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

Our Favourite Five – August 2016

August is over already? Whaaat? Shaaadup! It’s too soon. How can the summer, which only just started like last Tuesday or something, be done? Oscar doesn’t start school for a few more weeks, but the beginning of September always feels very much like Summer is over. Sigh!

So anyway here’s what we’ve been loving this August.

1 IKEA

We had two days this month in which Oscar went to Challengers, a play scheme especially for disabled children, in Farnham. In order to get him there Ben had to have the day off work, so we took advantage of the situation and on both days went, childfree, to IKEA. We don’t go to IKEA often. It’s an hour’s drive away and the one time we did try it with Oscar was an unmitigated disaster. However, with the boy starting school soon, we are looking at the house and how we use the rooms on a daily basis. We have all sorts of changes we’d like to make and so decided we needed some extra furniture to help us achieve this.

Both times we went with a clear idea of what we wanted and both times we got what we went for. Along with a whole heap of other things we didn’t need know we needed. Both trips were successful in that neither ended in divorce (a win for any trip to IKEA in my experience) but the second trip, to buy me a desk and Ben a worktable for our new garden office, was definitely more fun. I have come to the conclusion that IKEA brings out the worst in people when they visit rarely. It puts a lot of pressure on everyone to get it right, especially if you don’t know when you’ll next get a chance to come back. When we’d already been the week before, it felt like we’d got that out of the system and therefore enjoyed it all the more. Weird huh?

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IKEA Southampton. Can make or break a relationship!

The dresser we bought to hold all Oscars toys, games and craft supplies. Decorated with the artificial cherry blossom from our wedding.

The dresser we bought to hold all Oscars toys, games and craft supplies. Decorated with the artificial cherry blossom from our wedding.

2 Day out with Thomas

You may have already read my post about our trip to The Watercress Line to spend a Day out with Thomas, but I couldn’t not include it here. It really was the highlight of our month. We had such a great day and I can’t explain how much Oscar enjoyed himself. Days out for my little guy can be unpredictable. His Autism can make things that would seem fun to your kids just the worst for him. But the Day out with Thomas was a real winner. Once he got over the fact that he wasn’t allowed to actually drive the train! Bless his heart. Thank you to The Watercress Line again for the Family Ticket, which I won on Instagram!

I've never seen Oscar so excited. Literally!

I’ve never seen Oscar so excited. Literally!

3 New Glasses

I’ve been getting reminders from Specsavers to get my eyes tested since April and this month I finally got round to getting them done. And while I was there, I also decided to get some new frames. I still liked my old ones, but I realised I’d had them for over four years. I know exactly how long I’ve had them, because I got them first time I ever left Oscar, a few weeks after he was born (when I say left, Ben took him to Starbucks up the road from Specsavers, but you know what I mean!) Anyway the point is although my old frames were, and still are, perfectly nice, I felt it was time for a change. I am after all a very different person now to the one who chose those frames four long years ago.

The ones I went for are very different to those I had last time, but I absolutely love them. They’re so pretty and just so, well, me! I love them every time I catch my reflection 🙂

New glasses from Sepcsavers

New glasses from Sepcsavers

4 Paddling Pool

We’ve had some SHAMAZING weather this month, something you can’t always bank on in August anymore. And one of the things we’ve enjoyed the most on these balmy summer days is to get our new paddling pool out. I decided to get Oscar a new pool at the beginning of the holidays and it was the best £20 I spent all summer. He loves me to fill it and will spend hours jumping off the side into the water, to make the biggest splash possible. That there was just hard earth underneath didn’t seem to bother him. We had days where he played alone, days where his favourite game was to splash me (“come here mummy, closer mummy” sigh!) and another day when his little buddies came over and splashed with him. Clothing was always optional and the water always ended up filthy from the mud and the grass, but it just made him so happy.

A pool? A monkey towel? Clothes hanging in the sun to dry? We could have almost been on actual holiday!

A pool? A monkey towel? Clothes hanging in the sun to dry? We could have almost been on actual holiday!

I just love his face here

I just love his face here

5 Apples

I have something of a love hate relationship with apples. I love when I find the right ones, but I cant stand powdery ones and I hate if I ever get a bit of core in my mouth. So this month I have finally invested in an apple segmenter, that also cores the apple. It’s a bit of a knack to get the corer directly down the middle, but when you do you’re left with delicious apple segments to pick at. Its been great for snacking and even works with pears. Why I didn’t get one years ago I’ll never know. What a boon!

My latest kitchen gadget, my apple slicer and corer.

My latest kitchen gadget, my apple slicer and corer.

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It’s like a work of art!

And just like that summer was over. What have you enjoyed this August? I can’t wait to see what September holds!

 

I paid for all the items mentioned here, except the Day out with Thomas which I won in a competition. I was not paid to write this post, I just enjoy sharing the things I love. 

 

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.

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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.

 

Our Favourite Five – May 2016

The summer is well and truly under way in our part of the world. And this is what the Savage family have been enjoying this month.

1 Eurovision

Of course! What else could start a list of things my family has enjoyed in May? My husband put the televised song competition in our shared diaries as soon as the date was released! This year we found out our neighbours were as bonkers about the show as we are, so invited them to come down and watch it with us. It’s so much fun sharing the madness with someone else. Although to be honest, there was a lot less crazy in Eurovision this year. Much more slick and a little bit less fun for it unfortunately (I mean Justin Timberlake, while the votes were counted? Seriously? Sigh) Anywho, we had a lovely time just hanging out, drinking wine and commenting. Much as we all agreed we like Graham Norton as host, we were also in agreement that we miss Terry Wogan getting gently sloshed and more acerbic as the evening went on. And as a fitting tribute to the man, who died earlier this year, we were sure to raise a glass of his favourite tipple at song number 9 (his personal cue to start the evening’s drinking). It was an emotional moment. And yes, tears were shed!

