Our Favourite Five – March 2016

I know, I know, March has been over for nearly a week already. Where does the time go? Here are just some of the things Family Savage have been loving in March 2016!

1 Holidays

March for us was largely focussed on Easter and going down to Plymouth to stay in the same apartment we stayed in at Christmas. Our plan was to spend some time as a family in our childhood home town and to also celebrate Oscar’s birthday (a week early). And did we ever. You’re never sure if staying in a place that was brilliant before, will be so good a second time. But this time, at least, it was just as awesome.

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The beautiful view from our apartment in the Royal William Yard, Plymouth


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On the top of South Hessary Tor, Dartmoor


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Jellyfish at The National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth


I even had a night on the town with my good buddy Helen!

I even had a night on the town with my good buddy Helen!

We watched the boats in the marina, we went walking up on the Dartmoor, we had take-out Wagamamas (twice!), we visited the Aquarium, we celebrated Oscar’s birthday and we saw all the people we love. It was only a short break but it was wonderful. And leaving was just as hard as it was at Christmas!

2 Cybex

I’ve known that Oscar was growing out of his Maxi Cosi Axiss car seat for a while now, but I was so desperate to keep him in the harness style seat for as long as possible, that I kind of ignored it. I was convinced he’d just undo a plain old seat belt. Anyway we recently realised we were having to force Oscar’s shoulders under the headrest to get him in and that the buckle between his legs was starting to strain. I had to capitulate. He needed a bigger seat.

So after extensive research, both online and talking to other parents we decided to go with the Solution M-Fix by the German company Cybex. We just felt it looked more like a seat than some of the more open style ones. More comfortable and more protective.

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The Solution M-Fix by Cybex. His big boy car seat

When it arrived I was so impressed – it was really lovely. But I couldn’t get over how big it looked. It should last him until he’s 12 (apparently), and the first time he travelled in it I could see how much more space he had. But it also made me realise how big he is getting. And how much he’s not my little baby any more 🙁

Too grown up for his own good in his Cybex car seat

Too grown up for his own good in his Cybex car seat

I have to say though he’s loving the space the seat affords him. And he’s never once tried to undo the seat belt! Although he has worked out that he can lean forward in it and pull the belt loose. What can I say, its a work in progress!

3 Just Being Me T-shirt

Last year a lady I met through Instagram, Chrissy, collaborated with the illustrator Cheryl Rawlings to produce two t-shirts to raise money for The National Autistic Society. The charity is one close to my heart obviously, but also to Chrissy’s as her daughter Esme is also autistic. I desperately tried to get hold of one of the tees for Oscar last year, but they sold out in record time and despite them having more printed I just wasn’t able to get one.

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Anyway this year Chrissy decided to reproduce the t-shirts under her new company Raspberries and Raindrops. Proceeds now go towards her daughters private ABA therapy. I was thrilled I could finally get one for Oscar. I’m not a big fan of ‘Autismwear’. I don’t agree our children need branding. But I love the sentiment of this one. Because it’s all Oscar ever is; just being him! You can find this t-shirt at Raspberries and Raindrops

Oscar just being him in his gorgeous Raspberries and Raindrops tshirt

Oscar just being his gorgeous self in his Raspberries and Raindrops tshirt

4 Royal William Bakery

We discovered the Royal William Bakery when we stayed at the Royal William Yard at Christmas and were so excited to go back again when we returned this Easter. It’s such a wonderful place. The food is superb and generous (croissants as big as yer ‘ed anyone?) and the staff relaxed, knowledgeable and friendly. I love their ethos of ‘talking’ and building relationships. The seating is all benches and the service, well you have to get in that kitchen and talk to the chefs. And there are no ‘bills’, you have to talk to the staff when you’re ready to pay and tell them what you had. I know this might make some people uncomfortable, but I think it’s awesome.

Seating in the Royal William Bakery is designed to start a conversation.

Seating in the Royal William Bakery is designed to start a conversation.

When we visited over Easter the guys in the kitchen were really helpful in selecting the right loaf of bread for Oscar’s party, keeping it to one side fresh out of the oven. And I can seriously tell you it was some of the most delicious bread I have ever tasted and not a scrap was left by the end of the day. We love the Royal William Bakery and wish we lived closer (even if our waistbands are grateful that we don’t)! If you’re anywhere near Plymouth, I urge you to pop down to visit them. Especially for breakfast!

