A Brilliant Bricks 6th Birthday Party for my Brilliant Boy

Oscar doesn’t do a whole lot at the weekends. Football, Rugby, Swimming, Dance, Performing Arts; the local provision for extra curricular activities just does not work for my autistic son. So when Oscar became old enough to try our local  Haslemere Lego club, Brilliant Bricks, we were cautious. The first time we took him along, we sat in awe, as the children were firstly inspired by the leader, Sarah, and then started to build with gusto. But a really calm gusto! It was magical. And Oscar could join in. He could join in without having to compromise on what he could cope with or stand out because he needed to do things differently to the others. What a treat.

And when we realised Sarah also ran Birthday parties? Well it was a no brainer to book one for Oscar’s 6th birthday. Held in a local village hall, it couldn’t have been any better. It was just like having a Lego Club to ourselves, but with cake and food! And the odd glass of fizz for mama (I always have prosecco for the adults at my children’s parties – why the devil not!)

It really wasn’t too crazy to organise either. The biggest issue I had with the whole party was trying to get RSVPs back, but in my experience that’s often the worst bit about orgainsing any event.

Food

Last year’s party was good, but by far the best idea I had was how to serve the food. What I have found at other people’s parties we’ve attended is that a long line of tables can be intimidating for Oscar (he often ends up sitting on the end) and will only eat from the bowls/plates in front of him. So last year and subsequently this year I put together a picnic bag for each child. These were given out and allowed the children to sit where they felt most comfortable and eat the food in whatever order made most sense to them.

The bags this year had a bag of Wotsits, a Frube yogurt, a snack pack of Oreos and a YoYo Bear Fruit Roller. I was able to put the bags together the bag before and simply hand them out on the day.

Picnics in brown paper bags. The kids loved the autonomy they were given over their food.

I then made sandwiches and handed them out alongside the bags. Oscar insisted he wanted Nutella sandwiches and who am I to argue with the birthday boy? I did convince him to let me do cheese ones as well, just to show willing!!

While the rest of the food was in no way themed (and rather was what I knew Oscar would eat!) I decided on a nod toward the Lego theme with the sandwiches. I borrowed a Lego Head Cutter, bought an Edible Marker. And the result was even better than I hoped!

How cute are these Lego Head sandwiches?

The kids seemed to really like fun sandwiches. Although to be fair they seemed more excited to see I’d used Nutella (sigh!).

Favours

I really don’t like party bags. Don’t get me wrong it’s lovely that people want to give children a little parting gift, but too often (for me) they just contain landfill fodder. Or worse they contain things that should be binned, but Oscar insists on keeping them! So I’ve never done the traditional kind of bag. And this year was no different. In keeping with the Lego theme I decided to make a bag of Lego chocolates for each child.

They were the easiest thing to make. Just get some Lego Brick and Figure silicon moulds (I borrowed mine). Melt some white chocolate, slowly mix in some food colouring (I use the extra strong Wilton Gel Colours), pour it in the moulds, tap to get rid of any air bubbles, scrape the top to remove excess chocolate and pop them in the fridge. Leave them for an hour and Bob’s your Uncle!

The kids loved them! I got a message after the party telling me one little boy loved them so much he wanted to display them on his shelf rather than eat them! How cute is that?!

Cake

So many people asked if I was planning to make Oscar’s cake and I happily told them absolutely not. I can make a decent enough cake, but decorating it is not my forte, especially when Oscar has such specific ideas of what he wants. This year he asked for a cake in the image of the Thomas and Friends Chinese Dragon we got him for Christmas. So I happily handed over the toy to my friend and Haslemere cake maker extraordinaire Sarah of Sarah Bakes Cakes. And boy did she do us proud!!

Just look at that detail! I adore this cake!

Oscar was absolutely thrilled with his cake. When Sarah bought it round the day before the party, he actually squealed in delight and ran up and down the stairs he was so excited. It was the cutest thing! He also loved tucking into the delicious chocolate cake and probably ended up eating up more of the cake than any one!

The Party

Watching thirteen (we invited eighteen but not all could make it and some didn’t show up on the day) 6 year olds quietly and calmly build Lego creations completely from their imagination was a pure joy. The concentration, from those not always known for their ability to concentrate, was quite amazing. Thanks to the support of Sarah and Brilliant Bricks, I was much more confident to let the parents leave their children with me, but those adults who stayed or came to help couldn’t get over how calm the party was. The children moved from box to box sharing the tonnes of bricks Sarah had bought with her, but not being expected to collaborate. This allowed everyone to join in no matter what their capacity or their personality.

