How do I say Thank You enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box of chocolates

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

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

It just takes one person to believe.

Toddler boy in buggy

Ready for his first day – Jan 2015

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

 

 

Galentine’s Day

Are you a Leslie Knope fan? I am. Parks and Recreation is one of my favourite US comedy shows and Leslie Knope is a great character. Perky without being sickly, loyal, ridiculously hard working, good at whatever she wants to be, caring, kick ass and the inventor of Galentine’s Day. What’s not to love?

If you don’t know what Parks and Rec is, we probably can’t be friends. You should definitely look it up. If you’re not sure what Galentine’s Day is, it’s this

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Isn’t that just wonderful? I love a good Valentine’s Day as much as the next soppy old romantic. Cards, flowers, gestures of affection for the significant other in your life. But how often do you show the other people in your life, just how much they mean to you. The other mamas who keep you going when the chips are down, the lady with the bottle of bubbles who can insist you forget everything and calm the fuck down. The girls who know you from old, but still refuse to tell ? In my case I know it’s not enough.

We’re really bad in this country at expressing how much we love anyone outside our family or our partner. Why is that? Love can come in so many forms and be born out of so many things. Admiration, inspiration, respect. And yet, I can think of only a handful of people that I have told I love them in my entire life. It’s just not the ‘done’ thing in this country. I think we confuse love born out of respect with romantic love. They are very different, but maybe the cross over confuses us enough to not acknowledge it, either to each other or ourselves.

Which is why I think we really need something like Galentine’s Day in the UK. We need reminding to tell our gal pals that they are loved. I’m not suggesting we all run out and start a new industry in Galentines Day cards and such, but I think we can all use the reminder, in these busy lives we lead, to express to our bestest friends that we love them and what about them makes them so special to us. Or is that just me?

So on the 13th February reach out. Tell the amazing ladies in your life how you feel. I, for example, might be telling Helen, that I love how strong she is for her family, that she’s the most organised person I have ever met and has the most amazing blue eyes. Michelle, I might be mentioning has the most amazing capacity for love, a beautiful creative heart and almost Renaissance curls. Jane R, that she is so thoughtful and has such an awesome knowledge of local and national law (particularly planning ?) and one hell of a laugh! Laura, that she has the most wonderful hugs, amazing sense of direction and legs that just won’t quit! Nicola, that she can get anything done to the absolute best of her ability, has such a capacity for joy and a gorgeous smile. Rach, that she is always there with the wine when needed, can take any situation and turn it around to her advantage and has the best resting bitch face I have ever seen. And Emma F that she has the ability to make me belly laugh, cares so much about her family and has the best trout pout ever!

All of them are also amazing mothers, dealing with life in the best way they know how and they all inspire me every day. I love them.

You know, that kind of thing.

But one gal I haven’t seen for too long is my girl Bethany. Her full time work week and how precious her weekends have become, means I had to think of a really good reason to borrow her from her family for a few hours. So I’m taking her out for a special Galentine’s lunch to her favourite pub on Saturday. I can’t wait to catch up on allllllll the news about life up in that London, the exciting changes that have been going on and updating on how our children are doing. But most of all I can’t wait tell her how ridiculously amazing I think she is for doing all of it with such grace. And that I love her.

Happy Galentine’s ladies. Tell your tribe you love them.

 

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My MAD Award Nomination

Tots100 MAD Blog Awards

 

OK here’s the deal. I started this blog two years ago to give me some head space and to find out what the dickens I was supposed to be doing with my life now I had become a parent. I didn’t go into this for other people to read, they just did. And two years down the line I’m still touched and amazed every day that people still do.

So imagine my utter surprise to find out I’d been nominated for a MAD Blogger Award! Despite sounding like I rant and rave (MAD actually stands for Mum and Dad), what this is is a really big deal in the blogging world. It’s recognition of those who write and share across the parenting blogging spectrum and I am HONOURED to have been nominated in the Pre-School category!!

Wow.

Again

Wow.

I’m actually getting a little teary here! Anyway, I don’t know who nominated me (you can nominate yourself I think, I just couldn’t be so vain glorious), but I am so so grateful that they did. Thank you whoever you are.