Royal William Bakery sourdough. Picture from Royal William Bakery

Royal William Bakery sourdough. Picture from Royal William Bakery

5 Joules Knitted Poncho

At the very end of February, I had a day on my own shopping in Guildford. As I am want to do in these situations I sidled along to Joules, just to have a little look you understand, nothing more. While I was doing just that, I happened to brush up against a poncho. Grey, cable knit, chunky as you like and oh so soft. It’s definitely not something I would normally look at. For one I am highly sensitive to wool and most commercial knitted garments make me want to scratch my skin off within minutes. And really it’s just not my usual style (whatever that is!). Any who I looked at it, thought how lovely it was and moved on. Then, I went back. I decided as I was on my own and with time on my hands, I’d try it, just to ‘see’.

Joules Tessa Poncho. I have to say I thought it looked better on me than on their model ;)

Joules Tessa Poncho. I have to say I thought it looked better on me than on their model 😉

Well I was slightly bowled over by how much I loved it. Although it did have a small wool content, I tried it on with only a vest underneath and it didn’t make me itch once. I was in love. Only trouble was the price. I knew I needed other stuff that day so I sadly put it back on the hanger and carried on. Problem was I couldn’t stop thinking about it and a few days later decided if I used my freelancing money and a discount code Joules cleverly sent me, I could just about afford it. So I ordered it online. And I’ve worn it pretty much every day since! It was the best purchase I’ve made in ages. I wear it everywhere and with anything. I really do think it was worth every penny. A friend of mine recently was able to get a navy version in the sale (clever girl), but on closer inspection, neither are available on the website now. They may still be available in the shops though 🙂

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So excited when it first arrived!


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My lovely poncho – it really does go with anything

What have you been up to this month? Anything you’ve fallen head over heels with? I’d love to hear all about it!

 

I was not paid to endorse any of these brands. I paid for all my favourites myself. I just like sharing the things I love.

Oscar’s first trip to The National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

On a recent trip to our childhood home town of Plymouth, we decided to try and have some family days out. We knew we wanted to spend some time on the Moors (and who wouldn’t) but we felt it was time for Oscar to try an ‘attraction’ again and so thought we’d give the National Marine Aquarium a go.

Oscar’s history with ‘attractions’ has been rather limited to be fair. We’ve stuck to large outdoor spaces, such as Zoos and parks and even then at potentially quiet times and with mixed results. His Autism means he doesn’t always access the attraction in the way other children might. And that’s fine, but it sometimes begs the question why pay out for him to just run around, when he can do that at the local park for free? Anyway, his speech and understanding are changing so much at the moment, that we thought it would be a good time to give him the opportunity to try an indoor attraction for a change. And as his current favourite book is ‘Barry the Fish with Fingers’, we thought the aquarium would be a good one to get him on board with.

The morning of the visit, we drew him a very basic visual timetable explaining that we were going in Daddy’s car, to see the fish at the ‘Aquarium’ and then we’d have some sweets and a juice box. Not sure why I added the bit on the end but a motivator felt like a good idea and I assumed the cafe in the aquarium would have something we could grab.

We knew the aquarium was likely to be busy; on a Saturday, the Saturday of Easter Weekend, a rainy Saturday of Easter Weekend!!! We planned to get there first thing, but getting ready took longer than anticipated and we arrived within 50 minutes of it opening. While Ben parked the car, I walked Oscar over the bridge to the entrance. We looked at the fish artwork and sculpture together and he was having great fun pointing things out. Then we got to the entrance. While I knew the place would be busy it didn’t even occur to me how big the queues would be. Why we hadn’t thought to book fast track tickets online (which you can do and which save you from queuing at all!) I don’t know, but I took one look at that queue and knew it wasn’t for my guy. We headed back to the car, having seen the ‘fish’ (artwork) and hoped that was enough.

Oscar insisted this sculptre outside the aquairum was a 'Dragon Fish' and that it was breathing fire! Photo by Patricia Richards-Skensved

Oscar insisted this sculpture outside the aquarium was a ‘Dragon Fish’ and that it was breathing fire! Photo by Patricia Richards-Skensved

He was fine with this change, and he had great fun playing with his cousin at my mum’s instead. Only then, over lunch, he started to ask: ‘Quarium?’ I was blown away to be honest. You never can tell how much is going in and yet it would seem the answer is ‘a whole lot’. We knew then we were going to have to go back. So we decided to head up there towards the end of the day. We got there around 3.45pm to find no queue to speak of and headed in. As Ben was paying they locked the entrance behind us. Phew, we timed that just right then!

