How do I say Thank You enough?

OK, so I know some of you have finished term already and most of you are probably more organised than I could ever hope to be, but I’ve spent the last few days agonising over what to get Oscar’s preschool Keyworker and Teaching Assistant as end of term thank you presents. These women have been working with him since he started in January 2015. They have bared the brunt of his frustration, dealing daily with his temper when he can’t express himself. And yet they are also the ones who have worked with him every session to ensure he can verbalise his wants and needs and to help him understand the very basis of communication, the back and forth, the my turn, your turn, without which he wouldn’t be able to manage communication at all, in any form. Yeah these ladiesΒ are owed big time.

But really, nothing is going to be enough. Nothing is going to express how thankful we are for their patience with him, or how grateful for the time they have taken with all the extra paperwork that comes with a child on the spectrum (and believe me it’s loads!). I’ve always been cautious of buying teacher gifts. I am loathe to buy any kind of trinket, anything without a practical purpose, because (and correct me if I’m wrong teachers), if everyone in the class did that you’d be left with 30 trinkets to find a home for. Every year! So I made a decision at the end of summer term last year, to always buy something consumable. The appreciation can be felt, but won’t take up room in their homes. Well that’s my theory anyway.

So back to this year. I don’t really know them well enough to buy them alcohol (also is alcohol appropriate for a preschool teacher?). Previously we’ve gone for posh coffee (for one) and posh tea (for the other) or vouchers for a coffee shop so they don’t have to make their own. But this year we wanted something that made a little bit more of a statement.

Which is why we we’ve gone for a box of Harry Specters chocolates each. A box of chocs might sound boring and unambitious, but bare with me. Harry Specters is a very special chocolate company, based in Cambridge. Their mission states:

At Harry Specter’s young people with autism are involved in all aspects of creating our award winning chocolates from production to packaging, sales, photography, graphic design and web design. In our safe and supportive environment they are free to use their strengths to grow, develop and build confidence.

In a country where 85% of adults with Autism are unemployed, Harry Specters are looking beyond the myths and media portrayal of Autism and have built an entire business model around utilising the strengths of an individual. As it should be! That they are also winning award after award for their chocolates just shows how this model is working. It just took one woman to look at things a little differently, to have faith in these people (and yes she is an Autismmama too)!

Box of chocolates

These are the chocolates we have chosen. Image courtesy of Harry Specters.

Don’t they look beautiful? Yes I want them to take them home and eat them, preferably away from any children and perhaps with a glass of something chilled. But while they do I want them to know how important they were in Oscar’s, and our, lives and how very grateful we are for their energy and how much O will miss them . Even if he doesn’t say it! Yes he’s ready to move on in his academic career, but he wouldn’t be had it not been for them.

It just takes one person to believe.

Toddler boy in buggy

Ready for his first day – Jan 2015

Maybe I’ll just put this post in with the chocolates. I’m not sure I’ll be able to convey all this in person. Well not without crying anyway!

 

 

The gift of friendship

It’s not often a friend comes along that just gets it. Be that you, or the situation or whatever, they’re just right on the money every time. And you know they’d have your back, whatever the cost. Which is nice.

It’s my birthday this Saturday. I’m turning the grand old age of 37 (37! boohoo πŸ™ ), but to be honest I feel like the past few months have aged me so much more. But it doesn’t matter how hard or weird or confusing or miserable my life has been this year, Bethany has been there. And it means a lot.

So anyway, today, as an early birthday treat and while the children were in preschool, she took me for pancakes and coffee. And she bought along my gift. We’re off for a night of drinkin’ and bitchin’ on Saturday night, so she wanted me to have my present today, so I didn’t have to carry it round with me on Saturday.

First off it was beautifully wrapped. And who doesn’t love gorgeous wrapping?

image

Then I opened it. And burst into tears.

image

 

In fact I bawled. In public. If you’re not sure why, you should read this post

image

image

Then I turned it over. And bawled some more.

image

But she didn’t get embarrassed at my outburst. She cried with me.

Cos she’s got my back.

She’s going back to work full time in January and I’m going to miss her so much. It can’t help but change things. But I couldn’t be more proud of her for taking this massive step.

Because she inspires me too.

image

Thank you for my beautiful present Bethany. See you on Saturday! And I promise not to cry again.

Much πŸ˜‰

image

 

 

 

Merry New Year

Happy New Year if I haven’t said it already. Yes, that just about sums it up. I want you all to have a year that is both new and happy πŸ™‚ and just like last year, that’s what I hope for myself too.

