find myself wondering how he will cope in the same way as I felt the anxiety when Hpops was preparing for the transfer two years ago. Whilst I have some experience now of what to expect with them all being different children they find their own way. Will he like it? Will he be with his friends and if not will he make new ones?

Pixie is very excited as her birthday nears next week! To make sure no-one forgets she has created herself a birthday advent calendar with sticky notes with she takes down one by one. As well as this there is a countdown on the shared family notes! It doesn’t seem possible that soon we will have two children in secondary school and one in Year 5. As much as they annoy me and mess things up and cause me more work I am proud of their achievements. I know all the rehearsals and ironing and feeling of general stress will melt away as soon as their show starts at the weekend. I know that when I am told thank you for letting me have a friend over and I hear giggles or excited chatter I won’t begrudge the mopping and cleaning. Yes, I wish they would be a bit tidier, take a bit more time, maybe even help out a bit more, I will continue to teach them the right way to look after things and maybe at some point it will sink in! Wish me luck!

Rolling back the years!

Today so much seems to be repeating, politics, fashion and now tennis! Federer V Nadal and the Williams sisters in the finals of the first grand slam of the year. Against all the odds it would seem – because of course, at over 30 all of them had been written off. Too old to claim the final spots any longer. The passion and the grace with which they contested the titles spoke volumes. The warmth in the speeches, ‘if there could be a draw I would love to share it with Rafa’ (Roger Federer) was amazing between such rivals and if it is the last time they play in the final so what? Every sport needs younger players pushing through the ranks, creating the upsets so that the older players are kept on their toes, it makes the whole sport more exciting. Federer put the cat among the pigeons when he said he hoped to be back next year and that if he wasn’t it had been a great ride and who would blame him if he retired. It would leave a huge hole in tennis but he has a family and a life and has to do what is right for him, as have all our sportsmen and women, no matter how great!

In a week where things have been a bit stressed in all areas of my life the final between Federer and Nadal brought some light. Their achievement demonstrated that hard work, passion and desire can pay off and that if you believe in yourself, and want something enough it can happen. It is true not everyone can win, not everyone can be the manager of a company but perhaps we need to remember that not everyone wants to be. Sometimes all we want is a family to love us, a house to live on or a job – any job to get us out of the house. We need to hold true to our own goals, be a bit nicer to one another and help each other out a bit more not rush past blinkered or build walls to keep people out!

Soon my teaching job will come to an end and I am already sure I’m going to miss the class I have been teaching, of course I’ll keep in touch and see how they progress but one thing has been confirmed to me – I do love teaching, I do look forward to going to work. I do love writing as well but it doesn’t pay the bills Yet!) and sometime wanting something and being good enough at it aren’t the same thing. I take inspiration from stars life Rafa, Roger and so on – and I know I’ll keep trying! Until Pixie goes to senior school in two academic year time logistically working full time is difficult and would cost most of what I could earn. Mr T sometimes works long hours and has to travel – and so my main job at the moment is to look after the children and the dogs, when I can teach without interfering too much with that it is brilliant and I will continue to look for a teaching job that fits in, and I still plan to do my SENCO award.

In the meantime I keep trying with my writing, I enjoy it, it makes me feel like I am doing something useful and you just never know where it will take you. I plan to try and do some shorter pieces and build back up and hopefully intersperse this with some supply work. I guess inspiration is in short supply at the moment, the news seems to be incredibly downbeat, the winter seems to be never ending and the cold seems to eat away at you. We are counting down to our date with Mickey over Easter and Imp is looking forward to and a bit nervous about his first proper trip away from home. He will be journeying to Jersey with school. The itinerary looks exciting and I am sure he’ll enjoy it but at the same time it is a big step!

Hpops as well is making strides in her life. She has decided to audition for the school play and for her this is a big step. She suffers with stage fright but has (IMHO) a fantastic singing voice and can act well. She is worried about the dancing element of it, but at the same time she wants to push her comfort zone, so cast or not I am very proud of her as she is taking hold of opportunities. If I could just convince Pixie to take hold of some of her opportunities rather than spending all her spare time playing games or watching videos then I’d be onto a winner. Recently both Hpops and Imp have been getting on well with their music and really showing me what they can do! I am hoping they are also getting something out of it, the good feedback they get from their teachers and so on should give them more motivation to continue their upwards progress. Hpops has also been given a solo in her upcoming show at a local theatre ands she was really pleased, she is worried she’ll get stage fright but at the same time she knows she can do ti. We all have to take risks to get what we want whether it be submitting a manuscript or auditioning for a part or even having that doctor appointment you’ve been putting off.

We all have to deal with disappointment, distress and not getting our own way but I just hope more people cope with it like Rafa’s quiet dignity that the two year old like tantrums that seem to be happening more often!

Chasing dreams and … Pokemon

Summer holidays 2016 have already started for us and as a result we have been out exploring. As much as I hate to admit it this exploring has been somewhat helped by the release of Pokemon go! The opportunity to go somewhere new, set a lure, take down a gym and maybe get a new or elusive Pokemon seems to be the way to get the kids out of the house. Indeed Pixie now seems intent on leaning how to ride her bike properly so that she can join the other two (with an adult of course) on Pokemon hunts further afield. Not only can you cover more ground and collect more Pokemon on your bike but you can hatch those all important eggs.
I have taken a ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ attitude but have found the game surprisingly addictive. I’m not sure the this is a phenomenon that is going to stick around but for now it is getting the kids out of the house and actually looking at things. We have had two recent visits to parks and they actually looked at the flowers and sculptures whilst there.
One of the things we are really looking forward to is the release of the BFG, we’re going on Friday to see it and the children have already signed up to the Dahl themed summer reading scheme in the local library. Even more excitement has been created – following on from the book bench trail a couple of summers ago this year there are dream jars scattered around London. We have pencilled in a couple of dates to see as many as possible, one trail following the journey Sophie and the BFG take around the palace and Hyde Park, which Pixie is particularly excited about. We’re doing that one once we have seen the film. We’re are going to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (thanks to Kids Week) at the end of the holidays so we can find some in the Covent Garden area then. So tomorrow we’re searching around St Pauls and maybe the Southbank area too. Great to see the different jars and get the children to experience the sights of London, something we sometimes take for granted.
Thanks to Pokemon it sounds as if I need to take a picnic and find somewhere warm to sit with a Pokestop so they can catch some Pokemon but in some ways this is no bad thing. It gives us a chance to recharge our batteries and enjoy the green spaces in London as well as saving me money. Taking sandwiches and crisps is much cheaper than buying them on the go! Win! Win!
Definitely making the most of the good weather as who knows how long it will last, not long according to the forecasters and with two summer camps and a holiday booked in the days will pass by rapidly. Writing seems to be on hold (again!) but with little teaching lined up for September I have several outlined projects to progress. The kids book is nearly ready to go, just waiting on the kids to give me some feedback and do the edits and have planned on a proper working day from September setting proper deadlines for myself as otherwise I tend to just prevaricate, end up doing errands and not getting anywhere -not going to have a huge career in publishing that way!
For now I will concentrate on giving the kids a great summer holiday, before we know it it’l be gone and routine can take over, in the meantime we’ll enjoy getting out and about and hopefully having some great adventure and memories that last.

http://www.visitlondon.com/bfg