Working together and apart

Such concentration!

Sarah bought her ramps with her for the children to race their creations down!

The party was so much more of what Oscar needed than last year and I like to think that reflects how much more I understand him and how to work to get the best out of him. This happy face and amazing Slimer (who is holding a “pizza in one hand and a chicken with a bone in the other”) will, I hope, testify to that.

I don’t think I’ll be holding a party for him next year. I’ve got a feeling he’ll be over them by then and prefer to do something more based around his interests, without having to worry about other children. So this might be the last party I ever host for my little guy.

And if it is, what a high to end on.

 

 

 

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the party or supported me throwing it, in one way or another!

I have included my supplier links as a personal recommendation only. I paid for everything myself. 

End of an era

So here I am. Sat in my favourite Haslemere haunt. My plans for today much the same as the plans I’ve had most days since Oscar started preschool 19 months ago. Drink coffee, write words, catch up on social media. You know, stuff.

But today is different. In as much as it is the same, it really is different. Today is Oscar’s last day at preschool. They are having a big party in a local park tomorrow, but as far as walking him to the scout hut, dropping him off, and walking away, to any one of the local coffee hangouts, but more likely than not Dylan’s, alone, well this is the end.

I’ve cried this morning. I honestly surprised myself. I didn’t think I’d feel just so, well, sad. But I do. Wrapping the chocolates and writing the cards for his Keyworker and TA was hard. I guess that’s what happens when you leave these things to the last minute (typical me)!

Wrapped gifts

He felt it. Of course he did, he always does. He picks up emotions in the air like the smell of freshly baked bread. And it affects him. He cried and told me he was “sad”. That he was “crying from my eyes”. But he couldn’t tell me why. He doesn’t understand that he won’t be going back to his nursery again, and I don’t really know how to make him understand. I’ve all sorts of exprience of preparing him for things that are coming up, that are yet to be, but no idea how to explain the things that won’t be anymore.

The walk to preschool was harder than usual, but he ran in just as happy as ever. I feel like I should give him that. One last day when it’s all ok, all the same. Maybe I’ll regret not trying to prep him better somewhere down the line, but at the moment, for who he is now and what I know about him, this is the right way.

Myself, I thought I was prepared. I’ve been counting down the weeks, for weeks. And now here I am. And all that prep has made no difference. Because as much as it’s his last day, it’s kind of my last day too. The end of an era, the end of my routine. I will never be a preschool mum again. And while that is my choice, and a choice I still stand by, I didn’t realise it how sad it would make me feel. How lonely.

But I owe it to him to focus on the positive. So happy last day at preschool my beautiful boy. Let’s concentrate on the fun we’ll have this summer and the awesome school you’re starting in September. And mummy promises not to let you see her cry.

Much. Thank you card from Gin Bunny Prints

Haslemere Fringe Festival and why we’ve never been before

It’s (allegedly) Summer. ‘Tis the season for fetes, fairs and festivals. What fun! Or rather, what fun? If you have a child who is all to easily over stimulated then the summer events season can be hard work. We’ve had mixed results with summer fairs . When Oscar was younger they always resulted in at least one of us leaving in screaming tears. And over the years that’s made us wary. But I’ve said it before, it’s not up to us to just assume what Oscar can and can’t handle, what he will or won’t enjoy. Regardless of his Autism, he changes all the time and if we don’t keep giving him the opportunity to try things, how will he, or we, ever know what works and what doesn’t? It’s for him to tell us if he likes something or not. Which is why we decided to go to our local summer fair, the Haslemere Fringe Festival (otherwise known as Lion Fest) today.

We’ve never gone along before, for various reasons. Firstly, it’s on a local green which is flanked on two sides by busy roads, which scares the bejaysus out of me. Secondly it’s just so busy, what if he can’t cope? Yep, I think quite a lot of not attending has been to do with my fear of the unknown and, if I’m honest, of my inability to control the situation. And that’s not fair on Oscar. We walked past the festival being set up several times this week and Oscar was most interested. He told me it was ‘a party’ and that he could see ‘ladders’. He also told me he wanted to ‘go to the party’. This year they had fenced the entire operation in, meaning I only needed to fear the unknown element 😉 . And that’s my problem and not his. So today we went.

We nearly had a false start, as after walking down there and him getting very excited to ‘pay the lady’, we realised we didn’t have enough cash. We waited while Ben ran off to get some and while waiting is not Oscar’s strong suit, and he did get a little upset, it did also give him a chance to check the site out from the other side of the fence. By the time we’d paid to get in he knew exactly which ride he wanted to go on first. And so he did.

image

He loved this ride and went on it twice. Once in a helicopter and once in a plane.