Christmas has come and gone and was as good as we hoped. The week leading up to Christmas saw both Ben and I (ok mainly Ben) up to our eyes in flat pack instructions and Allen keys. We bought Oscar a KidKraft Kitchen as his main present, which took two full evenings to assemble and my mum gave him a book case that took at least an hour of Christmas Eve. But it was all appreciated by the little guy, who loves his kitchen (he’s taken to microwaving Thomas the Tank Engine poor old chap) and being able to access his books easily.

Flat pack to the max! But how gorgeous is this KidKraft play kitchen? It's nicer than my actual kitchen!

Flat pack to the max! But how gorgeous is this KidKraft play kitchen? It’s nicer than my actual kitchen!

As we weren't visiting family over Christmas, they'd all managed to get the boys presents to us before hand. What a very lucky young man!

As we weren’t visiting family over Christmas, they’d all managed to get the boys presents to us before hand. What a very lucky young man!

As, we did the year before, we went out for lunch on Christmas Day. Unfortunately it wasn’t the roaring success it was in 2013, which was a real shame. Our booking was for 2.30pm but we didn’t get our main course until 5pm! Thankfully Oscar was an absolute trooper and sat, in a high chair, for nigh on three hours without any real complaining. I was so proud of him. However it has made me think next Christmas I want more control over said dinner, as I can’t guarantee he’d cope so well every year. Short of moving house or building a giant extension in the next twelve months, the issue of not having anywhere to sit to eat at home will remain, so a bit more lateral thinking may be required. Hmmm, watch this space!

Clever mama keeping some gifts back to entertain the boy at the table. If I do say so myself ;)

Clever mama keeping some gifts back to entertain the boy at the table. If I do say so myself πŸ˜‰

Boxing Day was really the triumph of the holiday. We literally did nothing and it was superb. We stayed in our Christmas jammas all day, watched TV, played with our toys (if you follow me on social media you may have heard I got an iPad for Christmas. Oh, you didn’t hear? Well I GOT AN IPAD FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!) and ate enough cheese and chocolate to put us into a lactose induced coma. It was bliss.

Pyjamas and playing. Superb.

Pyjamas and playing. Superb.

All in all it was a lovely festive break. Ben was at home for nigh on two weeks, which the boy took full advantage of. Daddy’s such a softie compared to mama and many a time the boy simply took Ben by the hand and dragged him upstairs to play in the bedrooms. We also took advantage of Ben being home more to transition the boy from a cot to a bed. I know at 2 years 9 months we’re pretty late to this particular party, but I wanted to make sure Oscar was really really ready for it and besides he’d never manage to climb out of the cot so why change it πŸ˜‰ . We had to slightly rearrange home room to fit in the new bookcase so took the opportunity to remove the cot bars, just from one side to begin with. We left him in his grobag for the first few nights, but he coped so well we decided to buy him a single duvet (turning it sideways and tucking it right under the mattress) and proper pillow. I still can’t get over how easily he’s taken to it. It didn’t upset him in the slightest and he’s slept brilliantly. What a star!

image

Reading bedtime stories in his big boy bed

New Year was as uneventful as the year before, but I know we weren’t the only ones staying in. That’s what having small children does for you I suppose. I cooked steaks and we drank prosecco at midnight. Gone are the days of me running in to the street at midnight, shouting my drunken head off. At least for now!

So a New Year, what does it hold? I remember being so thoroughly pumped for 2014, more excited than I’ve ever been. 2015 has me feeling more cautious. I can feel this is going to be a year of big changes (I don’t know why I feel this I just do!) I feel a need for things to happen. Does that make sense. Less excited more purposeful. Older? Wiser perhaps. I want to feel I’m doing the best by everyone. I also want to enjoy life, learn and grow. Not much then πŸ˜‰

I hope you had the Christmas you wanted for yourself and your loved ones and 2015 is everything it can and will be.

Cheers!

Cheers!

 

 

My day out at Spirit of Christmas

I love Christmas. And I’m not just talking about the day itself. No I love the run up. Sometimes I think I prefer the run up. Receiving presents isn’t the big thing it once was for me. I guess that comes with age and having a child! No, its the festivities that come with the season that make my heart happy. I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the traditions and excitement of Christmas. You can read that here if you haven’t already. And this year is no different. I’ve already got Christmas tunes on and I’ve been burning my Christmas scented candle for weeks already. Good job it’s a biggun – it wouldn’t last until the end of November if it wasn’t!