And then we set off following the signs. Oscar held our hands, he walked, he waited when he needed to, he shocked us both! Then he came to the tanks and instead of running past, giving them a cursory glance he really stopped and looked. The tanks in the NMA are all so accessible to little ones and Oscar loved that he could get right up close and personal with the fish. He even commented on their colour and size and several times swore he saw ‘Barry’ (of the ‘fish with fingers’ fame 😉 ) . He went back and forth between a couple of his favourite areas, but for the most part he progressed between the zones when we asked without any fuss.

Walking with Daddy

Walking with Daddy

All the high tanks have steps up to them or are accessible from the floor.

All the high tanks have steps up to them or are accessible from the floor.

Look there's Barry!

Look there’s Barry!

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He loved the overhead/undefoot tanks. He was entranced!

Awright Ray!

Awright Ray!

Shark!

Shark!

He even interacted with other children visitors and when we came to the main tank viewing room, Ben and I sat down and Oscar quickly found another little boy to chase, and be chased by. It was quiet enough that nobody minded and it left him red faced, but happy.

Photo From Expedia

The National Marine Aquarium’s 2 million litre water tank. And a space to run around! Photo from Expedia

Would we go back? Absolutely, and I would absolutely go at the end of the day again, something I’d never considered before. It was quieter sure, but it was also just enough to time for him to enjoy it and not get bored. It also gave him a natural cut off point, i.e. we had to leave at 5 because they were closing. That worked really well and he was able to have a quick look round the gift shop at the end (he got a book by a local author) and head back to the car, happy as a sand boy. The only issue we had was parking. The aquarium doesn’t have its own car park and the nearest ones are a short walk away. This might be fine for some children, but Oscar often struggles to walk safely along busy roads and this was a deep concern. As it was Ben dropped us off by the Mayflower steps and was then able to (luckily) park on the seafront a minute away. But had this not been the case this could have derailed the visit before we’d started!

If you’re in the area we would highly recommend it. And if you have a child with Autism, I learnt that the aquarium will be holding a ‘quiet session‘ on 2nd April to mark World Autism Day. This might be a great way to introduce your child to the attraction. The aquarium have produced a great visual support document for those attending (available on the website), something that might be useful for any visit to be honest! My only advice would be to check out the parking situation prior to attending.

At the end of the day thought, we couldn’t get over how good the experience had been. I was so proud of my little guy and so pleased that the prep we did paid off. It can take quite a lot of gumption to throw yourself headlong into a situation that could be incredibly stressful. As it was the National Marine Aquarium made it easy for us and we’d like to thank them.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, we stopped in at Tesco on the way home and bought him sweets and a juice box.

 

 

Thank you to the National Marine Aquarium for a great day out. This was not a paid review, rather it’s just an account of our day out as a family and we paid for our tickets ourselves. Although had I remembered Oscar’s DLA letter, I could have got in for free as his carer. Next time!

 

 

 

 

 

Savage Christmas 2015

It’s January. How can it possibly be January? Already? We spent so long looking forward to the Christmas holiday and just like that it was over. Sad Face. Or rather that should be Happy Face, because our holiday was perfect! It was everything I had imagined and so much more and for that reason I can’t possibly be sad!

I wrote here about our Christmas plans to hire an apartment in our childhood home town of Plymouth. About how we wanted to spend Christmas with our family and friends, but how due to Oscar’s Autism, we all needed our own space. And I was right. All the planning and the organising meant the holiday, because this was so much more than just a Christmas celebration, was totally worth it!

The drive down to Plymouth was OK, with only minimal delays. The boy spent the whole four and half hours watching Thomas the Tank. God bless Apple! When we arrived at the Royal William Yard, the owner of the property was there to meet us. She even helped us carry our luggage up to the 2nd floor apartment, bless her. She showed us around, what turned out to be a much more spacious apartment than I had envisaged. I had spent some time in the weeks leading up our stay showing Oscar pictures of the flat, taken from the website, but you’re never sure how similar a place is going to be to a promotional photo. Well, I was thrilled to see it was identical, even down to the radio channel playing on the television. I could have hugged her just for that, never mind the milk, coffee, flowers and mince pies she’d bought for us! I knew then this was going to be a good holiday!

Taken from the website, the lounge looked exactly like this picture. I was so grateful!

Taken from the website, the lounge looked exactly like this picture. I was so grateful!

My first impression of the place was it is SHAMAZING!

