Boolino Friends Review – Fum by Karl Newson

Seemingly out of nowhere, lately Oscar has become obsessed with traditional fairy stories. The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff (a pattern? Possibly 😉 ). It really is lovely because they’re all stories I know the basic plot line for. They feel wonderfully familiar and reading them is like passing on some kind of tradition. Sharing the stories that made the backbone of my own childhood reading, is really what I imagined parenthood would be like!

The latest book we were sent to review from Boolino isn’t a straightforward fairy story, but it does combine a bucket load of traditional characters all in one place. And Oscar loves it. Fum by Karl Newson is the story of the giant Crumb Family, who’ve lost their youngest member, little Fum.

The search for Fum takes the family on an adventure through all the traditional fairy story characters you can think of. The pigs, Red Riding Hood, you name it they’re there, helping the Crumbs along their way. And Oscar loves it. It’s a new story, but it feels familiar and shows the well known characters in a different context, which is great fun.

Oscar sounding out the title. He’s getting so good at phonics and blending sounds!

Meeting the Crumb Family – but wheres the littlest Crumb?

Oscar really enjoys the quirky rhyming couplets of this story, along with Lucy Fleming’s fun and detailed illustrations. Seeing his new found faves popping up in new and unexpected places, make this a very welcome addition to the book shelf.

Oscar loves this latest addition to the bookshelf!

 

 

Mental Health and the Autism Mama

9th March 2015. A Monday. A stuffy office in the paediatric department of the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Six adults all agreeing that a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder was appropriate for my almost three year old, blonde haired, blue eyed son. I remember so much about that meeting. The room was so hot. I felt so sick. If I’d had to picture the setting my world would fall from under me in, this small grey room with uncomfortable chairs wouldn’t have been it. It would have been exotic, dramatic, or at least better looking. But here we were.

In those first few moments I was given a plethora of leaflets about support for Oscar. This agency would help with this, this one with that. It was mind boggling, and most of it went straight in the bin. It was too much to take in at that moment. But the one question I did ask was which one of these leaflets was for the agency that was going to support me? Which one was going to give me the help I was going to need now my parenting journey had been screwed up and chucked over the doctor’s shoulder. I remember saying “That’s great, thank you. And what support do I get?”. The paediatrician laughed in my face. Literally. “There isn’t any!” she told me. Any that was that.

I remember going to the doctors several months later to apply for a one off Carer’s prescription grant, as suggested by our Early Years case worker. The doctor asked why I wanted the grant and I started to explain how hard looking after Oscar was and how desperately sad the diagnosis had left me. She looked on awkwardly while I started to cry and ask again, where was the support for me? Was there nothing for post diagnosis depression similar to post partum depression. She scolded me and told me that was something very different and to come back if things got much worse. I left with the feeling I’d wasted someone’s time and that I should be coping better. I never went back.

But things didn’t get “better”. It just got ‘different’. And still no agency was interested in how I was coping. Several people suggested peer support, but I’m not good at leaning on friends. I tried to find a SEN support network online, but struggled taking on everyone else’s sadness as well as mine. It could have been extremely helpful, but I just felt like I wasn’t giving as much as I felt I was taking. Or as though everyone was doing SEN parenting better than me. Even down to the amount they worried. It felt I wasn’t worrying enough. So I had to step back.

And all the while what I was really feeling was akin to grief. A grief for the child I thought I had. A grief for the parenting journey I thought I was on. A grief for the kind of relationship I would never have with my son. For the mother I would never get to be. All while coping with child who needs me in a way I’m still figuring out on a daily basis. And mentally berating myself for not doing, or coping, or being better. Because I should be grateful I had a child at all.

Eventually I knew something needed to change. My heart felt like it was breaking all the time and I hadn’t experienced anxiety this bad since I was a teenager. I also realised no one was going to formally offer to help me. I was so disillusioned with the support (or lack of it) I’d been offered by the NHS, that I didn’t even bother going to them. I found a private therapist. And it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I struck lucky and found someone I felt comfortable talking to immediately (having seen counsellors in the past I know this is not always the case). And things I’ve never said to anyone have now been said. Burdens have been laid down for a while.

I’m not saying everything’s fine and hunky dory now. It’s not. I’m still coming to terms with plenty of stuff, stuff I sometimes think I might never find peace with. But I keep trying. Because for all the support Oscar gets as someone with ASD, none of it as important as the support he gets from his parents. From me. And if I don’t get the support I need to give him the best of me then none of the other services are worth jack.