So here’s the thing. I never imagined anyone would think enough of my blog to nominate it for an award, and I am under no illusions that I’ll get through to the finals,but I would be doing my nominator (and myself) a disservice if I didn’t ask you to vote for me.

And just so you know, here’s how it works:

Stage 1: Tots100 invite bloggers and their readers to nominate, and share their favourite blogs across a range of categories, covering everything from parenting to food and photography.

Stage 2: Five bloggers in each category with the most nominations, along with one blogger selected by the judging panel, will be shortlisted as finalists.

Stage 3: Tots100 invite the public to vote for their winner in each category, with the exception of the Blog of the Year award, which will be judged by the judging panel.

The winners of the awards will be revealed at a red-carpet awards ceremony to be held in London during September, attended by finalists, judges and sponsors, along with a few specially invited guests.

Yeah so – it’s pretty serious!

The nominations are still open, meaning you to can nominate me for the Blog of the Year or to reach the short list in Preschool. If you’d like to do that (it literally takes a minute) you can do here:

http://www.tots100.co.uk/nominate-in-the-2015-mad-blog-awards (Nominations are now closed!)

Should I reach the short list I’ll be sure to get back to you, asking very kindly for you to vote for me, if you should be so inclined.

Thank you so much for all your support, be you someone who found me last week, or someone who has been reading since that first ranty post about Primark I wrote back in 2013! I love what I do, but that anyone chooses to read it has been the most life affirming thing I’ve ever come across and is the reason I keep Mrssavageangel (bless her heart) going.

A reason to celebrate

Last weekend we had one of those perfect experiences. You know, when you think, OK well this is happening, it could be OK, but it also could go horribly wrong and then it’s better than you ever hoped? One of those.

Ben’s maternal grandparents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary last week (that’s 60 years people!) and wanted to mark the occasion by bringing their relatively small, but rather geographically scattered family together. It was a really lovely idea and something we haven’t done in ages! The family were all booked in to a small boutique country hotel near Kingsbridge, Devon and invitations sent. However, this really wasn’t the kind of establishment that leant itself to toddlers, so it was agreed both Oscar and his cousins Lucas (3) and Anya (16 months) would stay elsewhere. My sister in law easily found an extended family member to sit for her in their home in Plymouth. However all our family are also in Devon, not Surrey where we live. Finding someone who Oscar felt comfortable with and who had the space was not going to be easy.

This in itself could have derailed our weekend from the off. Oscar doesn’t often stay the night with other people, mostly because our family all live hundreds of miles away. And the last person he successfully stayed with was joining us at the hotel. He doesn’t really know his extended family well enough, or they don’t have the space. So it was with some trepidation we asked our good friend Michelle whether she would have him. As he’d recently spent a few days with Michelle and her 4 year old daughter Holly when they visited a couple of weeks ago, we figured she would be fresh enough in his mind to be familiar. Add that to the fact that I just knew that Michelle would be bloody marvellous with him, I felt really confident leaving him with her. Her daughter Holly was so excited Oscar was coming for a ‘sleepover’ it was all Michelle could do to convince her not to sleep on the floor next to his bed!

So on Saturday we headed off to Plymouth, with the boy in the back thoroughly enamoured of the iPad in its new holder attached the to the headrest. We’d downloaded a few films and some Thomas the Tank Engine and by golly it was the most peaceful four hour journey we’ve ever had. He’s not a bad traveller all told, but this is my little ball of energy we’re talking about and four hours is a lot to ask of him. Despite setting off at 8.30am, nowhere near his nap time, he did brilliantly and even snoozed for the last hour of the journey waking up 10 minutes from our destination. When we arrived he was happy and calm and easily distracted enough by the gazillions of new toys not to bother about us leaving. We ran to the car like escaping convicts!

Buckland Tout Saints Hotel, Goveton

Buckland Tout Saints Hotel, Goveton

The beautiful misty view from our room

The beautiful misty view from our room

The hotel we stayed in was the Buckland Tout Saints and we arrived with plenty of time to join the family in the bar. I was unwinding with a Pinot by 3pm and it felt fantastic. Everyone was in fine sprits (literally) and the fun began in earnest. It was just so nice to get to chat. I’ve known Ben’s sister longer than I’ve known Ben, but as Ben and I have been together 17 years this year, it always feels like catching up with old friends when the family get together. We talked about the children and our lives and this and that. My brother in law was most impressed by their bathroom, which was on a mezzanine floor in their room. I think we were all taken to see it at some point or another!

