2017 Bucket List!

For a number of years now, I’ve been horrified at the reaction our kids have at Christmas and Birthdays when they are presented with present after present. Without even looking properly at each one they simply look up and look around for the next one to unwrap! When all the unwrapping is done, there is a sense of emptiness and finality about it, like the fun is now over even though there is a pile of toys waiting to be played with.

Naturally our 11yr old has particular difficulties having ADHD and ASD that mean he does find it harder to understand the value of things and that he can’t have everything he wants right now. This is an ongoing struggle. We’ve tried to cut down on buying him things over the years, not just because our financial situation changed dramatically, but also because we could see just how bad it was for him to have all this ‘stuff’. With the 2 year old, I like to try and spread the presents given (from family and friends) out over a few days so that he engages with one or two toys right in the moment. He’s actually a little better than the 11yr old when it comes to this stuff anyway as he’s neurotypical.

These days toys and games are so easy to come by, whether brand new or recycled through a second hand website that there is almost no fun whatsoever in having a birthday or Christmas because the kids already have too much of everything! Not to mention the world impact problems with packaging and wastage in landfill and don’t even get me started on plastic and batteries!

Personally I love to try and get gifts that offer experiences to people rather than items. Yes I give gift cards for clothes and things, but I have also been known to offer various experience gifts as I feel that these really offer so much more enrichment to the recipient. A memory to treasure and an experience to learn by rather than another ‘thing’ to stuff in a cupboard and forget! For my cousin’s 18th birthday present I bought him a lap in a V8 Race car. For my Mother in Law’s 40th birthday we got her a ride in a hot air balloon. For our son’s 11th birthday we took him to the theme parks on the Gold Coast (and bought him a giant Lego set, but you actually can’t get away with no Lego for a birthday when you have a kid on the spectrum who loves Lego!). One year for Christmas I bought my husband a package for learning Trapeze skills.

I recently check out this site called Eventbrite that I hadn’t seen before and found myself lost in a scrolling heaven of things to do around my local area! There are a few websites around that let you search for different experiences and they are all pretty good. What I really liked about this one is that it really got down to the nitty gritty of local events both big and small that you can get involved in. At a glance you can also see how much it will cost you. But not only that, you can actually use the site to set up your own event and invite people to and have them pay through the site as well! How easy is that! I really liked that idea as I now have my own covers band and might like to host an event some day soon.

This got me thinking about stuff I’d like to do in 2017, which led me to make a ‘mini bucket list’.  I’ve chosen experiences that would be affordable and accessible so that I have a chance of getting it done, but I have now been inspired to make a bucket list on a larger scale that I would need a bit of time and money to complete!

Why don’t you go and check out some of the experiences around your local area for your own bucket list, or perhaps for a unique gift for that next special occasion?

My 2017 Bucket List – Compiled using the Eventbrite website:

  1. Lyrics and Songwriting Workshop – I currently sing in a covers band, so how cool would it be to learn how to write our own songs?!
  2. Love My Dog Learn to Paint Workshop – I’ve never painted before, but I do love my dog, and I have always fancied that I might be OK at painting if I just have a go and some instruction!
  3. Adult Bollywood Dance Classes – Who doesn’t want to learn how to dance Bollywood style?!
  4. Nature Play for Outdoor Educators – As a homeschooling Mum, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to teach my kids!
  5. Nocturnal Nature Walk – I love outdoor stuff and I love ‘creatures’ and I love night time! I also think Mr 11 would get a kick out of something like this!
  6. Balmain Historic Pub Tour – This would be really interesting, and a great thing for hubby and I to do as we both enjoy a bit of history (me perhaps more than him :))
  7. Blue Mountains Glow Worm Tours – This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. What a fantastic family outing and you we could make a weekend of it as the travel time to the blue mountains isn’t too far, but also not that close.
  8. Abseiling Course – This something I’ve always wanted to try and the husband and son already to indoor rock climbing so it would be a fun day together.
  9. Waste Site Tour – This would be a great homeschooling outing to learn about waste and the environment and remind us what happens to all that ‘stuff’ and all those toys when we are tired of them!
  10. Robot Future – Mr 11 loves robots and this is really close to where we live and could be quite interesting!

