The choice is mine, apparently…

Blackboardwithchalktray

I went to look at a primary school yesterday. The first one I’ve been in, since I was a pupil of one! Oscar’s needs, moving forward are obviously going to be a bit different from your standard pupil (not that I actually believe there is such thing!). But either way, I need to look at school options and I need to start doing it now (or depending on who you speak to I should have been doing it ‘ages‘ ago). Anyway, in order to abate some of the panic that was rising, I made an appointment to go and see a school. Just to have a look. Just to start the process.

You see when I was a child you went to the nearest school. You didn’t have a choice. In fact I lived in a village and we really didn’t have a choice. You went to Balsall Primary or you went private, but that meant serious travelling. And no one really questioned that. The school was good. Hell I thought it was great, but the decision to go there was not really a decision at all. It just was. However today, even in a small town like Haslemere, there is a serious amount of choice, of both state and private schools. Add to that the possibility of specialist provision and I suddenly find myself on the end of what feels like an enormous decision. I know all parents today have more choice in primary schools than, for example, my parents did for me but the process of viewing and deliberating and worrying seems to come down to either what you can afford (if you plan to go private) or what you’re offered (if you’re not). Or am I over simplyfying? At the end of the day you can lust after a state school all you like, but if they don’t offer it to you, even after you appeal, you don’t get it. Your choice is taken into consideration, but really that’s all it is. A consideration.

When you have a child with Autism, the system is different. And I mean very different. We’ll park the weight of responsibility I feel to get this decision “right” for a minute and talk about the process. We have just started down the road towards possibly getting Oscar an EHCP or an Educational Health Care Plan, or what used to be called a Statement. This process in itself is mind boggling complicated and takes months and months of preparation, including assessments by Educational Psychologists and the involvement of many other agencies. The back and forth and back and forth again (and if the stories are to be believed, again and again…) should, if all goes well, result in a legally binding document that means as a parent I can send Oscar to ANY school I believe is best for him. It also means that school has to provide the support he is legally entitled to. I’ll have all sorts of advice, from various assessments and agencies, to listen to and the professionals tell you it’s important you heed the advice. But then experienced Autism parents tell you that, really no one knows your child like you do, so trust your instinct when it comes to choosing the school, mainstream or specialist. Panic rising again!

Anyway, back to the school I looked at. It was a mainstream school, out of my catchment area, but one that’s given me huge amounts of hope. Its also made me want to look at other mainstream schools to see if they are all this attuned to SEN needs or if this really is a stand out school. The head also gave me some really useful advice about dealing with the ‘county’ and what I should be doing right now in order to get his ducks in a row for next year. She didn’t sugar coat how difficult the next year might be in terms of bureaucracy, which I was actually incredibly grateful for.

So today, as per her encouragement, I made a raft of chasing calls and I kept a log of who I rang and what was said. I was dismayed to hear that he STILL hasn’t been assigned a speech and language therapist, despite being on the list for over a year and a promise six weeks ago that sessions would start in July, but not surprised. I had a good conversation with his Early Years Advisor and found out that his preschool notification has definitely been issued. That ball is well and truly rolling.

So I’m feeling slightly more focussed now. I need to make appointments to go a see other schools, including some specialist schools. At least we can’t afford private, so that narrows the field a tiny bit. Every cloud! Once I’ve looked around some more schools, I’m hoping it will mean I can listen to all the advice and trust my instinct. The panic has abated.

For now.

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

Time for (Pre)School

When the girls in my NCT group started to go back to work at the end of their maternity leave, our meet ups were suddenly aflame with the talk of daycare. Who was going where? The benefits of one over another? It got, dare I say, a tad competitive and it was the topic of conversation for weeks. God, it was boring. For me. For no other reason that I couldn’t join in. I wasn’t going back to work. I was one of the “lucky ones” apparently. Not that it felt like it at the time. It wasn’t my first plan to give up work after having my son and it left me feeling thoroughly isolated. For a couple of weeks, then I got over myself!