Sent to to my sister in law when we went to get ready for dinner

I sent this to to my sister in law when we went to get ready for dinner

Getting ready in peace was amazing. We put some tunes on the iPad and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of putting my make up on without feeling like a fugitive hiding from someone (also known as the boy!) I got to wear my gorgeous new dress and as promised here is the evidence. It was so beautiful and comfortable and felt both smart and fun. It wowed the family just as I hoped it would. Nice one Pepperberry!

Charlotte dress by Pepperberry Size 16 Super Curvy

Charlotte dress by Pepperberry Size 16 Super Curvy

Super smiley - 3 glasses of wine in. Or was it 4 ;)

Super smiley – 3 glasses of wine in. Or was it 4 😉

Dinner was just how a big family meal should be. Full of chat, laughs, debate and fun. Who knew Aunty Gillian’s inability to get her arm out of shot would cause such hilarity? But then that’s what it’s all about. Laughing at the silly memories that mean nothing to anyone else.

Fun and laughter

Family

I just love the joy on Ben's grandma's face in this one.

I just love the joy on Ben’s grandma’s face in this one.

Me and the hubster

Me and the hubster

Rachel and Ross photobombed by 'Uncle' Andy!

Rachel and Ross photobombed by ‘Uncle’ Andy!

After dinner we proceeded to take over the bar (again) and partied until the small hours. Not sure how, but I seemed to drink myself sober. I even took my make up off when I went to bed and woke with no hangover at all! Bonus!

We picked up Oscar the next day, to hear that apart from not wanting to brush his teeth, he’d been fine with Michelle and actually put himself into bed and had fallen asleep immediately. What a star! He had taken every toy in the house out though, which I did feel a bit bad for, so we ensured Michelle was rightly compensated with wine, chocolates and flowers. We can’t explain how much knowning he was OK allowed us to have the best night. So once again THANK YOU MICHELLE!

From Michelle’s we took Oscar over to his Great Grandparents house. Again it’s not somewhere he’s been in a very long time and we were concerned how he’d cope being in a strange environment with a group of adults he doesn’t known all that well. We shouldn’t have worried. He was absolutely fine, heading straight for the toys in the conservatory and playing with his Great Granddad (and his namesake. Oscar’s middle name is Frederick). And when Lucas arrived with his sister Anya, well that was that. Oscar’s not always the most receptive to other children, but for his cousin Lucas he makes an exception. Despite only seeing Lucas handful of times in his life and certainly not for the last nine months, they have some kind of connection I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand. Every time they see each other they are like the best of friends and this time was no different. Within half an hour they were chasing each other round the house, laughing like drains and even holding hands, something I never see Oscar do with his chums! I don’t know, maybe they look at each other and see something familiar (or familial!) in each other. Either way it was beautiful to see and we cant wait until Lucas is old enough to come and stay with us!

Despite the time between visits they're always the best of friends

Despite the time between visits they’re always the best of friends

Holding hands partner in crime

Holding hands – partners in crime

Follow me, I know the way to the trouble!

Follow me, I know the way to the trouble!

We tried desperately hard to get a picture with all the children in one shot, but you know kids. They are wont to move. A lot! This was the best I did!

What? All three of them are technically in shot. It was the best I could do!

What? All three of them are technically in shot. It was the best I could do!

And I particularly like this one of my niece Anya. She’s going to be tall like her Grandma I think!

Anya, 16 months old. Going to be tall like the rest of the clan!

Anya, 16 months old. Going to be tall like the rest of the clan!

We finished the lunch off with a celebratory cake, made by Ben’s mum. As soon as Oscar saw it he sat up to the table and started singing what I believe was his attempt at Happy Birthday! Bless!

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Cake!

Cutting the cake once again 60 years on

Cutting the cake again, 60 years on

We left, sad to be going, but so pleased that we’d been privileged enough to celebrate such an amazing milestone with such an awesome couple. A couple who raised two children, supported two grandchildren and care for three Great Grandchildren. A couple who have so many interests and hobbies and friends and ‘joie de vivre’. A couple whose attitude inspire the whole family, every day.