There were so many more things I could do, but I decided to stick to 10 and challenge myself to get them done! I’ll try and post about the things I do if I get to do them and let you know what they were like!

 

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International Pet Day!

In light of International Pet Day today, I guess it’s as good a day as any to write about my pets! I recently joined a Facebook group that celebrates Groodles, and it’s been really lovely to see all the photos and posts from people who have these beautiful dogs. In Australia the cross breed of a Golden Retriever and a Poodle is called a Groodle. I believe in The USA this cross breed is called a Golden Doodle.

Here is what our big guy looks like

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We also have a little grey cat, but she’s a little more difficult to pin down for a photo opportunity!

Here she is enjoying some time with her dog brother

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Although my husband and I had always been cat people, it was very obvious that our first son is a dog person. When he was about 5 years old we made the decision to get him a puppy. We did a lot of research to work out which dog breed would best suit our family and more particularly our special needs son.

We wanted a dog that would be robust and big to take his ADHD extra energy. We also needed a dog who would be easy to train, calm and with a very gentle nature to be a friend and a companion to our son’s autism characteristics. Research led us to our beautiful Moppett and we’ve never regretted it for a second.

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Moppett has ended up being a treasure to all of us. He’s always there when we need a friend or a cuddle. He’s patient and has a beautiful nature. His big eyes and happy face encourage us to get out of the house and take him for walks and play with him. He’s just the most awesome pet and he should definitely be celebrated!

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Would I recommend people who are capable of caring for a dog get one? Yes I definitely would! I would suggest that they research the breed and size that would suite them the best, and I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of choosing a dog from a reputable breeder and ensuring they don’t use a puppy mill or even a shopping center pet shop (unless they are able to prove where their pups have been sourced).

Check out this info about dogs and the benefits they have on humans.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ― Josh Billings

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Thanks to the guys at PuppySpot for the above information put into an easy to read graphic, and for anyone reading this blog in the USA you can check out their Puppies for sale! By using places like this you can really ensure that you get the right help and info to match you up with the right dog for you and your family! Happy puppy finding!

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What’s with that?

I don’t post much these days, too busy doing other stuff I guess! Like stopping my 22 month old from falling down every five seconds and smacking his face on stuff! Seriously, this kid just lurches around the joint and keeps banging his face and head on things. Even when I think I’m supervising sufficiently he can manage to damage himself. The other day we were both crouching down looking at a beetle he had found. I was right next to him. He was crouching…he suddenly tipped forwards too far and didn’t put out his hands and smooshed his poor little cheek into the concrete step we were near! Sheesh!

This year is going well so far for Mr 11 though. He’s taken up sailing on sundays with his Grandad, he’s still going to Scouts and enjoying it (even though he doesn’t really get all that involved with the others at least he’s staying there and hanging around watching!) He’s also much less argumentative about doing his schoolwork and we are making great progress so far. I guess the general happiness and cooperative behaviour of our boy is why I feel I don’t have much to blog about anymore…which is great.

One thing I did want to say, which has brought me to the computer today is my frustration with people and kids and the whole ‘socialising’ thing that people go on about.

Every time we go to the park (which is pretty much every day), inevitably people will ask my older son why he’s not at school today. He tells them he’s homeschooled. They then talk to him for a little while and then will usually seek me out to talk to me because it’s a curious and different thing. When they find me, they then have to approach with their little ones. My little one (22mths) is very talkative and open and will walk right up to any child and say ‘hi!’ the most common response he gets without doubt is for the approached child to stare at him briefly before walking away looking confused. This used to happen to Mr 11 a lot too. The only thing I can think of is that the other kids his age just don’t have the same level of communication skill and they get freaked out. That’s fine, I get it. I usually just take over the talking and tell my little one that it’s OK and he can try to talk to someone else. Usually older kids will respond well to him. But most kids under 5 aren’t very willing. I’m used to it having seen this with my older son trying to connect when he was little. So back to the parents who have come to ask me about homeschooling and why etc. We chat for a bit, and within probably the first few sentences they will ALWAYS ask me, “But what about socialisation?”