I still think it’s a joke that parents going through such a traumatic event in their lives are just expected to get on with it without support. I hate that I was made to feel stupid for asking for help. And I’m so heartbreakingly sad that there probably other parents out there right now whose lives are being blown apart by a diagnosis they never wanted and with no idea how they will ever put their lives back together again.

So on this #worldmentalhealthday, I just wanted to fly the flag for SEN parents. The overworked, over looked, under supported. Your mental health is worth everything. You deserve support, as much as anyone. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Ignore those who laugh in your face, or tell you you’re are not as in need as new parents. You are. Because supporting your mental health is really supporting your child.

And isn’t that the most important thing?

SimplyBe Lingerie Review

I’ve written several times about my search for a well fitting bra and just how important good underwear is to me. When you wear the kind of sizes I do, you simply cannot do otherwise! So when SimplyBe asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing some of their lingerie I jumped at the chance. Just not too high and not without support, lest I give myself a black eye 😉 !

I’ve used SimplyBe many times over the years. They are a wonderful resource for all sorts of plus size wear. For example I’ve bought everything from swimwear to dresses to (wonderful wide fit) shoes from them. But for some reason I’ve never bought underwear from them. I don’t really know why, when they stock bras in back sizes 28-56 and cup sizes A-L. I guess I’ve been buying my bras from specialist retailers for so long now (gone are the days when M&S can help me any more!) that it just never occurred to me to get them online instead.

I was intrigued.

I was fitted by a specialist store not that long ago, meaning I was pretty sure of my size, but wary. As with all clothes just because a size fits in one style/make, doesn’t mean it’ll fit across the board. And unlike jeans, an ill fitting bra can be a serious detriment to your health! Despite being able to exchange the bras free of charge if they didn’t fit, I proceeded with caution.

I was actually really surprised at the range of lingerie brands SimplyBe carries. And also really pleased that, unlike some specialist store bras, these didn’t seem astronomical in price. I chose two very different brands and styles to try.

Elomi

The first brand I tried was Elomi. Funnily enough I’ve come across this brand before. My wedding basque was by Elomi and was absolutely beautiful. As it happened I couldn’t wear it on the big day as my dress was cut too low, but I did wear it many times under strapless dresses and loved how supportive it was. I’ve also worn bras from Elomi’s sister companies Fantastie and Freya, so couldn’t wait to try something from their range.

I decided to go for a very functional, every day, full coverage bra from Elomi in my current size. And I can honestly say I have never worn a more comfortable bra in my life! Even the ones I already had, in the same size and had been fitted professionally don’t feel as comfortable as this bad boy!

Don’t get me wrong it’s not the prettiest thing to look at (there is a whiff of military grade issue about it 😂) but if you’re like me and need loooots of support in this arena, you’d have to go a long way to find anything more comfortable. And I love the shape it gives me. Somehow it accentuates my waist, giving me a rather curvy, 50s vibe. And it really does look smooth under my Surrey Mummy uniform of striped Breton top!

Curvy Kate

The second bra I chose was from Curvy Kate, a brand I’d never tried before. A balcony style, in a sheer fabric, it was much prettier than the Elomi, but still the kind of thing I’d wear every day. The style also means it’s much better for low cut tops.

I have to say, compared to the Elomi bra, this wasn’t as comfortable. I mean it wasn’t uncomfortable per se, but I definitely had to adjust it more during the day and was very ready to take it off come the evening (other larger busted ladies will totally know what I mean here!)

But it was much prettier and still gave me a great shape.

I also loved the advice from CoppaFeel, the charity dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer in younger women, in the label. What better way to get that message across?

Thoughts

I have to admit I wasn’t convinced buying bras online would be for me. A professionally fitted bra is, in my opinion, one of life’s essentials. But I have to say, if you are pretty sure of your size, particularly those of you, like me, with a larger back and/or cup sizes, then I would highly recommend checking out the SimplyBe lingerie department. While they have a great range of affordable bras, they also stock all kinds of underwear, sleepwear and swimwear.

I know I’ll be revisiting for more Elomi bras. And who knows, I may even treat myself to matching knickers*

 

 

 

*yeah, I probably wont. What mama has time to match her underwear in the mornings??

 

Thank you so much to SimplyBe for gifting me these items for the purpose of this review.

I was not paid to write this post and as always all opinions are my own.

 

The time has come…..

I’m a sociable person (and by sociable I don’t mean a drinker I promise!). Some people find energy and focus in solitude. And I find mine in other people. I need other people. I guess I’ve always known that on some level, but it’s only recently occurred to me just how much. I’m guessing it might explain why being at home alone without Oscar has been so ridiculously hard for me. And may be why I seem to write better, more from the heart, when I’m with or have been with other people.