He then decided the Big Wheel was next, however I could see he needed the loo. He’s getting quite good at giving me signals when he needs to go and today he also announced he needed the ‘bathroom’. As we’d gone sans nappy today, we ran (and he held on) until we reached the other end of the fayre, where he had his first experience of a urinal (with a little help from daddy!). What a guy! When he was done he headed straight back to the Big Wheel, which he announced he wanted to go on with Daddy. And when your child asks like that, you pack away your fear of heights and you do it. Thank you Ben!

Oscar looked so happy the whole time he was on the Big Wheel.

Wave to Mummy! Oscar looked so happy the whole time he was on the Big Wheel.

Then as soon as that was done he headed off to the inflatable slide and then the bouncy castle. What larks!

He he comes!

He he comes! Happy Boy

But my favourite moment of the afternoon has to be when he announced he wanted to go to ‘the farm’. I wasn’t sure when he meant, until I remembered we’d seen a music tent near the loos, with bales of hay for seating. He happily led the way and we were confident enough to let him run ahead without needing to be holding on to him. We sat in the tent and watched the young girl singing. Oscar also told us she was ‘playing a guitar’. Which she was.

I guarantee this is cutest picture you'll see today

I guarantee this is cutest picture you’ll see today

Mummy and daddy enjoying the music too!

Mummy and daddy enjoying the music too!

One of the hardest parts was leaving. We softened the blow by going home in stages, first to the park where he had a great time sliding, swinging and playing on the roundabout with a new friend. Then on the way home we stopped into Dylan’s Ice Cream. I’d won a competition to design a flavour for the festival and my prize was free ice cream. Thank you very much! My winning entry was Lion Bar (for Lion Fest geddit!) flavour, and I tell you it has ruined me for other flavours. Delicious!

Chocolate, Caramel, Wafers and Rice Crispies. Oh. My. Gawd!

Chocolate, Caramel, Wafers and Rice Crispies. Oh. My. Gawd!

Going to Haslemere Fringe Festival was a bit of a spur of the moment decision, not something I do often with Oscar. But today it worked. Yes it was expensive to get in, just to pay for him to go on the few rides and not really enjoy any of the other things on offer such as the live bands or the market stalls. But do you know, he had an unbelievably good time, with waiting and queuing and running but not running off and laughing and big smiles. Oscar won’t necessarily smile when he’s having fun, but I can tell you now, he doesn’t smile if he’s not. And today he did. Loads.

 

Oscar’s Haircut at Little Locks

I try and find the joy in the everyday, well, every day, because that’s what make up life; the little things. But if you follow me at all on social media you will know that this week we’ve had what might be a little thing to many, but to us is a massive cause for celebration.

Oscar’s autism hasn’t shown us too many sensory issues as yet, at least not those you may recognise as typically autistic. He’s OK with sound and pretty cool with new places and crowds. If anything he’s under (hypo) sensitive to things like pain and he looooves to run. But one thing he can’t stand is very typically autistic. He hates, and I mean hates, having his hair cut. We’ve found a way to get him to have his hair brushed (just and only on a good day) and his nails clipped, but despite trying any number of things we just couldn’t get him to have his hair cut.

Oscar hates having his hair cut

Oscar hates having his hair cut

Then at the end of last year a new salon opened in Haslemere. A specialist children hair salon, Little Locks was set up by Hannah Clements and her family. Hannah has many years experience in salon management and her niece, the lovely Georgia, is a fully qualified stylist, specialising in children’s hair. It seemed like a no brainer that the two should come together and open the kind of salon Haslemere was clearly lacking. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out Little Locks was opening just down the road from us. We’ve tried various salons over the years and, except his first two haircuts, they’ve all been pretty disastrous. We’ve tried having stylists come to the house, including friends he was familiar with, and even I had a go at loping bits off here and there but it made no difference. I got the feeling that if we could get him slowly used to the notion of a haircut, this might help. So when Little Locks opened I decided to discuss my idea with Hannah.

The Little Locks team couldn’t have been more understanding. Hannah’s son is also autistic, so she knew the angle I was coming from straight away. She told me one of the reasons they had decided to open a children’s salon was because as a family, they were acutely aware of the need for sensitivity around something as potentially anxiety inducing as a child’s hair cut. The salon on Weyhill is a large airy space, with a choice of cool chairs (Bat Car anyone?), TVs at every station, with a huge choice of DVDs to watch and a play area. But the thing that impressed me the first time I went in was how open and calm the environment was. One of my big dislikes about other childrens salons I’d been in was the amount of stuff everywhere. Hair products, toys and books to buy. Pester power purchases for some parents, but needless stimulation for my guy. I’ve also been put off other salons by how geared towards girls the decor has been. Little Locks has avoided this, with beautifully gender neutral decoration, and toys (to play with not buy) and cool touches designed to appeal to both male and female customers.