Really?

Did they not just have a conversation with my son? Did they not come to tell me he’s so interesting and clever? Did they not just witness my younger son try to socialise with their child and their child ignore him, or run away or stare blankly?

Yes they did, but it doesn’t compute, because in their minds (in lots of people’s minds) socialising is something done at school, in same age peer groups. I have read so much research about how this just isn’t true. Children learn their social skills from older people and especially from adults and most especially from their parents! This is why my children are actually very good socialisers. They can communicate with people of all ages. Yes, my older son has autism so he has trouble with social situations where things get tricky, but actually he’s quite good at ‘socialising’ in general. It just annoys me. And obviously there is no time at the park while chasing my little one to explain all this to the stranger who has approached me. And so I simply smile and say, “yes everyone asks that! Homeschooling has a large community of great people and socialising is done by meeting up and doing different activities. It’s not a problem”.

Secretly I want to ask them what they are doing about socialisation in terms of teaching their kids not to ignore someone who says hello to them (note, I’m not talking about shy kids who are hiding and don’t want to say hi, that’s fine!), or to speak up and not mumble when they do answer (for the older kids) or to share (in the true sense, ie, not just giving up something you currently have because you were told to, but in waiting and taking your turn when the other person is ready to give it up.). I wonder what they would say?

 

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Something feels strange…

Mr 10 has lately taken to saying to me very often during the day that he is bored. Strangely when I offer him a whole list of stuff to do, he declines with great pre-teen gusto and disappears into his room (not to clean it as I had suggested!). Great chunks of his day are spent on his tablet doing who knows what (don’t fret, I actually do know what and it’s not that exciting!)  and building and designing Lego. So when it gets to bed time, he often heaves a great sigh and says “mummy, something feels strange”. 

“What sort of strange?” I ask, knowing full well that this kid has so many emotions in him all the time and that he feels them at 600 times the strength of regular people. He will answer that he doesn’t know, so I prompt him.

“In your head? In your tummy? In your heart?” He often points sadly to his heart. He has a big one. A sensitive one. He finds it hard to hold it all in there. I guess that would feel strange. He thinks too much for a kid, always has. Big thoughts in a little body. That’s why he used to be so intense all the time. We usually can isolate what in particular is getting him that day and I can talk him through it. When he says he wants to play with kids, I can remind him that he now has a couple of friends he sees and talks to. He is making friends at scouts. He finally has a peer at OT to interact with and he even has a ‘girlfriend’ that he talks to on the phone and plays Minecraft with! So that part of his life is really coming along. Just slower than he’d like, but I also remind him that whenever I suggest attending social groups or excursions during the day with other homeschoolers, he refuses to go. He needs to be patient with the process I guess.

He did rather amusingly come to the conclusion on two recent bed time occasions of “big feelings” that what was wrong was actually that he was hungry! That made me laugh. That one was easily fixed!

We are trying to get more exercise and cut out sugars and fats a bit as he is gaining weight on his meds and I was told by my doctor recently that my blood pressure was too high and I need to lose some weight. So no more wine after the babies have gone to bed. Sigh. One glass of wine and one bowl of chips every night seems to make a difference to my sanity, but also negatively to my weight. Well it is working cutting it out, so I guess I’m happy about that. At least I have a new thing to distract me. I am the lead singer of a newly formed (as of Monday) rock band called “The Klaymores” yes, like the Celtic sword, but with a K coz I am K not a C girl. 🙂 we will have our debut performance on Dec 2nd 2016! Exciting!