Admitting the truth of my needs has been longer coming than you might think. I seriously can’t remember how things were before Oscar came along, but I know since then, my needs have been totally subsumed. By him, by Autism, by getting through today, by planning for tomorrow. I don’t think that’s unusual. Parents, and particularly mothers, are often consumed by their children. Thing is, I didn’t think I would ever lose myself inside motherhood, but I have.

So admitting I have a NEED for human interaction; that a lack of it was depleting my reserves was something of a really important epiphany. And it made me look at areas of my life I hadn’t considered before. The size of our house has always bothered me. We bought it, a two bedroom cottage, before we knew Oscar was on the way. We bought it thinking we had a decent size spare room and with thoughts of extending the ground floor. The spare room became a nursery within a year and the extension turned out to be more expensive (due to lack of access) than it was worth.

I could never understand why this bothered me so much. We have a wonderful garden and yes the house needs a bit of tlc (what period property doesnt?) but it does have charm. So I started to look objectively. To ask why having no spare room sat so heavy in my heart. Why having nowhere for a dining table made me so sad. I’m not a materialistic person. Yes I love the odd new gadget here and there, but I don’t measure my life’s worth by the ‘things’ we have. So I asked what would I do with all this extra room, what would it mean to me, to our life, to MY life? And the answers astonished me.

I want a spare room so friends and family can come and stay with us. I want a dining area so friends can come to dinner. I want a larger lounge so we can seat more visitors. Every reason I had for wanting more space was not about me. It was about other people. And then I realised it wasn’t about other people at all. It was speaking to my need to have other people in my life.

The house we have might fulfil our basic need for shelter and security, but I’ve come to realise our beautiful house no longer meets MY needs, on a very fundamental level.

And that’s quite a sad realisation. This was the first house we ever bought. It was Oscar’s first ever home. And it’s hard to accept you no longer fit into a large part of your life. Or more specifically a large part of your life doesn’t fit YOU anymore. It will always hold a very very special place in our family history. The memories we’ve created here will always be with us.

But the time has come.

Even though it means having to deal with estate agents and legal processes and finance and all things that are liable to send my anxiety levels sky high. Even despite all that it entails.

The time has come to move.

I’ll let you know how it goes…..

Time to move on….

My Half Term Artist

Half term has been and gone, and much as I kind of dread school holidays and how we’re all going to cope, this half term was super. I think a week, with enough distraction, is just enough for him. And it’s just enough that I don’t resort to the iPad all day every day!

Dont get me wrong he was on the iPad a fair amount. Especially in the mornings when he’d been up since five and mama seriously couldn’t be doing with “building a bigger track” right now. Am I the only one whose child seems to wake up fully ‘on’? It’s like he’s got some internal flip switch, that I just don’t have!

Anywho once I had come around sufficiently, we had some really great days this half term. Lots of joint interactions, some of which lasted ages. I did my heart good to see him really collaborating with me and really showed me how far he’s come since starting school.

We did all sorts last week, from trips to the park, to train rides, to hair cuts to meeting up with friends. All of which was wonderful. But really the things I enjoyed the best were the days when we turned to the art cupboard.

When Oscar left Nursery back in July, he still wasn’t drawing anything, despite his well developed fine motor skills, and the artwork that came home was only ever daubs of colour. As the Educational Psychlogist noted, he still wasn’t engaging in any “meaningful mark making”.

That all started to change almost as soon as he started school and over the last term the paintings and drawings have been becoming more and more recognisable. And not only is he now drawing things both he and others can identify, he loves it. And I mean LOVES it. So last Tuesday we spent a couple of hours with pads of paper and markers and he went for it. Each image he drew, I cut it out and he’d blu-tac it to the wall.

And before long the walls were covered.

The aquatic wall, including fish, sharks, “shark whales” and even a squid! All named by Oscar

Sodor. Can you see the steam and the tenders? So detailed!

Alllll of the rockets. Blast Off!

I worked out that over the course of the week (as he added a few more here and there over the week) he drew 44 fish, 31 engines and 24 rockets. And 4 ambulances, randomly. He’s nothing if not prolific!

Yes he has his favourite subjects, but these marks ARE meaningful. I kind of wish the EP could see them. I think they’re ruddy glorious!

Obviously when he went back to school I needed a bit of my own space back and yes I did take them all down. But never fear, I painstakingly transferred them to his room. The fish are swimming up the stairs and the engines hiding in an alcove. And he loves them.

The aquarium is now swimming up the stairs to his room!

And for that I’d have all the blu-tac marks on my walls in the world 🙂