However, the experience left it’s mark. Despite shocked mothers telling me I needed to get Oscar’s name down for preschool immediately (but what I felt was years in advance) I point blank refused. I’d been given the opportunity not to have to worry about ‘all that’ and I resented now being told I had to. I was such a fool. I had no idea how much he’d need preschool when the time came. Or how much I would.

Eventually I capitulated and began to think about where he might go. There are so many nurseries/preschools in and around Haslemere, we really are spoilt for choice. As he was about 20 months old at the time and wouldn’t be able to start until at least the term after he turned 2 and a half (January 2015) I thought we had bags of time. I was wrong. The wide eyed mothers who’d looked at me in shock had been right. Others did put their children down for preschool during (or even before!) their earliest days. Meaning I was somewhat late to the party with my near two year old and it was something of a kick in the teeth to discover that the school we’d chosen didn’t have any places available until September 2015! So my first tip for finding a preschool, is not to be complacent about getting your child’s name down, particularly if you have somewhere in mind.

Despite the long wait, we went ahead and put his name down. It was suggested we could have him go elsewhere until his place became available. It was a valid suggestion, just not one we felt would work for us. As it happened, several families ‘ahead’ of us on the list, declined their places meaning he was able to start in January 2015. So my second tip is don’t be put off by long waiting lists.

So how do you chose the preschool thats right for you and your child? Everyone’s criteria is different, and that’s good. What was important for us might not be for you and vice versa. Thats why I loved having such a large choice locally. For me, the most important criteria was location. Unfortunately I do not have the luxury of being a driver. I could fall in love with a nursery, but if I simply couldn’t get there, what would be the point? That narrowed the field fairly dramatically.

After location, the school’s ethos really had to be one we agreed with. Everyone assumed Oscar would go to our geographically closest nursery, which happened to be a church run one. We were adamant that as atheists this would be unfair to both Oscar (to be taught one thing at school and another at home) and to another child who might miss out on a place we’d only half heartedly taken. So, close as it was, and lovely as it is, that one was off the list.

So once the short list was drawn up, the best thing I did was visit them. I personally feel there is little of value to be learnt from online research where preschools are concerned. I would highly recommend leaving the ofsted reports and reviews at home and getting yourself into the place you’re interested in. Don’t get me wrong, having a gander online is useful. I wouldn’t have found ours without it, but in my opinion nothing can replace the experience of visiting the school itself. I wanted to be able to see where and how my son would spend his time and (let’s not beat about the bush) our money. I tried looking at preschools with children in and without and would highly recommend visiting when other students are present, if at all possible. It’s hard to see the dynamic of an empty classroom and for me this was really important.

As it turned out the preschool I fell in love with and knew I wanted him to go to as soon as I walked through the door, was the one I felt most calm in. It wasn’t the newest or the most snazzy but I just knew it was ‘the one’. Kind of like your wedding dress, I guess. You may want to make your judgement based on more than just a gut instinct and that’s no bad thing. But for me, I just knew.

He’s been going there for five months now and I’ve yet to question that gut instinct. The staff have been as proactive and supportive as I could have hoped for and Oscar has already shown huge improvement in language, communication and socialisation. But mostly he’s happy to go. And Dylan’s Ice Cream are happy for the business they get out of me every Monday morning when I drop Oscar off and head there to drink coffee and use the excellent free WiFi to write my posts.

Yes, when the time came, I really did need preschool, as much as he did.

10628256_10153720140155616_4338205299795966428_n

 

A truncated version of this article first appeared in the January 2015 Haslemere and Midhurst NCT Magazine.