So at Hannah’s suggestion we started the process of familiarising Oscar with the salon back in January. Initially we just popped in to play. And he loved it. Then we made an appointment just for him to play with Georgia, all of which he happily did. He still wouldn’t even let her brush his hair though. This carried on regularly for eight weeks. We got to the point that he loved going in there. He would talk about the salon at home, he would even ask to go to ‘Haircut’, but every time we went in, he would refuse to have anyone touch his hair and just wanted to play. Usually with their train set!

Oscar loves the trains at Little Locks

Oscar loves the trains at Little Locks

Despite all the haircut episodes of cartoons we were watching (I particularly recomend Dora and Team UmiZoomi!) and the amount of children he’d seen having their hair done at Little Locks, I started to worry. Had I gone over board with the ‘letting him get used to it’ shtick? Would he ever understand that Little Locks was a place to actually have a haircut, and not just to play?

Things have slowly come to a head over the past few weeks. We are going to Devon for his birthday/Easter holiday this week and his hair was getting so long and so heavy over his eyes that he actually couldn’t see properly. I decided I was just going to have to take the horse by the reigns. Even if I was going to have to pin him down, he had to at least get his fringe cut. It was starting to be dangerous to leave it any longer. So I made him an appointment on Tuesday. Hannah and I found a time when the salon would be as quiet as possible and they booked an extra long time slot for him.

The morning of the appointment I drew him a very basic visual timetable, explaining he was going in the buggy, to Little Locks, that he would have his hair cut ?? and then he could play with their trains ? and go to Dylan’s for ice cream?. He was NOT happy with this plan, but we went over it several times and I calmly explained that while I knew he didn’t like it, that it was going to happen. When it came to leave we went through it again and he screwed up the timetable, but got into the buggy without a fuss. The fact that he did that, I hoped bode well for the rest of it.

We arrived at the salon without incident and he immediately tried to run to the toys. I gently explained that these would come after the hair cut and led him over to the chairs. It became quickly apparent that he wasn’t ready to sit in the car chair alone yet, so we headed to the other end of the salon to the more grown up chairs and he sat on my lap. Georgia set up Ben and Holly (Oscar’s choice) on the DVD and I held on tight as she started on the fringe.

Yes he shouted (a lot) to begin with, and squirmed but nothing like as much as he has done on previous attempts. Last year he struggled so hard I pulled all the muscles in my back trying to hold onto him. This was nothing like that. Yes he didn’t like it. And that’s ok. Once he realised that this really was happening he focused on watching Ben and Holly, laid his head on my chest and stopped wriggling. With just an occasional protestation to ensure we still understood he wasn’t enjoying the situation!

Georgia worked quickly and thoroughly giving him as neater a style as she could manage without needing to get too close to the ears or to use the clippers. One step at a time after all. She was even able to use the thinning scissors to take some of the weight out of his hair. As soon as she finished, he jumped down and I stripped his tshirt off to ensure we got rid of as much hair as possible (as I thought trying to get him wearing a gown was probably a step too far yet). And we were done.

He looked AH MAY ZING darling!

A super smart boy plays with the long awaited toys

A super smart boy plays with the long awaited toys

We ran and found the trains and the toys and he played happily. He even found a box of deelyboppers the salon use when they host one of their popcorn and pamper parties and put one on!!! This from the child who would refuse a hat in the depths of winter! He laughed, he showed us toys, he even asked to get in the Bat Car and had great fun ‘driving fast’.

DeeleyBopper time!

DeeleyBopper time!

"Drive fast mummy"

“Drive fast mummy”

Afterwards Georgia and I were both genuinely a bit emotional. All that planning and perseverance and patience and here he was like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I was full to the brim with pride and gratitude. Georgia told me that it’s times like this that make her job worth doing and that really touched me.

We let him play for a while and then I explained it was time to go and without question he got in the buggy and wolfed the lolly Geogia gave him. I left feeling so proud. I felt like everyone on the street must be able to know by looking at him what monumentous event had just happened in our lives.

So I want to say thank you. To all the team at Little Locks for baring with us all these months and never making us feel anything less than welcome. To Georgia and Hannah for being patient and caring and truly understanding what we needed from you.

