My Half Term Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

And before long the walls were covered.

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

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

Alllll of the rockets. Blast Off!

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Summer isn’t all about making memories

The consensus across the sentiments I see expressed on social media, is that parents have spent a lot of energy this summer, relishing the time they have with their children, and working really hard to make it as special as they can, so that they never look back and say they wasted these young days. That when these days are over they will miss the chaos and the muddy knees and the laughing and trips to the beach. And I don’t doubt it. But while you may have adored the summer holidays, being with your children and making wonderful memories, for me eight weeks without barely a break has been too long.

And that makes me insanely jealous.

Our summer holidays started well. Oscar began happily enough. I loved not having to get up and dressed in time to walk the miles a day to take him to preschool. It was enough. But within a few weeks the iPad had taken over our lives and try as I might to set up activities at home, mostly I felt like I was whistling in the wind. I had to take him out of the house, to the park, or to the shops on errands, just in order to get him away from the screen. Cause when he falls into the vortex that is Youtube Kids, I may as well not exist.

It’s my fault of course. I gave him the damn thing in the first place. Downloaded the stupid app in an attempt to stop him googling pictures of trains, which would lead to videos of trains on real Youtube, which lead to videos that weren’t wholly (or sometime at all) appropriate. I can’t blame anyone but myself.

But unlike last year where he spent a large portion of the summer hols watching Team Umizoomi on TV, which seemed to improve his language no end, this summer, his language seems to have stalled. And in the last few weeks the echolalia is back; repeating scenes from YouTube videos over and over. He hasn’t done that for so long. At least he now brings me into his script, teaching me what to say and when. For example:

Oscar comes over to Mummy: “Mummy (say) Oscar, what you talking about?”

Mummy: What are you talking about Oscar?

Oscar: It’s a ghghghghost train drive here last night

Mummy: Where?

Oscar: Last night (something I cant quite make out) made my wheels wobble

Mummy: You are a silly engine, I’m not afraid of ghosts

Over. And Over. And Over.

A friend with older autistic children has suggested this could be his attempt to make order out of the chaos. That for him, not going regularly to preschool (his established routine) is starting to make him anxious. It could be. I thought we were doing OK, but his behaviour has started to suggest he’s not doing quite so great. No full on melt downs yet, but lots of resistance to doing anything. And an obsession with anything Thomas related. He’s always been a fan but this summer he’s taken that to another level. Again, I’m assuming it’s familiarity in an unfamiliar routine. An attempt to make sense of our world.

We have had a few nice days. We went on our Day out with Thomas, he’s been to Challengers twice (which he loved – I hear. He never tells me of course), we’ve had the paddling pool in the garden and sojourns to the swings. But there have been no day trips out out. Because I don’t drive if it’s not on a train or a bus I can’t do it. But even if it was on a train line, the thought of taking him ‘out out’ alone scares me. We have been to our local children’s centre a few times this summer, which has been mostly lovely (although it’s hardly LegoLand right?!) Anyway one day he had a good time but started to get stressed towards the end and I knew it was time to go. We went to the toilet before we left, when he started to cry and fight me. I had a banging headache that day and I ended up sat on the floor of the loos, trying to hold the tears in, just completely unsure of how I was literally going to get him home. Because everywhere we go is under my own steam and I seriously wasn’t sure I had any left.

I did get him home (he calmed down as soon as we left), but that’s how I feel this summer has left us both. With little resources left. Somewhat frayed at the edges.

I’m not sure this is the best frame of mind to start school is it? Surely it would be better to be rested and raring to go. But I’m pretty sure that’s not how he feels. At a guess I’d say stressed, bored, lonely even. Probably sick of my face. I’m hoping our short break to Moonfleet Manor next week is a good idea. He’ll have so much to do and lots of new things to play with. I doubt he’ll remember our last visit so I’m making him a visual reminder. But I am hopeful that we’ll all come back a bit more…. if not rested, then more ourselves.

Because this summer has left me like my Woody and Florence AUTISMMAMA bracelet.