Mr 10 is off on Thursday to play laser skirmish with his scouts group so let’s hope he enjoys that. He really is getting better at dealing with those kinds of situations, although he does still just want to leave when it gets too full on with noise and competition and stuff. The good news though is that at least he goes and tries… Oh and that he no longer tries to kill all the people in the room with whatever he can find lying about…or words. 

He learnt a very valuable lesson the other day. He was playing Minecraft with his girlfriend online and she wrote the word ‘Fak’ I the chat. He got quite upset and came to tell me that she was swearing and so he was shutting everything down and wouldn’t play with her anymore. I suggested to him that it might be better to just ask her to lease not swear on his server if he didn’t like it. He did ask her and she argued that she hadn’t swore, she had just written Fak. He was mad at her and shut down the server. I suggested that rather than getting mad like that, it might be better to have a proper conversation with her about it and talk it through. To my utmost surprise he picked up the phone straight away and called her! 

Mr 10 “Hi, it’s me (Mr 10)…yeah I just wanted to tell you that I understand that you only wrote Fak, but to me thTs the same as swearing and I’d really like it if you didn’t do that on my server please.”

She responded, but I couldn’t hear what she said.

Mr 10: “oh. Thanks, that’s great. Yep I’ll go and turn the server back on so we can play”

Yay! He learned that communication is the biggest key to any relationship! He took charge of the situation, let her know he understood her position then told her what he expected from her when on his server. I was so proud! Now we just gotta work on him not telling his baby brother that if he continues to scream in the car he will put his hand over his mouth until he shuts up!! 

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Babies be Crazy!

Well you all know we have this beautiful little 17 month (today!) old baby. I say baby, because compared to our Mr 10 at this age, he really is a baby. By 16mths, our older son was already talking clearly and stringing words together into coherent sentences. He knew all his colours, animals and their noises, shapes and was pretty close to knowing his alphabet! We now know of course that this is not ‘normal’.  That’s cool, regardless of how ‘gifted’ or whatever Mr 10 is, he has other issues that stop him from reaching the potential of his big brain in the current societal constraints in which he lives! But back to Mr 17mths….

So Mr 17mths definitely says a lot of words and he’s a fantastic communicator. He gives you a few words and actions and points and makes relevant noises and with that information you basically get a whole story out of him. It’s kinda cool. However… he also does a whole bunch of stuff that Mr 10 never did. Like banging his head on stuff…deliberately…repeatedly! It’s crazy!

If you say, “no” or take something dangerous away from him, or him from it, he arches back and flings himself forward to headbutt whatever he is near! He’s headbutted the concrete steps at the back of our house, the kitchen bench, the floor, us, the dog, a tree, his high chair, the fridge, the pantry, the microwave, washing baskets, a guitar… you get the idea. This means that we are all on the lookout and worrying for his head. He has bruises all over his forehead and face from the things he butts. Crazy. We are working on not reacting big, just trying to remove him and put our hand in the way so he doesn’t damage himself. We say “no bang” because he also tends to fake the motion and say “bang” to let you know about it. We say, “if you bang, you will go to bed.” That worked for a while, he really didn’t like me putting him to bed after he’d headbutted something. I just hope it’s one of those phases we just have to get through.

Another crazy thing he does is launch himself headfirst around the place. For example if he climbs up something (an activity he does a lot, on anything and with great skill), he might just turn around, let go and dive off head first! Now he’s definitely not a “slow learner”. We keep getting comments when we are out about how clever he is and how many words he has and how quick he understands things… but really… we have to have someone follow him around continually with hands at the ready for when he decides to launch himself into dangerous positions! Let me tell you that is very hard work!

On the positive side, there are definite differences I can see in Mr17 mths which give us hope that he doesn’t have similar difficulties to Mr 10.