A Cornish Mum

The One and Only…

A few weeks ago, my two year old and I were travelling home from Haslemere on the bus. He was fast asleep in the buggy, as angelic as they come. An older lady, sat opposite us, struck up a conversation of usual bus chit chat. She asked if I had any other children, to which I answered that I did not. Her next question was not unusual, and it’s one I’m getting used to variations of. “So when are you having more then?” I replied, truthfully, that I’m not. You’d have thought I’d told her I was going home to eat Oscar for dinner! I was then subjected to a litany of why I should have more children and how many children she had. This woman didn’t know me. Didn’t know my situation, my background, the reasons for my choice and yet felt perfectly justified in passing an open and very loud judgement on me. I smiled, pretended to listen and was grateful when my stop came into view.

The incident got me thinking, and not for the first time, why this unsupportive attitude exists towards women who only have one child. I should emphasise that I’m not talking about women who’ve had the choice taken away from them. The women who would have liked, more than anything, to have more than one (although without digging deeper, how did the woman on the bus know this wasn’t my situation?). I am in fact talking about women, like myself, who for a myriad of reasons, have chosen to stop at one.

I understand that everyone has a different definition of ‘family’ and quite rightly so. How you choose to form a family is a completely personal decision and one we all take in our lives. For us, one child was enough (hell, no children was enough) to consider ourselves a family. What I don’t understand are parents, of all generations, who consider those with fewer children than they deem ‘enough’, NOT to be a family. Out loud. To my face. Be they thoughtless, throw away comments (“Oh they know I want a ‘family’, not just one child”) or considered arguments, being told my family is not ‘proper’ because of the number of children I choose to have hurts. It’s also unbelievably rude! I would never say to someone who has chosen to have multiple children that I think their decision was wrong, that having to divide their resources and attention is ‘cruel’ and ‘selfish’. Yet it’s somehow acceptable for people to say those same things to me when they learn we only want, only ever wanted, one.

I did consider whether it was a generational thing. Our parents and grandparents grew up in a time when having large families was much more the norm. Did these women grow up in a time when having one child was somehow seen as wrong, shameful, against the norm? I do feel like I’ve seen this attitude from older women time and again. But the more time I spend with mothers of my own age, the more I see it’s definitely not just a generational issue. And that saddens me greatly.

I am by nature an honest kind of a gal. When people ask me I’ve, so far, only ever told them the truth; that having one child was, and is, mine and my husband’s decision. I don’t ever want to be forced into the situation where I feel I have to lie about it. A friend of a friend has spent so long fending off unsupportive and, to be honest, downright hurtful comments when explaining her decision not to have more than one child, that when people ask now she finds it easier to shrug, sigh and say “it would have been nice but…….”. It absolutely breaks my heart that she feels the need to lie, but I absolutely understand why she does it.

So the next time you get chatting to a mother about her children, I would urge you to consider what you say. If you want to ask about future children maybe ask “Would you like any more?” rather than asking when more are planned. And be satisfied with the answer. Unless you know that woman incredibly well it’s unlikely you’ll know all the reasons that have lead to that decision. And why should you? I don’t want to have to go through my entire decision making process with complete strangers, despite sometimes feeling obliged to.

I guess it boils down to mutual respect. I support your decision to have as many children as you want to. And I like to think you can support my decision to have just the one.

IMG_6267

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2014 edition of the Haslemere & Midhurst NCT Magazine. It has been slightly modified here.

Mama and More
Modern Dad Pages

Slimming World Update – Week 58

Hi guys

I’m so sorry this update is late. I had a bit of a crazy day today. If you follow my blog, you might recall my toddler son has delayed speech. Anyway, as a precaution we took him today to get his hearing tested. Man that was stressful! The first part of the test he did brilliantly well, in fact I was astounded at how quickly he picked up what they wanted him to do. It was the second part, where they had to place a probe in his ear to check for signs of blockages and glue ear that he really really hated. It was worse than getting his hair cut! Anyway luckily he passed all tests with flying colours. He can hear just fine, all frequencies and all volumes. He still has delayed speech and there may be a hundred and one reasons for that, but at least we know lack of hearing is not one of them.