Worn thin and ready to break.

Worn thin and ready to break

Worn thin and ready to break

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

My baby starts school in September – what am I going to do?

My baby boy is no longer a baby. He’s a strapping 3ft, four year old. And he starts full time school in September. Sigh. And if that wasn’t hard enough, for the past few months I’ve been fending off varying versions of the following questions:

What are you going to do when he starts school?

So are you going back to work in September?

Just think of all that free time. What will you do?

People mean well I’m sure, but it’s starting to get tiresome. For a start no, no I’m not going ‘back’ to work. Primarily because I have no work to go back to. I have no career to pick up. I fell into every job I ever had. Some jobs I ended up loving, some I hated, but most I just felt ambivalent about. Also looking ‘back’ doesn’t feel a very positive thing to do. Moving forward is where it’s at surely? So no, I won’t be going ‘back’, to anything.

I have some ideas of what I might do when he’s in school full time. And I’m hoping that won’t be too long coming. But nothing is certain with Oscar. I have no idea how he’s going to react, to settle. His Autism makes life supremely unpredictable at the best of times, so who knows how he’ll react to something as monumental as starting school. My guess is that all my energy, at least for the first term, is going to be spent on transitioning him and supporting him with what ever he needs to get the best out of his school career.

But people are right, eventually he will (fingers crossed) be settled and my day time will be less constricted by him. So what could I do? What do other SAHMs of school age children do round our way?

The gym

I look around me and for those who don’t go out to work (or who work part time) in my town it would seem the place to be is the gym. Or at least I assume it is. The amount of mamas rocking the kind of gym wear I wouldn’t even wear in the gym let alone on the streets tells me that my fellow SAHMama with school age children spend at least some of their time working out. It’s definitely an option I guess. We have a local leisure centre. Maybe I would find a new tribe to hang out with there?

Have another baby

Another option seems to have a baby. So many of Oscar’s preschool chums who are starting school in September have pregnant mothers or new siblings. I mean it’s a pretty drastic way to amuse yourself while your older child is at school (😜) but it’s not for me. Done at one, that’s me, so no new baby for me.

Drink coffee

OK, so I spend most of my mornings in the various coffee shops of Haslemere, so I can’t really talk, but hey I’m alone, working. I see the mamas, often without children getting to enjoy a cuppa or two. I could quite happily keep doing that! Only problem with that is that I have no one to drink coffee with. All my friends work, or are in the gym, or popping out babies (see above). I wrote a post in 2013 about how hard it was to make friends when you’re an adult and you don’t work. But I thought I’d done it. Got over the embarrassment and let my little one break the ice for me. Only here I am, three years down the line and seriously having to consider how to find new friends. Again. Without the help of a cute little blue eyed bundle!

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OK, so these are definitely some of the options I see around, but what about options that are a bit more specific to me? Cos I can’t see me joining the spandex wearing, latte drinking, baby machines just yet 😉

Blogging

Of course. I mean I’ve managed to do three years so far, all in either nap time or two hour nursery slots, so imagine how much better it could be with more time. I could actually have a schedule and plan posts. I know right!! Also I’ve had to turn down all sorts of blogging opportunities as I’ve had no one to look after Oscar. I’m really hoping I can start accepting more opportunities and growing what I can offer. And who knows, actually start to make some money! Shock horror!

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Decorating

There are various rooms in the house that need attention, particularly the bathroom (and the kitchen is a whole other post!) But if I’m going to make a go of my blog then the thing I really need is an office. We have no spare room, or even a spare nook in our house, however we do have a large shed sort of thing at the bottom of the garden (we rather grandly call it the Summer House!) that, cleaned out and tarted up, could make a lovely office/writing space. We’d need to get electricity down there and some form of WiFi or network, but it’s definitely something to think about and could be a great project!

Learn to Drive

As I’ve mentioned before I am taking driving lessons at the moment. Well I was. It’s on hiatus at the moment, partly due to finances, partly due to not really gelling with my instructor. But the plan is totally to keep going and when Oscar is at school it’ll be easier to arrange my lessons and not have to race (not literally) back for him.