One of the things I love about this time of year is shopping. No, I haven’t gone mad. I’m not talking about fighting other parents at the door of Toy R Us for the years ‘must have’ toy. To be honest I do most of my Christmas shopping online these days and have done for years. It usually works really well for me – except in 2010 when my beautiful organic Bronze turkey got snowed in and nearly didn’t make it in time – ooo just thinking about that makes me hold my breath! However, that being said, I love and I mean love a good Christmas Fayre. I love the chance to have a mooch about, discovering independent and often local retailers and although I can’t say hand on heart I shop exclusively local/independent it is something I’m trying to do more off. There’s nothing nicer than spending a morning wandering around to the sounds of Christmas tunes with the wafting scent of cinnamon and if you’re lucky mulled wine! One of my favourite local ones is at Secretts in Milford and the Haslemere Market is great fun (if a little chilly). If you’re nearby I’d urge you them to check both out.

This time last year I saw the advert for the mother of all Christmas Fairs, The Spirit Of Christmas Fair, held at Olympia. I knew back then I wanted to go and that my friend Helen, who’s more bonkers about the festive season than I am, would also love it. Trouble is Hels lives in Plymouth, a long old way from Olympia! So when she suggested she come and visit me this month I bought us tickets as her Christmas present. Which is how we found ourselves, without our children, on the 8.30 train, whizzing towards London.

Helen got a little over excited on the train!

Helen got a little over excited on the train!

The fair was everything we both hoped it would be. The stall by the door had wreaths and decorations made with a heady mixture of orange and cinnamon and cleverly put you in the mood as soon as you walked in. We decided to walk around the edge and then up and down the rows, which we attempted, but there were just so many glittering things to drag the eye sideways! We spent 7 hours there, with a short 15 min break for lunch, but not once did I feel bored or like I’d had enough. It was busy, don’t get me wrong, but not so as it ever felt claustrophobic, which is probably because Olympia is so huge!

IMG_8434

Never felt crowded

IMG_8441

Olympia is huge!

There was everything you could imagine from art to tea towels and firepits to tweed. And candles, so many candles! I had something of a celeb moment when we happened across Richard E Grant manning the stall selling his own fragrance, Jack. He was lovely enough to give us a sample and pose for a photo with me with all the gentlemanly grace you’d expect from him. I have to say I was a little star struck; Withnail and I is one of Ben and my favourite films. I walked away a little shaky and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Helen on the other hand was unmoved, asking who he was again!

IMG_8436

What a gent!

Other than celeb spotting, I was actually looking for a bauble for this year’s tree (something I do each year) and whilst I didn’t find what I was looking for (despite the thousands of baubles I saw) I did get several Christmas decorations.

IMG_8457

These are cookie cutter lights. How gorgeous? I plan to wind them through a garland and then up the banister, as the stairs are in our kitchen.

IMG_8458

This is a sort of cage, it opens out completely and you can fill it with whatever you like. The stall I got it from had one filled with Quality Street and another with sprouts. And what’s more Christmassy than sprouts! I haven’t decided what to fill mine with yet, but I might just fill it with LED lights and hang it over the fire!

The second floor of the fair was devoted to food and this was the bit I was worried about the most. I know it was going to take some will power to avoid all the tasters that I knew would be on offer. And for the most part I did. Who knew there could be so much cheese in one room! I tasted free foods like turkey and smoked salmon and avoided the spirits. Helen got herself some unusual charcoal flavoured cheese, some Black Bomber Cheddar and some beautiful garlic jam. I also bought myself a couple of foodie treats:

IMG_8445

This I couldn’t syn, but I guessed it was better than a wedge of cheese. It sounds odd, but let me tell you if you haven’t tried garlic popcorn you haven’t lived!

I couldn't tell you how excited I was to find a Heck stall at the Fair. I've been looking for these chicken sausahes since our Area Manager told us about them. The lack of gluten based rusk and using low fat chicken means this whole pack is just 1/2 syn. Yes you heard me right. The WHOLE pack is 1/2 a syn. I bought three packs and let me tell you I wish I bought more. They are GORGEOUS!

I couldn’t tell you how excited I was to find a Heck stall at the Fair. I’ve been looking for these chicken sausages for ages. The lack of gluten based rusk and using low fat chicken means this whole pack is just 1/2 syn. Yes, you heard me right. The WHOLE PACK is 1/2 a syn. I bought three packs and let me tell you I wish I bought more. They’re GORGEOUS! EDIT: In Jan 2015 Slimming World revised the syns in these sausages. They are now 1/2 syn EACH

IMG_8459

I got bacon and mackerel from these people. I like a nice bit of smoked fish and whilst mackerel isn’t free (1.5 syn per 100g) it is one of my faves. This was lovely.