So anyway on to last night’s weigh in. Do you know I had a really funny (as in peculiar, not haha) day yesterday. I had some really interesting conversations with a friend, which left me incredibly pensive, with lots to think about and not in the mood for group at all. I went along anyway, weighed in and found I’d lost 0.5lb (it’s a loss I guess), taking me back up to 6 Stone lost. I sat down to stay, but was hit with an overwhelming urge to leave. So I did. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by, well I don’t know really, everything? And I walked over the Co-Op, hell bent on acquiring my drug of choice – sugar, in the form of cookies. I walked straight in, picked up the cookies and slowly walked back towards the checkout. I then thought I’d just have a wander round, all the time planning how I was going to eat the cookies and how they were going to taste. But the more I walked round, the more the overwhelmed feeling subsided. I spent 15 minutes just wandering round, before I decided to leave the cookies and go home. I left the Co-op empty handed and walked back up to the crossing. And it was then I realised I had a choice. I could carry on home and feel defeated or cross over, back to group, and chose to not feel beaten. I arrived back in group, to people pleased to see me. I’m so glad I made the choice I did.

And I guess that’s what this journey, heck what life, comes down to. We have choices to make every day. Some are small and seemingly insignificant, others mahoosive and life changing, but we all have choice. Even if it’s between a rock and a hard place, it’s a choice and it’s ours to take. And I think last night also showed me the benefit of time. Taking that tiny bit of time to allow impulses to be questioned. I could happily have shoved all five cookies down my neck at minute 0, but by minute 15 I was back in control. Taking time and listening to your instinct and not your impulse are definitely my recommendations for the week – give them a try 😉

Anyway – deep and heavy stuff over! I’ll finish on a positive note – yup I’ve been spending again! Another totally positive purchase. One of my goals for this coming year was a to get a new coat, as my old ones were both old and MASSIVE on me now. I had already decided that as I don’t go into work I didn’t need a ‘smart’ coat any more so was looking for something more jackety. But not too boring and nothing shapeless! I have a waist now for goodness sake! I saw a picture of a biker/moto jacket on Twitter a few weeks ago and my heart was sold. I ummed and ahhed over whether to go for it. I could only afford pleather, would it look rubbish, would I look to mutton dressed as lamb, was it a good use of money, blah, blah, blah. And after all that had quietened I just went with my heart! And I’m so glad I did! It’s this one from Next and a size 18 (to allow for jumper room in the colder months) making it 3 sizes smaller than my old black wool coat and 4 sizes smaller than this grey one.

Size 26 jacket from Evans January 2013

Size 26 jacket from Evans January 2013

It’s so different to anything I’ve ever owned and I just adore it. Thank you to everyone who has given me compliments on it. I’ll get you a full size photo soon – promise 😉

Size 18 Biker Jacket from Next Aug 2014

Size 18 Biker Jacket from Next Aug 2014

670-154-G92s2

Black Quilted PU Biker Jacket – Next

Have a great week, taking time and recognising the choices you have.

xxxx

Slimming World Update – Week 39

Hello!

How’s your week been? Mine could have been better but hey it could have been worse and I’m getting a bit sick of looking at the lows every week, when there’s also highs to talk about! I’ve really struggled to find the motivation to stay focussed this week, but on the other hand I’ve eaten some great ‘on plan’ meals and hung out with some top friends. So yeah the snacking’s been a bitch this week, but I’ve started this year’s tan off. This week could have practically been a Slimming World write off but I’ve helped out friends and discovered new local parks. I got told the gall stones I have really mean my gall bladder needs removing, but I’ve also watched my son play pee-po with a friend’s baby completely unprompted. Sometimes I think it’s about the setting of your emotional compass more than anything – which way do you want to view things? You have to make a choice.

And this week I choose to see the good.

I wasn’t hopefully for weigh in this Thursday – seriously. In fact I actually prep’d my entire speech as to why I’d had a gain – even started to plan this weeks post in my head. But I lost 0.5lb. Weird huh? That makes a total loss of 5 stone 5lb (75lb).