My first impression of the place was ” This is SHAMAZING!”

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The view as we arrived. Breathtaking!

We settled in immediately. Oscar ran from room to room and we moved the few delicate looking objects (a beautiful model of a tall ship and some glass vases) out of the reach of curious hands. That done Ben collected the Christmas shopping, while I unpacked. Poor old hubs had to carry all the shopping from the car to the apartment alone as I had to stay with Oscar, but once it was done he was rewarded with a large beer, a child who settled down to sleep straight away and a feet up relax on the sofa with pizza. You couldn’t do that staying in someone else’s home 😉

Christmas Day itself was fairly quiet. We had present opening in the morning, in our Christmas jammies. Oscar was incredibly lucky again this year. He has such a generous family. And I breathed a sigh of relief to see no one had given him anything that wouldn’t fit in the car on the way home. ‘Tis always a worry 😉 While he played with his Tidmouth Shed playset, I cracked on with the lunch. One of the best things about the apartment was, without a doubt, the kitchen. It was an open plan layout but the kitchen was raised giving the feel of a bar, or in my case a stage! I loved it. It meant Ben could help from the other side of the worktop and not get in my way and I could talk to my mum as I prepared the veg. We drank, ate and generally relaxed all day. The boy wouldn’t sit with us at dinner, which was a shame, but wasn’t something I was going to force and cause a melt down over. Instead I plated him some food, which he moved around the room but didn’t touch. Until later when I heard him say something was ‘mmmm it’s elicious’ and realised he had wolfed the roast potatoes and later on some turkey 🙂 Good lad!

The big FC was tres generous this year!

The big FC was tres generous this year!

My candy cane boy

My candy cane boy opening his presents

Tidmouth Sheds was a hit!

Tidmouth Sheds was a hit!

Facetiming Aunty Laura

Facetiming Aunty Laura

Prosecco for Brekkie!

Prosecco for Brekkie!

The Maple Based Turkey was a hit. And not at all burnt (well a bit singed maybe!)

The Maple Based Turkey was a hit. And not at all burnt (well a bit singed maybe!)

Me in my 'cooking like I'm in a cookery show' element!

Me in my ‘cooking like I’m in a cookery show’ element!

Got to use my Christmas linen for only the second time since it was bought in 2010!

Got to use my Christmas linen for only the second time since it was bought in 2010!

Yeah Christmas day was a hit , but this holiday was so much more. Before we even started our holiday, we had worked out something of a schedule. What we were going to do and who we were going to see everyday, and do you know I’m so glad we did. It meant we knew and could prepare appropriately. It also stopped any dithering, messing about wasting time, trying to decide what to do and potentially missing something important out. It also meant I could prepare Oscar. I have no idea how much the pictures of the people I showed him or the explanations I gave helped, but he coped brilliantly all week and I can only surmise it helped a bit! We visited family, had family visit us, hosted parties, went for meals, went walking in the fog up on Dartmoor and the boy loved it all. He loved playing with his cousins. They are all a similar age, but the older two, Jessica and Lucas, were just amazing with him, including him and listening when I explained why he was or wasn’t doing this or that. Whenever Oscar got frustrated or upset his cousin Lucas would just say, ‘hey Oscar come on lets run’ and off they’d go, sadness forgotten. In fact the only melt down we had all week was after his cousin Lucas had to leave. And even that didn’t last long as he collapsed into bed, jiggered from such an amazing day!

Love this crazy. My oldest niece Jessica

Love this crazy. My oldest niece Jessica

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Partners in crime! Oscar with his cousin Lucas

We just had so much fun this Christmas. And the fact that Oscar coped so brilliantly, only made it all the better for Ben and I. We treated ourselves too this holiday with dinner at River Cottage on Christmas Eve (with babysitting provided by Nanna!) and a night out (for Ben) and in (for me) with our friends we miss terribly and don’t get to see nearly enough of.

River Cottage on Christmas Eve

River Cottage on Christmas Eve

Ben and Lee reliving their youth. Ben behind the 'bar' and Lee propping it up!

Ben and Lee reliving their youth. Ben behind the ‘bar’ and Lee propping it up!

But the best thing about this trip was undoubtedly the apartment. It was stunning and practical. It gave us everything we needed and was in a fantastic location. I knew the idea to hire somewhere was a good one. I just couldn’t have asked for more and none of us wanted to leave. Oscar loved watching the boats from the windows, I loved the kitchen and Ben loved the calm quiet of the place. One of my favourite memories of the place though was the lift. Within a day Oscar had learnt how to press for the lift, get us to the right floor and to hold our hands when we needed him to. Just watching him learning like that was worth staying there for alone.