To Terry

To Terry!

2 Ribs

Whenever I used to have friends over, pre Oscar, my go to choice of food was always ribs. They never failed to please, but I haven’t made them for years.  So, I decided to do them for our Eurovision shindig. In the past I have always marinated the ribs overnight (a Nigella recipe) and then baked them in the oven. What a faff! This time I decided to utilise my slow cooker and boy were they a massive hit! Tender and juicy and sticky and delicious. And so much easier to make. I bought the ribs from the butcher instead of the supermarket for a start and that made such a difference. They were so much bigger and had so much more meat on them! Then I just chucked them in the slow cooker with the following ingredients. Blooming gorgeous!

Spicy BBQ Ribs

  • 1 X 500g bottle of BBQ Sauce (I used a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray Barbecue Sauce)
  • 50g of brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp of cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp of oregano
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1.3 lbs of pork ribs (I got a rack from our local butcher who cut them into individual ribs for me)
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Combine the bbq sauce, brown sugar, cider vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and chilli powder in a bowl.
  2. Salt and pepper the ribs. Place ribs in slow cooker, and cover in sauce. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours
  3. Devour.

I served them with coleslaw, roasted new potatoes and sweetcorn.

No, they weren’t Slimming World in any way, but saved for a special occasion, I’ll definitely be doing these beauties again. Only I may have to make double quantity next time! Yum!

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Delicious!

3 M&S Food Hall

A month or so ago Haslemere got it’s very own M&S Food Hall. Regardless of your opinion about whether our town needed a M&S Food Hall, you can’t deny that their food is good quality and often different to what’s on offer in the ubiquitous chain supermarkets (one of which is just over the road if you’re that bothered by it). I’ve found myself popping in throughout May. I bought some of the nicest and biggest (they were a ‘King’ variety) Strawberries I’ve ever had, to take to a friends house, a beautiful bouquet to say a big thank you to a neighbour, and on days when it’s all been a bit much and I need somewhere to take five, I am happy to admit I’ve been Found wandering their aisles. I’m not saying I’d get my weekly shop there, I wouldn’t. But for occasional nice ‘bits’, it’s been a boon.

The M&S Haslemere Coffee Shop has made a nice occasional change.

The M&S Haslemere Coffee Shop has made a nice occasional change.

4 Our deck

I’ve mentioned before that our garden is bigger than our house and as soon as the sun came out at the beginning of May, we were straight out there, tidying up the garden for the summer season. We have a long lawn, but a few years ago we also built (with the help of some very kind friends) a deck. Big enough to take a decent table and chair set, it’s becoming my favourite part of the garden. It’s definitely where I spend most of my time out there, so this month I’ve been adding a few sweet little touches. Cushions for the chairs, a parasol, a wall mounted planter and wild flowers in a jar have all made this corner of the garden a lovely little nook for eating, writing and just hanging out!

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Bright, comfy cushions from Sainsbury’s.

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Bluebells and rosemary, all picked from the garden.

Is this not the cutest planter you've ever seen? A perfect spot for my Thyme and Oregano

Is this not the cutest planter you’ve ever seen? A perfect spot for my Thyme and Oregano.

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I wanted a cream parasol, but picked up the wrong box in Homebase. Hey ho! Oscar doesn’t care and asks me to put the ‘umberella’ up as soon as the sun comes out!

5 Driving Lessons

I wrote about learning to drive a few weeks ago (you can read about why I don’t already have a licence here). It’s been a big part of May for me, although to be honest I’m not sure I’d call it a ‘favourite’ as such. It’s hard learning a new skill any time in your life, but the older you get the harder it is (not my words, words of clever science type people in white coats) and I am finding it hard. But every week I’m noticing little things improving and my anxiety (which behind the wheel has been at a spectacular all time high) slowly fall. Slowly. I’ve done four lessons and now I have a two week break. I only hope I don’t forget everything in that time!

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What have been your family favourites this month? I’d love to know!

 

 

My Summer Pain – and why I wouldn’t change it

It’s nearly summer. Hooray! If there’s anything I love more than the sun making an appearance, it’s being able to throw off the socks. Boots be gone, summer’s here and I’m cracking out the sandals. Mules, flip flops, reef sandals, I love em all. I love painting my toenails and feeling the air under my soles. Yes, summer truly is my favourite footwear season.

Only, it’s not an easy season. Every summer, since I’ve been able to afford them, I’ve worn Birkenstock single strap ‘Madrid’ mules. I love them. I love the look, I love that they go with anything, I love that you can just slip them on. I’ve owned several pairs over the years. My first were a rather natty silver, but since then every pair I’ve had has been white. Every year I think of moving onto a different colour and every year I can’t help but go back to the simplicity of the fresh looking, summery white.

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And yet every year, without fail, regardless of whether I’m wearing last year’s sandals or a box fresh pair, they give me blisters. Every summer, my poor big toes are shredded and the bridge of my foot has a 3 inch rub line. It’s to do in part with the fact that I pronate (roll in) when I walk. I know that. But it doesn’t stop me. I love them. So I just have to push on through.

The summer starts in pain. Blisters and friction burns and spending more on plasters than the shoes! But eventually the skin toughens up. The blisters heal and I suddenly realise I can wear them without half a roll of micropore tape strapped to my feet and finally summer is truly under way.

Until Autumn comes, the weather changes, and the socks go back on, undoing all that hard work. And next summer I know I’ll have to start all over again. Because despite the pain and the blisters and the fuss and the mess, I’m never going to give up my beloved sandals.

Perhaps I should just buy shares in Elastoplast next summer?

I'm already wearing my Birkenstocks this year!

I’m already wearing my Birkenstocks this year!