One of the best parts of the day was also food based. We managed to get spaces on the free biscuit decorating workshop run by the Biscuiteers. They provided five biscuits and everything we could need to create our own little Christmas masterpieces. It was just so much fun!

IMG_8448

I sat in the row behind Helen, primarily so I could pass her notes and flick balled up bits of paper at her head!

IMG_8446

Beautiful cinnamon biscuits ready to be prettied up

This picture was taken by the Sprit of Christmas team for their FB page. Thats my arm inthe top corner

This picture was taken by the Spirit of Christmas team for their FB page. I’m the one at the top of the table.That’s my arm at the very top of the picture!

My attempt. Yeah one is missing. Well it wouldn't fit in the box and what's a girl to do ;)

My attempt. Yeah one is missing. Well it wouldn’t fit in the box and what’s a girl to do πŸ˜‰

We arrived home laden with our goodies and full of Christmas cheer. The aching thigh muscles didn’t start until the next day πŸ˜‰ I would absolutely go again, particularly if I could go with such a dedicated follower of Christmas as my mate Helen.

Same time next year Helly Welly?

Same time next year Helly Welly?

I was not paid to write this post and I paid for both our tickets with my own hard earned cash. I did get a sneaky £1 off my lights, but I think that was because it was the end of the day and the guy just wanted me to stop talking to him πŸ˜‰

Mama and More

Something Old, Something New….

As the festive season is well underway and the end of the year creeps closer I thought it might be a nice opportunity to update you on a couple of things I’ve covered in the last six months (six months? I’ve been blogging for six months already – where the hell did that time go???)

Anyway, lets crack on.

Back in August I wrote a post about Ben’s grandmother’s clock that had come to live with us. If you missed that one, you can read about how deeply it touched me here.

Since then we have had the piece restored by the wonderful chaps at the Surrey Clock Centre and had it properly installed in our house. We found out something of its history. It was made in Cornwall (Cornish grandfather clocks are something of a rarity apparently) and we even have the makers name. We also found out for certain that it was made in the 18th Century, probably around 1780! That made me gulp a bit. It really is a proper, proper antique. I mean I knew it was but having it confirmed in writing was just such a shock. As I said before, we are just so privileged to have been given guardianship of such a beautiful piece.

The clock in its new home

It now sits on the landing, outside our bedroom. The ticking and chiming have become a part of the sound of our home. We don’t even notice the little squeak, the guys tried and tried to correct, anymore.

tick tock...

tick tock…

Every time we take Oscar past it we stop and say “Hi Clock”. It started as a way to try and introduce them, so he wouldn’t be scared (it’s quite big!) or curious and want to play with it. So far it’s worked and he’s trying desperately hard to say “Clock”.

IMG_4170

A thing of beauty

Bettie is still with us, being cared for down in Cornwall. I still wish I could thank her.

————————————–##########————————————–

Then there was my post about my grandmothers inheritance. You can read about that here. I was left a small amount of money and wanted to buy Oscar something from it as a present from the Great Grandmother he never got to meet.

I had such a job deciding what to get him. Had he been a girl then a piece of jewellery would have been perfect, but a boy? Its just that bit harder to know what to get.

In the end I chose a beautiful copy of the collected works of Winnie the Pooh. Oscar loves the original characters and Ben and I love AA Milne’s writing, so it seemed like a good choice.

IMG_4173

IMG_4174

It’s a proper ‘read to’ copy. When he has enough concerntration to sit and listen to a story I can’t wait to get the book out of it’s box and share the adventures of the inhabitatants of the Hundred Acre Wood.

IMG_4177

And then when he’s old enough to understand I will explain who bought him the book and tell him all about her.

My favourite illustration

My favourite illustration

My hope is the book will become special to Oscar. Hopefully special enough to pass down the line πŸ˜‰ .

I hope you enjoyed this little catch up as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I will hopefully be writing my update tomorrow as I am going to a SW group tonight rather than tomorrow. But for those of you who don’t read my SW updates I thought I’d let you know I wont be writing over the festive season. We have agreed to unplug for a few days and I can’t wait!

So if I wont see you before, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If I will you’ll get yours tomorrow πŸ˜‰

xxxx