And to Oscar. I know you didn’t enjoy it my darling. I hope playing with the trains, and the magazine, the Rocky Dog, the ice cream and the Rocket Ship I got you on the way home helped make up for that. But thank you for trusting me. And making me feel like what I do for you, everything I do for you, is worth it.

My beautiful blue eyed boy

My beautiful blue eyed boy, with his smart new hair.

 

 

 

Thank you so much to Hannah and the team at Little Locks Haslemere. I know your business will go from strength to strength. I was not paid to write this review and I paid for Oscar’s haircut with my own money.

You can book an appointment with any of Little Locks stylists on their website. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

 

 

A Cornish Mum

 

 

Mrssavageangel Slimming World – Ground Zero

I wrote my last Slimming World update in April last year. We’d not long received Oscar’s Autism diagnosis and dealing with that, physically every day and emotionally every minute of every day was hard. Too hard to think about much else if truth be told. Is it realistic to be counting syns when you’re heart is breaking over and over again? Receiving Oscar’s diagnosis was such a sucker punch to the guts, it just took everything out of me, including any motivation I had to keep losing weight. If you have been reading for a while you’ll know back in April I decided to ‘maintain’. It was a good decision at the time but I was unaware of just how hard the year was going to get. Not the day to day of living with an autistic child, but the bigger picture stuff. The coming to terms with who I was now, the life I was going to be leading, the logistics of that life and what it meant for us as family. I wont lie, it floored me. I stopped going to group in August and I eventually turned back to familiar habits. ‘Comfort’ eating. It did nothing of the sort, but it rarely does. I gained weight. A bit and then a bit more and then a lot more. I’m not proud of it, but I wont apologise for it either. I challenge anyone to go through something similar and not turn to some form of vice or other out of desperation just to feel a little bit better today.

Anyway.

2015 sucked. It sucked balls. But 2015 is over. It’s been nearly a year since we got the diagnosis and while for ages it felt like I’d never feel like myself ever again, over Christmas I realised I would, but that it was down to me to carve some space out in my life to do so. Christmas was unbelievably good (you can read about it here if you’re so inclined). We went away. Put everything in our lives that was causing us sadness down for a couple of weeks and saw people we loved. We couldn’t have done anything better. Yes, life was here waiting for us when we got back, ready to be muddled through, but just a small step back gave us perspective. Oscar’s care and education and all that jazz, will be whatever it is because of me. But it will also be whatever it is regardless of how how much I weigh and how happy I am. So I have a choice. I can live my life being sad and heavy, or I can take some time and space back for me, Autism or not.

So last night I made the decision to go back to group and start again. I can’t tell you how nervous I was. I had a terrible head and back ache all day. I just had it in my head that everyone would be looking at me, judging me, seeing just how much I’d ‘failed’. Then Ben asked, would I feel that way about anyone else who’d had a break and gained any weight, regardless of their situation? Of course he was right and I hate it when he’s right 😉 So I strapped on my fighting boots and walked right back in there. To be honest it felt so lovely to be back. There were lots of new faces (with it being January) but there were also existing members and friends I hadn’t seen in ages. And everyone had the same sheepish grin when we talked about Christmas and many even had the same nervous look in their eye that I did. No one was judging. I don’t know why I ever thought any one would be. Everyone who goes to Slimming Word goes with the same goal; to lose weight and to get some support while doing it. It wouldn’t have lasted all these years if anyone was ever made to feel judged negatively for making a positive choice to (re)join.

Weigh in wasn’t much fun obviously, but do you know, it was what it was and in that moment I couldn’t change that. All I can do is move forward. I made the decision to keep my old book, because I don’t want to wipe all my history for good. I did work really hard for that and I’m proud of it. But I’ve drawn a big old line under last year’s results and I’m starting again. I don’t want to think ‘Oh I’ve gained X amount and I’m back to X date’. That’s not going to help. So today was day 1. I’m doing this like a new member. I’ve set a new interim target of 2 stone loss and this week I’m going for 2lb.

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I wasn’t planning to blog about this all again, but when I mentioned on FB that I was going back to SW, someone told me how much they’d missed my posts. Which was sweet. So I thought why not. What I wont be doing this time round is feeling under so much pressure to write interesting, motivational updates that I’ll come to loathe doing them. These posts will just be me updating of how I’m doing and working through any issues I’ve had. And maybe having a few laughs along the way 😉

I hope you had an awesome Christmas and New Year.

Here’s to a happy, healthier 2016

love

Lisa

xxxx

 

 

A Cornish Mum