Watching the boats

Watching the boats

Walking to the lift wearing his backpack for the first time!

Walking to the lift wearing his backpack for the first time!

Would we do it again?

Absolutely!

But do we really need to wait until Christmas??? 😉

 

 

 

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Mummascribbles

Our Christmas Plans

It’s true. It’s 18th December and I haven’t written a single Christmassy post this year. Compare that to last year, when I couldn’t get enough. Ahh well. It’s not that I’m not feeling the festive spirit, I am, just in a different way and with so much else going on, it’s felt disingenuous to write light hearted pieces when I don’t really feel light of heart.

But preschool term is now over. The paperwork for his EHCP is being processed and we wont find out until the beginning of January as to whether he gets one. Schools are closed and I can’t visit any more. So I’ve decided to try and put all that down for the holidays. Worrying and even thinking about it wont change anything. It’s time to lay those weights down for a few weeks and just enjoy my family.

So what are our Christmas plans? Well, actually it’s the one thing that’s kept me going these past few months, I am so excited about it. Last year we stayed home and went out for Christmas dinner (as we’ve done several times before). It wasn’t exactly a disaster, but the wait for the food was interminably long. Oscar coped (just), but it took everything we had in us to get him through and I realised, even then, that I would need more control over the situation this year. We don’t have the space to host Christmas at home, so it was clear we would need to go somewhere else. But asking family or friends to host and then asking them to do everything your child needs to make it through the season, well it was a big ask. Too big an ask in my eyes. So back in the summer we decided to hire somewhere, make a holiday of it. And if we were going to do that, then why not do it where all our family are.

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Which is how we came to find an apartment in the Royal William Yard in Plymouth, Devon. It’s a relatively newly refurbished Victorian military barracks and we’ve hired a three bedroom apartment for the entire Christmas week. I’m so excited. It not only gives me a place to cook and serve Christmas dinner to my family (something I’ve not done properly in five years!), it also means my mum can stay with us on Christmas Eve and see Oscar opening his presents (something she’s never done), we can see all our family and friends over the course of a week (instead of trying to whiz round and see everyone in a couple of days which we usually do when we visit) and be included in traditional family shindigs. But the best thing about it is I can give Oscar the time and space to decompress, as and when he needs it. Staying with other people can be a wonderful experience, but it puts an awful lot of pressure on everyone. And this way if my son just wants to watch Thomas in his pyjamas and not go out, or we need to leave somewhere he’s been over stimulated, we can.

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Royal William Yard

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I’m not saying it’s the perfect solution to what can be a stressful time for everyone. I’ve been mentally planning what I might need to take with me to be able to cook a full Christmas dinner in a strange, and not necessarily well equipped, kitchen (this is after all a holiday let) for weeks. But I think it’s a damn near close as I can get it. And anyway, my sister in law text me the other day to tell that that although they’re away on Christmas day, she’s giving a key to Ben’s mum and should I need any utensils or such from her well equipped kitchen, then to just take them. I could have kissed her. Had she not been 300 miles away!

But that’s exactly what I’m hoping this Christmas will be all about. Family. Oscar is a part of a family he barely knows and I want that to change. I want him to spend time playing with his cousins, who when he does see he adores. I want him to spend time getting to know his Aunties and Uncles (Uncle Paul, I hope you know we have a child as active as you ever were!). I want him to feel the love his grandparents have for him. Everyone has been so supportive of him and everything about him that makes him Oscar. To them he’s just one of the clan.

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Oscar’s ‘Christmas Book’, a book of pictures to help him identify where we’re going and who we’ll be seeing beforehand.

So we’re off on 23rd. And I can’t wait. I’ve made a book of laminated pictures of the flat and all our family for Oscar to look at. The food shopping has been done online. The presents have all been bought and wrapped. We’ve got the artificial tree to take with us. The flat has wifi. What more could we need? As with everything we’re expecting the best and preparing for the worst. Oh, and Ben and I are taking full advantage of having my mum with us on Christmas Eve and leaving her to babysit while we go for dinner at The River Cottage.

River Cottage Canteen Plymouth - our Christmas Eve plans!

River Cottage Canteen Plymouth – our Christmas Eve plans!

Weeeeell, it’s not all about the family 😉

 

 

A Cornish Mum