So here’s to a great weekend, to a great family and to a great 60 years.

Here’s to Fred and Peggy

... to Fred and Peggy!

… to Fred and Peggy!

One Lovely Blog Award

Guess what? I’ve only gone and been nominated as a One Lovely Blog! I know right?! How cool is that? I’ve seen others be nominated before and I’m so pleased to be included *blushes ever so slightly*. So what the dickens is it?

“The One Lovely Blog Award nominations are chosen by bloggers for newer or up-and-coming fellow bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and to also help the new blogger reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the blogger who chose them. This award acknowledges bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner to connect with their viewers and followers. In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines. These are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post and/or blog
  • Share 7 facts/or things about yourself
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog”

So without further ado, I hereby accept my One Lovely Blog award.

I’d like to say thank you so much to Chelsea over at Mom Outside the Norm for the nomination. It was completely unexpected and I was very touched, so THANK YOU CHELSEA!

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Logo. Added. Boom! I’m on a roll here!

Oo the tricky bit. 7 facts about me. Hmm I did write a post a year ago with many interesting (hahahaha!) facts about me. So I guess I should think of some different ones. Hmmm let me see. OK how about this:

  1. I really dislike my carrots being cut into rounds. I much prefer batons. I have no idea why this could possibly be the case!
  2. I once bleached my dark brunette hair with an entire bottle of “Sun In” (pure peroxide bleach you probably can’t even buy any more). I loved it at the time. It then took two long years to grow it all out!
  3. I don’t really like mice, but I frigging hate rats. Even your cute pet rat. I promise, holding it is not going to change my mind. I tried it. It didn’t work!
  4. I had a Tamagotchi the first time round (’97). I called him Sydney and kept him alive for about 4 days. I killed the next one on purpose because he kept waking me up at night.
  5. I once met Jamie Oliver on a flight to Dallas and we had a chat in the queue for Homeland Security. He was unbelievably sweet and asked why we were in the States and what we had planned. He was on his way to Albuquerque to film for Jamie’s America.
  6. I’ve been to the top of Mount Sinai and have seen the dawn break over the desert. It so wasn’t worth it. Apart from the assent nearly killing me, the view was ruined by other people and a lack of respect. Although I guess at least I can say I did it.
  7. I don’t read even a tiny bit as much as I used to. I have three books on the go. I have had since before I had Oscar. They are all factual and the titles are Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, Taste: The Story of Britain Through it’s Cooking and Freakonomics

There you go. Bet you didn’t know that!

And the final part, the 15 ‘lovely’ bloggers I admire and want to nominate. And they are (in no particular order):

  1. The Pintrested Parent – Crafting, cooking & learning through inspiration with a side order of real life
  2. Shannonagains – Californian in London, Mother to ‘Pumpkin’, writing about parenting
  3. Story Time with John – Sharing the tales of his travels, trying to turn frowns upside down!
  4. Story Shucker – a blog full of humorous and poignant observations
  5. Losing 100lb Plus – struggles with being a mom and trying to lose weight
  6. Mama and More – Life style and yoga through her eyes and more!
  7. Infinity and IVF – One family’s journey through the IVF process
  8. The Mother of All Autism Challenges – One mum’s quest to accept and adapt to caring for a child on the spectrum
  9. The Girl in the Little Black Dress – 17 year old Natalie, eye for the detail in fashion and life way beyond her years
  10. Ctl+Alt+Mum – Experiments in (Actual) Motherhood
  11. The Plant Strong Vegan – Food, photography and life, the vegan way
  12. Making Memories in the Chaos – A stay at home mum sharing life with her 3 bubbas
  13. Small Time Mum – Blogging about motherhood; the madness and muddles it can bring
  14. Misplaced Brit – Expat British Mama now living and raising her family in Sweden
  15. Slimming World is the Answer – One girl’s journey to lose weight and start a family

Et voila! That’s a real mixture. Some obvious, some not so obvious, but all fab. I urge you to check them all out!

I’d would also like to thank the bloggers above for their time and energy. I know how hard it can be to keep dragging yourself to the PC, to keep writing, to keep sharing; but I’m so glad that you do. Thank you.

I can’t wait to see who you nominate!

Have a ‘lovely’ day

xxx