I was so surprised I barely knew what to say when it came to me in group. So I was asked how I felt now my consultant at Liphook had left. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this here before, partly because when it happened a few weeks ago, we all discussed how it was the members who make a group and not the consultant. And I was down with that concept. But the dynamic has changed, regardless of what anyone said. People have stopped staying to group, some faces have left altogether, new ones have joined. The consultant we have now is temporary cover. Regardless of what Zoe said before she left, it has made a difference. And it was nice to get that off my chest. I know that ultimately my motivation lies with me and I can’t use things like this as an excuse, but it was good to discuss it and I appreciated the space in which to do it. Cheers Sara for that. What this means for my choice of group moving forward I’m not sure. It’s really given me something to think about though.

Anyway!!!! Staying with the theme of choosing to see the good I have had several hints as to how well I’m doing in the last week. I’ve explained before that the numbers on the scales are invaluable, but its the physical signs that make the real difference to me.

1) I’ve had to tighten my Birkenstocks.

I love my Birkenstocks and spend my summers in them every year. Last years pair are starting to look a bit battered and I could really do with a new pair, but I realised this week that they’re too wide now. I’ve had to take them down a notch. Did you know you could loose weight off your feet?

My battered, beloved, Birkenstocks

My battered, beloved, Birkenstocks

2) I’ve had to have my glasses adjusted.

I had to get my eyes tested last Saturday – it’d been two years and actually my prescription has really changed, for the first time in years. Anyway while I was there I asked if they could take a look at my glasses as they were constantly slipping forward and sitting in the bridge of my nose – so much so that I was getting a line! They did and said they were far too big. They readjusted the arms and also had to put new, bigger pads (is that what they’re called) in the nose rest. Did you know you could loose weight from your nose?

glasses

Did you know you could lose weight from your nose?

3) I’ve had to get more bras

Despite forking out a fortune in November for some beautiful undergarments with the structural capacity to hold up the Empire State Building, I have found myself feeling less and less comfortable in the past few weeks so decided to get refitted. I chose Bravissimo this time, for two reasons. 1) they are a hide sight cheaper that the wonderful but cripplingly expensive Rigby & Peller and 2) I’ve never found bras to fits my back size in there before and wondered if I might now. I did – up to two back sizes down from the Rigby bras! Same cup size though – these ladies would appear to be with me for the duration!

The lovely Guildford branch of Bravissimo

The lovely Guildford branch of Bravissimo

4) I bought a new pair of jeans

I love my relaxed skinny Next jeans. In fact they are probably one of the things I am most proud of about this journey. And last week I bought the next size down – a size 16. They are snug don’t get me wrong, but they fit (Ben agrees no embarrassing “hoofage” to be seen). I continue to be especially proud of them and I actually don’t know when I last owned size 16 jeans – seriously.

Size 16. Honestly a 16! Eek!

Size 16. Honestly a 16! Eek!

In a week, 0.5lb can seem like such a small number. Had I had a better week and lost 0.5lb I might have been annoyed or downhearted. As it happens I was thrilled, but I have been there before. The numbers in isolation can seem so important yet can sometimes give us so little satisfaction. So I try to focus on other things, tangible things to keep me going. Moving the belt (or a sandal 😉 ) up a notch, catching a glimpse of myself and having to do a double take, noticing my collar bone. It’s not an easy journey, but these are the things that will get me through.

So the plan for the coming week? This is not the easiest of weeks. Easter, well it’s like Christmas isn’t it? So yes we’ve done what we did at Christmas and bought one beautiful egg between us. I can’t wait for Sunday! But I’ve really thought about it. I’ve chosen to do this and I intend to enjoy it. I know I said I wanted to lose 7lb by the beginning of May, but at the moment if I can keep going at all, then I’m happy. This week I’m going for a maintain. That’s my choice and I’m happy with that.

Have an amazing Easter people.

xxx