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Volunteer

There are all sorts of organisations round here that need assistance and as someone who worked in Volunteer Recruitment and Support back in the old days, maybe I should jump to the other side of the fence and practice what I preached all those years ago. It’s widely acknowledged that volunteering is not only great for the community but also for the volunteers themselves, with studies showing altruism leading to the ‘helper’s high’. And who doesn’t want to help their community and feel good about it while they do?

Get a job

Of course there is always the option to get a part time job, probably locally due to drop off and pick up times. I’m not happy to put Oscar into childcare either end of the school day (even at school) yet, and to be honest I have no idea if any one would even be able to take him! So a job would need to fit 100% around him and that’s asking a lot. And makes me think I should try harder with this writing malarkey!

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Yes, there are plenty of options for things I could be doing when Oscar starts school. For one we’ve decided to stop having a cleaner so I’m going to have to start cleaning the bathroom again at some stage (boohoo). But to be honest, right now, I want to enjoy my time with him. In a few months he’ll be uniformed up and off into the big world, forging his own unique path, whatever that may be.

So stop asking me what I’m going to be doing in the future. I just want to concentrate on what we’re doing today.

What to do with your Preschoolers Artwork

When Oscar started preschool back in January 2015, I was adamant I would keep and display any artwork he came home with. Within the first week he came home with enough daubs to wallpaper the house. I had no idea what dross the nursery would consider his art and pass on to me to deal with! OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh, some of it is beautiful in its own right. I actually do have one of his first paintings on the stair wall. I was struck by how much like a Japanese scroll it looked and I love displaying it. But seriously, most of it is enormous pieces of A3 size paper with a couple of splashes of paint on it. And quite quickly I realised these rolls of “art” we’re going to take over my house if I kept them all.

So last summer I came up with various way to use his art. Some of it I used as wrapping paper. This went down a storm with the recipients but the paper the nursery use is quite thick and wrapping with it was physically difficult. However, if you can manage it I highly recommend it. It looks wonderfully effective, particularly when tied with string. Some of it I did actually display. I had a mind to display one new piece a week, in a sort of gallery, but he brings home sooooooo much, that it didn’t really work as a thing. I gave some to grandparents and great grandparents, but again it did nothing to even dent the pile I had growing in the conservatory. And so that’s when I came up with the idea of consolidating it.

It worked so well and the resultant gift was so gratefully received that when the art work started to build up again this year, I decided to do the same again.

Just two terms worth of preschool artwork

Just two terms worth of preschool artwork. Each roll has several pieces of A3 paper, some with just a few strokes.

You will need a way to cut the artwork (I use my Scotch Saftey Cutter), plain A4 paper and glue.

You will need: a tonne of toddler paintings, a way to cut the artwork (I use my Scotch Safety Cutter), plain A4 paper and glue.

Start by cutting the artwork into strips.

Start by cutting the artwork into strips.

I like to cut across the lines, so you can still see the strokes.

I like to cut across the line of paint, so you can still see the brush strokes.

Start gluing them on the paper in a haphazard manner. The idea is to build up layer of colour.

Start gluing the strips onto the A4 paper in a haphazard manner. The idea is to build up layers of colour.

Glue the pieces so they lie over the edge of the paper

Glue the strips so they over lap the edge of the paper

Like so. When you feel you have enough colour you can trim these pieces off

Like so. When you feel you have enough colour you can trim the excess off

Et voila, one massive pile of art, is now one cool piece of design.

Et voila, one massive pile of art, is now one cool piece of design.

Now you can either frame it, which is what Ben’s mum did with the piece I made for her last summer. Or I am also thinking you could cut out shapes from the newly created artwork and frame those on a white background. Oscar loves fish at the moment and fish shapes cut out of this would look awesome in his room.

What do you do with all the artwork your children bring home? I’m always looking for new ideas!