  1. He is definitely capable of self calming and when he decides to sit down, he can actually stay still. Mr 10 could never do that at any age, until he was medicated.
  2. He really listens to you when you give an instruction and he can actually follow a string of simple instructions through to a conclusion. Mr 10 still struggles with this.
  3. He loves cleaning up! He will pack up stuff he’s played with, wipe up stuff he’s spilt, get the broom out to sweep stuff. Naturally not always, and he’s not very effective at it yet, but he does it and that’s awesome! Mr10… not so much. Ever. This could just be a personality trait though rather than specifically connected to his ADHD or ASD.

On the whole, it’s really lovely having a baby again, but super duper hard work. Particularly at the moment when my husband is launching a new business and working late into each night and having to go away for work and conferences and what not. It means I’m on the go all day and sometimes a lot of  the night too, but hopefully once the business is launched things will really settle down and we’ll all get a lot more time.

For now, enjoy some pics of my crazy boys!

 

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Quote of the day

We had just got back in the car after swimming class. Mr 10 was looking at Mr 16 mths who was falling asleep (swimming is hard work when you are that small!).

Mr 10: “My life is different now. It’s really full of a lot more cute. I mean, since I have only one brother I do have a bit more worry, especially when he does things that might hurt himself. And my life is a little harder, but mostly it’s a lot nicer and he is just so cute and I love him so much.”

Awwwww……..

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A long journey

WordPress reminded me today that it’s been FIVE years since I first started writing here. Wow. Five? Crazy. I can’t believe we’ve been sharing this journey with our 10 year old son for that long. It made me think I really should find some time to catch dear old wordpress (and anyone who reads it) up.

My phone broke last week. That’s always hard to deal with. I really liked that phone. I’ve had to succumb to a more modern larger one. I had to wait to get it. I now have to wait for a new SIM card because it needs a nano one. Sigh. Bigger phone…smaller SIM card. Annoying.

I don’t have photos of my boys this week because my phone broke. I also might have lost a fair number of pics in the depths of the phone that didn’t save to my SD card. Sigh.

However…. Mr 10 is on a new medication called Abilify. Yes, it’s in the same kind of category as many of the others he’s tried, but he just really needed some help. I am still homeschooling him, so that is fine with ADHD, but the depression and anxiety and sadness he was experience was just too much. He needed help. He has it.

The difference in him is extraordinary. He’s so much calmer, happier, better able to stop and take stock of his emotions, this allowing us to step in and help coach him in ways to deal with them appropriately. He was desperate for some friends, and now with the medication he actually has a chance of making some finally.

He has attended two Scouts meetings recently and the first time he lasted 1 hour, but only because he got tired when his meds kicked in and the fact that he actually participated for the whole hour! The second time he stayed for the whole 2 hours! He even said he had had fun. Wow. I didn’t get any phone calls or emails the next day asking us not to bring him back. That’s pretty much a first.

He has had the opportunity to play Minecraft a few times with the 14 year old boy who lives across the road, and that’s quite lovely to see them chatting and having fun together. The older boy keeps forgetting that our son is only 10 though, and that’s quite funny too.

We still have a major hurdle and long way to go with his attitude towards school work or learning in any official capacity. I think the years at school just traumatised him so much that he just still really has a mental block when it comes to anything that might resemble schoolwork. It’s definitely taken to a dysfunctional level. For example, I came home recently with a couple of boxes of interesting science experiment kits from ALDI. When he saw the boxes he was immediately interested and wanted to do them. I said we would wait until tomorrow because they would be great to do as science and count it as science work done. His face changed instantly. He pushed the boxes away and said they were boring and he wasn’t interested if they were for learning! The very same boxes that he would have torn into and done with great happiness if I hadn’t linked it to learning! Argh. So frustrating. I haven’t been able to get him to be interested in them since.

The only thing that can be done is to take everything very slowly and cautiously. Not push him too fast or too hard just because I can see the potential for improvement. It’s excruciating. Especially when I know he’s so clever and personable and so capable if only.. if only… Well it’s a long long journey with these special kids and thank you to WordPress for letting me share the next 5 years with you all.

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